Show me your process models!

I had a couple of emails recently from people looking for public-domain process models, related but slightly different. The first was looking for generic process models for those processes that are the same in most businesses:

I am trying to convince [a small healthcare company] that their business is no different than many other service businesses providing service to customers. I am having a very hard time finding a reference model for just a generic enterprise, one that would include all of the standard functions such as Finance, Strategy and Planning.

The second was looking for some real-world examples of BPMN:

I’m looking for a good source for real examples of BPDs that are compliant with the BPMN spec. I’ve spent ~3 hours surfing for information on BPMN when I came across your blog and decided you might know what you’re talking about. I’ll admit to being uncompromising when it comes to adherence to the BPMN spec, but I don’t have a lot of support. So far, we’ve generated a whole bunch of examples of how not to draw models, do you know of any good sources?

Aside from not being sure whether to be flattered or not over the comment that I might know what I’m talking about, it’s really the same issue: the need for publicly available templates or samples of business processes. Think of it as design patterns for business processes, something that’s far more useful than the standard “employee expense approval” flow that seems to ship with every process modelling tool. The biggest problem, of course, is that many companies consider this to be part of their intellectual property, even if the particular process is not part of their competitive differentiation, and don’t allow those process models to be shared. What’s funny is that every customer I work with thinks that their processes are completely unique, but it usually boils down to something very similar to what I’ve seen at other customers in the same industry, or even across industries. I think that the attitude that “our business is unique” might be preventing more standardized modelling of business processes.

Anyone out there know of any libraries of real business process models available online, whether generic or industry-specific? Any that use BPMN? Does anyone have process models that they’d like to contribute to an “open source” library? Tim Vojta, the author of the first email above, has kicked things off by creating a Business Process Reference Model after our discussions and publishing it under a Creative Commons licence (yeah!), although it covers only a fairly high-level functional view of the enterprise.

4 thoughts on “Show me your process models!”

  1. Sandy,
    Funny how we so often are tracking similar issues (even if they come from different sources).

    On the reference models piece – I have an as yet unpublished paper on the issue – “BPM Solution Frameworks – Revolutionary Objectives through Evolutionary Change” … actually it has been completed for some months but the sponsor has had some issues about driving its publication) … all of that should be over with shortly, but if anyone wants a copy in the meantime, then get in touch.

    The long and short of it was that I found a wide range of frameworks, covering all sorts of different things, but confusingly pushed out under the generic term Frameworks. My primary interest in the piece was to distinguish between the different things available and the value they did or didnt deliver (I was most interested in those products that had frameworks embedded within them to get firms to the point of value much quicker). Having said that I found a variety of referfence frameworks (the following is from the paper).

    • Industry Consortia reference models which include:
    o SCOR—the Supply-Chain Operations Reference-model was developed as a cross-industry standard diagnostic tool for supply-chain management. Now extended and adapted with Value Chain oriented VCOR model (from a separate organization).
    o COSO—defines essential enterprise risk management components in the audit and compliance arena.
    o COBIT—an IT governance model designed to bridge the gap between requirements, technical issues and business risks. The approach emphasizes regulatory compliance and helps organizations to increase the value delivered by IT investments.
    o HIPAA and HL7—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides national standards for electronic transactions and national identifiers for healthcare providers, health plans, and employers. HL7 is a set of standards for electronic interchange of clinical, financial, and administrative information among health care oriented computer systems. It delivers such functions as security checks, participant identification, availability checks, exchange mechanism negotiations and data exchange structuring.
    o eTOM—enhanced Telecom Operations Map describes the full scope of business processes required by service provider in the telecoms industry.
    • A structured set of reference data provided by major vendors, such as IBM’s Information FrameWork (IFW) in retail banking and the Insurance Application Architecture (IAA) in the insurance arena. IFW provides “an information architecture blueprint with detailed banking business content that can be applied broadly to many different types of initiatives on an enterprise-wide basis or on a specific project.” IAA includes business process models for more than 100 specific processes, standard terminology and software code. IAA was recently donated by IBM to the ACORD Insurance Standards body.

    BPMN education is also I think a hot issue right now, Bruce Silver and I have been discussing around that need.

  2. One more thing, which occured to me glancing at the model your friend posted, virtually all of these models are hierarchically structured … which is not the right way to think about process (IMNSHO). There are better ways of chunking the world (which is all that a hierarchical model is doing).

    For example, in the model posted, it shows Customer Relationship Management as part of Sales Management … which sort of means that the folks in R&D and Product Design dont get any access to what customers might be saying about existing products.

    I regards a lot of this hierarchical structuring as just another example of what I call “Legacy Thinking” being applied to the modern paradigm of BPM.

    Decomposition tends to re-enforce existing legacy (silo) based thinking and power constructs.

    Processes are not decopmposed into ever smaller chunks, they connect in a network of constantly interacting instances (martyn Ould refers to this as “flux”). If anything, processes in the modern BPM-SOA age are constructed from service oriented components.

  3. Derek, I don’t necessarily agree with his model, I linked to it because it was part of the ongoing conversation. I agree that the hierarchical structure isn’t very process-focussed.

    As for your first post, I think that we need a library of actual process models, not frameworks.

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