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Process Makes Perfect

Tom Allanson

BPMN: My, What a Handsome Workflow You Have

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I read a blog post on Enterprise Irregulars by Sandy Kemsley the other day on BPM Summer Camp, a tutorial session she's created to help business people (in the case of an upcoming presentation) understand BPMN - or business process modeling notation. BPMN is basically the graphical method for explaining a business process workflow, or the steps between inputting data and having the process goal completed. For instance, say you're automating your company's vacation request process. The steps would be something along the lines of this:

Employee inputs requested vacation dates and identification info into a smart form online created by the company - inputted data gets routed to HR manager - HR manager checks date availability and if available - routes request to employee's direct supervisor who must sign off on it - if he's fine with it, request is approved and placed on company calendar/pay is arranged/sick days are withdrawn/however the company does things.

Now that seems inordinately complicated even without including the worst-case scenarios, i.e. if the requested dates aren't available (too many people reserved it), if the direct supervisor can't spare the employee or if the employee has used up her vacation days, etc. Spelling all of those potential cases out in text is highly cumbersome, and totally unnecessary.

BPMN allows us to take the process above and visualize it so it looks like this:

Vacation Request BPMN Workflow.bmp

Kudos to Sandy for wanting to educate people further on the elements of BPM, and I strongly recommend that anyone pursuing a BPM project take the time to study up on BPMN. I'm always around if you'd like a primer or more examples: tallanson (at) perfectforms (dot) com.

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Tom Allanson of PerfectForms shares his ideas on managing business processes, automating workflows and designing for business users - both in the cloud and on the ground.

Tom Allanson

Tom Allanson, CEO of Perfect Forms, Inc., has over 19 years of experience leading teams and growing businesses and has held key executive roles at Intuit, General Electric, and H&R Block. Most recently the President of H&R Block Digital Tax Division, he had previously been Senior Vice President at Intuit in charge of the Tax Division, including TurboTax. He started his career as a design engineer.


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