BPM Phase 1: Understanding and Documeting the Process

Phase 1:  Model or Document the Business Process

At a minimum, your business process should be documented in some form or another.   Additionally, this documentation should be maintained regularly, throughout each phase of the business process lifecycle.  As the process changes, the documentation should be maintained to reflect the latest changes.

A “Best Practice” is to document your business process in the form of a process model or diagram.  There are many process modeling tools on the market, ranging from very simple to very complex.  Choosing the right modeling tool is critical to the success of your business process.

Many organizations prefer the approach of documenting the process in two states:

  • As-is – Modeling the process as it appears today.   Typically, this is done by a Business Analyst or Project Manager, so that key stakeholders and subject matter experts can identify and agree upon how the process is perceived to be implemented at the current time.
  • To-Be – Modeling the process as it should be in the future. The Business Analysts or Project Managers will often include the IT staff and/or key subject matter experts in this process.  The to-be model will usually depict improvements made in process flow, workflow automation, document or data routing, and more.

The advantage of this dual-stage approach is so that the organization can create a benchmark for success, build a business case, or just get to a clear understanding of where the process is today.  The “to-be” model will help you get approval on a project, streamline the business process, cut costs, and improve operational or individual productivity.

Take time to evaluate several process modeling tools, if necessary, and choose one that meets the needs and skills of your organization.

Choosing the right Business Process Modeling Tool

The following are some tips on how to choose the right business process modeling tool:

  • Ease of use – Choose a process modeling tool that is easy to use.  Microsoft Visio is a tool commonly used by organizations that use SharePoint, because it has the familiar “Office Ribbon” interface and can be used for a wide variety of diagram and model types.
  • Extensibility – Choose a process modeling tool that is extensible.  You should be able to leverage this modeling tool for things other than just process diagrams.   Some providers, such as Global 360 (OpenText) and Sphida, for example, provide add-ins for Microsoft Visio that allow users to go beyond a flat process model and add more robust capabilities, such as entering process data, participant information, and other artifacts.   Further, some of these tools can also be used for process simulation (explained in Phase 2 below).  Bottom line – choose a tool that provides the most value throughout the process lifecycle.
  • Standards Based – Choose a process modeling tool that will be used consistently and predictably throughout your organization.   Adhere to a standard, such as BPMN, and use the same naming conventions, color schemes, and styles to design processes.  When your business processes are modeled consistently, it’s easy for someone new (to the business or this process) to view the model and quickly understand what is reflected in the process model.Note: BPMN is Business Process Modeling Notation.  It’s an industry standard for documenting business processes that includes standard shapes to represent key components of the process (Start/end points, activities, decisions, etc.).
  • Version Control – Choose a process modeling tool that will allow you to manage versions and iterations of your process model.  This is important in two phases:
    • Designing the original business process
    • Optimizing or managing changes within an existing process.
    • SharePoint Integration – Choose a process modeling tool that integrates well with SharePoint.   What does that mean?  Well, it could mean a number of things, depending on how your organization is using SharePoint today.   Some examples are:
      • Ability to natively publish to SharePoint (such as Microsoft Visio)
      • Ability to leverage Visio Services to view process maps in the browser and identify bottlenecks or other process performance indicators.

Whatever modeling tool you choose, be sure to take advantage of SharePoint as a document repository.  Create a secure, centralized Process Model Library where you can store each version of your business process model.   This way, you can control access to process models, put a change management process in place to maintain the models, and effectively govern changes made to these models.

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