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The Problem with Process Modelling

Andreas Havliza Andreas Havliza on February 14, 2018


Is process modelling difficult? It sounds quite straightforward: processes are to be modelled—arrows and boxes—this happens, and then that happens. Let’s just get on with it!

Why is it then, that so many projects dealing with process modelling struggle with this task? Why is it, that process models are often questioned and not valued? Why is it that process models are not being used by the business, and become outdated shortly after the project that originated its production have been completed?

Cost as a barrier

Process modelling, even when done well, has a significant cost. When done poorly, it represents a serious waste of money—and, even more importantly, it creates the potential for critical misunderstandings that could have even greater financial, regulatory, customer-experience, or public-profile impacts.

Why bother with modelling?

So, why do process modelling in the first place? What is it good for? Why should anyone get into it in the first place if it comes at a significant cost and could also potentially fail? Process modelling, in itself, does not do the trick. It’s not about the number of processes modelled in a certain period that defines success or failure—it’s the quality of process models that make them essential to the decision-making process of the business. Process models, captured in the right way, support an end-to-end view of the organisation’s processes, and are the basis for process-improvement projects. They are a means to reduce the complexity of the day-to-day operations and highlight aspects in focus, whether these are runtimes, system breaks, issues with responsibilities and hand-overs, or risk exposure and introduced countermeasures.

Models to solve problems and embed strategy

Process models can support the business in becoming more efficient and solving problems—that is, saving money in the long term. It does this directly by being the basis for improving process flows, and indirectly by providing evidence to comply with standards and regulations and, therefore, avoiding penalties from governing bodies. These examples show that process modelling is not just an operational task that needs to get done and over with—it’s far more than that. To make use of its overall potential, process modelling needs to be embedded in the organisation’s strategy. Only when process modelling and the use of the related information is embedded (e.g. project management frameworks and/or compliance management) will the real benefit (that means savings) be achieved. 

Process modelling turned bad…

If this is what good looks like, what’s a picture of bad? It starts with poor modelling—that is, important information not being captured during the process mapping. Process stakeholders won’t see the value in using these process models, and will turn away, as they don’t provide any obvious benefit. The money spent on modelling is wasted. It’s even more problematic if the captured process information is inaccurate, leading the business to make wrong decisions based on incorrect data. This is especially true if aspects of risks and controls are mapped to processes to make this information the foundation to proof compliance with specific regulations. It is therefore mandatory that all related information is captured correctly.

Keeping modelling current

Here comes the next big challenge of process modelling. Once the information is captured—and let’s assume it was done correctly—it needs to be kept up to date. Without up-to-date data compliance, decisions being made based on the process information are at risk in the long term, with potentially serious consequences for organisations. Governance, ensuring process model reviews, approvals and organisation-wide communication are essential and will be discussed in this paper.

So now what?

Process modelling is a critical activity in every organisation, and represents a significant expenditure. What is the return-on-modelling? Is there a way to ensure the creation of consistently useful process models across the organisation and over time?

Yes, there is.

The Modelling Excellence framework ensures high-quality modelling, minimises the potential for waste and error, and maximises the usefulness of process models. An overview of the Modelling Excellence framework is shown in the download below which includes detailed descriptions of the nine elements that form the framework.

Download Modelling Excellence Paper

Topics: BPM - Business Process Management, Process Modelling