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Top 6 Process Modeling Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

There are many examples of very good business process models out there.

They can be found in textbooks, online, tutorials, and product demonstrations. However, in the real world …

Too many business process models fall short of expectations.

Despite significant investments of time and well-intended stakeholder effort, many business process models still end up being not very useful for their intended purposes. Too many don’t accurately enough reflect the business to be useful, or lack sufficient key stakeholders’ buy-in for real decision making, or don’t include the kinds of process information that the model’s readers are looking for, or even confuse their readers with complex or incongruous graphical notation.

Root Causes

None of these types of complaints should be blamed on environmental or project constraints like modeling tools at hand, the level the knowledge or capabilities of business subject matter experts who may be called upon to participate in the model’s development, or even time and effort constraints. Projects are by definition unique temporary endeavours, so these variables are present to varying degrees in all projects. Yes, they influence or constrain any process modeling activity, but a competent business analyst or process analyst is capable of managing and working with or around them.

The root cause of a business process model that does not fit the bill is a business analyst’s or process analyst’s own competence for producing the model while navigating through the typical project dynamics.

Business analysts and process analysts who prepare business process models using ad-hoc methods or past experience are prone to making at least some of these common 6 business process modeling mistakes and having to suffer through their symptomatic process model quality complaints.

The top 6 business process modeling mistakes:

1. Undefined Process Modeling Approach
2. Unclear Model Purpose
3. Not Asking the Right Questions
4. Weak Process and Activity Definition
5. Insufficient Key Stakeholder Participation
6. Insufficient Model Validation

If producing a high quality business process model is not key to your role or your project, then you don’t really need to a high level of process modeling competence. Leave that up to the project’s business analyst. But if it is, then you should be expected to bring a high level of process modeling competence to the table so that you can facilitate and achieve a model that is fit for its project’s intended purpose.


How to Avoid These (and most other) Process Modeling Mistakes

Here are the 6 skills or behaviours that demonstrate a high level of business process modeling competence. They will cause you to steer clear most of the common business process modeling mistakes:

1. Have a defined process modeling approach.

Like other types of analysis, process modeling is a journey of discovery. As a competent business analyst it’s up to you to identify the modeling activities you will perform to lead or facilitate your process model’s journey of discovery. If you don’t already have one then you should adopt and practice a defined process modeling approach.

2. Establish a clear mission for each model.

Process models are typically products of business process improvement/management or information technology projects and all projects are by definition unique, temporary endeavours. As a competent business analyst you deliberately identify the purpose of the process model within your project’s lifecycle and other key mission parameters. You use clear mission parameters to guide your process model elicitation and validation activities.

3. Know what questions you will ask.

It’s not nearly as important to ask a lot of questions as it is to ask the right questions. You should know what few but key questions you will doggedly elicit the answers to as you are eliciting your process model’s content. You should understand why you need to ask and answer those questions. You should be able to prepare and communicate your elicitation agenda in advance of engaging key stakeholders in events like workshops or interviews.

4. Know how to unambiguously identify, normalise and define all processes and activities.

You are able to consistently perceive business processes at any scale and degree of abstraction. You should also know how to normalise any candidate process and once normalised write an unambiguous definition. Further, you understand and have a process definition framework that reflects how today’s network enabled business processes work. You are able to perceive processes as assemblies of activities that are initiated by business events and deliver outcomes. This understanding leads you to define processes and activities that lend themselves as reusable services and you are able to explain why. In this way, you walk the service oriented architecture talk.

5. Know who, when and how you will engage key stakeholders

You identify who the key stakeholders in your process model are. You are clear and deliberate about when and how you engage them in process model elicitation and validation activities. You know how to deliberately engage key stakeholders in the elicitation of the model’s content. You engage key stakeholders in model reviews and resolve their feedback before completing your process models. As a result you are virtually guaranteed to have your models accepted by the business.

6. Know how you will validate your model’s quality.

You know how to identify what the most important quality factors for your model are. You know how you will measure them. You know what questions to ask and of whom to ensure they are sufficiently present in your completed model.

Establish or Improve Your Process Modeling Competency

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 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.