So what is a modelling tool and how does it work? Why would I pay big dollars just to draw pretty pictures that I may or may not use again? Why can’t I use PowerPoint, Visio, Excel? The answer to all these questions and more comes back to one thing, “Why do you want to capture your processes?”
Most people are familiar with the term process mapping which is, in a nutshell, the sequencing of a number of tasks in a diagram to produce the end result that we call a process map. Historically this is represented by using two dimensional mapping tools such as Excel, PowerPoint or even VISIO. The resulting ’picture’ is a representation of the tasks that go to make up the process and that is all. Often the output is used briefly, if at all, and then ends up on the bottom of someone’s drawer or lost in the great black hole of documents on their hard drive. Sound familiar?
Business modeling is the sum of so much more. A common definition of modelling is:
“the capture, documentation and analysis and design of the structure of business processes, their relationships with the resources needed to implement them and the environment in which they will be used”
What this means in plain English is that business process modelling (BPM) models the process tasks and their interaction with the environment (e.g. office, customer), systems (IT stuff!) and resources (e.g. people, organisations, and product)
Modelling enables the viewer to understand the relationships between different processes, data, IT systems, people and skills. It captures and aligns with business objectives, products and services and records risks and regulatory requirements. It even allows and assists IT developers to design or improve systems to better support the business.
The above is all very nice but why would I want to ‘model’ rather than ‘map’ my processes? Good point. If all a business wishes to do is to gain an overview of the tasks involved in a particular process then all you need is a mapping tool. You probably already have access to one of these if you have Microsoft or Apple software. Mapping tools are also easily downloaded from any ‘open source’ supplier on the Internet.
If, however, you really need to understand all the components, relationships and interactions of a process then you need a modelling tool.
Process modelling takes things to a much higher level. A model is a ‘living’ document. It introduces rigour and standardisation (models are based on a common methodology). It enables analysis of relationships and data and can even be used as a base for simulation and rapid process engineering. In short it enables you, or anyone else, to gain an understanding of how your business operates.
So questions you need to ask yourself if you are considering capturing your business processes:
- Do I need an understanding of how my business operates?
- Do my business processes align with my business strategy and key performance objectives?
- Are my processes aligned to and support outcomes to my customers?
- Are my systems working effectively to support my business?
- Is my business complex and/or operating in a complex environment?
- Do I have enough/too many staff to carry out the day to day running of my business?
- Are my staff often involved in ‘workarounds’ or frequently fixing errors?
If you answered yes to any, or a number, of the above then it is worth looking at a modelling tool to support your business.