Process Modeling for the Rest of Us

If you're a regular reader, you've probably figured out that my BPMessentials BPMN training is pretty hard core. We hammer on the semantics of the various shapes and symbols, the need to validate diagrams and fix the errors, and we provide a methodology for organizing diagrams for maximum shared understanding - across business units, and between business and IT. Most people taking it have at least some previous experience in process modeling, and live in that twilight zone between business and IT. (If that's you, we're offering it next in New York November 6-7 through BPMInstitute. Check here for details.)

What we don't do is offer handholding to beginners who want to know simply how to get started mapping their processes, how to organize the project, who should be on the team, how to facilitate the meetings that collect the information that goes into the model... and maybe also how to organize that information in the diagram. They're the majority of would-be process modelers out there, and many are not ready to confront BPMN's rules of the road, much as that pains me to say it.

There are a lot of consultants who provide such handholding, facilitation, and process improvement advice, almost always in the traditional stickies-on-the-wall style. But in an environment where people are covertly Twittering on their iPhones, stickies on the wall are as anachronistic as carbon paper. Ultimately the goal is sharing the process map with others, versioning it, analyzing it for potential improvement, and capturing those improvements in to-be models. That requires a shared software tool, a model repository, and a way to organize process information in a standard diagram... but without worrying about all those nasty rules.

That's "process modeling for the rest of us," and to address it I've teamed up with two strong partners.

  • Shelley Sweet of I4Process brings a wealth of experience in process improvement projects - the facilitation, handholding, and analysis I talked about, as delivered in that traditional stickies-on-the-wall style.
  • Lombardi Software provides the ideal mapping tool. Blueprint, Lombardi's modeling tool in the cloud, is perfect for live use in facilitated "process discovery" mapping sessions... and it builds BPMN diagrams automatically "behind the scenes." Users don't even know they've created BPMN until they switch to the Process Diagram view, and Blueprint provides a model repository supporting versioning and reuse.
  • I bring what you might expect, suggestions for how to let that Process Diagram, once the users are ready to look at it, carry forward effectively for sharing with a wider audience, simulation analysis, and down the road even implementation.
What Shelley and I have created is 2 hours of online training that we call Process Mapping with Lombardi Blueprint (and that Lombardi is calling Process Mapping 101), available through Lombardi. Broken out into 5 segments of Flash video, the training provides a step by step approach to getting started with mapping your as-is process: the team members needed at each step, roles and responsibilities, how to facilitate the mapping sessions, how to drive the Blueprint tool, and how to organize the generated process diagram for maximum effectiveness. Much of it takes the form of simulated team mapping sessions. Most of the rest is hands-on for the student. We'll describe a scenario of information gathered from the team session, and you'll put it into Blueprint - training video in one browser window and Blueprint open in another, so you can compare your result with what it should look like. Hands-on exercises are the only way to learn it.

I learned a lot from Shelley on this project, and vice versa, and I know there is a lot more we can do with this kind of Blueprint-based training, both online and in onsite consulting and training engagements. (Contact me if this is something you might be interested in.) I'm also working with Lombardi on a way to exchange Blueprint models with the ITP tool we use in the BPMessentials BPMN course, so the Blueprint training can serve as a prequel to that or a companion business track for our training clients.

To sign up for the training, go to Also, Lombardi's Barton George will be blogging about it. I see this as a beginning, not a one-shot deal. So if you take the course, your feedback is very welcome.