What is Business Process Modeling (BPM)?
The main purpose of business process modeling (BPM) is to represent, analyze, or improve processes inside enterprises. Accordingly, there are three main types of business processes:
- Management processes, enterprise level: strategic management.
- Operational processes, core business processes: purchasing, manufacturing, marketing, and sales.
- Supporting processes, support core processes: accounting, recruitment, and technical support
The traditional approach to business process modeling (BPM) treats all operations differently creating a separate business model for different kinds of operations. Therefore, that kind of approach optimizes processes on an operational level, but it can create chaos on an enterprise level.
For example, the sales department uses a certain software program. But if that software doesn’t access supplier information, the sales team could offer products that aren’t available at the moment. That way, the company brand will suffer.
The modern approach to business process modeling takes a holistic approach. Thus, BPM helps IT professional understand, analyze and make changes inside a business model, so that businesses make better decisions.
Diagrams (especially “flow diagrams”) are a central feature of the BPM methodology. There are different kinds of diagrams to represent business processes. All the types of BPM diagrams are explained here.
Moreover, the process workflow is mapped using a specific syntax. The representation of BPM in diagrams is called notation. Generally, notation includes all the elements that show the process workflow.
What’s essential for BPM is that each business process starts with an event. Events have a specific trigger that causes the beginning. Additionally, that cause can be a human action (customer purchases a product), or it can be a system-system interaction, (CRM system is triggered by another system).
Using BPM you analyze the current (as-is) system and the next (to-be) system. Furthermore, make sure to include some metrics of the process, so you can measure its effect on ROI.
Business process modeling has four general types of elements. All the elements have different kinds of meaning. Further we explain all of them in details.
- Flow objects
- Connecting objects
- Swim lanes
1. FLOW OBJECTS
1.1. Events are something which is already done.
You represent events with a circle. The symbol for events is 1) envelope, for a message and 2) clock, for time.
- Start event – a process trigger;
- Intermediate event – happens between the start and end events;
- End event, the final result of a process;
1.2. Activities describe the work which must be done. They can be 1) atomic, a single activity or 2) compound, two, or more activities.
- Task is a single unit of work, or the lowest level activity and you cannot break it down further.
- Sub-process are additional levels of business process detail. Thus, they have their own start and end events.
- Transaction is a form of sub-process. It treats many activities as one, so if any of them fails, they all get cancelled.
- Call Activity is a point in the process where a global process or task is reused.
1.3. Gateways merge paths, depending on the conditions.
- Exclusive – you can take only one of both paths (it’s alternative).
- Event Based – determines the process path based on an event.
- Parallel – parallel paths without evaluating paths.
- Inclusive – alternative flows where all paths are evaluated.
- Exclusive Event Based – evaluate events to determine which exclusive path to take.
- Complex – model complex behavior.
- Parallel Event Based – two parallel processes start, based on an event, but there is no evaluation on that event.
2. CONNECTING OBJECTS
Connections link flow objects with other flow objects.
2.1. Sequence Flow – shows the order in which activities are performed.
2.2. Message Flow – tells us what messages flow across different pools. That is to say, a message flow cannot connect activities, or events within the same pool.
2.3. Association – used to associate an artifact, or text to a flow Object. So, associations show directions: 1) open arrowhead, to represent a result 2) artifact to represent aa input, and 3) both to indicate it is read and updated.
3. SWIM LANES
Swim lanes organize and categorize activities. There are two types of swim lanes:
3.1. Pool – separates different organizations. Moreover, pools contain one or more lanes. They can be 1) open (communicating with the external world), or 2) collapsed (communicating only internally).
3.2. Lanes – organize activities within a pool due to functions or roles. Therefore, lanes contain the flow objects, connecting objects and artifacts.
Artifacts show more information about objects. There are three types of artifacts:
4.1. Data objects show the reader which data is required or produced in an activity.
4.2. Group is used to group different activities but does not affect the flow in the diagram. Symbol: rounded-corner rectangle and dashed lines.
4.3. Annotation provides an understanding of what happens between the start and end events; Symbol: Double border.
BPM helps IT professionals get a better understanding of their business processes. Also, the business environment changes rapidly, so BPM helps organizations adapt to it quickly. Here are some benefits of business process modeling:
- Reduced cost – you can automate human interactions using a machine-to-machine process. Similarly, knowledge sharing activities help improve product quality. On the long run, they save money for companies and prevent them from making mistakes.
- Competitive advantage – you can reduce the time to market, by automating processes. Therefore, automation reduces product development life cycle. It also helps organizations get a better understanding of customer needs and retain satisfaction.
- Increased ROI – BPM uses measures to calculate the effect of business processes. In this case, dashboards help prioritize business activities, get a better customer feedback and that way make better business decisions that increase sales.
Click here to see how a detailed business process model looks like.