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Answers from Joy: When and why do BAs use BPMN?

I recently got a question from Zbigniew of http://bpmtips.com/ to address: “Why, when and how should business analysts use BPMN?”

So I love the question about when BAs should use BPMN and I’d add to your question of “when” by also asking “if” they should at all.

BPMN is a very powerful modeling language for modeling very complex business processes; and with that, it is often too powerful for most of what a BA does. So when I teach BAs to model business processes, I point them to a process model that uses simpler syntax. Arguably, it’s really just a subset of BPMN’s syntax, so maybe they are still using BPMN at some level. I think it’s important for BAs to understand the basics about how and when to model business processes, and a select few will benefit from learning the full richness of BPMN.

There are a variety of scenarios when a BA should use a business process model:

  1. Working with business stakeholders to understand or describe how they do their job – they are such an easy model for business stakeholders to understand (and sometimes create), so it’s my go-to choice for that type of work.
  2. Showing the sequence of when things happen – many models show relationships between pieces of information, but process flows are the best way to show the order that things need to occur.
  3. Showing the current state (as-is) and future state (to-be) of the business process – this would be impossible to do well in words, so we suggest you create the as-is, then update it in a new copy for the to-be flow.
  4. Showing the order in which systems interactions occur – this is a variant of a business process called a system flow, where the swimlanes are actually systems instead of people and the steps are steps within systems.

What do others think about BAs and BPMN?

One Response to Answers from Joy: When and why do BAs use BPMN?

  1. Doug Goldberg January 23, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    Yep. Love BPMN…or used to. I studied it for a while because I realized the high value it returned on clarity for the audience. However, when I learned over time that only sparse audiences actually understood or used it, much in due to internal culture, I opted back to the standard process. I found the same results as you mention and have never had a single stakeholder ask for something more advance. Now I just love BPMN for what it could do if I used it 🙂

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