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Process Modeling Series I: Process Modeling - Art and Science for understanding business

In this series of blogs that am going to write, I would be predominantly concentrate on Process Modeling - Business Process Modeling Service, Business Process Modeling Tools, Business Process Modeling Methodology, Business Process Modeling Governance as well as Applications of Business Process Modeling. There are number of researchers, professors/academics and practitioners who are passionate about process modeling and there are lot of insights one can gather from the research that has been already conducted (the famous Albert Einstein's statement - "Standing over the Giant's Shoulders!!); we shall try to dissect and understand these existing researches as well.

Modeling has a different meaning from "drawing" - drawing is a two dimensional stuff wherein one is able to communicate things through representing the details in a diagrammatic fashion and it serves two basic purposes: 1) represent things visually as it can be understood by stakeholders (visual representation is easier to understand as compared to written communication) and 2) make things easier in communicating complex information. Modeling is multi-dimensional in nature wherein apart from diagrammatic representation of information in two dimensions, we try to gather and enrich the information with other relevant data that are part of executing the process or that are essential to know as well to view the overall business scenario. Sometimes we try to represent multiple dimensions/information sets and compress them into a two dimensional map - but thanks to technology and tools available, we are now able to easily collect, relate and assimilate information related to business processes.

Business Process Modeling (BPm) is many a time closely/loosely used to suggest business process mapping. In my opinion, mapping is more of a representation of finite details and might or might not be used to analyze (complex analysis including statistical and simulation analysis) the business process and mapping can be termed for a specific purpose of process representation to communicate what is happening at present. The moment one gathers associated business resources (data, systems, materials, roles etc involved) and make a step further to analyze business processes, mapping is less apt a word while modeling is more closer. So we need to be aware of the interchangeable usage of words - mapping and modeling. I have not come across a very clear definition of these terms and if I do so shall share in this series of blog.

Process Modeling has been there since for long wherein it is changed its title as according to the situations/solutions expected - task analysis, flow charting, activity analysis, value analysis & time and motion analysis etc. The applicability has grown wider now wherein process modeling has been used for knowledge management, business intelligence, system development, product development, enterprise architecture and other upcoming business functions.  So, process modeling has lived long and is supposed to grow as well - but how structured it would be and how serious are organization roles in modeling processes which they are part of are questions to ponder for answer. We need to find out some good survey results for process modeling usage - though we might find lots of surveys related to business process management (BPM).

Before we get into the huge glossary of terms one has come across with relation to business processes (business process management, business process modeling, business process analysis, business process improvement, business process simulation, business process optimization, business process identification, business process design, business process monitoring etc), lets get it right why it is important to model and understand business processes:

·         There are products/services from businesses at one side and customers at other side; process is the mechanism that helps in bridging the gap so that products/services reach customers. There are various ways an enterprise is organized structurally as well as virtually as functions to enable this gap is bridged. Also note that this bridge has to efficient in terms of cost, quality, time and flexibility so as to outsmart competition.

·         So processes are important to know and there are gaps in this bridging process and processes fail miserably at both sides of the bridge; it is essential for business to build this bridge effectively so that they develop their competitive priorities.

·         An understanding of business process is nothing but necessity for enterprises to build their bridges (as architecturally efficient).

 

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Comments

I would say, "you nailed it".

The key always remains how to analyse the processes and as you rightly mentioned "There are various ways an enterprise is organized structurally as well as virtually as functions to enable this gap is bridged. Also note that this bridge has to efficient in terms of cost, quality, time and flexibility so as to outsmart competition."

Herein lies the tricky part. Process definitions may not be the same even in case of a single organisation. For processes which do not have any system in place, where we have to propose a solution from the scratch, it might work in the first phase. But when it comes to integrating with other systems, there is a challenge and risk involved.
Any thougts on that?

If I read your comment carefully, it talks about how to bring commonality towards achieving business objectives wherein existing systems in place which automates a particular set functional business processes are disparate in nature and are built/developed based on business goals which were mostly reactive in nature to specific business problems. This complexity is further increased if the organization goes for a M&A wherein commonalities in systems present in the multiple companies goes for a toss.

For this particular problem Architecture Gurus see Enterprise Architecture as the solution. The famous book Enterprise Architecture as Strategy throws more light on this. Please visit: http://www.architectureasstrategy.com/book/eas/index.cfm . Thanks.

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