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

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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?

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