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Masooma Memon

From Chaos to Clarity with Process Modeling

Put your processes under the spotlight with process modeling - a surefire way to spot optimization opportunities that would have remained hidden.

As someone doing the work, you know your workflow inside out. But what happens when you try to explain it to a stakeholder or new team member?

There’s often a misunderstanding — the stakeholder understands one thing while you try to explain another. Naturally, this leads to misalignment and poor collaboration.

Keeping your processes in your head prevents you from seeing roadblocks, risks, and missed opportunities. You also can’t spot patterns of repeat work, which means you may keep unintentionally adding work to your place. 

The solution? Getting your workflows out in the open with process modeling. 

Here’s everything you need to learn about it to efficiently model and optimize your workflows:

What is process modeling?

Process modeling involves creating graphical representations of your business processes and workflows to optimize them. 

By documenting business processes in a visual manner, it’s easier to analyze them thoroughly and identify areas for improvement and enhanced collaboration.  

Visualizations created as part of business process modeling tend to often look like flowcharts as they capture the overall processes (from simple tasks to complex actions). 

Not only does process modeling help you lay out complex processes for a better understanding of how things work but also makes it easy for you to identify inefficiencies. In turn, assisting you in improving business processes.  

What is the purpose of process modeling?

From helping you automate repeat work, reduce waste, and boost collaboration, process modeling delivers several benefits.

Here’s a detailed rundown: 

Get an in-depth understanding of your processes

By visualizing processes and workflows from end-to-end, you get a clearer understanding of how things unfold. The information, in turn, is useful for helping stakeholders understand what’s involved in different processes and how long each step takes. 

Identify process inefficiencies

Process modeling also makes it easy to spot workflow bottlenecks and redundancies. Taking action to cut back on fluff and removing constraints promotes continued process improvement — contributing to business growth and controlling resource wastage.

Streamline workflows with needed automation

Since modeling involves creating a visual representation for each workflow, it makes it easy to identify repeat steps. You can then use what you find to automate and streamline processes.

Standardize processes

Use your process breakdowns to standardize your workflows based on your business goals. This improves the quality of deliverables by establishing process consistency and reducing errors in execution.

Improve internal communication

Process modeling brings stakeholders, departments, and team members on one page as everyone develops a clear understanding of the work required. This also improves cross- and inter-team collaboration.

Optimize training and onboarding

Use your process models to train new employees on how you work and how they should be doing things.

Reduce costs and better utilize resources

Cutting back on redundant work lets you save on costs. With an improved idea of the steps involved in each process, you can also better utilize resources — making sure no staff member is packed with more work than they can take and subsequently reducing burnout.

Related: The (Better) Guide to Resource Utilization for Service Businesses 

What are examples of process models? 

A simple example is a breakdown of your client onboarding process. 

You can easily capture it in a flowchart that shows each step you take to start working with a new client. For example, these steps could include signing a non-disclosure agreement and agreement contract, setting up payment details in your account software, filling in documents/templates to understand their requirements, etc. 

Another example of a process model is a project network diagram that visualizes common projects you take into steps. 

What is the difference between process modeling and process mapping?

Process mapping involves visualizing specific processes and workflows.

On the flip side, process modeling is more comprehensive as it involves documenting processes as well as analyzing and improving them.

Put this way, you’ll see that both vary in scope.

There’s also the difference of when you should be using them. 

Mapping business processes, for example, comes in the initial stages. Modeling processes, however, comes at a later stage when you need to refine your processes for improved operational efficiency.

Thanks to this difference in scope, both serve different purposes.

Process mapping gives you a quick point of reference — individuals and teams can see what the standard way of doing things is, for example. On the other hand, process models give you more practical insights for continually improving your workflows.

The bottom line? Process mapping focuses on documenting and understanding the current state of things. Whereas, process modeling is more inclined toward analysis and optimization.   

How to create a process model

Creating a process model boils down to identifying the process you want to study, selecting the best graphic/model to visualize it, and analyzing the results for improvement.

 Here’s the step-by-step breakdown:

1. Start with identifying the process to review

The easiest way to get started is to make a list of processes to review. 

The shorter and more specific this list is, the better. Reason being: long lists often bog down progress. So start small, execute, then return to batch-create more process models. 

2. Determine the ideal model to visualize your process

You can choose from various project charts and graphs to model your shortlisted processes.

Examples include business process modeling notation (BPMN), flowcharts, Gantt charts, and project network diagrams like the one below:

When selecting a business process diagram though, be mindful of the complexity of the process you want to document and your objectives.

Further reading: Beyond Gantt Charts: 5 Alternatives to Visualize Projects 

3. Write down everything that goes into the process

Next, jot down all the steps involved in the entire process you’re mapping.

Writing them down ensures you don’t miss any important steps. It also gives you thinking space for recalling essential details and sub-steps to each step. 

4. Add the steps to the model

Once you’ve all the steps and sub-steps down in writing, start adding them to your business process model.

You can also skip the previous step and start adding steps directly to the model you’ve selected. However, the odds of missing essential details in taking a direct approach are high. 

5. Analyze the process model based on your objectives

Depending on what your objectives are, review the visualization.

For example, if your objective is to automate your processes, look for steps where repeat work shows and ask yourself if there’s a way to automate it.

Parting advice 

Once you get in the habit of creating and analyzing your process models, be sure to regularly update and revisit them. 

Processes change over time as businesses adapt to meet changing client requirements and add different software to their workflows. Going back to your process diagrams lets you continually increase their efficiency. 

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