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5 Business Process Modeling Tips for Digital Transformation

Business analysts should bring more than an ad-hoc or experience-based business process modeling competence to digital transformation projects. This article will explain why and practically, how.

Many enterprises are on digital transformation journeys.

They are optimizing operating costs, improving capacity, security, scalability, and availability by moving their existing applications onto private or public cloud infrastructures. They are adopting best practices and gaining operational efficiencies by adopting best-of-breed enterprise applications in the cloud. They are integrating technologies like mobility, the internet of things, data analytics and machine learning, robotic process automation, biometrics and more. All in the cloud. This is commonly referred to as digital transformation.

Digital transformation projects differ from process management and regulatory compliance projects. They aim to disrupt by creating new business processes and services rather than improving what exists. They aim to get to market quickly by adopting and integrating existing technologies, systems and services, along with their processes, rather than inventing them. Their business processes are enabled by systems and services that are off-premise, in the cloud.

Disruption – Digital transformation projects typically seek to achieve leapfrog operational improvements rather than incremental ones. They achieve efficiencies and standardization objectives by adopting the processes of already proven, best-of-breed business systems and services. For example, adopting a human resource management system in the cloud will disrupt by altogether abandoning current processes and adopting and standardizing on the best-of-breed processes of the cloud solution.

Pace – Many digital transformation projects have aggressive timelines to deploy their technologies, to keep pace with business competitors or to gain market share. Already-invented and proven software services hosted in the cloud can be subscribed to and deployed relatively quickly. The time and effort spent on deploying business applications may be shortened. The effort shifts to tailoring, integrating, testing integrated components software and adopting change within business operations.

Technology – Technologies such as virtual machines, software as a service, mobile devices, the Internet of Things, biometrics, machine learning and the internet itself are all part of the digital transformation landscape. Virtual servers in the cloud are highly scalable and cost-effective. The range of existing, proven systems and services ready to be subscribed to, adopted and integrated in the cloud continues to grow. The cloud’s systems and services collaborate as a network of event-triggered and outcome-oriented services.

As with other information technology projects, digital transformation projects come with delivery and operational risks. They can have heightened vendor risk, people risk, change management risk, and ultimately business process failure risk. They rely on external vendors’ consultants, or third party consultants who are temporary and outside the direct control of the organization who owns the transformation. The organization’s people who will maintain the newly transformed services when a digital transformation project ends may be left with a knowledge gap in their capability to support the new product or service. The people whose day-to-day operations are affected might not initially be well-enough prepared to use the digitally transformed systems and processes. These can ultimately contribute to business process failure risk. The risk of failure to achieve the expected operational benefits due to poorly designed or executed business processes.

This is why any digital transformation project’s lifecycle may call for a business analyst to prepare conceptual or logical business process models. The models will be used for the same reasons that process models are used in process improvement or regulatory compliance projects: to communicate among the processes’ stakeholders. By communicating the required or designed processes among the digital transformation project’s owners, its suppliers and to people in the organization whose processes are changing

So What?

According to the IIBA, process modeling is one of a business analysts’ competencies. Although most business analysts are good enough communicators and have a well-rounded knowledge of their enterprises’ operations, they only have an ad-hoc or repeatable degree of business process modeling competence. They prepare business process models very infrequently. Some can recollect and repeat the process modeling techniques of their previous process improvement, regulatory compliance or IT projects. If they do, they are used to perceiving business processes as sequential procedures of tasks. There is generally room for improvement.

A business analyst should be able to confidently and efficiently elicit, perceive, model and communicate how a business process or activity is or will be implemented by a digital transformation project. Among their elicitation, subject matter and communication skills, a business analyst should be capable of perceiving any business process or activity as it is or will be implemented in the cloud, as a network of event and message triggered collaborating services.

5 Business Process Modeling Tips for Digital Transformation:

Here are 5 ways to improve your business process modeling competence and become better prepared for producing high-quality business process models that serve digital transformation projects.

1. Come Prepared
2. Get Event and Outcome Oriented
3. Know Your Mission
4. Have Agendas
5. Take Advantage of BPMN


Come Prepared.

Have a defined and proven process modeling competence and tailor it for each digital transformation project.

Start with a defined level of business process modeling competence instead of taking an ad-hoc approach or simply relying on past process improvement or regulatory compliance project experiences. Be able to clearly describe what steps and activities you will take to elicit and document the business process model. Have established elicitation techniques, agendas and modeling patterns that you can use to elicit and model basic business process flows. Be able to predict what modeling steps you will take in developing the business process model. Also, be able to predict what elicitation techniques work well for you. Have clear, concise elicitation agendas. Be prepared to intentionally tailor your approach, elicitation techniques, elicitation agendas and model configuration to the needs of each digital transformation project’s methodology.

Get Event and Outcome Oriented.

Perceive, normalize and define all business processes or activities as event-driven and outcome-oriented services.

Initiating events and expected outcomes are critical to the way that business processes and services collaborate in the cloud. Any business process or activity is a repeatable collection of work activities, initiated by a business event that achieves an expected outcome, for a customer.

Observe and recognize how business events and expected outcomes are implemented as cloud services. For example, you know that whenever you’ve made a credit card purchase online, the credit card authorization service started by receiving a request from an online business process in which you made your purchase. This was its initiating event. Once initiated by that event, the credit card authorization service completed related work tasks, like negotiating with the credit company and a bank. It achieved its expected outcome by sending a response that the payment was accepted or declined. That was the expected outcome and that outcome was consumed by its customer: the site that made the credit card authorization request in the first place.

Use this framework to conceptually and logically frame any business process that you model in a digital transformation project, before spending valuable time and effort eliciting all the other process information that may come up: e.g. who owns it, how it is or will be implemented, what is its service level, how efficient it is, etc.. Not much of all the other logical details matter if the basic framework of the digitized business process or service itself is not well framed: To you, it must have an initiating event and one or more related activities that lead to its expected outcome, for a customer.

Know Your Mission.

Determine the purpose of a business process model in each digital transformation project’s lifecycle.

The scopes, objectives and delivery methodologies of digital transformation projects vary widely. Get clear about what the business process model will be used for, and know who will use it. Determine the tense and the required degree of abstraction that will best suit the model’s intended use. Establish these mission parameters at the start of your elicitation and modeling efforts so that you focus the forthcoming time and modeling efforts on the right types of conceptual or logical refinements for that project and you are in alignment with the mission parameters when you validate your model’s quality.

Have Agendas. It’s not nearly as important to ask a lot of questions as it is to ask the right questions.

Have clear, concise elicitation agendas to elicit basic business process flow and each of the most common logical business process flow refinements. These are the few but key questions you will doggedly elicit the answers to as you are eliciting your process model’s content. Understand why you need to ask and answer those questions. Prepare and communicate your elicitation agenda in advance of engaging key stakeholders in elicitation events like workshops or interviews.

Take Advantage of BPMN.

Take advantage of BPMN to illustrate event and outcome-oriented business process structures and modeling patterns.

Use BPMN’s icons that are specifically intended to illustrate event-driven, outcome-oriented process flows and logical refinements. Use modeling patterns that employ BPMN start events, message flows, intermediate events, and end events, to illustrate modeling patterns such as basic business process flow, external stakeholder interactions, interruptions, delays and exceptions, and expected outcomes.

Know the conceptual and logical process elements and patterns that are relevant to systems in the cloud. Have elicitation agendas and modeling patterns (using BPMN) that you will use to elicit, model and communicate them. Be able to elicit and model the events that start, interrupt, and finish processes and services. Use messages to illustrate collaborations among business processes and services

Establish or Improve Your Process Modeling Competence for Digital Transformation

The Universal Process Modeling Procedure is a step-by-step guide for producing a business process model that will meet its project’s intended purpose. It guides a business analyst or process analyst to establish a clear mission for every process model. It provides you clear elicitation agendas so that you can be asking the right questions at the right times in your model’s development. It tells you what to look for and how to accurately and unambiguously identify, normalise and define any business process and or activity. It includes a validation step with comprehensive and tailorable process model quality criteria. It informs you about key process model stakeholders and how to engage them in the model’s development. It also includes reusable BPMN modeling patterns for the most common types of process model refinements.

Learn more …

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Find the book Universal Process Modeling Procedure – The Practical Guide to High Quality Business Process Models Using BPMN at Amazon Books.