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Process Architecture Blueprint Definition - See the forest inorder to see the trees......

Organizations struggle to define their Process Architecture Blueprint which represents the portfolio of business processes of the organization. Process Architecture definition is a crucial phase in the development of BPM as well as Enterprise Business Architecture solution. Enterprises often take a piecemeal approach while defining process architecture blueprint and jump directly into modeling task level business processes without able to link to the end to end value stream of the business effectively. An attempt to have a structured approach to define the process architecture blueprint through defining what is process architecture blueprint, why it is needed, how to build it and how quickly one can build it is essential for an enterprise's BPM or Business Architecture journey. Success of Business Process Management teams depends on this crucial phase of process architecture definition and here I attempt to provide a framework helping enterprises embark into process journey.

What is Process Architecture Blueprint?

Process Architecture Blueprint is the schema of representing enterprise business process ontology. Process Architecture Blueprint is the high level arrangement of business process information of the enterprise in a way that represents maximum information about the enterprise processes in an easily interpretable as well as relevant manner. Process Architecture Blueprint can be visually represented as per the needs and culture of the enterprise to appreciate its process portfolio. The visual representation can be a value chain view, business capability view, value stream view or a business context view.

Process Architecture Blueprint also represents the business processes from different perspectives of various stakeholders of business and provides a map of the business processes. There can be three different kinds of perspectives of business processes:
1.    Enterprise Level Processes – Value Chain and Value Stream – Concern to the CxO Community
2.    Strategic/Functional Level Processes – High Level Functions and Major Processes – Concern to the Middle Management Community
3.    Operational Level Processes – Business Workflow and System Workflow – Concern to the Operational Management Community

There are other stakeholders and their perspectives as well that shapes the process architecture blueprint:
1.    Enterprise Architecture Team – Responsible for running and maintaining technology projects across the enterprise. Also responsible for aligning Business and IT.
2.    Compliance Management Team – Responsible for making sure business processes are compliant enough to regulatory standards and organization policies
3.    Six Sigma/Lean Teams – Responsible for process improvement, process governance and process harmonization across the enterprise

Why we need Process Architecture Blueprint?

Having a Process Architecture set up in place helps spread transparency of process knowledge amongst various team members and helps develop a process thinking culture within the enterprise. Also it leads to structured analysis of business processes for effective decision making.
1.    Enterprise Level Business Processes – Provides management overview for everyone in the enterprise; Describes overall function of the enterprise and includes value chain elements, value stream elements, business capabilities and business motivation elements; this level is at 10,000 feet above ground – highly broad.
2.    Strategic Level/Functional Level Processes – Describes major processes and sub processes and how they interrelate; Ideal to understand business function, goals of processes, strategy execution, ownership of processes and KPI; this level is at 1,000 feet above ground – fairly broad.
3.    Operational Level Business Processes – Describes task flows, decisions and process steps; from a system perspective, this level helps in defining use-cases; this level is too detailed for any strategic level decision making but includes many business rules that governs processes; this level is 100 feet high – just enough.
Having defined a process architecture blueprint brings in consensus over enterprise processes and helps socialize business processes across the enterprise.

How to build a Process Architecture Blueprint?

There can be three different approaches to build a process architecture blueprint:
1.    Clean Slate Approach – Here we have to start afresh, define process architecture standards, define what process architecture blueprint we want and work towards defining enterprise vocabulary and semantics.
2.    Quick and Dirty Approach – Here we develop something out of the existing information and validate it, refine the process architecture standards, align process architecture blueprint to existing information and refine enterprise vocabulary and semantics
3.    Structured Approach – Here we elicit process information through structured set up and simultaneously validate them with stakeholders, address correct need for process architecture standards, align process architecture blueprint to existing information and refine enterprise vocabulary and semantics

How quickly one can build a Process Architecture Blueprint?

It is to be noted that all these three approaches are time consuming because it is necessary to get consensus on what we build as well socialize the process portfolio list. For example, for the Quick and Dirty approach, I list a three step approach:
1.    Step 1 – What blueprint we want – reaching consensus. This step is all about reaching consensus on the view we want to build – value chain view, value stream view, business capability view, organizational model, functional overview etc. This might take about 3 to 4 weeks if we knock the right stakeholders.
2.    Step 2 – Define structured questionnaire for eliciting information for the blueprint and conduct workshops. This step is all about gathering existing information, assessing and deciphering information quickly, meet stakeholders, explain and gather information as required. This might take about 4 to 6 weeks if we knock the right stakeholders. By this step, for example we will be able to list the sequence of major processes that form part various value stream.
3.    Step 3 – Model the blueprint big picture, validate and socialize. Take a practical perspective, draw/represent the view, get it validated and freeze it till further review.

Process Architecture definition is a challenging but rewarding journey. One has to see the forest first in order to see the trees. So, having the portfolio of business processes represented through a blueprint definition is essential so that one can model the rest of the process hierarchy leading to various process analysis, improvement and spread of process knowledge transparency.

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