Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Process Analysis vs. Process Design vs. Process Modeling

 It's about execution! Making your processes do what they promise.

BPM is at CIO’s priority agenda in many organizations. The advent of information technology enabled tools and suites for business process management has created a hot bed of activity in which standards are still evolving and the underlying technologies still maturing. 

Clarifying certain fundamental concept such as what’re differences between process analyses. vs. process design vs. process modeling, is not only necessary but important as these words mean same to certain people and different to others. Here are some collective perspectives.

1.     Process Analysis is Conceptual, while Process Design is Logical: A first distinction should be drawn between process analysis and process design. Analysis is conceptual (what is done, what is needed) (describes the problem) and what can be done for existing "as-is" processes (what is done) or for future "to-be" processes (what is needed). Process design is logical (how it is or will be done) (describes a solution) - It's more detailed than process analysis and is constrained by the requirements that come out of analysis. Design is usually only done on "to be" future processes because the existing "as-is" processes are already designed. 

2.     Process modeling as a part of the overall design phase which aids in process analysis. Another scenario could be where an organization has a method of doing things that are not standardized or consistent. The ultimate goals of the organization are perhaps being achieved, but in a very haphazard way and with no certainty. In this case the analyst will be required to design a new process starting off with the modeling phase. So in a nutshell Process Design may be described as the larger activity of creating new processes or improving on existing ones, while Process Modeling may be described as a part of the overall design phase which aids in process analysis.

3.     Process Modeling is one of Process Design Tools: Process design is when an analyst looks at how things are currently being done (as-is) in an organization and creates better processes. In designing the process the analyst would need to rely on a several tools and skills. One of them would be Process Modeling. This is where the analyst examines the “as-is” by making a graphical representation of the model using illustrations. After “drawing” out the process, the analyst would find it a lot easier to measure the relevant process metrics.

4.     Both process analysis and process designs are done using process documentation. This documentation should contain text, diagrams and numbers. The creation of this process documentation is called process modeling. The resulting process document contains "process models". But a process model is not just the diagram. A process model also contains the text and numbers.

5.     Designing and modeling are the two sides that make a bit of metal a coin. From a closed loop system perspective,  if a process exists, the process designers create a model of it and measure the outputs; if it produces the desired results, wonderful, if not, then use the model to identify the process pieces most likely to be responsible and re-design them. If no process exists, or, if it is incapable of delivering measurable results, then process designers start with a design, model it, measure it, and seek improvements.

6.     The more common used and accepted term, Process Model, is a representation of an end-to-end process that is developed using a dynamic BPM tool. Process models allow analysts to manage large volumes of activities and run simulation events to identify areas in a process that can be changed and optimized.

7.     Process design is from process analytics to theoretic design; while process modeling is from theoretical design to implementation. Process design means identify existing processes and focus on the area like SLA, representation of the process flow, provide solution on bottlenecks during process flow etc., then based on these factors, design the process and prepare the process design document, so outcome is theoretical design. Process Modeling means representing a sequence of activities, events, decision gateways, links the sequence from end to end and taking the theoretical design to implementation using BPM tool. 

8.     Design is to create the idea of a wholly or partly new one (TO BE); a model will be its result. Thus, a complete design process should include modeling as a sub job. Modeling is a help to communicate about the design of a process with several stakeholders. Process Model means of graphically communicating how a process flows, could be 'as is' or 'to be' and there are different types of models and notations you can use, BPMN being one of them.  In context, Process Design is the blueprint for the selected implementation after you have modeled the process, evaluated and selected a design you are going with. Your intent with design is to go forward with the implementation. 

9.     Modeling can be seen as an evaluation activity (simulation and/or analytics review) prior, during or after the design phase. That said, modeling and design are not ONE shot activities. As soon as the design is implemented, the improvement team goes into a feedback loop to new evaluate models. Because you have to balance the art and science that goes back and forth between these two activities. For well understanding, a model is usually helpful for communication but not necessarily just for that. The use of a dynamic BPM tool can make process modeling easier, even more productive, but it is not an absolute necessity. Not all organizations have the depth of technical expertise, change appetite, or project budgets to extract the expected business benefit.

10.  Execution is final goal. So a model can have many stakeholders that want to know something about the process design. Business people, Improvers, system builders, audit people, etc. They can all be served by a model to let them know what they want to know about the process design. But in the end it is not about modeling or designing a process. It's about execution! Making your processes do what they promise.

11.  Moreover these activities are cyclic, you design the process, then model, execute, monitor, optimize then again back to design. It's continuous improvement cycle.
Process Analysis - Document how an existing process works / flows
Process Re-Engineering - Making improvements to an existing process
Process Design - Creating and / or documenting a new process


This is a very useful blog post that clarifies the difference between process design, process analysis, process documentation and process modeling - important because most people tend to use these terms interchangeably without really appreciating that they really mean slightly different things.

In our Continuous Improvement team at a Fortune 500 company, we too struggled with setting up a program to analyze existing processes and then design new ones. Getting the terminology right was the first key step in this journey. BTW, we are using a easy-to-use process modeling tool called AccuProcess (http://www.accuprocess.com) that provides all these capabilities including process diagramming, documentation and process simulation for analysis.

Best of luck to all the readers.

= Jeremy Davis
Process Improvement Analyst

Thanks for the comment, true, there are quite a few concept either at IT domain or Enterprise Architecture domain have been used interchangeably, sometime, it cause confusion when communicating or designing, the clarification will help both in depth understanding and streamline BPM solutions.


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Construction Service Management Software

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