How to make sure your process models are useful

Have you ever spent days of your work creating and polishing your business process models just to notice there are no people actually using them?

Creating business process models is not so difficult. However creating process models that are useful is a bit more complex.

Below you can find 6 steps that will (hopefully) help you make the best use of your time.

1. Is the name of your process model meaningful?

It is very common to see top level process maps filled with ABC Management, XYZ Management and so on. However this kind of broad categorization may not tell you exactly what is the scope of the process. Take for example “HR management”. What does it cover exactly? This is not so obvious…

Generally there are two approaches to naming the processes. First one is “end to end” – for example “Order to cash”. Beauty of this approach is that is shows very precisely what to expect from the process, where does it start and where does it end.

Other approach is to specify what is the goal of the process. If you resist the temptation to use “management” everywhere (which is not so easy – I personally do not find good alternative to e.g. “Risk management”) and decide to invest time to create more specific process name, its intention and scope will be more clear. „Providing skilled employees” may be step in good direction compared to “HR management”. Of course I can imagine hour long discussion about this name that would result in further improvements 🙂

2. Is it linked from the process architecture?

There are various approaches to process modelling initiatives: top-down, bottom-up or process tunnels 🙂

If you do not start from the top (ideally from agreed process architecture) you may end up with bunch of process models that are not connected with each other and it is not very clear what is the big picture. It is very difficult to manage such „orphan process models”, because of e.g. risk that end event of one process does not match with start event of other process resulting in “No man’s land”.

Even if you need to start modelling bottom-up take some time to create a model of high(er) level processes. This allows you to prioritize the modelling effort (you can mark which processes need to be modeled first) and helps you create structure for your models.

3. Do you know why do you model it?

Before you jump into modelling take some time to think: do you model the AS-IS to create a procedure, or do you want to find improvement potential, or do you want to automate the process, or …
Your purpose influences the way you model, so don’t spend time on something that will not be used. Please remember that models age quickly and require some effort to be updated, so the more you add, the more you will need to maintain.
Clarify with the stakeholders what do they need and keep this in mind. “Model as much as needed, as little as possible”.

4. Does your model conform to the standards?

If you are using BPMN – is your model valid? Good modelling tools show you the errors, so that you do not need to do everything on your own.
If your organization has some guidelines regarding the modelling you should also consider them as this will help others use your models (imagine you model processes with BPMN while the company standard is IDEF – your models may be very cool and modern, but your audience may not know how to handle them) If not – there
are some general guidelines: detailed processes often look better when modeled left to right with no more than 30 elements of the model (think about one page printout).
Apart from names you should fill the descriptions and other attributes of the process steps, so that all the information about the process logic, resources etc is preserved. Otherwise after 2 weeks you will not remember the details and your effort will be lost (plus it is a bit embarrassing to ask your subject matter experts the same questions again).

5. Can the model be understood by others?

When you show your model to an employee of your company he or she should be able to grasp what happens in this process (how does it start, what are the main steps, what is the happy path, how can the process end, who are the participants) within a minute or less. Please note this is also related to a model size as it is very hard to quickly grasp the process which covers 10 pages and has 100+ steps.
If you need to explain your model, than it means it is not suited for your end users.

6. Does your model contain all relevant information?

Your model should clearly document the „Five W’s” of your process (Kipling Method).
Apart from the clearly visible elements it makes sense to document also other aspects: who is the process owner, who is managing the model, what is the process goal.
It will also be helpful to store comments such as information what were the sources of information (documents, workshops with people – who and when).
Models are often iteratively improved, so keep the history to be able to track changes and mark the current state of your model (e.g. draft, awaiting acceptance, official, archived).


Do you want to download the PDF checklist?


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