How to cut your process model into tasks

Have you ever seen process models with task names like “Prepare report and get approval” and wondered if this is how it should be done?

Recently I had a nice discussion with participants of my BPMN training and noticed that it is not obvious for everyone how to split the processes into tasks.

From BPMN spec we know that:

An Activity is a generic term for work that company performs in a Process. An Activity can be atomic or non-atomic (compound).

A Task is an atomic Activity that is included within a Process. A Task is used when the work in the Process is not broken down to a finer level of Process detail.

OK. But how does it help us in practice?

Below you can find few tips I shared regarding possible criteria. I hope they will help you name your tasks better:

  1. Responsibility change
  2. Changes of documents/data we are working on
  3. Changes of IT support

Let’s start with a first one: you know it is time to split the tasks when you have a change in responsibility (RACI can be helpful here). So if you need to prepare a document (on your own) and than get an approval (which obviously requires some other people involvement) this should not be one task, but two.

For the second one – if during your process you start working with a different set of documents or the state of your document changes (think of BPMN Data Objects) this may be used as a hint that new task is needed.

And last, but not least – IT support. If some process steps are done manually, while some are IT supported they should be split.

You may ask why do we do it? Firstly – it is nice to have process models with 10 or less tasks, but if they have long and complex names you will not have better readability. Secondly – if the tasks are really atomic activities it is much easier to perform process analysis and improvement.

Do you use other ways to split your processes? Post them in comments!

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