The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Modeling

Want to improve your organization's overall productivity? 

Before you get started, take some time to analyze the gap between the existing and desired state of performance. If there is none, pat yourself on the back. If there is, it’s time to figure out how to close it and get your teams closer to your ideal performance standards.

To achieve consistent and stable business growth, employees need a clear picture of how the organization works. Did you know that using visual tools can lead to an increase of 23%–89% in human performance? Utilizing a graphical tool can stimulate our imagination and enhance individual and team outcomes.

This article will explore how business process modeling can help illustrate and improve your organization’s internal workflows and, in turn, boost team productivity.

What is business process modeling?

Business process modeling (BPM) is a business process management technique that depicts an organization's internal workflows to help identify areas for improvement. It utilizes various graphical representation techniques such as data-flow diagrams, flowcharts, Gantt charts, etc.

Most business process modeling tools help in mapping two states for every process:

  1. As-is: In the as-is state, the current process is depicted as it exists, without any changes
  2. To-be: To-be is the ideal state of a process after the suggested changes are completed

You can use old-fashioned pen and paper or spreadsheets for the modeling process, but having specialized business process modeling tools can help.

Why use business process modeling?

Every company wants to achieve the best results and consistently operate at peak efficiency. By embracing process modeling, organizations have a chance to take a deeper look at their internal processes and workflows.

Mapping the processes in a visual format benefits teams as they are able to clearly see the importance and structure of each workflow. It gives them a better position from which to identify the steps required to streamline the processes. Here are five more reasons why an organization should consider using business process modeling.

Align strategies with business objectives

No strategy can work well unless it's aligned with the overall company goals and objectives. Process modeling ensures teams work within the broader organizational framework.

Process modeling techniques explore the reason ‘why’ any task is performed in a specific process. They evaluate whether the task is required or if it can be done away with to optimize the broader business process.

Enhance process efficiencies

In process modeling templates, each task is represented step by step, allowing teams to understand how resources can be optimized. 

Completion of this detailed simulation identifies any potential bottlenecks that can then be removed to enhance business processes.

Boost internal team communications 

Since human talent is one of the most important resources for success, you must help staff communicate better for optimum performance and productivity.

Internal team communications are crucial for activities such as:

  • Eliminating a redundant process
  • Sharing a new process with other teams
  • Creating a standardized process for all teams to follow

Increase market competitiveness 

Innovation can make or break a business. Research has proven that highly innovative organizations have an average of 11% higher annual revenues and 22% higher Earnings Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) than companies that don't innovate.

By embracing process modeling, companies will be able to stay resilient in the dynamic business landscape and handle change management more effectively.

Foster best practices

Are you managing a mid-size or large enterprise? You may have multiple teams performing the same process differently. Creating a standardized process design ensures that the entire company follows the same best practices.

Are there different business modeling techniques?

There are more than 12 different kinds of BPM techniques. While some have been tried and tested for decades, others are relatively new.  Below, we take a closer look at some of the most widely used and accepted process modeling techniques.

Flowchart technique

Flowcharts depict a business process using different shapes and symbols. One flowchart typically showcases an independent workflow in a detailed layout. If your team wishes to represent the complete business process, they need to consolidate multiple flowcharts into one design.

Each team will have its own method for designing flowcharts, but they can be created using pen and paper, specialized business process modeling tools, or versatile workflow management software.

Data flow diagrams

Data flow diagrams (DFD) graphically represent the flow of information from one process to another, portraying the interdependencies between them.  

Developed by Edward Yourdon, DFDs is a data-focused process modeling technique with limited applicability in complex business process modeling that focuses more on activities done or to be done.

IPO Model 

An input-process-output (IPO) technique is a real-world graph used to categorize the inputs and outputs of a particular process. In this method, there are three principal elements:

  • Inputs: Information, data, or materials added into the process
  • Outputs: The final outcomes or results obtained upon completing a specific business process
  • Process: The particular business activity being improved or streamlined
    SIPOC diagrams 

SIPOC diagrams is a business process modeling framework in which the significant stakeholders classify the most critical elements of the process improvement into the following categories:

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Process
  • Outputs
  • Customers

SIPOC is a globally accepted synonym and part of the Six Sigma framework.

Gantt charts

A Gantt chart is a process modeling procedure in which a complex activity is subdivided into smaller sub-activities, linked by interdependencies.

Gantt charts are perfect for representing business activities with tighter deadlines as they quickly let teams know the pending tasks and the estimated time required to complete them. Use them to stop any vital tasks from slipping through the cracks and keep your process modeling project on track.

PERT diagrams

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) diagrams are one of the most globally accepted process modeling techniques.

PERT diagrams are simple illustrations that portray an accurate timeline for completing a business process. Process modeling teams can quantify the estimated time needed to complete the business process and all its consequent tasks.

Unified Modeling Language diagrams (UML)

Unified Modeling Language (UML) was originally designed for software development processes, but with its robust facets and dynamic use cases, it’s now a highly popular and globally accepted process modeling tool.

UML diagrams are a multi-dimensional process modeling technique that illustrate the close relationship between the elements and systems of a business process.

With over 14 UML diagrams in circulation, interpreting them requires significant expertise and practice. These diagrams include:

  • Sequence Diagram
  • Activity Diagram
  • Deployment Diagram
  • Use Case Diagram
  • Package Diagram
  • Communication Diagram
  • Component Diagram
  • Interaction Overview Diagram
  • State Diagram
  • Timing Diagram
  • Class Diagram
  • Object Diagram
  • Composite Structure Diagram

Introducing business process model and notation

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a visual framework that uses standardized elements and symbols to represent a business process. 

BPMN is one of the best ways to make business process modeling easier for all project stakeholders. The predefined symbols mean that all team members working on the business process model will be able to understand the process maps. Let’s take a look the four primary elements of BPMN:

Flow objects

Flow objects in BPMN refer to the primary visual foundations that outline the nature and scope of a business process: Events, Activities, and Gateways.

Activities: Activities are flow objects that initiate, alter, or end a business process. Different activity triggers can be:

  • Message
  • Timer
  • Compensation
  • Cancel
  • Escalation
  • Signal
  • Error
  • Link

Events: Events are specific tasks executed by an individual or system and illustrated using a rectangle with curved edges. These tasks can include loops, compensations, multiple instances and sub-processes.

Gateways: Gateways are decision-making points based on the condition or an event that is represented in a diamond shape. These flow objects can be based on multiple events or diverse data points.

Artifact objects

Artifact objects are elements that add detailed nuances to process modeling diagrams. Developers can add any of the three kinds of artifacts such as data objects, annotation or groups.

Data objects: Data objects represent the most essential data required to perform a specific activity.

Group: Group aligns the tasks in the business process in a rational manner without altering the flow of the diagram.

Annotation: An annotation adds diverse facets to a section of the diagram.  

Connections

Connecting objects join primary data with other relevant information to manage the overall process flow. These objects can regulate the sequence of tasks and can be either associations, message flows, or sequence flows.

Association: Associations are depicted using a dotted line and connect a text or artifact to an activity, gateway or event.

Sequence flow: Sequence flow connects objects that classify the activities to be done. They are illustrated with a default or conditional flow in a straight line.

Message flow: Message flow objects join together different events or tasks in different pools. They include messages that transcend organizational limitations, teams, or departments.  Message flow is drawn in a dashed line starting with a circle and ending with an arrow.

Swimlanes

Swimlanes group business modeling essentials into pools and lanes.

Lane: Lanes represent the tasks included in a specific pool for an individual role or contributor. Doing this helps outline responsibility and accountability for that particular part of the process.

Pool: A pool refers to the primary members of a business process. A different department, team, or company can be illustrated in a separate pool within the same process.

Process mapping vs. process modeling: what is the difference?

Even though many teams use business process mapping and process modeling interchangeably, they are not the same.

One of the biggest similarities is that process modeling and process mapping are part of the same broader concept of business process management. Both of these terms also support in defining business processes.

However, business mapping is a tool that emphasizes documenting existing processes, while process modeling illustrates what an ideal business process looks like or how it should be done. Process mapping is static and does not have any scope for managing change agents. Process modeling lets teams reflect and adapt to changes in the process or its broader environment.

If you want to showcase diverse stakeholder perspectives in your business improvement initiatives, process modeling tools can help your teams illustrate different viewpoints. Teams using process modeling typically centralize communication with a single source of truth. On the other hand, teams that select process mapping end up with multiple variations of one process. Doing this is both expensive and unnecessary, and can cause duplication of work.

Process mapping would be a good fit if a once-off evaluation of a business process is required. But if your team wants a long-term reusable asset that maximizes the process lifecycle, picking business process modeling would give a better ROI.

How to perform business process modeling

If you wish to streamline internal workflows and boost team productivity, BPM must be on your to-do list.

There's no one-size-all fits modeling technique — the key is in understanding the overall objectives the team wants to achieve by completing this exercise.

Here's a simple three-step plan that can help your team perform business process modeling successfully.

Document the as-is process

Before starting business process modeling, make sure your team documents the complete process as it stands. They can use anything they're comfortable with to do this, such as a simple notepad or a robust business modeling software.

Identify what can be improved

Once the team has listed the current process clearly, it’s time to identify the bottlenecks, issues, and inefficiencies plaguing it. Prompt your team members to brainstorm by asking critical questions such as:

  • Is this step really required?
  • Does a specific task help in generating any measurable outcome?
  • Do the current tasks in the process meet the predefined operational goals?

Design the ideal to-be process

Once the results of the previous step are in place, put them into action. Develop the newer, more streamlined version of the process by incorporating all the findings. 

Using this process modeling method in alignment with the Business Process Management (BPM) framework can make your company’s business processes more efficient.

Top tips for planning a business process modeling project

Are you all set to start a business process modeling project? There are many small but critical steps that can ensure that your team is set up for BPM success.

Keep it simple but detailed

Even the most qualified process modeling specialists tend to make this common mistake: In simplifying a particular process, they end up leaving out some of the most vital steps. Simple is good, but make sure your team doesn't miss the finer details.

Business modeling is a collaborative effort involving many stakeholders who have different opinions, interpretations, and levels of understanding. The team creating the modeling charts may assume these smaller details are insignificant and fail to document them. 

However, for the team assessing the modeling diagrams, these points may be essential in understanding the process and making valuable recommendations for improvement.

Utilize a suitable BPM Software

Business process modeling is so much more than just diagrams. Every element, shape, and symbol in a business process model has a specific meaning. Each one of them outlines a particular process or action.

A robust BPM software such as Wrike supports the new-generation advanced business process modeling standard BPMN 2.0. Wrike provides everything your teams need for a successful process modeling project, including standardizing intake, accelerating internal processes with automation, and optimizing processes with custom dashboards.

Create precise titles that clarify user intent

When your company has a process modeling project underway, you must ensure that it is simple and easy to understand for all stakeholders. One way to do this is by creating precise titles that clarify user intent and lead to the desired action.

Here’s a process modeling example that shows how to do this. For a particular action that represents a portion of the money utilized for a specific process, the title can be “budget utilization” to make it easy to understand for all stakeholders.

Give a diverse set of options

There can be several ways to streamline a particular process. Just adding a title to the alternative option will not help — make sure your teams are outlining and describing the alternative routes for optimization too. 

Remember that the objective of the entire business process modeling exercise is to improve the process, even if it means choosing a different path.

Standardize processes using premade templates

Starting with Wrike's premade business process model templates can save company resources, effort and precious time. 

Your teams can customize the templates for every digital transformation project instead of using an ad-hoc approach based on previous experiences.

What are process modeling tools available for business process modeling projects?

Teams can create their process model entirely on paper or even a spreadsheet. 

However, leveraging automated business process modeling tools lets your teams digitize processes and sets them up for success.

Discovering areas for improvement is easier with business process modeling software. 

Here are a few process modeling tools that can help your teams excel at process modeling projects.

Tallyfy

If your teams struggle to find the latest version of a critical document or spend hours documenting processes, choose a process management tool such as Tallyfy

Use Tallyfy to track progress, automate monotonous tasks, and save hours of manual effort. It uses a mobile-first platform, gives a real-time Business Intelligence (BI) feed, and has industry-leading features such as Single Sign-On.

Bizagi

Boost process compliance and enhance competitive advantages for your company with an intelligent process automation tool such as Bizagi. 

Bizagi brings together robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and digital process automation to organize, automate, and integrate business processes.

Facilitate end-to-end process modeling automation by organizing people, systems, and processes to create more optimized, accurate, and Agile workflows.

ProcessMaker 

Support your teams in creating and deploying low-code business processes with Processmaker's award-winning BPM and digital process automation software. 

ProcessMaker helps you eliminate departmental silos, minimize manual efforts, and boost progress visibility across the entire company.

This BPMN 2.0 compliant process modeling tool allows team members to quickly create decision points, drag and drop tasks, and add project-specific users, forms, and more.

Smartdraw

Need a smart diagramming tool for your team? With SmartDraw's intelligent formatting engine, your team members will be able to create, edit, and publish diagrams in a flash with over 4500 templates and 34,000 symbols.

Smartdraw also has a unique and industry-leading functionality that can automatically resize shapes to match the shape of a given diagram. Teams can use it to create class diagrams, organization charts with in-built extensions, or produce manifests and enhance diagrams.

Why Wrike is the process modeling software you need

Companies can’t just "set and forget" their business processes in today's ever-changing landscape. They need to constantly review the tasks that work while cutting the ones that don’t.

A business process modeling software such as Wrike could be a great fit for your organization, whatever its size. 

Minimize process bottlenecks and enhance resource optimization by using Wrike to boost productivity across teams. Automate internal approvals, streamline process workflows, and drive better results with Wrike's business process management software.

Empower your teams with dynamic integration capabilities and custom reporting tools to effortlessly achieve their process modeling goals. Start your next process modeling project today with a free two-week trial.

Comments 0

Sorry, this content is unavailable due to your privacy settings. To view this content, click the “Cookie Preferences” button and accept Advertising Cookies there.

Cookie Preferences