Process modeling lifecycle – a comprehensive view derived from multiple case studies
In today’s dynamic business landscape, the pursuit of innovation and efficiency is relentless. While technologies like AI (e.g., Large Process Models: Business Process Management in the Age of Generative AI) may grab the headlines, it’s imperative to recognize that process modeling remains the unassuming hero in the background, silently driving process transformation. At the heart of process management, process modeling provides the structured framework that organizations need to achieve efficiency, quality, and compliance. In this ever-evolving tech-driven era, understanding the process modeling lifecycle is not just important – it’s indispensable.
The world of process modeling has seen numerous advancements, yet it lacks a comprehensive representation that can holistically address the multifaceted demands of modern organizations. In a data-rich environment, where collaboration and data integration are paramount, grasping the nuances of process modeling becomes an absolute necessity. Enter the process modeling lifecycle – a conceptual cornerstone that offers a structured explanation of the complexities involved in managing processes and modeling them effectively.
In this post, I will explain the layers of a comprehensive process modeling lifecycle that is derived from a multiple case study analysis and comprises five vital phases: Input, creation, review, publishing, and consumption. These phases are not mere procedural steps but the interconnected gears that drive the process modeling engine.
Our theoretical model illustrates process modeling lifecycle and summarizes the findings of our research inducted from the interview data.
Pillar 1: Input
The first pillar of the process modeling lifecycle is the Input phase, which is foundational to the entire process modeling journey. This phase is all about determining the types of data that are used to create process models. There are four key types of data that play a pivotal role in this phase, each serving as a unique building block:
- No Data: In some cases, you start with a blank canvas. This means there is no existing information or documentation available about the process. You’re essentially creating the process model from scratch.
- Pre-existing Content: Often, you’re fortunate to have some information at your disposal. This could be in the form of pre-existing BPMN models, best practice models, or even well-documented procedures. These resources can serve as valuable starting points for your process modeling efforts. For instance, best practice content provided by SAP Signavio Value Accelerators (https://www.signavio.com/value-accelerators/).
- Unstructured Data: Unstructured data presents a unique challenge. This refers to information that is not organized in any specific format, such as textual data, images, PowerPoint files, or other miscellaneous documents not explicitly designed for process modeling. Imagine a customer service department gathering feedback through emails, chat logs, and customer reviews. These unstructured data sources can be transformed into valuable insights for creating process models. The unique value of technologies such as AI can be experienced in this direction in the near future.
- Structured Data: On the other end of the spectrum, you have structured data. This is information that is already organized in a specific format, making it readily usable for process modeling. Structured data sources can include event logs, and transactional data. Discovering process models from process mining including necessary insights and semantics is an example of using structured data for modeling.
In essence, the Input phase sets the stage for the entire process modeling lifecycle. It’s where you determine the starting point and gather the necessary raw materials to craft a comprehensive process model. Depending on the type of data available, you can choose the most suitable approach to initiate the modeling process and proceed through the subsequent phases of the lifecycle.
Pillar 2: Model Creation
The second pillar in the process modeling lifecycle is Model Creation, a pivotal phase where the blueprint for your process takes shape. This phase focuses on the tangible creation of process models that serve as the visual representation of how a workflow operates within an organization. Model Creation encompasses several crucial steps, and precision in this phase is paramount.
To begin the Model Creation process, you embark on a journey to gather and define the essential components of the process. This entails identifying and documenting the process steps, actors or stakeholders involved, and the necessary resources. The methods employed for this data collection can vary widely, from conducting in-depth interviews with process owners and key personnel to reviewing existing process documentation, such as manuals or guidelines. Sometimes, it may even involve firsthand observation of the process in action, providing valuable insights into real-world dynamics and nuances.
Once you’ve collected a comprehensive understanding of the process, it’s time to breathe life into the model. Here, the process model takes its structured form, usually through the utilization of modeling notations like BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) or UML (Unified Modeling Language). These notations provide a standardized language that allows for a clear and consistent representation of process elements. Leveraging these notations, you define the sequence of activities, the roles of various actors, the flow of information, and any decision points within the process.
The Model Creation phase is the bridge between conceptualizing a process and making it concrete. It is here that you transform abstract concepts into practical, visual models that serve as the foundation for process improvement, automation, and optimization. This phase embodies the art of turning complex operational complexities into representations that guide organizational decision-making and execution.
Pillar 3: Review
The third step in the process modeling journey is the Review phase. Think of it as a crucial quality check for your process model. During this phase, experts and team members take a close look at the model you’ve created. They want to make sure it’s not just accurate but also complete, leaving no gaps or mistakes.
One important thing that happens in the Review phase is something called a peer review. That’s when other experts or team members carefully examine your model. They look for any errors, things that are missing, or anything that doesn’t follow best practices. It’s a bit like having a team of experts give your work a thorough once-over to make it better.
Another useful practice in the Review phase is walkthroughs with people who are directly involved in the process. These could be employees or stakeholders who have a real interest in how things work. By involving them, you make sure the model fits their needs and goals. They might even have great ideas to improve it.
Lastly, the Review phase gives you a chance to test your model in a simulated environment. It’s like trying it out in a safe, pretend version of the real world. This helps you spot any potential problems or ways to make the process even better.
In essence, the Review phase is the quality assurance mechanism within the process modeling lifecycle. It ensures that the process model is not merely a representation but a reliable and effective tool for making informed decisions, optimizing processes, and achieving organizational excellence. This phase epitomizes the commitment to precision and continuous improvement that underpins successful process modeling efforts.
Pillar 4: Publishing
The fourth pillar in the process modeling lifecycle is all about sharing and maintaining your process model, making it accessible to the right people in the right way. This phase is called “Publishing” and comprises sharing, converting, and maintaining Different Views.
Imagine you’ve created this fantastic process model that’s going to revolutionize the way your organization does things. Now, you want to share it with your team, your managers, or maybe even your customers. But here’s the thing: not everyone can understand or use the model in the same way you can. That’s where this pillar comes in.
First, you might need to convert your process model into a format that’s easy to share and view. Think of it like turning a complex document into a simpler one that everyone can read. This could mean transforming your model into formats like PDF, HTML, or XML. Each format has its advantages depending on who you’re sharing it with and how they prefer to see it.
But it’s not just about changing formats. You might also need to show your model in different ways, like using different diagrams or views. For instance, you could present it as a BPMN model (which is a common way to show processes), a value chain model (which focuses on the value created), or navigation maps (which help users move through processes). Different people need different perspectives, so offering various views can be really helpful.
The key goal of this phase is to make your process model available to the people who need it. They could be stakeholders, decision-makers, or anyone who can provide valuable feedback. By publishing your model and giving them access, you open the door for collaboration and input. This way, you can refine your model, make it even more useful, and ensure it aligns with your organization’s goals.
In simple terms, the fourth pillar is about sharing your process model in a way that works for everyone who needs it and keeping it up-to-date as things change. It’s like making sure your groundbreaking ideas don’t just stay on paper but become tools for success that everyone can use.
Pillar 5: Consumption
The fifth and final pillar in the process modeling lifecycle is all about putting your process model to good use, and it’s called “Consumption.” This phase is where the rubber meets the road, and stakeholders like process owners, business analysts, and IT personnel get to work with the model you’ve created.
Once your model is out there, stakeholders have different ways to use it. Think of it as serving a dish in various styles to cater to different tastes.
First up, there’s visual consumption. Some folks love visuals – things like diagrams and flowcharts. For them, you’ve got the process model displayed in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance. It’s like showing them a map of the process, so they can see the flow and connections quickly. This approach is great for people who are more visually oriented.
On the flip side, there’s textual consumption. Some folks prefer to dive deep into the details. So, you provide them with written documentation that describes the process flow in words. It’s like giving them a detailed book about how things work. This approach is handy for those who want to read and grasp the nitty-gritty of the process.
But there’s more to it. You can also implement your process model into something called a “Standard Operating Procedure” or SOP. These are like instruction manuals for specific tasks or processes. By putting your process model into an SOP, you give people a clear, step-by-step guide on how to do things. It’s like having a recipe book where each step is illustrated by your process model. This is particularly helpful when the process is complex and involves lots of people doing different things.
So, in a nutshell, the Consumption phase is about making sure your process model is useful to everyone who needs it. Whether they’re visual learners, detail-oriented readers, or following a step-by-step guide, you’re ensuring that your model is there to help them get things done efficiently and effectively. It’s like serving a delicious meal in different ways, so everyone at the table can enjoy and benefit from it.
Throughout the entirety of the process modeling lifecycle, there are two critical elements that form the outer layer, providing the foundation and support needed to carry out the cycle effectively: Process Mindset and Sufficient Tooling.
First, let’s talk about Process Mindset. This is like the compass that guides you throughout the entire journey. It involves understanding why process modeling is essential and how it can be a powerful tool for improving operations. It’s about recognizing that processes are the backbone of any organization, and by modeling them accurately, you can identify areas for optimization, streamline operations, and enhance efficiency. In essence, having a Process Mindset means valuing the role of process modeling in achieving organizational excellence.
The second element, Sufficient Tooling, is akin to the toolbox of a skilled craftsman. It’s about having the right software and tools at your disposal to support your process modeling efforts. Having access to the right tools simplifies the modeling process, making it more efficient and accurate. It empowers you to create, review, and publish process models with ease, ensuring that your efforts are effective and productive.
This post underscores the enduring importance of the process modeling lifecycle in the realm of business operations, even amidst technological advancements like AI. It highlights the critical role of having a process mindset and access to adequate tools for successful modeling. Through the phases of the modeling lifecycle, we’ve explored how collaboration and stakeholder involvement shape accurate and valuable process models. Furthermore, we acknowledged the vital role that technologies such as AI play in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of each lifecycle stage. As we navigate the evolving landscape of technology, this post serves as a reminder that process modeling remains an indispensable key to process transformation.
The rigor research that led to the formation of this framework would have not been possible without Diana Veit, Sebastian Kaim, and Timotheus Kampik