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Development Meets Business Process Modeling: A Q&A with IBM

  • March 25, 2005
  • By Rosemarie Graham
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Q: Why would an organization invest time and resources into business process modeling?

A: There are three key benefits of implementing business process modeling:

1) Clarity: Business process modeling identify and clearly document a business's most strategic business processes, and helps optimize those business processes to drive maximum ROI and competitive differentiation, as well as conforming to corporate standards. For example, by using business process modeling with simulation, business users and IT can clearly identify which processes have the best ROI, so that those projects are given top priority. By having a clear understanding of business processes and related costs and resources needed, business can reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary process steps, duplicate processes, and manual processes. Business process modeling fosters stronger communication between the business and IT teams to work together to support the company's strategy.

2) Responsiveness: Business process modeling enables increased operational effectiveness for IT and a better match with business requirements and IT deliverables. Business process modeling tools can validate the business process model prior to deployment, such that the business analyst can realize if they made a mistake in the model and correct it before sharing the model with IT. Utilizing business process modeling coupled with an overall business process management strategy, you can quickly modify applications to adapt business processes on demand as a result of changes in the market or competitive threats.

3) Business Flexibility: The key word to this benefit is "business", in that the business leaders and process analysts can modify the business process without having to go to IT. With business process modeling, the business user has a tool to modify and simulate business processes, to see how a new business process will run and affect the business. New or modified business process models can reuse components, services, and sub-processes of existing processes across organizations and functional areas. A business user can then share the model with IT to deploy new applications, products and services quickly to respond to the ever-changing business needs.

Q: In which environments is business process modeling most effective?

A: There are several 'ingredients' that contribute to effective business process modeling. First, business process modeling is most successful in those organizations that embrace it as an organizational strategy and allocate the proper IT and business resources (including executive sponsorship) to ensure its success.

Second, once the appropriate mix of business and IT resources are organized, the business process modeling team should step back and focus on looking at specific business processes across the entire organization.

Third, the organization should determine what are the initial business processes or business issues that it would like to tackle with business process modeling. Some business processes that can gain benefits from business process modeling right away include: 1) simplifying a complex process, i.e. a process that spans multiple functional areas and organizations, like consolidating processes after a merger or acquisition or across divisions, 2) automating part or all of a process that is highly manual or not well-defined, i.e. a process that today includes a lot of human interaction like insurance claims processing, or 3) modifying a business process to ensure regulatory compliance, like Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPPA.

Fourth, for long-term success, an organization should seriously consider establishing an integration center of competence that is focused on business process management and ensuring its success including setting the best practices and methodology around the business process modeling activities.

Q: What does 2005 hold for business process modeling?

A: The two main trends that we're seeing are increased focus on open standards and a more holistic approach to business process modeling with tighter integration with business requirements management and application development.

First, the increasing use of industry standards is being driven by the need to allow for greater sharing of models throughout the organization and among third parties. Business process modeling will also be used more and more as a foundation for defining unique activities and deploying those as services in a services oriented architecture for increased business flexibility. Businesses are seeking tools that allow them to integrate not only new web services but also leverage existing assets within a process flow. Several business process modeling tools now allow you to export your business process models as web services using the BPEL standard.

Second, while business process modeling has always been important as a methodology, there has been a noticeable shift and a rise in the demand for software solutions that enable business process modeling with the ability to deploy the models as run-time workflows with integrated monitoring for a closed loop approach to business process integration and optimization. More and more companies are also recognizing the importance of business process management and are investing in centers of excellence around integration and business process management.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Debbie!

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