Business process modeling: Methodology for enterprise integration

If you can see a business process, then you can leverage and optimize it. The increasing demand for business process models can be attributed to the growing need to integrate disparate

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applications, people, processes, and information. The key benefit and differentiator of business process modeling is that the models serve as guides to more closely align IT to organizational goals and objectives. Business process modeling methodology provides a standardized means of visually depicting a set of logically related tasks. These tasks primarily involve the flow, decision points, events, and logic for executing a process. Together, the model is then used to define a specific business process that can be tested before deployment and then reused throughout the organization. While it has always been an important methodology, there has been a noticeable rise in the demand for software that enables business process modeling.

While traditional software development modeling is usually targeted at a specific software solution for the purpose of application development, business process modeling methodology focuses on the way the business is run and includes all of the processes across organizations and applications.

Aligning Business and IT through Business Process Modeling
A business process can contain logic that can be leveraged by an application developer to either create new applications or update existing ones. Yet the business user doesn't need to know the application underpinnings in order to define, execute and reuse the processes successfully.

Businesses benefit most from modeling when it is used to ensure that internal processes are directly aligned with strategy and goals before they are implemented. Aside from the obvious benefits of business modeling before deployment, there are three additional benefits of implementing business process modeling:

  • Clarity: It identifies and clearly documents a business's most strategic business processes. Through a visibly mapped approach, organizations can optimize those business processes that drive maximum ROI and competitive differentiation. Reusing these proven processes accelerates productivity because it provides a clear understanding of business processes and related costs and required resources. Further, business process modeling fosters stronger communication between the business and IT teams to collaboratively support the company's strategy.
  • Responsiveness: It enables increased operational effectiveness by more closely aligning IT deliverables with business requirements while allowing for modifications prior to deployment. 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.
  • Business Flexibility: It allows business leaders and process analysts to modify business processes on demand. With business process modeling, the business user has a tool to modify and simulate business processes and see how a new business process will run and affect the business. New or modified business process models can reuse components and services 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 changing business needs.

Business process modeling methodology 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. For sustained, long-term success, an organization should seriously consider establishing an integration center of competence that is focused on business process management as well as best practices and a methodology around the business process modeling activities.

About the author:
Debbie Moynihan is Program Director for IBM WebSphere Business Integration Product Management.

This was first published in September 2005

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