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Business Process Modeling – Where it started and why you need it

by Chief Navvian on

Getting a Baseline for Improvement - Business Process Modeling (BP Modeling) was born in the mechanical industry, it was first introduced in 1921 by Frank Gilbreth when he presented a paper to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers entitled “Process Charts: First Steps in Finding the One Best Way to Do Work”.

It was this paper that turned a lot of businesses onto the idea of modeling their processes in order to optimize them.

Gilbreth, the paper’s author, is probably better known as the author and central character of the 1950s novel Cheaper by the Dozen. Gilbreth was a fascinating character with a passion for the study of time and motion, but he was also a man who was laser-focused on the true purpose of processes: finding the one best way to do work.

The basic theory of business process mapping

Why map business processes? Gilbreth told us that it’s because you need to take stock of your processes before you can begin to improve them. Looking at the big picture allows you to see the cause and effect of each and every step and to be able to understand the process flow clearly.

“Every detail of a process is more or less affected by every other detail; therefore, the entire process must be presented in such form that it can be visualized all at once before any changes are made in any of its subdivisions.” — Gilbreth

Gilbreth ended his presentation with two important notes:

Visualizing processes does not necessarily mean changing the processes
Process charts pay!

What is Business Process Modeling?

Business Process Modeling (BP Modeling) is used by organizations to visually document, understand, and improve their processes. It is  a part of Business Process Management (BPM) and it can be used as an organizational tool to map out what is (or “as-is”) as a baseline and to determine the future (or “to-be”). However, getting a baseline to measure the effectiveness of your process improvement is critical and this is the first place where the practice of business process modeling comes into play.

A visual representation shows all the connecting activities, events, and resources a process employs. BP Modeling combines process mapping, process discovery, process simulation, process analysis, and process improvement.  Text-based documentation is often not enough for employees to truly understand how a process is performed. Using a visual representation can provide a comprehensive picture that is easier to comprehend and follow.  Want to get started with process mapping?  Check out our guide to selecting a business process mapping tool.

I hope this post has given you some insight into the value and purpose of business process mapping. In my next post I will discuss the difference between business process mapping and business process modelling and look some modeling techniques you can use.

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