An Ever-So-Brief History of Process Modeling

Connect the Dots with Extended Process Modeling Blog Series Part 1

Let’s take a little journey back in time, shall we? Hang with me – I promise not to stop off in the 80s. Since the creation of the Gantt chart in 1899, Flowcharts in the 1920s, Functional Flow Block Diagrams and PERT chart in the 1950s, and Data Flow Diagrams and IDEF in the 1970s, a proven set of success factors using process modeling has shaken out over time.

Process modeling has shown itself to be the easiest point of entry for enabling process improvement within organizations, and often there are a bevy of opportunities to show initial ROI. Proven methodologies complement process modeling, and notation standards support a common visual understanding, but the rub here is that it becomes harder to sustain results longer term as process maturity within an organization increases.

A sprinkle of success and a dash of pain

Along with the evolution of process modeling innovations throughout history, there are a set of pain points that go right along with it. The flurry of activity around process improvement is often not aligned with strategies, goals, and objectives, making project prioritization difficult at best. Meanwhile, as improvement initiatives ramp up, the methodologies employed often consume significant resources, heavily impacting the business. Repurposing of previous project work (Service, Process, Organization, Technology, etc.) doesn’t happen much, and next thing you know you’ve got duplication of effort. While you may see some localized improvements, true business transformation is impossible to achieve with this approach.

While process modeling solutions started to address these pain points by evolving their capabilities, many still didn’t (and still don’t) offer a full meal deal. With inadequate traceability of processes to strategy/goals/objectives, limited analysis and monitoring capabilities, key enterprise objects and relationships missing, standard notation concepts not present thereby reducing the user community, and plain old ease-of-use nowhere to be had, process modeling historically has drastically fallen short on fulfilling the role as the focal point of business Innovation and transformation.

Solution evolution and hello BPMN 2.0

Fast forward to March 2011 and BPMN 2.0 is on the scene. Adopted as a standard process modeling notation methodology, BPMN 2.0 enables even more modeling capability and offers the promise of actually exchanging model data. Process/Collaboration diagrams are the main business user entry points into BPMN, supporting hierarchy, with an active user/vendor community that drives usage and modeling “best practices.”

In addition, process modeling solutions have built-in repositories, team collaboration and project workflow along with version control, some common shared “enterprise” objects and alignment of Enterprise Architecture concepts are supported.

For more on the on the Connect the Dots with Extended Process Modeling Blog Series, check out the next post: Make Process Modeling the Focal Point of Business Innovation & Transformation

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