Some thoughts on "business process modeling" and how the choice of tool will impact your strategic results:
I was working on some training materials this week, and I needed to whip up as-is and to-be business process maps. These would be used to help trainees visualize how the software they were going to build in an agile way during the training would transform the fictional business for which it was being written.
I got completely mired down in this seemingly simple task, and I realized it is because the more you think about it, the more the business process mapping for the purpose of planning a software project is just not simple.
If you're like me, you are probably thinking, "well gee, just throw together some circles, rectangles, and arrows, and you're done, what's the big deal?" Indeed, I started down this track, and in the name of being professional, I spent an afternoon this week familiarizing myself with Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN, currently at version 2.0). I became fairly adept at BPMN, which is very nice for creating process flowcharts, and tried out a very cool tool, Lombardi Blueprint, which keeps track of all the arrows for you (as MS-Visio and OmniGraffle do not). Blueprint also ensures that you create "legal" process flows, which means that each process has a single starting point and a single ending point, and within the process, each box has one or more entering arrows, and only one exit arrow.
But that's when it hit me--what had I done?! My "business analysis" was predisposed to think of the business process as a set of manipulations of database objects which could potentially be automated, and the moment I had chosen the BPMN flow-chart as the tool I wanted to use to map the business, I lost focus on the actual business problems which were spurring the need for new software in the first place. I was describing "as-is" and "to-be" from a systems perspective without providing any particular way to notate why "to be" was going to be better than "as is," except perhaps by showing some rectangles being eliminated through software creation.
Here's where I entered the world Dan Woods describes aptly as "
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