About business processes V. - Modeling business processes

What is process modeling?

Process modeling is the set of tools and methodologies that provide certain principals to help us graphically portray business processes of our company. The organization called "Workflow Management Coalition" issues standards, based on which process modeling tools and workflow systems operate. These standards ensure that all graphic portrays of business processes are unified and therefore easy to understand in any business environment. Therefore, misreading process flow charts can be avoided.


 What process models and process flow charts are for?

Process flow charts are helping process engineers to keep processes transparent and easy to understand. In our previous post we described processes in writing, which - especially in case of more complex processes - can quickly become effusive and confusing. (At the same time it is great to begin process identification)

Therefore, graphically portraying business processes is the next step in business process modeling. Different elements of business process flow charts has different meanings - they can be operative tasks, decisions and other steps - so different events are separated on the level of objects they are portrayed by. Let's examine the process model required for the invoice approval process we described previously. The model shall be read vertically from up to down, as this sequence will show the steps that follow each other in the process. Therefore, the previously mentioned approval process shall start like this:

(Step 1: Lisa or Kate sends the invoice to be approved to Michael for approval by email.)



Process steps - tasks - are portrayed by squares in the process flow chart.


Step 2: Michael examines if the invoice and identifies if they are payable or not.

In other terms, the second step is an examination task and a decision point in the process. The decision point is portrayed by a rhomb shape in the process chart:




So in case the invoice cannot be approved, the process cannot go on and the invoice is sent back to the finance department.


In case the process goes on:

Michael examines the values included in the invoice. Again, a decision: invoice total ok or not? The process chart shows exactly what happens in each case:




The whole process looks like this as a process flow chart, including the previously introduced elements, and all others described in the previous post:




 It is clear from the above that the process drawing shows the exact sequence of process steps and also pinpoints the exact locations of decisions, and therefore the modifications of the process depending on the decision. (In the example: money transfer by the approver or by the finance dept.) This process modeling methodology enables the visualization of complex workflows, which would be too lengthy and hard to understand in case they were visualized differently. It is also important that this visualization technique shows exactly where are points/steps in the process that could be improved or simplified. Hence, process visualization is a great enabler for process improvement, since useless steps, irrational tasks or events can be filtered easily. At the same time, it makes easy to see how the process steps shall be modified in order to achieve more rational process frameworks and thus, more effective processes in the company. 


Coming up next

There are a number of different - free and paid - solutions for process modeling. In our next post we will review some of these and will also discuss the modeling of more complicated processes too.