Learning how to model the processes of a medium-sized business
May 9, 2008 2:41 AM   Subscribe

A friend has recently been offered a position that will involve modelling the company processes in her company. She has a good knowledge of the business but needs to learn to formalize this knowledge into proper business process models. Where can she start a crash course on the formal approaches to modelling and creating diagrams of the processes used in this company of about 100 employees?

There is a lot of information on the web about this, but it's difficult to separate out the noise from good information. I am looking for recommendations of insightful websites or good introductory books that you have found useful in the past, as well as any advice based on your own experience of doing this sort of thing.
posted by yoz420 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, your friend probably needs to find out if there is a requirement to use a specific modelling standard. There are quite a few.

That should at least narrow down the options somewhat.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:11 AM on May 9, 2008

Response by poster: It needs to be a UML-based modeling. On reflection that word probably has only one L in it...

The standards are to be defined, as business process models are currently not standardised in the company.
posted by yoz420 at 6:44 AM on May 9, 2008

Best answer: When I've dealt with process consultants, they seem to always produce an overview 'silo' diagram, which then tie to a page for a further breakdown, which seems to work well, as it targets all levels of management, e.g. the top managers might only want to see the brief overview (the one page silo diagram) but the departmental heads would want to see the silo diagram plus how their department processes break down in detail.

Can't find a good example of the silo diagram on-line, so I've doodled one here. Within each silo, from top to bottom is a more detailed representation of the processes which make that silo, e.g. design might require ten different elements which need to be completed in order, so they are lined up vertically in that order. If Finance can't begin until a certain stage of design is completed, then the finance processes in the silo begins lower down to represent that. All related processes are linked together with arrows to further show the progression.

Each sub-process, then links to a chapter on that, which breaks down the process further, either by using another more detailed silo diagram (e.g. the foo's would become silos and then the processes within each of the foo's becomes the vertical element) or you use something like UML or whatever you're most comfortable with and which you feel will be best understood by the client.

So your overall aim is to create a huge document which covers absolutely everything, but can be viewed at many different scopes. Think of it link a 'pick your own path' adventure book :)
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you, Static Vagabond.
I think I've seen that type of diagram called a swimlane elsewhere. Is that the same thing as what you are describing?
posted by yoz420 at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2008

Yup, swimlane looks to match what I've seen.

Prefer the silo name though ;)
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:22 AM on May 9, 2008

Six Sigma
posted by caddis at 7:32 AM on May 9, 2008

A "swimlane" tends to be formally called a "business process map" as far as I know.
posted by Lleyam at 8:48 AM on May 9, 2008

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