Business Process Management (BPM)

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With current economic conditions, companies are striving to do more with fewer resources, both human and material. So it should be no surprise that the fusion of business processes and practices is both relevant and necessary. Over the past two decades business methodologies and corporate programs have established track records that demonstrate performance and quality improvements within their organizations.

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When the first flowcharts were applied to manufacturing processes, they followed the flow of a single part through its manufacture.  They displayed, in sequence, the steps it took to make the part and they made sense.  They were easy to visualize, easy to follow, easy to work with, and they resulted in millions of dollars worth of productivity gain. 

This same concept was applied to information process charting in the 1940’s.  However, rather than following a single flow, multi-flow process charts were used.  They showed all of the records in a business process in order to make clear the exchange of information between records.  Once again the effort generated millions of dollars worth of productivity gain.

 
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A process is a series of steps completed to achieve a particular result. It is hard to imagine a process improvement effort that doesn’t start with a focus on that result with a question like “What is the purpose of this process?” - whether the customer is actually engaged or not. Sometimes we have a strong sense that our product or service is good. Sometimes we choose to “get our own house in order” before we step outside the organization. Sometimes we base the result on a prescription provided by the customer. However, sometimes, our focus may be misdirected to how we do the work without considering why it is done in the first place...particularly where slick new technologies are involved. In any case, without actually engaging the customer, we can’t really know how well the process is working to provide the customer with what the customer needs or wants.

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In this SOA article I would like to begin by defining what SOA is and what you need to know about it. In future articles, I will explore some of the challenges and benefits of SOA to the analyst community. Let’s start off with a definition of SOA. You can, of course, look at a number of definitions of SOA on the Web, but you will find them confusing and contradictory as there are a number of views on this ranging from SOA is everything, to SOA is just Web Services, neither of which is true.

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Processes are the user interface to a solution – as such they are highly visible and a lot of project effort is focussed on process modelling. In fact, there is a perception in some quarters that Business Analysts just draw process models and this is all they do. However, process models (the drawings of processes) are only one facet of the specification of a process.

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Before starting, it is important to understand process mapping’s place in the larger context of business process improvement.  Improving your process typically starts with documenting how it works today, what we call the “as-is” process.

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Business-process-modeling technology provides a powerful set of tools for describing and automating processes. The technology is so powerful that it often seems there are no limits to what BPM can do. But not every process that is automated needs BPM. Following on last week's discussion of process discovery, the JargonSpy asks the question: What sort of processes should be automated using BPM?

Businesspeople and technologists alike quickly get drunk on business-process modeling when they first become competent in the technique. Like wikis, business-process modeling allows you to capture the detail that you have in your head and then leave placeholders for what is not yet baked. In wikis, this takes the form of pages of text that link to other pages covering concepts that you will fill in later. Wikipedia is full of links to pages waiting to be completed.

The analogous act in business-process modeling is to put a box in to cover a step ("solve the halting problem" or "find qualified leads") that is part of the process but that you don't want to worry about just then.

Author: Dan Woods

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Many people on our Business Analysis workshop ask why we use dataflow diagrams (DFDs). Why not Use Case…or even BPMN? After all DFDs have been around for 20 years, surely the world has moved on?

Well, has it? The primary purpose of a business analyst is to communicate – to stakeholders and to solution providers – and when it comes to communication we all know that pictures (diagrams) are much more effective and less ambiguous than words. Remember the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words". The question is – which type of diagram best suits our needs? In this article, written by IRM's Training Services Manager Jan Kusiak, we’ll look at using diagrams for stakeholder communications.

Author: Jan Kusiak

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Failing to properly and accurately define requirements at the very beginning of the project lifecycle points to a distinct lack of business analysis competency. The role of the business analyst is an important one, and, sadly, one that is underutilized by many organizations around the world. In essence, a business analyst acts as a translator or liaison between the customer or user and the person or group attempting to meet user needs. But, that’s just speaking generally. What about the specifics?

Below, I’ve put together a list of eight key competencies that every business analyst—or every professional performing the duties of a business analyst—should possess. I’ve included specific emphasis on tasks associated with junior, intermediate and senior business analysts. If performed effectively, the items on this list could save organizations millions.

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One of the issues high on the agenda of many CIOs is to align IT efforts with the company’s strategic goals. But how you do trace a line of code back to the strategic goal that caused it to be written? If we’re able to do this then, and only then, can it be said that IT is aligned with the business strategy. 

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Over my last two articles, I have laid a foundation for a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) as the enterprise architecture of the globally integrated enterprise and focused on how to define and establish the business side of the enterprise through a well defined business architecture . Before diving into the IT side of the enterprise, this articl...
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Tony Bear says the BPM-folks are from Venus and the WS-folks from Mars. That exactly summarizes a big division in the BPM industry that might not be obvious. The term BPM-folks refers to the people that focus on process modelling. Their starting point is the analysis of procedures that describe how people and systems work together in an organisati...
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Defining business requirements accurately is one of the most important success factors for technology projects.  Rather than focus on solutions that satisfy a list of requirements, we need to focus on solutions that satisfy desired business outcomes. The best way to achieve this is by performing business process modeling.  Employing a vi...
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There are three basic reasons why you might need to model a business: to re-engineer a business, to improve a business process and to automate a business process. Nevertheless, another reason may be very useful for analyst of software systems and their customers – to understand and automatically generate functional requirements to the system. ...
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I have been very fortunate to see a lot of this history first hand. I have observed changes not just in terms of systems and computers, but also how the trade press has evolved and the profession in general. It has been an interesting ride.

Throughout all of this, there have been some very intelligent people who have impacted the industry, there have also been quite a few charlatans, but there has only been a handful of true geniuses, one of which was Robert W. Beamer who passed away just a couple of years ago. Bob was the father of ASCII code, without which we wouldn't have the computers of today, the Internet, the billions of dollars owned by Bill Gates, or this document.

I always find it amusing when I tell a young person in this industry that I worked with punch cards and plastic templates years ago. Its kind of the same dumbfounded look I get from my kids when I tell them we used to watch black and white television with three channels, no remote control, and station signoffs at midnight. It has been my observation that our younger workers do not have a sense of history; this is particularly apparent in the systems world. If they do not have an appreciation of whence we came, I doubt they will have an appreciation of where we should be going. Consequently, I have assembled the following chronology of events in the hopes this will provide some insight as to how the systems industry has evolved to its current state.

I'm sure I could turn this into a lengthy dissertation but, instead, I will try to be brief and to the point. Further, the following will have little concern for academic developments but rather how systems have been implemented in practice in the corporate world.

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