Rethinking BPMN - Part 2: The Process to Model a Process

In the first presentation ("Rethinking BPMN: What is a GOOD Process Model") we talked about characteristics of good business process models. In this presentation, the second in this series, we recommend a process to model processes (the meta-process, as buzzword fans may like to call it). As I often do, we will use a WHY-WHAT-HOW-WHO-WHEN-WHERE framework to structure our thinking.

In the first part we discussed WHY defining and using such a process will help us avoid scope creep and enable effective and efficient incremental elaboration, feedback, and making sound decisions.

In the second part we will describe the stages of modeling a process (WHAT we do) and the activities we perform when modeling a process (HOW we do it), using an analogy to the anatomy of the human body:

  1. Stage 1: PURPOSE.
    1. Establish the purpose of the process (desired outcome of the process itself) and our purpose/desired outcome for modeling that process (understanding? analysis? implementation?).
  2. Stage 2: HEAD to TAIL (yes, humans have tails, too).
    1. Describe the BOUNDARIES of the process we want to model:
      1. Start: pre-conditions/state and what triggers the process, and
      2. End: successful and, optional at this stage, alternate and exception results/outcomes
  3. Stage 3: BACKBONE.
    1. Identify key activities, phases, or milestones (typically 5-9) of the main path through the process, from the start to a successful end/outcome.
  4. Stage 4: SKELETON.
    1. Identify and elaborate points along the backbone where the process expands into various branches:
    2. Alternate paths/scenarios: branches that join back into the backbone
    3. Exception paths/branches: branches which will end the process.
  5. Stage 5: SYSTEM to SUBSYSTEMS.
    1. Identify key activities that are processes themselves and elaborate/detail them into sub-processes.
  6. Stage 6: WHOLE BODY.
    1. Complete the process, attaching other elements to it (e.g. actors/organizational structure, data, business rules/decisions, user interfaces, etc.)
  7. Stage 7: COMMUNITY.
    1. When multiple processes need to collaborate with each other to accomplish a more complex purpose/goal, describe how processes collaborate and coordinate their work using messages.

Next, we discuss the WHO-WHEN-WHERE: Analysts collaborating with Business and Solution Stakeholders (WHO), in iterative & incremental (WHEN) face-to-face sessions, followed by analysts capturing and sharing/getting feedback using process modeling tools (WHERE).

Finally, we also address what to do when there are “too many main success scenarios” and teams get stuck in analysis paralysis and the common challenge to decide when variations in a process should be modeled as branches within the process vs. as separate "parallel" process models.

Presenter: Razvan Radulian

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