Business Process Modeling (BPM)

March 2, 2011

By John Polmatier

As many organizations have found and/or have known, improving products, services, and customer satisfaction is paramount to maintaining a successful business. While the finished product most often determines the winners and losers in any industry, the processes performed behind the scenes are essentially responsible. In order to be successful as a whole, then, it is necessary to improve the individual business processes (as well as their sub processes). Those who have become unfamiliar with business process, you can refresh here.

Business Process Modeling or BPM is the activity of representing the business processes of an organization in its current state, as well as its future or expected state, so that all of those processes may be analyzed, improved, and monitored. As expected, here is a formal definition:

‘Business process modeling (BPM) seeks to standardize the management of business processes that span multiple applications, multiple data repositories, multiple corporate departments, or even multiple companies (or government agencies). BPM provides the foundation for interoperability, whether among departments or among affiliated organizations.’[1]

In the remainder of this post I will focus on fundamentals of BPM and aligning business processes with a best fit IT solution. It should be noted that BPM is not solely implemented in the IT sector, but this blog does maintain that slant. The core subject matter will be:

· Objectives

· When is it time?

· Tools and standards

· Advantages/Benefits

· Disadvantages or common problems

BPM Objectives

As stated above the purpose of BPM is ultimately to identify problem areas within the business processes of an organization and find a solution for those. These include all tasks and subtasks associated with those processes. Examples of these problem areas can be manual tasks that could be or should be automated, redundant activities, and even obsolete processes. Four objectives of BPM, as stated in Enterprise Architecture A to Z:

1. Obtaining knowledge about the business processes of the enterprise

2. Utilizing business process knowledge in business process reengineering projects to optimize the operation

3. Facilitating the decision-making efforts of the enterprise

4. Supporting interoperability of the business process [1]

BPM – When is it time?

BPM is an integral part of Business Process Reengineering (BPR) – a period in which analysis and workflow are redesigned within an enterprise or across enterprises. But other periods in the lifecycle of an organization benefit from BPM as well. Particularly in the early stages of software development projects, BPM provides clarity for requirements gathering and the conceptual workflow. Another valuable role for BPM is in mergers and acquisitions of enterprises.

Tools and Standards

There are numerous utilities and standards developed for BPM, some of which are graphical and others that are in a language format. This section is meant to serve as an introduction therefore I will not provide incredible detail here nor imply that any of these are preferred over the other.

· BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation)- Developed by the Object Management Group (OMG), this standard utilizes objects for a highly visual model. ‘The primary goal of BPMN is to provide a notation that is readily understandable by all business users’, from the analysts that create the initial drafts of processes, to technical developers, to business people who will manage those processes. [2]

· UML (Unified Modeling Language) – Another OMG standard, this visual standard is utilized to document processes as well as data structure. This is OMG’s most used standard

· BPEL (Web Services Business Process Execution Language) – OASIS developed this language as a notation for specifying behavior of business processes based on Web Services

· WS-CDL (Web Services Choreography Description Language) – Developed/recommended by the world wide web consortium (W3C), this is an XML language that describes the collaboration between peer to peer participants.

Advantages

Below are three benefits of BPM as noted by contributor pasindulathpandura in article published on Zimbio. [3]

1. Formalize existing processes and spot needed improvements

2. Facilitate automated, efficient process flow

3. Increase productivity and decrease head count [3]

Disadvantages

Here I will summarize a few disadvantages or problems as described in an article on benefits and capability of BPM.

1. Documentation purposes only – Models may be produced strictly for documentation requirements that have been issued by quality management.

2. All processes are not modeled – Organizations may model only those processes they have determined to be the most important. This can be detrimental in identifying some underlying tasks that may be the true problem area.

3. Constructs for entities – Terminology may be a deficiency in modeling certain business processes. This can be a problem in identifying redundant processes, or establishing an effective workflow for different entities. [4]

Conclusion

BPM is meant to assist in streamlining business processes of an organization through common standards. While many standards and tools exist, only a select few have been provided in this post. It is very important to also note the supposed benefits and problems with BPM as you move forward in your quest for efficiency.

References:

1. Minoli, Daniel. Enterprise Architecture A to Z. Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach Publications. 2008

2. http://www.omg.org/spec/BPMN/2.0/PDF

3. http://www.zimbio.com/Business+Processes/articles/3/Advantages+Business+Process+Modeling

4. http://www.aaai.org/Papers/Symposia/Spring/2008/SS-08-01/SS08-01-009.pdf

Advertisements

One Response to “Business Process Modeling (BPM)”

  1. BPM appears to be a great method for ensuring a clear understanding of the functionality of processes for both technical and non-technical users.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: