BPMN: Process Optimisation & Simulation
"A picture tells a thousand words" is the reason diagrams are a preferred means of communication, especially when the message being passed is complex. A Process is one of the most complex things to communicate, and as such, process flowcharts or process maps are adopted to simplify that message.
Communicating a process using a Flowchart, is one of the best methods to pass the message to high-level stakeholders (e.g. your business stakeholders), because it is easy to understand and grasp, while eliminating the unnecessary detail; and here lies the problem with Flowcharts. Flowcharts are great for capturing high-level information... but, if you need to capture the low-level details of a process for Optimization, what then?
As a BA, you- literally- cannot accurately optimise a process with a Flowchart, because Flowcharts are NOT meant to be used for that, rather BPMN is. I have explained why there is need to optimize a process in this article here.
BPMN stands for Business Process Modelling Notation, and as the name implies, it is used to ‘model’ a business process. The most commonly used is the BPMN 2.0, which is an improved version that contains new notations to depict "catch" and "throw" (Yes, I said this to confuse you). Camunda is my favourite place to learn about BPMN, while MS Visio is my favourite place for creating maps (Yes, I said Visio!)
While the Flowchart of a process can contain up to 3 different shapes, the BPMN version of that same process (it is called a process map) may contain more than 3 and up to 10 different notations *evil laughter*. The fact is, Process maps are not complex because the author feels like annoying the reader, but because it’s entire essence is to capture a process as clearly as possible, so as to facilitate the elimination of waste and identification of flaws easily. Basically, we are using a picture to make a decision that could cost a business millions of money, who wants ambiguity in this case? Certainly not a BA!
The below is a simple flow chart, it contains just two shapes:
The below is the equivalence of the above (in BPMN 2.0), but it contains 12 notations:
I am not joking, it is- literally- the same process!
Another importance of BPMN is that it is the language for process simulations. A simulation is the ability to experience (the effect of a decision in) "reality", without actually experiencing it (in real-life). The essence of simulating an experience is to allow you to test decisions with no risks involved. For example, a flight simulator allows you to learn to fly in your bedroom on a couch, without you actually experiencing a plane crash and dying! There are lots of process simulators including Signavio, iGrafx, Aris, Trisotech and Bizagi
In the business world, say ASDA wanted to optimise their workforce. Their BA would note that more people shop during the weekends and holidays than during the weekdays (they have data to back that up- I hope). The problem, however, is that the BA would be worried about recommending a staff reshuffle, just in case.
This is where Process Simulators come in. With process simulators, the BA would not have to risk implementing such a change in real-life, without testing it in a simulator/as a simulation. The simulator might show them that provided each staff spends 10 minutes on each customer, that a staff strength of 20 during the weekdays, is enough to cater to 800 customers from Mon to Thurs (I just made up these numbers, so please ignore how impossible it is!).
Nnenna, what BPMN Tools do you like?
I have a preference for Trisotech because it facilitates collaboration using its "Play" functionality (called Animator) to enable some tokens to run round the screen, launch links, show photos and follow selected decision paths. I depicted this in the video below (you can speed up to 5:23):
Nnenna, what do you look for in a Process mapping software?
A software that can convert or accept .vsdx files (Visio) files into its interface is a win for me, because I love Visio- maybe I am old-fashioned.
A cloud software (SaaS) is great so that I can access it anywhere.
A software that allows me to collaborate in real-time with team mates or stakeholders
A software that has exporting capabilities (in .bpmn and .vsdx)
A software that has up-to-date bpmn 2.0 validation rules
A software that is easy to learn and easy to map with.
That's all for today! In future articles, I will teach:
how to map a process on Visio (it will be the same process for any other software especially the ones that I listed above-- to be fair, Visio is the difficult one to learn)
how to identify flaws in a process (i.e. how to optimise a process).
I cannot teach how to re-engineer a process as that is up to you, the stakeholders and the goals, objectives, needs of the business.
As usual drop any comments, questions, suggestions or contrary opinions that you may have... and for God's sake, like the Post- I like to see the "Likes"; it is similar to a pat on the back!