The Value of a Formal Business Process Repository

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Over the past few years, a large number of organizations have initiated some type of Business Process Management strategy. These strategies have taken many different forms from requiring individual business units or departments to document work procedures to enterprise-wide recognition of the importance of aligning business processes with the financial and operational health of the organization.  At one end of the spectrum countless binders detailing individual work procedures line the cubicle shelves while at the other end automated tools are used to maintain and integrate business processes with the daily execution of critical applications.  In the latter case, they are often considered core assets of the organization.  How an organization stores the information about its business processes presents a clue as to whether they are considered merely nice-to-have documentation or true business assets.  As documentation, they are used primarily as reference material for the daily activities of the organization.  However, as often happens with documentation, it quickly becomes out of date and adherence is difficult to monitor and enforce.  As assets, integration with the automated tools of the organization provides a means to ensure timely maintenance and adherence. 

A Business Process Repository is a central location for storing information about how an enterprise operates.  This information may be contained in various media including paper, film or electronic form with a storage mechanism appropriate to the medium.  Electronic repositories range from passive containers which store process artifacts (also referred to as process objects) to sophisticated tools that serve as active participants in monitoring, executing, managing and reporting on business processes.  They come in the form of Document Management Systems, Process Modeling Tools and Business Process Management Systems. Administration of a Business Process Repository includes activities such as storing, managing and changing process knowledge (objects, relationships, enablers, attributes, business rules, performance measures and models) for an enterprise.  It includes creating the repository structure; defining and maintaining procedures to ensure changes are controlled, validated and approved; mapping processes to applications and data, and providing the required infrastructure to enable effective and consistent use of the models in the repository.  

A repository of business processes provides a central reference location to ensure consistent communication about what each process is, how it should be applied, who is responsible for its successful execution, a clear understanding of the inputs or triggers and what the expected results should be upon process completion. It maintains information needed to adequately define measure, analyze, improve and control business processes. It helps to promote and support the understanding and acceptance of the cross-functional nature of many of the enterprise’s business processes and facilitates collaboration across functional business units by enabling and enforcing a methodology that focuses on the end-to-end process.

Object-based repositories also store information about the individual objects used by the Business.  These objects are reused throughout the model providing consistency and simplifying maintenance.    Consistent use of common objects avoids redundancy and contradictory information about a business artifact as the object only exists once in the repository but can be visually represented in multiple places.  This allows the impact of a change to an object to be immediately visible wherever that object has been used.

A centralized Business Process Repository is critical to the success of the enterprise’s business process strategy by providing a blueprint to manage and control how process change is introduced and implemented into the enterprise. It also becomes the system of record for information on process ownership, technological enablers, business rules and controls, both financial and operational. It may serve primarily as documentation about the enterprise’s business processes or may be used to simulate various scenarios to evaluate process improvements and to detect and analyze problems. It can also be used to identify and validate the appropriate solution. Sophisticated repositories can be interfaced with the enterprise’s applications to enforce defined business rules. Today there are a large number of products available for modeling and storing business processes and we are starting to see more that also have the capability of simulation and integration with other applications. In addition to numerous whitepapers and studies available on the BPM Institute website, the 2006 BPM Suites Report Release 2.0 and the BPTrends 2006 Enterprise Architecture, Process Modeling and Simulation Tools Report contain reviews on many of the leading products.

While there are many roles involved with managing a central Business Process Repository, recognition that business processes are valuable assets of the Enterprise requires Management to play a key role in providing the resources and support needed to promote and maintain the repository. Understanding the value of the Process Repository is required to provide sufficient direction and resources. A variety of reports should be available to provide Management with the information necessary to make informed decisions. This information, whether applied to manual, automated or semi-automated processes, should include:

  • Time required to complete the process
  • Frequency of execution
  • Amount and type of resources required (i.e. people, equipment, computer cycles)
  • Cost of executing the process (includes direct and indirect costs)
  • Owners and stakeholders of a process
  • Applications and technologies including those that enable the process and those that are enabled by the process.
  • Details of the computing, financial and operational controls for each process, also known as compliance activities.
  • Adherence to Regulatory requirements
  • Value to the organization. 

In addition to reports, analytical tool sets should be made available that use the repository information together with other key strategic data to identify and prioritize improvement initiatives.  By making strategic decisions from a cross-functional Business Process perspective, the potential for improving one area at the expense of another can be minimized or eliminated. 

Administration of the Business Process Repository also involves ensuring that

  • adequate measures are taken to protect the integrity and physical security of the repository;
  • it performs at an optimal level;
  • access to the repository is controlled and meets defined availability requirements;
  • standards and administration procedures meet the needs of the organization and are adhered to. 

A formal change control procedure needs to be in place and adhered to. This procedure includes how to request check-out/check-in, check-in/check-out criteria, approvals required, timelines, and conflict resolution. When any component is checked out, a change freeze should be implemented. 

Administration of the Business Process Repository is a critical component of managing business processes that should be taken as seriously as the administration of any other company asset.  As the blueprint for process management within the organization, it not only provides a common frame of reference and method of consistent communication, but it is also the system of record for information on process ownership, technological enablers, business rules and controls, both financial and operational.  Effective and consistent administration of this valuable asset is critical to developing and maintaining the holistic nature of the enterprise’s processes through promotion and acceptance of their cross-functional nature.

Sandra has over twenty years experience in system and process design and development working with utility, transportation, logistics, insurance and banking organizations in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Wales, UK. She has taught at Algonquin College in Ontario and at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology. As a Senior Business Process Management Consultant, her responsibilities included development of a BPM Governance, training, mentoring and support of business improvement initiatives. A graduate in Computer Science from the University of Regina, she is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is currently President of the Association for Business Process Management Professionals, Portland Chapter.

Comments

Ankit Tara
,
posted 3 years 31 weeks ago

Below are my comments on why

Below are my comments on why to have a central repository/tool to manage process documentation: 1. Governance on the process documentation method and quality of process design
a. Keeping up-to-date as-is process documentation makes it easier to re-engineer and improve processes
b. Maintain same format of the processes across different LoBs makes it easier to review, change, and improve (if and when needed) 2. Having central process repository across the org provides below benefits:
a. Performing impact analysis on business processes and services in efficient and automated manner
b. When identifying KPIs and activity based attributes you can easily manage/watch process performance
c. Having central repository of process and having expertise managing it will enforce standards and guidelines on process design
d. Will ensure all redundancy and duplication and shared processes can be identified across the entire organization
e. Applying access control on process designer will prevent unauthorized changes on the process baseline
Ankit Tara
,
posted 3 years 47 weeks ago

Nice article . . My group

Nice article . . My group recently built a repository of “evidence-based best practices” for a healthcare client. We initially loaded 100 protocols as narrative texts, and are converting them, one by one, to BPM maps. What was interesting was that 100 protocols expanded to 4, 000 documents because the users of the db wanted access to trials that led to declaring the protocols as evidence-based, plus access to field reports on use of the protocols, bibliographic references, researchers and grants that sourced the protocols. The db of choice was a graphic free-form search Knowledgebase. Whereas we have no problem granting read-only access, we quickly realized the project would quickly get out of hand without a moderator to review contributions to the db. The project is expected to grow to 10,000 documents over the next 12 months. After that who knows? The initial plan was to make the Kbase public but it seems now to have been classified as a strategic corporate resource.
Nima Moghadam
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posted 6 years 24 weeks ago

Hi, I am a student at UNSW.

Hi,
I am a student at UNSW. My research is about Business process repositories.
Can you please let me know if you have made any progress?
Currently I am looking for similar researches in this area. Cheers,
Nima.

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