Business Process Modeling (BPM)

February 25, 2012

It seems logical that an article about business process modeling would start out with defining what exactly business process modeling actually is. In doing the research for this posting it became clear that there are a few basic definitions that one needs beforehand to establish a baseline for the rest of the article.

Most obviously is a quick description of what a business process actually is: “a set of interrelated tasks linked to an activity that spans functional boundaries” (Virdell). Additionally is the concept of the of a business model which “describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value” (Osterwalder, Pigneur). Both of these definitions seem simple but it is worth noting that there is an inherent focus on the interrelatedness of various tasks performed within in a business. Processes deal with activities that span multiple people, departments and even organizations; they make up the strategy and methodology of a how a business executes its business model. Processes themselves can be categorized even further based on what role they play in the company but that is beyond the scope of this article.

With that out of the way it is on to business process modeling or BPM for short. At a high level the BPM concept is actually pretty simple and straightforward, it is merely the pictorial representation of how business processes actually work. It aims to provide a visual diagram of the flow of various tasks and activities. BPM has existed for quite some time but the more modern definition stems from work done in the field of systems engineering in the 1960s which was extended for use with business processes. (Williams) The concept gained popularity in the 1990s with the rise of business process reengineering and the rapid integration of IT in business. (Davenport, Short)

As an enterprise grows in size its operations can become quite complex, to the point where few in the business really understand the details of how the business runs. The goal of BPM is to allow a business to see what its processes actually are, where bottlenecks exist, and how they can be improved. To aid in the goal of transparency there are actually multiple models within BPM, namely the “as-is” model and the “to-be” which define the current state of a process and the desired state of process respectively. Utilizing both of these models allows an organization to analyze their processes and test changes or improvements in a controlled manner. (BPM FAQ)

In general a business process model includes these key components (Businessballs):

• The desired outcome of the process

• The start and end points of the process

• The activities that are performed to reach the end point

• The order in which activities take place

• The people who perform the activities

• Exchanges between various actors

Many tools exist to facilitate the creation of business process models, dating as far back as the late 19th century, and many are quite common in many fields of engineering and project management. Flow charts, block diagrams, PERT diagrams, and Gantt charts are some of the traditional tools used over the years. More recent additions to the toolbox include Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and the Unified Modeling Language (UML). BMPN defines a standard for creating business process diagrams while UML is a general-purpose language that provides methods such as use case diagrams and activity diagrams to define interactions and activities within a process. (BPMN)(UML)

An example of a business process diagram can be seen at the following URL:

Intuitively it seems obvious that a company needs to know what its processes are and lay them out in black and white; knowing this information is key to understanding where the business is and for making future plans. (Buzzle) It also helps employees understand what their roles are within an organization and where they fit into the business model. Too many companies seem to have a culture where the staff doesn’t feel invested in success because they don’t see themselves as vital to the strategy which can only have a negative affect overall. BPM is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting a handle on operations. Several topics worth exploring more include business process reengineering and business process management.

Author: Robin MartinezDate: 2/25/2012

Works Cited:

“BPM FAQ.” Business Process Modeling Forum. Jul 8, 2011).
“Business Process Model and Notation.” Object Management Group. Feb 25, 2012).
“Business Process Modelling.” Businessballs. 2009. Feb 25, 2012).

Davenport, Thomas H. and Short, James E. “The New Industrial Engineering: Information Technology and Business Process Redesign.” MIT Sloan Management Review 31, no. 4 (1990): 11-27.
Khilawala, Rashida. “Business Process Modeling.” Buzzle. 26 Sep 2011. Feb 25, 2011). Osterwalder, Alexander and Yves Pigneur. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.: Wiley. 2010. “UML Resource Page.” Object Management Group. Feb 24, 2012). Virdell, Margie S. “Business Processes and Workflow in the Web Services World.” IBM. 1 Jan 2003. Feb 25, 2012).


2 Responses to “Business Process Modeling (BPM)”

  1. Lakevia Bibb said

    Businees Process Modeling can be seen as an “organizational chart” of the business processes that each department or group performs. But the task that lies ahead for most organizations is determining what those processes are and more importantly which ones are causing bottlenecking. Any organization seeking success and innovation should start by creating a business process model. Great article,Robin.

  2. Paul McGuire said

    Good article, and insightful commentary on connecting people to the business value that they bring. Too many workers in larger organizations tend to get lost in the shuffle and don’t understand the value they bring to the organization. If we can restore that through BPM, then people just might get excited about their work once more.

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