Let’s start with some common terms for process modeling and analysis.
• Process mapping is a way to draw out and visual depict the flow of work in a given process (like the steps to process an order)
• Process modeling is a way to look at different ways you might perform a process to find the optimal way. (What-if we had more resources; What-if we removed steps, etc.)
• Process analysis is different techniques for evaluating aspects of a process, generally to find inefficiencies or other issues with the process and determine ways to improve it.
Using visual aids to depict a process helps facilitate process understanding, you know the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. There are a large number and variety of process mapping and diagramming techniques. In BPM, the industry standard that has emerged is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). BPMN is an excellent way to map out flows and process relationships to help document and communicate how a process is performed or should be performed. Visit the BPM Resource Center for examples.
That said there are those that feel the notation is becoming too complex for business users. While it is true there are many elements (icons, etc.) that are used in BPMN, it is not necessary to understand every element to effectively model a process. Also, it is a good bridge between business and IT and at long last at least there is some standard. Business users can easily learn the basic elements and IT or Business analysts can fill in the details as might be needed dependent upon the final intended use of the map.
In terms of process analysis, a simple and rather common sense approach is to map out the flow of the current (as-is) process in BPMN and then look at each step in a process and ask questions such as why things are done at all, how long they take, how much time delay is there between steps and so on as well as asking what the current pains or challenges are in that process. Through this simple exercise you can drive the discussion to uncover opportunities for improvement and come up with a new future (to-be) process. After all, that is the whole idea in mapping the process to begin with, –understanding and communication.
Another criticism of BPMN is that it lacks in process analysis and is just one of many process mapping methods. That’s true. What is also true is that no-one said when doing BPM you must exclusively use BPMN. It is a good idea to include other types of mapping methods in your “knowledge” toolkit.
Others might be critical of the methods of Six Sigma or Lean which in truth can be very “heavy” techniques and require significant expertise. There are however, some mapping techniques derived from these methods; Value Stream Mapping and SIPOC diagrams for example can be major aids in helping to perform process analysis and do not necessarily require expertise in the broader methodologies. And, you can also combine techniques like use value stream mapping concepts in a BPMN map. The point is to accomplish the task at hand and not be bound to ideals of a given technique.