Business Analysis Technique: Process Modeling

Process models organize your requirements using a hierarchy of processes and sub-processes and addressing those processes from start to finish. You use them to document the steps your stakeholders take to get their work done. Process models are very easy to understand and to work with on your projects. Think of graphically depicting a series of steps to place an online order on a whiteboard with arrows between them to show the sequence of events.  That flowchart is a simple process map.

According to the BABOK® Guide, process models are a visual representation of the sequential flow and control logic of a set of related activities. Process models may consist of manual steps performed by the stakeholders, automated steps taken by a software system or some combination of the two. Process models may be developed at a high level to get a general understanding of what is going on, or they may be very detailed steps that your stakeholders take to perform their work.

There are numerous notations that can be used in your process models. The two most common notations used by effective business analysts are flowcharts and activity diagrams.  Remember, there are eight key elements that should be part of your process models, including:

Activities: The individual steps or pieces of work being performed to execute a business process

Decisions: Forks where work flow goes in different directions or merges back together based on a decision being made

Events: External factors such as actions taken or messages received that create, interrupt or terminate a process

Flow: Indicates the direction of the sequence of activities, typically drawn as top to bottom or left to right

Roles:  Represent a type of person or a group found in the organization

Swimlanes: Horizontal or vertical sections of a process model showing which activities are performed by and are the responsibility of a particular role

Pools: Organizational boundaries that include a number of swimlanes or roles

Terminal Points:  The beginning or end of a process or process flow

I still have my green plastic flowcharting template that I used in college and on my first few jobs to manually build process models way back when.  I don’t use it much anymore, but it’s in my desk for “just in case”!  Do you still have your plastic template, too?

Susan Weese

If you are considering sitting the CBAP or CCBA certification exams for business analysts, check out our new study guide that can help you prepare to pass the test, the CBAP / CCBA: Certified Business Analysis Study Guide by Susan Weese and Terri Wagner.

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