The “New” Definition of Business Process Analysis

For those of you that follow Gartner research on process-related topics, you might have seen the latest “Market Guide for Enterprise Business Process Analysis[i]” report, authored by Marc Kerremans and published on March 4, 2015. In this and other recent Gartner research, Gartner defines Enterprise Business Process Analysis (EPBA) as “…the discipline of business modeling aimed at transforming and improving business performance and business outcomes.”

I like this definition. It’s more than process modeling. It’s more than simulation. Above all, it’s more than just process design. Because BPA is frequently used to describe only that. And while almost 15 years ago, Gartner’s Bill Rosser published the prophetic “Business Modeling Will Be the Next Big Phenomenon[ii]” describing how modeling the business leads to the alignment of operations to strategy and sound decision-making (I like that, too), BPA has obstinately held onto an image of being the means to process execution’s end. It probably didn’t help that the majority of market research at that time described the domain almost exclusively in terms of designing workflows and implementation. To be fair, most published research around BPA and BPM were topics targeted for IT Management.

So it’s refreshing to see support and use cases for how the Business uses Business Process Analysis. There are multiple ways that companies are applying Business modeling (not just process modeling) to help them improve, often combining use cases to achieve even greater results.  Strategy to Execution, Change Management, Process Improvement and Process Design are examples that each have distinct value.

Here’s my quick take on each of these use cases, and why an organization would benefit from them:

Strategy to Execution

You can boil this down to, “Don’t do it if it doesn’t support the strategy.” Business modeling captures strategy and goals and maps how the work that is being done in the organization supports them. A model helps expose the often convoluted lines between strategy and operations and gives business leaders and operational managers insight into where resources should be applied to create the most value. Strategy and goals can change quickly and by referring to a model where the connections can be followed and analyzed, business can adapt operations when needed to in order to keep in step with the objectives.

Change Management

There exist innumerable connections between all the cogs that make a business work: human, technical and physical resources, business rules, requirements, tasks… and many more. By modeling these business factors and their relationships to each other, analysts can understand the impact of change. The ability to foresee those impacts is a powerful tool that mitigates risk of change and empowers an organization to make informed decisions.

Process Improvement

A well-known use case, and often the one that gets companies looking at the value of BPA in the first place.  Process improvement projects use modeling to capture and come to agreement on the current functioning of a given set of processes, analyze where there might be waste, and find opportunities for optimization. Six Sigma and Lean provide methodologies that can guide improvement efforts and tools typically support a continuous improvement cycle using some strain of Plan-Do-Check-Act. The “check” part can be strongly bolstered by examining measured outcomes using a business intelligence or monitoring capability, even more so by tying measurements to strategic indicators.

Process Design

Whether designing a new process or re-engineering an existing one, modeling is often used to step through the future state and communicate the requirements for implementation. When I say implementation, I’m referring to the implementation of workflow, which can be manual OR automated, OR a combination of both. Looking at process from a uniquely IT perspective ignores a large part of how business operates and design should take into account the many steps, rules and decisions that may be done outside of technology. When technology is to be used, models can pushed directly to execution using BPMN 2.0 modeling notation, or integrated into other execution environments, both of which have the advantage of keeping the model close, if not identical, to the real-life implementation.

There are clear overlaps between these use cases – managing change is often a result of strategic adaptation, measuring process improvement is best done against strategic KPIs, designing processes to achieve goals often requires analysis techniques used in continuous improvement – but it is interesting to look at them individually and think about how your organization might start to apply BPA in new ways than it already is.

Marc Kerremans noted in the Market Guide that digital business practices are motivating the adoption of EBPA in organizations. “We see two main drivers for EBPA tools adoption in the market. First, as digital business is becoming a major theme, and because process reinvention is crucial to these digital business initiatives, digital business drives the growth in business users’ awareness of the benefits of analyzing and understanding their own processes in a larger context.” Second, according to Kerremans, “The accelerating pace of business is driving the need to respond quicker and more effectively to change.”

True that this world is changing, businesses need to adapt, and it’s critical for BPA to evolve as well.

Gartner Research Document
Gartner Market Guide for Enterprise Business Process Analysis, Marc Kerremans, March 4, 2015

Gartner Research Document
Business Modeling Will Be the Next Big Phenomenon, Bill Rosser, October 31, 2000

Additional information on the Gartner Market Guide

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