5 Common Mistakes when Building Business Process Models

As mentioned earlier in one of our blog posts, a model is defined as a representation of a real-world process, concept, or design.

Business Process Modeling can serve as a tool to analyze information collected in the elicitation phase of our business analysis process.    This model also serves as a tool to communicate the problem or solution to the business and to the technical team.  Through business process modeling the business analyst is able to analyze the information that they have collected from different sources.

I like to think of modeling as a science and an art.  The science side of modeling includes using the notations, syntax, and guidelines based on the standards for the modeling technique that is used. Often the science of business process modeling is tied to standards that are supported by a professional body of knowledge.    In the past, the different modeling tools were created and generally accepted as best practice and they have a specific modeling purpose.    When the principles and rules of the modeling tool are not followed then the business analyst will not get the results intended for that tool.  Here are some common mistakes made when building a business process model:

  1. One of the common mistakes that we see in business process modeling is that some people will mix the modeling techniques. For instance, they will create a process diagram using flowchart symbols, activity diagram symbols or some other modeling technique symbol.   If you are going to create a model use the guidelines for that modeling technique to get the maximum benefit of using that technique.  Tip: Know the modeling technique you are using and only use the symbols recommended for that technique.


  1. Another mistake that I see with models is the business analyst will use symbols inconsistently in their models. For instance, if the process is a rectangle in the diagram, then the description of the process should start with a verb.  Some people will use the symbol for a process and use a noun and in other places in the same diagram, they will use a verb.  For most modeling techniques the symbol for an object, people, place or thing starts with a noun and the symbol for a process starts with a verb.   Tip: Be consistent in how you use symbols in your models.


  1. Line crossing in a business process model can be distracting and misleading to some people. This can be a problem and lead to misunderstanding the flow of a process.  Tip:  Never cross lines in a model.  You can either redraw the model or use a connector.   


  1. Business Processes can be described from three perspectives: data, process, and behavioral (people).  Mistakes made in modeling is to only use one perspective to describe the business processSo much information about the process can be gained by looking at the process using the perspective of data, process, and behavioral (people). Tip: When you build your business process model, create three diagrams; one for data, one for process and one that describes the behavioral aspect of the process.


  1. Failure to use progressive elaboration to build the business process model.  The model created in describing a business process is a prototype of the current process that we are interested in.  A business analyst should constantly review and modify the business process model, looking for ways to remove ambiguity and to correctly and succinctly describe the business process.  Tip: Be willing to tear up your existing model and start from scratch if you have to, but otherwise look for opportunities to improve the model throughout the entire requirement planning phase.


Learn the right use of the symbols of the diagram and apply it properly when you start to build your models.  If you use a modeling technique, learn the proper use of the technique and follow the best practices for that modeling technique.  Models are prototypes of the process and they can provide you with an advantage to build and understand the business processes you are assigned.

If you have some favorite business process modeling tips to share please send them to me at george@bridgesconsultinc.com

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