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Process Modeling Series II: Business Process - Sea of Glossaries/Terms; where does Process Modeling stand?

Process-Modeling_Blog-II.gifWelcome to the playground of business processes in the modern organizations/enterprises!! How many terms and how many glossaries!! Even the best of process consultants and gurus will get stumped on the new terms that are used in this subject/discipline. Basic terms of importance include business process management (BPM), business process modeling (BPm) and Business Process Improvement (BPI); other terms leading the race include business process reengineering (BPR - as coined by management guru Michael Hammer), business process standardization, business process harmonization, business process simulation and business process monitoring; there are multiple other techniques/methods that are closely related to business processes - including process hierarchy definition, process granularity definition, business process design, business process identification, activity based costing analysis, business process redesign, business process optimization, business process outsourcing etc. All terms have got meanings and applicability - but my quest is to define a mental classification framework of these numerous terms/glossaries so that as business process analyst/consultant one can clearly relate to the definitions of these terms/glossaries closer to heart. A thing which is closer heart is never forgotten while thing which is just in the mind. Apart from these terms there are number of techniques/methods that are applicable for each of these terms - for example, business process modeling in turn includes multiple business process modeling approaches namely, event process chain, unified modeling language, catalyst approach, petri-net etc. So, my quest is to define things at a higher level - a classification framework of business process terms that are important at a consulting level rather than at operational level.

There are three important "groups of terms" according to me that forms the universal set for the various process terms: 1) Business Process Management 2) Business Process Modeling and 3) Business Process Improvement. Let us take up the definition of these three terms to a closer look:

1)    Business Process Management - The way business processes are organized and managed so that they are effective to provide competitive advantage in terms of cost, quality, time or flexibility for enterprises so as to fulfill the needs of their customers through products/services. Business Process Management is not limited to Information Technology enabled workflow management or automation of business processes, but it definitely includes them as well. So Business Process Management is the universal management of business processes which are manual as well as automated currently to ensure that value is delivered to customers through effective management of the same. There are exceptions to business process management and it does not cover the whole gamut of business - for example, strategy formulation, business policy decision making and creation of business functions are usually out of the realms of BPM. The operational aspects of business which are actually the action items/tasks/activities that bring value to customers are to be managed and BPM is the name for it. By this definition, I include business process modeling as well as business process improvement as part of BPM. BPM in turn involves the business motivation for improving business processes, governance for business processes and monitoring and alignment of business processes with business strategy as well.



2)    Business Process Modeling - As explained in the previous blog, business process modeling is multi-dimensional and it is the visual representation of the process which is a common language that is easily interpreted by various stakeholders involved. Business Process Modeling usually utilizes some modeling approach as necessary for the end use of the modeling. Modeling is the first step for business process analysis - business process analysis is in turn the first step for business process improvement. So, modeling involves gathering information about and around business process so that the process can be analyzed.

3)    Business Process Improvement - Improvement is the universal growth mantra. Everything has to be improved and can be improved. Business Processes ensure that our products/services are produced/serviced as per the needs for the customer and are available to them as needed (at optimum cost, quality, time & flexibility). Business Processes while bringing the products/services to customers fail and there are breaks in the processes which drop the value that enterprises decide to provide customers. Business Process analysis helps one to define the improvement path that the enterprise can take up. There are famous process improvement cultures like Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing and Quality Improvement programs. Process Analysis includes understanding the existing business processes and associated improvement or waste reduction opportunities which can help improve cost, quality, time or flexibility of bringing the product/service to customer - there are various techniques involved and few to name include, as-is process analysis using five whys, value stream analysis, activity based cost analysis, simulation analysis, business process reengineering etc. Programs like process harmonization, process standardization, process optimization, process automation etc are business process improvement programs that are widely utilized.

 We shall further discuss each of these three groupings in detail and talk about the concepts that are part of these three major groupings in the subsequent blogs.

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