Posts Tagged ‘process modelling’

Modelling tools

Posted in Business Process Consulting on July 10th, 2009 by Jason Edlin – Be the first to comment

The previous blog looked at why you would model but how do you choose or even find an appropriate modelling tool. In this short blog I do not propose to promote one modelling tool over another or even give a listing of all available tools. I am pretty certain if I tried to do that this blog would become the size of the local library! Besides others already do a better, and far more admirable, job of that than I ever can. What I can do is point you towards a few options that exist and where to find more information.

The range of Business Process Modelling tools is vast and as varied as the possible applications that they can be used for. Some are focused on pure business process and some more attuned to IT functionality. As the old adage says, “Different horses for different courses”. Tool selection depends firstly on what you want to do and secondly on the amount you are prepared to spend. Prices can vary from free to a million dollars or more! Ouch!

In general cost is proportionate to capability. If it is your desire to only produce basic models on how your business functions then costs for that level of software would be significantly lower. If, on the other hand, you want to have models that allow you to simulate or record business processes in real time and produce a current and active dashboard of your business in real time, expect to pay a bit more.

What suits a smaller company with a turnover of less than a million dollars a year is going to be vastly different from the big corporate that turns over in excess of $200M per year. Luckily BPM tool vendors provide tools for all markets and requirements.

For some smaller businesses, and sometimes even larger ones, all that is required is MS Excel or MS PowerPoint. For something a little more complex MS Visio is more than adequate.

A further aspect to consider is that if the models are to be used to develop systems and/or workflow in IT then it would be handy for the tool to have Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) language capability.

To find out about some of the options just look up BPM tools on the internet. Ooops, lots isn’t there?

Don’t despair. The internet is a great way for finding details on any number of tools but would obviously be time consuming. There is a couple of better ways:

  1. Look up Gartner or Forrester Groups on the internet. Both of these companies have already done the hard work and produce overviews on the most of the up to date tools available each year and where they sit in relation to each other. See or
  2. The second, and by far the easiest, is to ask a BPM consultant. They might not be across all available systems in the world but they will most certainly be aware of what is available in your area and, most importantly, what would suit your situation. After all isn’t that what you are trying to do?

In the end it is what you are going to use the tool for that is the most important aspect of all.

I have one word of caution: If you are looking at spending good money on purchasing a BPM tool then you also need to make a commitment to maintain and update the models as necessary to keep them current with your business.

Process modelling vs process mapping

Posted in Business Process Consulting on July 10th, 2009 by Jason Edlin – Be the first to comment

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.