Business Process Modeling
Definition: Process Modeling is the development of efficient, repeatable
business processes (often through the use of computer-based process modelling
applications) that align with the overall business strategy of an enterprise.
What is a Business Process?
To understand process modelling it is vital to first understand the purpose of a business process.
Every enterprise has an overarching goal or primary objective. In commercial enterprises
that goal is usually to generate profits from the sale of goods and services. To achieve
this goal, it is necessary to coordinate the activities of a number of departments and
staff using the most efficient methods possible.
A business process is simply a set of instructions by which a department or staff member
can perform their function as efficiently as possible. These instructions should be fixed
and repeatable so as to allow staff members to become more efficient with experience.
Applications of Process Modeling
The challenge faced by any enterprise is in developing efficient, repeatable processes that
can be applied to the business effectively (example:
help desk software). To aid in this
development process, process modeling software can offer a number of software tools to help
visualize current business processes, identify bottlenecks and possible improvements.
Process Modeling software tools (from vendors such as
ProcessModel Inc.) operate in a
variety of ways, depending on the package. However, despite cosmetic differences in methods
of visualization and presentation, all BPM tools have the same basic aims:
Description of Current Processes
BPM software allows enterprises to visually map their current business processes,
allowing them a comprehensive overview of what actually happens. This allows users to
look at a process from an objective point of view and enables them to identify areas of
concern and possible methods of improvement.
Definition of Desired Processes
Perhaps most importantly, BPM tools can be used to identify methods of optimizing processes.
By enabling an objective birds-eye view of the process it becomes possible to develop methods of
achieving greater process efficiency.
BPM tools can also offer guidance on methods by which a process could become more automated. By
identifying processes that could be entrusted to computers, overall efficiency and process
speed could be improved.
Benefits of BPM Software
BPM software offers a wide range of benefits to enterprises implementing it, including:
Clearly, the primary benefit of any process modeling software will be the improvement in
process efficiency that it allows. By offering an objective view of any business process,
BPM software allows planners to effectively identify best practices and plan for their implementation.
BPM tools can help identify redundancies and excessive complexity in a business process.
Ideally, any alteration to a business process will make that process less complex (i.e.
remove or modify redundant and inefficient steps) . While reduced complexity will naturally
make that process faster, it will also
reduce the time required to train new staff to
understand and follow it.
Perhaps the simplest example of how simplification can aid a process is in the fast food
industry. Since fast food restaurants typically suffer from a high rate of staff turnover
it is vital to simplify processes in order to
minimize training time.
Process Impact Predictions
In addition to providing the means to design improved processes, BPM software can also
offer the capacity to answer various ‘what if?’ questions, allowing planners to predict
the impact of process modifications. Since business processes are usually inter-linked
with at least one other process in the enterprise, this prediction capacity can be an
important tool to determine whether alterations will have either a positive or negative
knock on effect to other processes.
Additionally, this prediction capacity allows planners to focus their efforts on
mitigating/exploiting the knock on effect of process alterations, perhaps leading to a
domino effect of process improvements throughout the enterprise.
Quantitative Costing Predictions
BPM software can also offer an insight into the predicted costs of process modifications.
If a process is to make better use of available IT systems, what will be the cost of
maintaining those systems? If new staff must be retained to eradicate a bottleneck in
a process, will the increased output of the process outweigh the additional labour costs?
Further information can be found at the website of the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI).