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Do your work flow charts cause confusion?

Blog: LitheIT

I believe that a good starting point for process improvement is to fully understand the as-is process to be improved. Creating a flowchart is an effective way of describing a process as most people in business have a basic understanding of flow charts and feel able to interpret them.

If flow charts do not adhere to a proven and recognised standard, which is fully able to describe the complexity of the current process, then they invariably lead to confusion and are open to individual interpretation. This makes it common place for different viewers to reach different understandings, achieving the exact opposite purpose for drawing the diagram in the first place!

If a best practise approach is followed, it is likely that most misunderstandings will be resolved during a verification exercise; however it is not guaranteed that all will, and it is much cheaper to get things right at the first time of asking.

Using a standard such as Business Process Management Notation (BPMN 2.0) addresses this problem. BPMN provides the capability for fully describing complex processes occurring across multiple departments, systems or organisations. It supports complex business events, message flow, inclusive and exclusive gateways and merges, and provides a model which leaves no room for personal interpretation.

BPMN is free to use as it is an open standard and can be implemented with no specialist tool support. (See details on the specification). It is also used by leading BPMS vendors whose systems turn BPMN models into executable processes. If you are considering procuring a BPMS, then I’d recommend starting to model processes using this notation right away, as it will help your selection process and ease your implementation projects.

Will adopting a standard mean individual interpretation will go away? Unfortunately not, but I believe it goes a long way towards a solution as it allows those familiar with the standard to fully understand and challenge the model. In practise, if a model contains notation which is unfamiliar, I believe most people are likely to seek an explanation, rather than fill in the blanks themselves.

Have you experienced problems with process flow charts causing confusion and want to learn more about BPMN 2.0? Contact Lithe IT on 0141 314 3707 and ask for Anthony or see our website at

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