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New Post 2/21/2008 4:36 AM
User is offline Pat
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Process Modeling With Multiple Starting Points 

Hi Everyone,

I have a question regarding process flow modeling. I'm required to create a process flow diagram for a process that has multiple starting points. So far, I've identified 8 ways the process may begin. Do you have any opinion regarding how the process flow should be designed? Should I create a process flow identifying the beginning tasks for each different scenario and then jump to a new page which displays the point in the process where the tasks converge? Does anyone know of a website that contains an example of a process that can have multiple starting points?

Thank you for your help.

New Post 2/21/2008 2:01 PM
User is offline Craig Brown
560 posts
4th Level Poster

Re: Process Modeling With Multiple Starting Points 
Modified By Modern Analyst  on 2/22/2008 12:29:55 AM)

A couple of comments that might help;

1. Where to start?

I would generally start a process map with a customer.  By the customer I mean the person who the process is there to serve.  That may mean an end user customer, a marketing manager or a user of a help desk.  The process should generally end with the same person.

2.Multiple start points

This might be the scenario where there are multiple types of custimer or a customer starts a process for a number of reasons.  This partuicular complexity os why Use Cases are often uperior to proces mapping for developing requirements.  Things aren't always linear.

In this case you can make each start type a different page or box - or whole new processes.  From my perspective it doesn't really matter how you document the process as long as the intended audiences wil be able to understand the message ou are trying to convey.

I have somemore views on process mapping here.  (This is the fist of four blog posts. To read them all in order follow the "newer post" links.)

New Post 2/21/2008 9:54 PM
User is offline Adrian M.
764 posts
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Re: Process Modeling With Multiple Starting Points 

While in an informal setting you can have a process with multiple starting points it is not a best practice to have such models.  A process generally has a definite starting point.  It would help to have your example in order to better help you out but here are a couple of thoughts:

  • If you process tasks do not vary but what vary are the events that can trigger the process then you would simply model to show that the process can be started by any one of a list of events.  If you are using BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) (see: to model your process then your start even would look like a single circle with a start inside which means complex/multiple start event.
  • If you do have variation in the processes then there must be a "reason" which determines one path vs. another.  For example, if you are modeling a manual process which a human must follow then, before the human even begins the process he/she would have to make a deterministic decision as to which "start" to use.  Again that's not a good way to model it so one alternate option is to have only one start but the first task after start would be a decision (XOR) with the 8 options available to the user.
  • But there probably is an even better way to model your process.  My gut feeling tells me that you probably have 8 distinct processes which have some steps in common so you should model these using 8 distinct process flows each with its own start event.  For example: let's say that you are modeling the process for requesting a catalog from a widget distributor.  The customer could order the catalog in a number of ways such as: send an e-mail to the company, send a letter to the company, use the company's website, or call customer service.  These would be 4 distinct processes with many steps in common (the steps used by the widget company to print the label, pack the catalog, and ship to the customer).  So what you can do in this case is to model a 5th process (in BPMN it would be modeled as a sub-process) which would only contain the fulfillment steps.  This "ship catalog" sub-process would simply be the last step of each of the other 4 processes.  This way, your model makes it clear that you have 4 processes yet it also makes it clear that there is a common/reusable component.
  • As Craig mentioned, if you were to model this using use cases, you would have 4 use cases one for each of the 4 distinct processes and you would have a 5th use case which would be an include to the other 4.  Another way to model this would be to have one abstract use case called "order catalog" and have the other 4 use cases "inherit" (via the generalization relationship) the common steps in the abstract use case.

Hope this helps!

- Adrian

Adrian Marchis
Business Analyst Community Blog - Post your thoughts!
New Post 2/22/2008 3:43 AM
User is offline Shree
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Re: Process Modeling With Multiple Starting Points 
Modified By Shree  on 4/28/2008 2:36:10 AM)

When Adiran wrote about sub processes, he was right.

I am a BA and me and my team worked on 500 processes and we use this sub process technique several times. It removes redundancy and make process readable and understandable..


Good Post Adrian!!

New Post 2/24/2008 7:06 PM
User is offline Craig Brown
560 posts
4th Level Poster

500 sub-processes 

 shreepadamrit wrote

I am a BA and me and my team worked on 500 processes and we use this sub process technique several time. It remove redundancy and make process readable and understandable..

I think this scale is quite common when new workflow systems are being implemented.  Business units and teams develop their own local processes and the things breed like rabbits.  Because all the business SMEs deal only with their local activities people lose sight of the fact that there are only really a handful of processes with many variations.

Regardless, you still need to go through documenting them all as a part of the "as is" analysis before going on to design the future proesses for your new system.  This is so all variations (and constrainst and special requirements) can be identified.  Otherwise when you roll out your new workflow system a whole lot of extra-system process workaround are required.

Have fun with them.

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