If you’re a product owner or business analyst who works on internal IT initiatives most of the projects you work on probably has something to do with changing an existing business process or creating a new business process.
One of the most useful technique for people who find themselves in that situation are process models (aka workflow diagrams, process flows, etc.). Wielded properly this technique can help you build a shared understanding of the process you are trying to support and bring focus to your efforts.
Used improperly, process models can become a time suck of epic proportions where your team gets wrapped around the axle arguing about the proper way to show what happens if a claim is processed when the moon is full and Mercury is in retrograde.
Not used at all and you can find your team working on several items that when combined together operate at cross purposes or even counteract each other.
Process models are helpful for showing how a process works, but they are even more helpful as a tool to structure the conversation with your team to build an understanding of the process in the first place.
In this issue of Inside Product Ownership, I take a look at process models, an invaluable technique for understanding business processes.
Process Model Technique Brief
Most people who have worked with processes have created, or at least seen, a flowchart. You can use this simple, yet powerful technique to understand a process and guide the conversations you have with your team as you plan your initiative. This technique brief introduces process models, describes when they are helpful and explains how use them to understand a process and build a backlog.
Collaborative Modeling Technique Brief
In order for process models to really help you build shared understanding you need to use them during your collaborative modeling sessions. Collaborative modeling refers to the use of well-known requirements analysis and modeling techniques in a collaborative fashion to build and maintain a shared understanding of the problem space and the potential solution.
All about business process mapping flow charts, and diagrams
Business process mapping details the steps that a business takes to complete a process, such as hiring an employee or ordering and shipping a product. They show the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “how” for these steps, and help you to analyze the “why”. Read this post from Lucidchart to learn all about business process mapping and discover how you can effectively use it within your organization.
What is a Process Flowchart?
Another common term for process model is process flowchart. This article from ASQ provides a succinct description of flowcharts, including the symbols you can use, another process to use to create them, and things to think about when using flowcharts.
Model processes to help with feature refinement
When I explained how I approach refining features, I shared the example of search on agilealliance.org. When we built the backlog to develop the new search functionality, we used a mockup of the search results user interface to help us identify backlog items. In that particular example it made sense to use a user interface mockup. In other examples that are more process based, you may replace the user interface mockup with a process model.