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To Map or To Model – It’s not really a question


For many years now the terms map and model have been used almost interchangeably in the world of process management. But are they really the same thing? The short answer is NO! Let me explain by way of illustration.

Let’s say you are up for a road trip and want to drive from Austin to Portland. If you are old school and still believe in paper, you pull out your road atlas and begin to plan your journey. You capture your starting point, and carefully plot your course of steps and stops along the way until you reach your destination. You might even capture information about where you are going to stop along the way, and for how long.  However, your map will not capture possible hotels, gas stations, or restaurants on your route. It will not alert you to possible risks like road hazards, accidents, weather, or that your favorite restaurant in Salt Lake City changed its location and hours. It will not identify your efficiency with alerts for average speed or miles per gallon. The map will not tell you who to call if you get a flat tire just outside of Boise. If a road is closed or a new one opens, the map does not auto-magically change. It is a static representation of your path. The same is true of a Process Map. It is a capture of your process as it existed during a point in time. Unfortunately, in today’s ever changing digital world, it is usually only as good as the day (or hour) you captured it.

By comparison, we can plan the same journey on your GPS. We can still plug in our start and end points, and the GPS will plot our course. However, this system is also full of connections to keep you informed and allow you to make adjustments to your course as you go.  When you are driving and need to pause and stretch, your GPS updates to provide new time to destination information. If you get hungry or need gas, it has inputs to tell you what is nearby and their rating, so you know to avoid Joe’s Pet Store and Taco Stand in Farmington. But your favorite restaurant in Salt Lake, it has the new address. If there is a road closure ahead, it can alert you to other possible courses so that you can maintain progress. Where are we going to sleep tonight? Here are hotels nearby. That flat tire, not a problem, click of a button and be connected to roadside assistance. When you arrive, total trip time calculated. Your GPS is your route, modeled. 

A Process Model is more than just a picture of your process, but it is fluid and moving. It is your process GPS. You might even think of it as a very basic representation of what people mean when they speak about the Internet of Things (IoT). A process model is connected to the world around it and shows those relationships. Who owns a the overall process or just a step along the way, how long it should take, what systems they interact with, what risks might they encounter and how will they deal with them?  Why are you performing this process, how does it support your corporate strategy? The model provides reports and dashboards on how your process is performing so you can see if you need to make a change to your route.  Most importantly if there is a change, it is captured in real time, is digital, and accessible to everyone. 

If you are currently involved in a Digital Transformation project (and who isn’t right now), you need to consider Process Modelling to show you how and where your Business and IT connect. If you are trying to define and understand your Customer Journey and Experience, you need Process Modeling to identify the connection points between your internal and external facing processes, where your customers interact, what data you collect, what systems they use, the groups / departments involved, and are they happy. 

A few years ago we put together an infographic to help clarify this and we are pleased to provide you with an updated version here. If you would like more information on how iGrafx can help you on your road to Digital Transformation click here.

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