Process design is done using visual methods such as ‘process mapping.’ Business Process Management (BPM) takes the visual results a step further and integrates into the design additional information. BPM not only includes the design and execution of activity-chains that can be completely automated, but also of workflows that require human interaction or intervention.

Typical BPM activities are:

designing processes and workflows executing processes creating process instances or workflow executions monitoring the activities

During the design phase the logical flow of information, the practices to follow as well as the resources, data and funds needed to perform the whole chain of events is visualized and described. Commercial BPM software solutions often provide a graphical design application or composer, instead of a text-based programming approach. With such a composer even people who have no software programming experience can become skilled process modelers by dragging components from the toolbar into the design, by configuring the components and linking them together using arrows thus creating the flow of events.The symbols and icons used are standardized. One of the standards used is the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard. In production and automation designs, this phase could also include the simulation of turnaround times for the complete production chain or the simulation of alternative routes with the potential removal of certain bottlenecks. Many processes cannot be fully automated as they are not 100 percent machine or computer oriented. These so-called human-to-human workflows require human interaction or intervention to complete.

In executing processes, BPM engines send computer-instructions to the separate underlying applications or sub-processes linked together thus executing the process. However, when executing human-to-human processes, execution generates tasks to be performed and completed by human participants in the process. The tasks then have to be manually reported as having been completed for the process to continue. Process design can be seen as the design of a city-map where roads, traffic lights, bridges and intersections are designed on the drawing table Process execution can be seen as actually running a process instance of the designed process or as actually driving through the streets of New York city where we meet traffic-lights for which we have to stop, omit dead-end streets and finally arrive at our destination.

Monitoring the traffic gives insight into where traffic jams occur or parking problems exist. Monitoring process instances, you can now see customer orders from a process perspective (e.g. order received, waiting for delivery, invoice paid). This can be taken even further by including suppliers or an outsourcing partner in the process. Amazon.com recently opened up its inventory and order database to other companies through a web-based interface, enabling these companies to consult the Amazon.com inventory and integrate it into their own processes. The monitoring of the process does not stop at the company gate anymore, but continues on into the Amazon.com warehouses. If the chain as a whole has been made transparent, monitoring it provides us with information not available before.


Sjoerd Jan Ter Welle – Sjoerd Jan is CEO of Brightt55 which develops business process- and project management software. Sjoerd Jan lives with his family in the small historical city …
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Business process modelling