Business Tech

How to use diagramming software for business process modeling

Since its inception, business process modeling has made a major impact on the productivity and efficiency of businesses of all sizes and industries.

Because of its visual nature, business process modeling is a powerful tool that enables people across your organization to communicate and understand rules and requirements in a clear and concise manner—and in a way that text-only descriptions simply can’t achieve.

While process models themselves can appear quite complex, diagramming software exists to help simplify the creation of business processes in a graphical format. This software also informs strategic planning, with a view towards constant process improvement across entire businesses.

The benefits of business process modeling

Through visualization of critical processes, modeling has the power to streamline your business—strengthening the coordination of all people, systems, and information across your organization, and demonstrating how each process aligns with business strategy. Business process modeling also benefits your organization by:

  • Creating business-wide and cross-departmental consistency: Diagramming your processes helps standardize procedures across your entire organization. For example, multiple departments often have their own individual business processes for dealing with purchase order requests. Visualizing each separate process in a graphical format helps identify best practices that can be adopted enterprise-wide, rather than just at the department level.
  • Identifying redundancies and areas for improving efficiencies: Process modeling is also a form of business intelligence, which helps visualize redundancies within specific steps of a process. Companies that use process models are frequently empowered to find ways to eliminate those redundancies, improving efficiencies and employee productivity through means such as automation.
  • Increasing business agility: Sometimes companies must alter their goals and strategies to survive. During the pandemic, many restaurants had to close their dining operations and rely almost solely on delivery and take-out options. The ability to diagram current and future business processes enables businesses to quickly pivot their operations, creating visuals of alternative strategies that align with new regulations and customer needs.

What to look for in a diagramming tool for process modeling

When searching for a diagramming software tool to model your business processes, look for one that all business departments can easily learn and use.

Ideally, your diagramming tool will provide templates to assist with creating a process model. These include diagrams for flowcharts, business process model and notation (BPMN), data flow, role interaction, and Unified Modeling Language (UML)Unified Modeling Language (UML). Templates are especially practical to use if any of your business processes require industry compliance—for example, if you work in healthcare, manufacturing, or another heavily regulated sector.  

Diagramming software not only depicts the current state of a business process—it also helps you map out a desired future outcome. Therefore, ensure the diagramming tool you select can simulate workflows before implementing them.

Elements of an efficient business process model

Not all business processes are the same—and neither are process models. Diagramming software provides dozens if not hundreds of types of diagrams and charts to choose from. Regardless of the diagram type used, process models consist of a few basic elements:

  • Inputs and outputs: Inputs are resources that feed into and help accomplish the business process, while outputs are the results of that process. Using the purchase order example from above, process inputs may include time, money, and effort—with the output being an approved purchase order.
  • Beginning point and endpoint: Your diagram will show a beginning and endpoint for the business process, with each activity or process step listed in some type of order (often chronological).
  • Symbols and connectors: Each step in your model is represented by a symbol or shape, with arrows and lines showing connections and workflows between each step of the process.
  • Events and gateways: Events are triggers that can cause a process to begin or end—or may redirect a process to a different path. Meanwhile, gateways are decisions that can change the path of the process.

Using diagramming software for recruitment-related process modeling

Diagramming software simplifies creating business process models—providing the means to document and look strategically at complete life cycles of many facets of your organization.

Let’s take a look at how you can use this software for modeling three processes related to recruiting—from posting a job ad, through the interview process, to onboarding new employees.

Posting a job ad

Although the prospect of posting a job opening may sound simple, the process is often time-consuming and complex due to the involvement of multiple departments. Using software helps identify and accelerate steps to streamline that process.

A BPMN diagram represents the entire workflow from beginning to end, including steps and guidance for each responsible department. The starting point may be reporting the job opening to human resources (HR), with the endpoint being the actual posting of the job description. Steps in between will include writing the job description, reviewing it, editing it, and approvals.

Managing the application and interview process

Of course, recruitment doesn’t end with posting a job. Another important business process involves all the steps required for receiving applications, following up with applicants, and setting up and holding interviews—all the way through extending a job offer.

Diagramming software helps you visualize events and gateways that may lead to different process paths. For example, if an applicant declines a job offer, your diagram will outline the steps that need to be taken to get the process back on track.

Diagramming software also helps businesses easily identify recurring tasks where manual effort can be replaced. For instance, a diagram may show that HR employees are acknowledging receipt of applications by sending personalized emails to applicants. Businesses can use diagramming software to visually create the current process—as well as map a more efficient process model that includes an automated response system.

Onboarding

Following an accepted job offer, the onboarding process begins—requiring involvement from a cross-section of departments, including HR, IT, and finance. Use diagramming software to map out all the necessary tasks that come with bringing on a new team member, include securing a computer and phone, creating and delivering new-hire paperwork, processing payment methods, setting up security badges, and even alerting the internal communications team to update the employee directory on the intranet.

Diagramming software makes it easy to create follow-up processes for each individual step. For example, the steps involved in creating and delivering new-hire paperwork will segue into what happens once the employee signs and returns the paperwork.

A simple way to get started with process modeling

It’s easy to start using diagramming software for documenting your business processes. Just follow these steps:

  • Begin by using a template to model the process in its current “as is” state.
  • After reviewing and analyzing it, create a “to be” model—how you believe the process should work.
  • Run your ideal process model through testing.

If testing is successful, then your business process model should become your new way of doing things until future changes are needed.

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