When building your business processes, you might find yourself at a loss for exactly what’s necessary, and what might be helpful to you as someone new to the practice. However, designing a workflow process is actually easier and more productive when you understand the purpose behind the design, as well as when you follow the guiding principles for creating such a design. Building this kind of workflow process for your business should be something that feels straightforward — and if you know what you need, it will be.
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Why Learn It?
To understand how to design a workflow process, you should first be aware why you would want one. A workflow process design, or business process model, is made to reflect the parts of a process from start to finish. The reason you need to learn this is because designs like this are integral to analyzing the way that your business performs, and more than that, it helps you understand all the places where issues can occur. For example, an activity can turn into a bottleneck very easily, so it’s extremely important that you’re aware of where each activity is, as well as what it’s meant to do.
Define Your Business Process Goal
Whatever you want to do with your business process should be defined very early on; in most cases, it’s the production of your given service or product. Whatever the process is, that goal should be the desired endpoint, and once you have that in mind, you can start to visualize the steps that lead up to that. You can even reverse engineer that final product, making a case for what components your complete product is made of before eventually finding out how those components were found or developed. The same is true of your services or other goals: if you reverse engineer them, you’ll have the steps in mind to fill your process — and a process is nothing without steps.
Learn The Language
To proceed with designing a workflow that is universally understandable and capable of communicating what you need, you’ll need to learn BPMN, or business process model and notation. BPMN is used by professionals to map out their designs for any business process, and it’s standardized enough to matter greatly in various industries all across the nation and farther beyond.
One thing to know about these diagrams is that they always read left to right in English-speaking nations. In addition to that, there’s the need for learning BPMN notation symbols in a manner that will help with designing your process as well as gaining for you a hard-earned skill: understanding the language of business process model and notation.
The end, your goal, will be an event. The same is true of the starting point. Events are used to indicate not only the end and the very beginning of a process (i.e. the point of input and/or output) but other milestones as well. The first two examples of this are used often, but you can also mark when something independent of the process’s interior activities occurs. You can also use these as milestones for specific status changes within a process. If nothing else, an event can be a trigger for the process, wherein a specific activity results from it. There can be more to it, of course, but these uses of Events are more than enough to start designing a BPMN diagram of your own.
Events are represented by a circle, and there is always one at the beginning and one at the end.
Activities are the building blocks of a process. Every activity, such as a task, accomplishes one unit of work, and as such, each step where something moves forward in the process is a place where activities are stationed for such. Activities also make it easier for you to see each individual action item to the point where these can be delivered without question; the simpler a task is, the more capable it is of being controlled and observed accurately by you.
Activities are large, rounded rectangles, and within that, the details for each specific task will be written inside these activity rectangles.
When you are forced to make a decision, when you are converging or diverging the path of a workflow, gateways are what you want. These portions of the model are designed to force a divergence or convergence on a process, and when they do, there are a number of ways to define the result. They can, for example, be exclusive, meaning that the divergent paths are an either/or decision; other times, the two paths rejoin anyway, making it clear that they are not permanently divergent at all.
Gateways are drawn out as diamonds, and are shown with symbols inside to create a more distinct purpose for each one, such as whether it’s exclusive or inclusive in nature.
Use A Tool
If you are still learning how to design business processes, it may be even easier (and sometimes better) to simply use a specific tool for that purpose. Workflow design tools are simple to execute, and by being digital, it aids you in visualizing changes as you change processes (or models) in real-time. Additionally, if you start off with a tool like that, then you can use it later to build the actual process (not just the design) from the decided workflow. This templating is even more useful when it stands as a manipulatable basis for improvement of whatever process you’ve previously decided upon. These tools make such changes easy — as well as effective!