BPMN 2nd Principle

The first article of the series “Supporting core BPM principles with BPMN 2.0”, presented business processes as organizational assets that are central to creating value for customers.

This means that, similar to other types of organizational assets (e.g. employees, materials and capital), a company should ‘take care’ of business processes. The second BPM principle addresses this issue, by stating that “Processes should be managed”.

Processes should be managed

Because processes are organizational assets, core processes and processes that generate the most value to customers, should be carefully managed. Managed processes produce consistent value to customers and have the foundation for the process improvement. Transferred into the Pizza restaurant viewpoint, these means that each time a customer orders the same pizza from a menu, he would actually receive ‘the same’ pizza (the pizza of the same quality).

figure1While this ‘positive’ pizza scenario seems self-evident, several negative scenarios might be even more likely. For example, a customer might receive a wrong pizza, a pizza with a missing ingredient, a smaller pizza, a cold pizza, too salty pizza, a thinner pizza, etc. In all of these ‘negative’ cases, the customer’s confidence into the Pizza restaurant is reduced, which could finally lead to a loss of a customer. How to avoid such negative scenarios?

The second BPM principle states that a company can deliver consistent value to customers by measuring, monitoring, controlling, and analyzing business process, which mean following [1]:

  • Measuring of business processes provides information regarding these business processes, which allows organizations to predict, recognize, and diagnose process deficiencies, and it suggests the direction of future improvements.
  • Monitoring enables the detection of variances in process instances, which usually indicate problems. Once a process displays high variability, there should be a mechanism allowing the process to be controlled. Process controlling can be done by adding more resources (people, machinery, etc.), shutting down the process if the situation is critical, or activating an alternative process.
  • Analysing process information is an essential step to identifying what parts of a process needs improvement, and which improvements are most likely to increase process consistency, effectiveness and efficiency.

Figure 2 represents measuring, monitoring, controlling, and analyzing of the pizza production process.

figure2A common concept related to business process management activities is so-called Key Performance Indicator (KPI). KPIs are typically derived from higher level business goals (e.g. lower pizza delivery time by 20%) and can comprise generic metrics that are applicable to any process (e.g. process duration), or process-specific measures, that are typically based on the properties of process-relevant business objects (e.g. pizza preparation time). The metrics can be calculated for one single process instance (e.g. individual pizza delivery time) or may be aggregated over several process instances (e.g. average pizza delivery time).

How does BPMN support the 2nd BPM principle?

Despite of the importance of business process performance measurement, current business process modeling languages provide little or no support for the definition of process performance metrics and this also applies to BPMN. However several solutions and workarounds can be used in case of BPMN 2.0.

A direct and simple solution is to extend process diagram with additional process monitoring and controlling activities. Figure 3 presents the extension of the pizza process with two additional activities dedicated to process measurement (elements colored in orange).

figure3The drawback of this solution is that it is non-standardized and supports only definition (visualization) of business process monitoring activities in a business process diagram.

Secondly, most of the market-leading BPM tools implement vendor-specific solutions that enable the definition of performance metrics as part of business process management. The drawback of this vendor-specific solutions is that they are not standardized and therefore ‘locked’ to a specific BPM tool.

And third, in case of using BPMN 2.0 the most sophisticated solution is to add business process performance measurements to business process models by using BPMN 2.0 extension mechanism.

This usually involves the extension of the BPMN 2.0 meta-model and the definition of visual representations of the extensions (new BPMN elements). Once defined, performance metrics present an integral part of the process model. However, to be able to define and make full use of the performance metrics, BPMN modeling, implementation and execution tools have to support proposed BPMN extensions.

Conclusions

This article presented the second BPM principle stating that “By measuring, monitoring, controlling, and analyzing business processes, a company can deliver consistent value to customers and has the basis for process improvement”.

Since it is usually cheaper to keep old customers compared to getting new ones, this principle is usually critical for business success. Similar to other process modeling notations, BPMN 2.0 does not directly support the second BPM principle.

However several solutions to this problem can be applied in case of using BPMN 2.0, where the most sophisticated one is to use the standardized BPMN 2.0 extension mechanism.

Resources used

[1] J. F. Chang, Business Process Management Systems: Strategy and Implementation, 1st ed. Auerbach Publications, 2005.

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Gregor received his PhD in 2008 in the fields of software engineering and information systems and has nearly a decade of experience in BPMN, starting to investigate and actively use BPMN since its introduction in 2004. In addition, he has participated in the development of one of the first BPMN modeling utilities - a package of plugins for Visio, which were introduced early in 2005 and is the main author of the first BPMN poster (bpmn.itposter.net), which has been translated into several languages and already exceeded 50.000 downloads.