Fusion Blog

An Introduction to BPM for Business Analysts

If you’re a Business Analyst and you don’t know or aren’t certain what Business Process Modeling (BPM) is, odds are you already have the necessary soft-skills needed to develop process models and didn’t realize it!

This post was prompted by a recent article from Nancy Nee on the Modern Analyst website “10 Key Business Analysis Trends For 2013,” where she predicts that in the year ahead, “modeling skills will take precedence in business analysis training.”

Nee goes on to say that, “Many organizations that have embraced Agile and business architecture are beginning to understand the importance of modeling skills and the value they bring in delivering quick, efficient solutions. Agile projects and effective business architecture both require a strong skill set in process and use case modeling. Modeling techniques will be a key focus area for BAs in 2013 as these tools will become critical in depicting the impact of solutions on the business. As such, the written word will continue to slowly lose its appeal and significance when describing solutions and impact to customers.”

I’ve since discovered that many of the activities I perform as a BA are also needed to develop Business Process Models as well. So in this post, I’ll first explain what Business Process Modeling is and why it’s important. Then I’ll describe how BPM ties into the core soft-skills that all BAs are familiar with.

What is BPM and why is it important?

A Business Process Model represents one or more structured processes performed by a business that directly or indirectly produces a product or service. The process model captures each activity and decision-point as a product or service travels along the path towards its completion and consumption by a human or non-human consumer. Process models place a strong emphasis on “how” work is done within the business rather than focusing on the “what” of an end-product the business produces.

Process models are normally diagrammatic (usually UML) and produced by sophisticated modeling applications such as Sparx Enterprise Architect. But they can just as easily be Visio diagrams or even post-it notes connected by marker on a whiteboard. And while theoretically, an entire business can be described by a single model, for process models to remain meaningful to people, larger and more complex processes are usually broken down into smaller, sub-process models that work together to describe the business as a whole.

The importance of BPM lies in its ROI to businesses. Process models provide the necessary current-state documentation that describes how all of a business’s processes work as well as the activities and actors which are involved with them from start to finish. Once complete, a “current state” model can be analyzed to realize efficiencies that eliminate redundant processes or needless complexity. This makes businesses more responsive to their customers as well as lowers their operating costs. For example, process models allow businesses to identify and automate repetitive manual processes, providing faster execution at less cost.

The Correlation of Core BA Skills to BPM

Like any professional discipline, BPM has its own well-documented standards and practices that govern how modeling is performed. But if we take a step back from the rigor of BPM as a discipline we can see, as illustrated by the image below, the connection between the methodology described for developing process models and the soft-skills used by BAs during requirements elaboration.

Image 1: BPM & Requirements Management

Image 1: BPM & Requirements Management

To demonstrate this point in more detail, the table below provides high-level correlations between BPM activities in the left column and Requirements Management activities in the right. As you will see, the same soft-skills you already possess can be leveraged to develop process models!

 

BPM Activities Requirements Management Activities

1.

Find the start and end points Define customer need and define project scope

Elaborate Current State

2.

Describe the current activities that are performed in an “as-is” model Elaborate customer “Current State” or, how does the system look today?

3.

Describe the order of activities in the “as-is” model Prioritize “Current State” activities

4.

Describe who performs the activities in the “as-is” model Identify human and non-human “Current State” Actors

5.

Describe data and artifact exchange and usage between “as-is” processes Define what information is being used and/or exchanged between human and non-human “Current State” Actors

Elaborate Future State

6.

Describe the desired outcome in a “to-be” model Elaborate “Future State” requirements or, how does the system look when all work is done? Note: Objectives, Refined Scope, Success Criteria, Use Cases and other supporting artifacts are included

7.

Describe the order of activities in the “to-be” model Prioritize “Future State” requirements

8.

Describe who performs the activities in the “to-be” model Identify human and non-human “Future State” Actors

9.

Describe data and/or artifact exchange and usage between “to-be” processes Define what information is being used and/or exchanged between human and non-human “Future State” Actors

Test & Implement the Future State

10.

Refine and update the “to-be” model Review/Update and obtain approvals for BA “Future State” deliverables

11.

Test and implement the “to-be” model Test and implement the “Future State

For businesses overloaded by needless bureaucratic exchanges, redundant or repetitive processes, or simply too much administrative expense, BPM is an extremely valuable planning asset. It allows businesses to streamline their processes thereby cutting costs while at the same time putting them on a firmer, better-understood path to their future growth.

As Business Analysts, we already have the necessary soft-skills for working with our customers to develop process models. Learning the hard-skills needed to produce process models in a modeling application is simply a matter of obtaining the appropriate training.

Now go forth and model!

Comments

  • Machelle E.

    Great write up, this will be helpful as we move forward with current and new clients to better anticipate our true impact to our projects and tasks.

  • Nicholas B

    Great Read! I always find using BPM useful vs. UML or RUP Modeling…

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