When you need to document a business process, a good starting point is to map the process. This allows everyone to share the same understanding of what work gets done. Even though this is widely regarded as very important, not many people know the difference between a process map and what a process model is, how useful process models can be or even how to convert a process map to a process model.
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What is a process map?
A process map is an initial description of a business process in graphic form. Just like a road map, it shows you how to get from point A to point B. Process maps are frequently used to capture the sequence of activities that represent a single everyday scenario. They are often drawn using non-standard shapes, showing limited information from one narrow viewpoint or another.
Then what is a process model?
On the other hand, process models are an accurate representation of how your business works, containing essential information that can’t be understood from a simple process map. A process model includes additional elements, such as data related to relationships, events and activities in a process. To capture this detail, the analyst should use standardised shapes and set notation rules, for example by using Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (BPMN) which is easy-to-learn and a global standard.
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So why do we need process models?
While process maps are useful for quick visual analysis of a process, without a narrative alongside them, a process map makes it difficult to interpret or understand the process scenario correctly. Basic maps can’t be used to test the logic of a process. This means that using static process maps to for process documentation causes your pursuit of business maturity to falter once you want to move beyond the basic description of business processes and into the phases of measuring, improving and managing them.
A real benefit of accurately defining processes using well-developed process models is to use a dynamic model to simulate the behaviour of real-world processes. When simulating processes, you can compare measured results against simulated cycle time, cost and resource utilisation. “What-If?” analysis can then be performed to determine the optimum future state.
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I am a senior consultant at Viewpoint, and I specialize in Business Analysis, Business Process Management; Business Process Modelling and Redesign, and Operations Management. I have also written multiple courses in my areas of specialisation.