Project management & leadership | October 14, 2020

Back to picture writing: how BPMN diagrams help at work

There are most probably job descriptions, job instructions or procedures in every company. They can be used to create unified work standards in various departments of the company – sometimes they are attached to a package of documents that a new employee should familiarize themselves with. In non-standard situations, procedures allow employees to check how to proceed. But how do we know that they will find the answers in the procedure we provide? There is a way to check: drawing the procedure! This is where business process modeling and BPMN diagrams come in handy.

BPMN diagram

BPMN – what is it?

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a graphic notation for describing business processes. It is one of the basic tools of analysts and business representatives, supporting the analysis and design of organizational processes. It might sound complicated, but I will try to show that diagrams are not as terrible as they are made out to be using a simple example. So let’s start with the basics and draw our procedure.

Draw your procedure

A visual representation of the procedure is helpful for multi-level and branched descriptions, with many possible pathways by which to proceed. In the case of a highly complex procedure, visualization allows you to identify places for improvement or development. To create visualizations, you will need a business process modeling tool – there are number of such tools on the market today, from the simplest ones, which allow us to create a BPMN diagram, to more complex, modular ones, where we can describe the processes in various levels of detail, for example, picturing the work in the company. The most popular BPMN tools are:

  • Enterprise Architect
  • Visual Paradigm
  • Bizzagi
  • Aris

BPMN diagrams in practice

Let’s move on to diagrams in practice. Let me use an example, a process that exists in every company – acceptance of correspondence. Let’s imagine that company X has a correspondence acceptance procedure at the reception desk and provides a new employee with a job instruction. We can describe this process, using the standard, simplest and most common path.

1. Simplified job instruction:

“When the postman comes and leaves the letters, make an entry in the correspondence book and then deliver the correspondence to the appropriate people”

We can illustrate such a procedure using the diagram below:

nearshore 2023.03.xx graphic 1 2

Due to simplification, however, such a procedure does not bring any added value. The person on the reception desk will ask the following questions on a daily basis at the beginning:

  • “What if the courier comes instead of the postman?”, “Maybe we have a signed contract with one of the courier companies and such dispatches should be handled in a different way?”
  • “What happens when correspondence is accepted?”, “Does the courier / postman get any confirmation?”
  • “What is the registration of dispatches?”, “Is there any system for dispatch management?”, How are they registered?”
  • “What if the recipient of the document is absent?”, “Do we distinguish between a longer absence and a temporary one?”
  • “Are there letters requiring special handling? For example, documents requiring a reply within a certain period of time?”

Read also: Guide to Scrumban methodology 

2. Extended version of the process

Taking into account the possible scenarios, we create an extended version of the instruction:

“Each dispatch should be acknowledged with confirmation of collection, except if it is by courier from the cooperating company, because the list of dispatches received is sent by them once a month. The lists are taped, scanned and then registered in the system. Packages are registered in the system and placed in the warehouse. If the recipient is absent, the correspondence should be transferred to the person acting for them; sometimes contact via phone is possible. Letters from priority customers are handled first”.

Therefore, the diagram takes a more developed form, and thanks to the visualization, we can see all possible scenarios and paths of action:

BPMN

Graphical process modeling – the benefits

As you can see, the visualization of even simple processes allows us to systematize activities and facilitate work. And since even such a simple process can be improved with the use of BPMN diagrams, let’s imagine the great benefits of using them in the case of more complex business processes, such as software development projects, for example! The most important benefits, visible at first glance, are:

  • Facilitating work by clearly defining possible scenarios
  • Identifying the components missing from the process
  • The possibility of expanding a given process with new elements
  • Avoiding complications resulting from limitations of the existing process

Summary

As a business analyst, I support companies in the implementation of IT projects. Diagrams and visualizations help me create and optimize processes, and it is also easier to define the goal and priorities of the project. They also allow us to see the basic path of the process and its particular branches, and divide the project into stages, while maintaining the consistency of functioning. BPMN diagrams facilitate everyday work and can be successfully used in any industry. I hope that I have done a good job of encouraging people to use them and convincing them that business analysis is not as terrible as it is made out to be.

She has been working in the area of business and system analysis for 8 years now, mainly in the financial industry. Supports banks, leasing and insurance companies. As part of implemented projects, invariably searches for a logic and sense. In priviate life, she doesn't run.

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