Before answering the question, “What is business process modelling?”, we’ll consider business processes themselves.
Note that BPM may also refer to ‘Business process management”; we will not be using that term on this course. For our purposes, the two concepts are effectively the same.
What is a business process?
An organisation creates value in the form of products and services.
Its business processes are the means by which it delivers that value, i.e. its products and services, to its customers.
The BCS book, ‘Business Analysis’, describes a process as the means by which organisations:
- Carry out their internal operations.
- Deliver their products and services to their customers.
A business process typically comprises a set of activities. The activities illustrated in the above diagram are:
- Taking the customer order.
- Preparing the ordered items for delivery.
- Delivering the ordered items.
Such a process is initiated by a triggering event, i.e. the customer places an order.
The process will also have an outcome, i.e. the customer receives what they ordered. This a successful outcome. Not all outcomes are successful.
All processes should have a goal or objective. This goal is reflected in the outcome. The goal should, directly or indirectly, support the overall business goals and strategies of the organisation.
Transactional processes are the primary activities in the operation of a business. They are what most people intuitively understand as the business processes.
Examples of transactional processes include:
- Fulfil order.
- Acquire raw material.
- Provide holiday.
- Resolve customer complaint.
- Replenish stock.
Transactional processes possess the following characteristics:
- Processes are triggered by a business event such as the receipt of a customer order.
- After being triggered, processes execute a planned response to that type of event. This planned response involves a set of related activities. The diagram below demonstrates the activities for the ‘fulfil order’ process, i.e.,
- Record the customer’s order.
- Prepare the order for delivery.
- Deliver the ordered items to the customer.
- Processes realise an outcome or outcomes.
- The outcome of the ‘fulfil order’ process is that the customer has received their order and the business has been paid.
- I.e., the order has been fulfilled.
The execution of a process following an instance of an event is referred to as an instantiation (or instance) of that process.
In the above example, it is possible to pre-define the order in which the activities of such processes occur. Such activities can be represented, or modelled, using a flowchart; they may subsequently be automated.
More generally, activities may performed in:
- No specific order
- Some mix of the above
For an example of activities that may occur in parallel, consider the case of an order from a customer that involves:
- Manufacturing, who create the ordered products.
- Finance, who obtain payment.
Management and creative processes
Processes associated with management and creative activities comprise related activities but the activities are not normally executed in a predefined sequence.
For example, a senior manager will be involved in various activities but it is probably not possible to represent them as a flowchart. It is unlikely, at the moment, that such processes can be automated.
Business processes and IT systems
Business analysts are concerned with both business processes and the IT systems to support them.
This course, Modelling Business Processes, is primarily concerned with business processes.
Business processes organise the work of an organisation. They are supported by IT systems.
Business process improvement is not the same thing as process automation.
What is a Business Process Model?
A business process model is a representation of a business process. This representation is typically graphical, e.g. some form of flow chart.
The syllabus for this course, cross referring to the BCS publication, “Business Analysis”, that supports the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis, refers to various representations of business processes.
The following are particularly relevant to the syllabus and exam for the Modelling Business Processes module:
- Organisational view, that may be represented with a ‘Business process map.
- Business process model.
An organisational view, as referred to in the syllabus for this course, is a representation of an organisation’s top level processes and the dependencies between them. The syllabus says that an organisational view may be represented as a ‘process map’, as shown in the above diagram.
A business process model is a representation of the bottom level activities, referred to as tasks, that are involved in one business process.
A business process model shows all the ways in which a process can be started (instantiated) and all the ways in which it can complete, i.e. all the possible outcomes and all the possible routes through the model.
The business process model also shows the stakeholder roles that are involved in the execution (instantiation) of the process.
The syllabus and accompanying BCS book for this course uses the term, ‘process flow’ to refer to the arrowed lines connecting the tasks.
Note on the terminology used in the BCS ‘Business Analysis’ publication
- Many people use the term ‘process map’ for what the above publication refers to as a process model.
- The term, ‘process model’, is often used generically for any representation of a business process.
- Some authorities refer to a ‘process flow’ arrow as a ‘work flow’, a ‘sequence flow’ or a ‘control flow’.
- It is important that exam candidates understand the terminology used in the BCS publication, ‘Business Analysis’, and it’s companion publication, ‘Business Analysis Techniques’.
- We will cover the organisational view and process maps, as defined here, in module 2, ‘Organisational model for business processes’.
- We will cover process models, as defined here, in module 3, ‘Modelling the business processes’.
- We will also consider the term, ‘Organisation Model’, as defined by Rummler and Harmon.
So, what is Business Process Modelling?
Business process modelling:
- Is the act of creating the various representations of a business process.
- Is not the same thing as process automation: the role of process automation in process improvement is covered in a later module.
- Is a key skill of a business analyst.
Business process modelling is normally performed by business analysts working with:
- Business stakeholders who operate or manage the process, or who have some other interest in it. One or more of these stakeholders may be referred to as process owners, a term also associated with agile approaches to software development. As well as its use in the context of a project, the term, ‘process owner’ may indicate a more permanent responsibility.
- Business architects.
- Specialist process modellers.
Answering exam questions on this topic.
The topics covered in this lesson are likely to be the subject of several questions examined in the scenario based, open book style of exam. In later sessions, we will look at these in more detail and give you practice in typical questions.
Understanding of the general concepts and principles referred to in this lesson is essential to being able to answer a variety of questions. Again, we will give you specific practice exercises.
In the multi-choice style of exam, which is expected later in the year, all of the topics could potentially be examined.
If you take the oral exam to gain the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis, you could be asked questions about the nature of business process, e.g. “What is a business process?” and “What is a business process model?”
We have created a case study for this course.
It features a company in the furniture supply business and contains questions in the style of the scenario based exams.
You will also be provided with annotated answers in the style of the so called ‘marking schemes’, as used by BCS accredited exam providers.
You will be able to download the case study introduction in lesson 4 of this module. We will start using the case study exercises in Module 2.
This quiz contains 10 questions related to this lesson.
The question appears in bold text.
Up to 4 possible answers appear in text boxes below the question.
Click the answer that you believe to be correct.
You will not get an immediate answer. Click the button labelled, ‘Next question’ that is situated below the answers.
Important: If you click ‘Next question’ before you click an answer, the quiz will move on to the next question. You will not be advised that you have not clicked an answer. The quiz will give a score based on the number of questions you actually answered.
You cannot return to a previous question.
After you have answered the 10th and final question, the button label will read, “See my score”. Click this to see your score. Your score will appear on this page.
You will also be able to download a PDF version of the quiz and the annotated answers.
After completing the quiz, you may refresh the page and have another go.