From process to automation
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From Operational Process to Process Automation

When it comes to digitalization, process management and automation make the task considerably easier. The transparency that they provide to business processes and the IT landscape, including evaluation/assessment and automation, lays the groundwork for rapid and efficient digital transformation.

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BPM as the basis for digitalization

No matter where you get your business or technology-oriented news these days, much of the information revolves around digitalization. But digitalization is not an aim unto itself. Behind all of the activity involved, its goals are the generation of new products and services for customers as well as increased efficiency. And intrinsically involved in this procedure are all of the various operations that take place within an organization – the “processes”. Whether it be documentation of financial processes required by an ICS or the desire for an ISO-compliant implementation of process-oriented quality management or a recommendation from IT for the automation of operational tasks, the need quickly arises for functional Business Process Management (BPM).

Considerations in digital process management and process automation

Various perspectives exist for describing business processes. Operational business process models are used to optimize operational activities within a company or between business partners, while process automation models can be used for technical planning, implementation, and control of corporate information systems. Each of these approaches targets a different goal, but they can easily be combined through use of the tools included in the BIC family of products, thereby enabling both operational business process management as well as process automation. Before presenting potential scenarios for combining operational and technical modeling, it is necessary to first explain

the fundamental interrelationship between business process models and automation models. Figure 1 shows the various phases and interrelationships involved in moving from process modeling to automation. Of particular consideration are the following phases: Operational Process Modeling, IT Process Modeling, IT Design, Implementation, and Execution. In each of these phases, it is important to distinguish between dynamic and static content. Dynamic content includes information regarding timed logistical processes; in contrast, static content generally consists of definitions of the business objects or data objects being processed as well as professional or technical services.

automate processes
Fig. 1: From operational process to process automation

Modeling of operational processes

In the course of operational process modeling, all of the activities involved in a business process will be presented from a business management perspective (1), meaning that the model will focus on the business management information needed by the target groups. These groups are generally specialist departments who will be using the results to design an organizational work domain. At this level, along with the processes themselves, a definition of the business objects involved is included (2). It is important to note that at this stage in the modeling, this is still a purely functional definition, and is not related to IT. When operating with BIC in this phase, the EPC and BPMN models are used to define dynamic content, while static content is defined by the structure diagram.

IT process modeling

The operational process modeling that has now been generated is generally not suitable for immediate implementation. Rather, experience gained over the course of many projects has shown that implementation will succeed only if IT process modeling is undertaken as an intermediary step. Here, it is important to ensure that there be absolutely no semantic smearing of operational and IT-specific content within one individual model. This would sharply restrict the usefulness of the models in both areas of application. For this reason, a loose coupling between the operational (1) and the IT-specific process modeling (3) is recommended. This separation should also be maintained for the static content. This means that business objects that have been defined from an operational perspective (2), such as a customer order, will, in this step, be refined to an IT object (4). In this same step, IT-supported activities will be linked to support services (5).

IT Design

The technological solution will be drafted during the IT design phase. In this phase, appropriate automation models (6), data definitions (7), and the associated IT services will be designed, based on the IT process and object models (3 and 4). For representing the content mentioned above, BIC Platform includes, along with BPMN, ArchiMate notation. This allows the definition of still more complex interrelationships within a target system’s IT architecture.

Implementation

Following operational modeling, IT-specific modeling, and the resulting IT design, implementation of the future solution can take place, meaning that the executable processes (9), the data definitions (10), and the IT services will be finalized. For this, BIC Process Execution provides a comprehensive development platform that, on the basis of technical BPMN diagrams, implements solutions all the way through to successful running of the application.

Execution

In the final step, during the execution phase, the solution that has been developed will be put into operation within the customer-determined run-time environment and infrastructure.

Determining an individual approach

Following this description of how the fundamental approach from classical process management to process automation takes place, an explanation of the BIC Platform methodology is required. It should be noted that for digitalization, not all of the artifacts described necessarily need to be modeled. A fundamental distinction can be made between top-down and mixed integration.

Top-down integration refers to an implementation in which no information from the final operational solution is returned to the modeling process. In contrast, mixed integration, in addition to using the top-down approach, also includes a bottom-up return route for information from an implemented solution in order to achieve fully- or partially-automated modeling in the modeling process.

 Dynamic ModelingStatic Modeling
Task SequencePhasesDescriptionPhasesDescription
10 › 1Modeling of the operational process models using EPC or BPMN0 › 2Modeling of the business objects using structure diagrams
21 › 3Creation of IT process model through detailing individual activities from the operational business process model using EPC or BPMN and indentification of professional services required2 › 4Creation of technical IT objects through detailing of the business objects, using structure diagrams or the IT architecture
33 > 9Creation of an BPMN process on the basis of the IT process model that has been generated4 > 10Creation of technical data definitions based on the technical IT object definitions generated
5 > 11Implementation of professional services identified
49 > 12Transfer of the executable BPMN process to the run-time environment10 > 13Transfer of the data definitions to the run-time environment
11 > 14Transfer of the services implemented to the run-time environment


Table 1: Steps in Top-Down Integration

 Dynamic ModelingStatic Modeling
Task SequencePhasesDescriptionPhasesDescription
10 › 1Modeling of the operational process models using EPC or BPMN0 › 2Modeling of the business objects using structure diagrams
21 › 3Creation of IT process model through detailing individual activities from the operational business process model using EPC or BPMN and indentification of professional services required2 › 4Creation of technical IT objects through detailing of the business objects, using structure diagrams or the IT architecture
33 > 6Creation of BPMN process skeletons based on the IT process created4 > 7Creation of technical data definitions based on the technical IT object definitions generated
5 > 8Draft of the services required based on the identification, with the aid of ArchiMate notation, of professional service needed
46 > 9Automated transfer of the BPMN skeletons for finalization in the BIC Process Execution development environment7 > 10Generation of data definitions based on the technical data definitions
8 > 11Generation of services required based on the BPMN diagram created
59 > 12Transfer of the executable BPMN processes to the run-time environment10 > 13Transfer of the data definitions created to the run-time evironment
8 > 11Transfer of the services implemented to the run-time evironment
69 > 6Inputting of the BPMN processes, now expanded with technical implementation information, into the modeling tool10 > 7Inputting of the data definitions, now expanded with technical implementation information, into the operational modeling tool
14 > 5Automatic updating of the service repositories with the new, professionally-relevant services


Table 2: Steps in Mixed Integration

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