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The what, why and how of process modeling

by | 24 Mar 2022

Organizations add value by executing certain business processes. Business processes consist of a set of related and logically ordered steps, where tasks are performed and decisions are made to achieve a particular goal. It is of course important that this is done in the most efficient and effective way possible, which contributes to the realization of the organizational goals. For this it is important to properly organize and coordinate these processes. Just like when building a house or bridge, it is essential to first work out a complete and correct plan in the form of a conceptual model: the process model.

In such a plan for processes you describe the agreed working method. This can be worked out at a detailed level with a high degree of formalization and standardization, but also at a more abstract level with only the most important milestones. That completely depends on the situation and the wishes.

The ‘what’ of process modeling

A process model (or: flowchart ) is a visual elaboration of such a process. It includes a starting point (the trigger ), one or more ending points and all steps and choices in between. In addition, the process model indicates for each step (or choice) who is responsible for implementation. This is either a particular role (such as project manager, sales associate, customer support, or primary care physician) or a system that performs the action automatically.

A process model therefore describes in detail how you want to achieve business objectives. It shows exactly how and by whom the work is done. This makes a process model an important basis for quality management, external audits and improvement processes, for example. However, it is important to realize that a process model is a means , and never an end in itself. The goal can vary from drawing up detailed (work) instructions for a role to visualizing how the entire desired process runs in which different roles and systems are involved.

The ‘why’ of process modeling

Making a process model is an investment that can pay off in several ways. It creates a common language, allowing all kinds of stakeholders to understand each other quickly and well. The visual representation of the process, the person responsible for each step and the moments of choice is very accessible for everyone and can be quickly mastered.

This makes a process model a starting point and means for substantive discussions about strategically important topics. For example, it can support the design or redesign of the process, because it is now clear what is and what is not, and what is only possible under certain conditions (such as legislation and regulations). That is why process modeling is also a fundamental part of improvement strategies such as Lean. In addition, it is a very powerful tool in the analysis and design of supporting information systems. Ideally, an implementation of an information system exactly corresponds to the desired process model (a so-called digital twin ).

If it is the case that one is able to automatically generate an IT implementation of a process from a process model, then you have very powerful support for a sustainable process. After all, a desired adjustment in functionality of an existing IT implementation is now arranged by adjusting the underlying process model of that implementation, and then automatically generating a new IT implementation from the adjusted model! Such an approach is called ‘ model-driven software development ‘, and NorthChain , for example, has developed a technique whereby a total IT implementation is generated fully automatically from a process model. You can read more about that here.

The ‘how’ of process modeling

As hopefully has now become clear, being able to draw up a process model is a valuable skill, which requires different skills. The most important are mapping the current and desired situation, and mastering a process modeling language. The language we use and teach is called GOLE. This is also the language that can be used to directly translate a process model into a software solution. In this blog you can read more about process modeling languages and GOLE.

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