Process Mapping Basics – Part I

The starting point of the implementation of BPM system (BPMS) is collecting process requirements by mapping the business process being automated. Any business process is a series of activities carried out by a performer or a group of performers in order to produce outputs by consuming inputs. A business process is always governed by business policies and business rules. Hence while, mapping the process and collecting process requirements, it is essential to capture the following elements of the process:
– Activity flow: sequence of activities from start to end along with their interdependencies and inter-relationships
– Information flow: inputs and outputs for each of the activity mapped as part of activity flow
– Business rules: business policies governing the flow of business process
– Performer: performer of the activity; a person, a group of persons, or a system
– Activity turnaround time
– Activity cost

Most of the modern BPMS provide process modelers – a graphical drag-n-drop tool – to map business process. These modelers also support process simulation. In case you are a beginner and wish to try process mapping, you may consider open source BMPS (process designers provided as part of BPMS) from Intalio (Would be available from Q2 of 2006), or jBoss. Savvion, one of the leading BPMS providers also provides 90 days evaluation copy of their process designer, which can be downloaded from their website.

It is not essential to map business process in the process modelers offered by BPMS. If you are a user of process modelers such as Visio and Provision, some BPM systems allow import of processes defined in these modeling software.

Some BPM systems support swimlane based process mapping. Swimlane based process mapping is a method of representation of process maps, where activities are organized performerwise and represented on the process diagram within horizontal or vertical bands. Each band represents a performer.

Typically activity flow, information flow, business rules, & performers are required for process execution by the workflow engine. Activity turnaround and activity costs are useful for process simulation, which can be carried out to identify and improve upon process bottlenecks.

Business rules in most BPM systems are captured as part of the activity flow. In such cases, workflow engine executes both activity flow as well as business rules. There are few BPM systems where business rules are captured and executed by a separate business rules engine. This gives business users flexibility in managing business rules, which change more often than the activity flow. For example, in case of loan application process, loan approval rules are likely to change more often than the activity flow of application verification, application evaluation and disbursement of loan. I will discuss business rules and dynamic process management in my blog in future.

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