One of the challenges with any venture is getting so close to the details that you forget what some of the bigger picture looks like for other professionals. It doesn’t matter if we are developers, marketers, executives, or any other role, it is very easy to forget to take a step back and look at what you are working on with new eyes. In an effort to mitigate myopia here at NoCodeDev we were lucky enough to spend some time speaking with Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap (we are working on a partnership and some of these links may be affiliate links that help us support each other’s efforts). Laura and her team have been preparing professionals young and old for a career as Business Analysts for the last decade. They have some fantastic resources that they’ve compiled and they are endorsed by the IIBA and PMI, two of the largest certifying professional organizations in the business world. If you want to brush up your business analyst skills, or if you are considering a new career as a business analyst then Laura’s team can help you accelerate the process.

If you are considering a workflow automation or digital transformation project, then you’ve probably had a chance to talk to a few vendors who like to promote the idea of the “citizen developer”. In many cases, vendors expect business analysts to assume this role as a replacement for the traditional code level developer. There is a lot of logic to support this recommendation, most obviously is how often businesses analysts are modeling different business processes. They are likely to be the most familiar with the high level perspective of the business process and therefore would require less translation from business requirement to drag and drop implementation.

However, I was reminded recently of just how “close” to this category of enterprise software we are. In other words, workflow software and business process management platforms are not second nature to business analysts. Many of them have never heard of these vendors or even this category of software. Even though many of us believe that the ubiquitous nature of spreadsheets will soon be replaced by smarter, workflow oriented solutions, it still isn’t reality for the majority of businesses.

In speaking with Laura she was able to direct us toward some business analyst basics that can give us a good view into the mind of the business analyst of today. To share this with you, we’ve put together a quick common question and answer here from the perspective of a business analyst who is just getting started. Enjoy!

What is a Business Process Model?

In Laura’s “How to Analyze a Business Process” article at Bridging the Gap, she clarifies that a business process model is a step by step description of what business users do to accomplish a specific goals. These steps can be manual, paper-based, or software-based. She also adds that a business process model also outlines the variations and exceptions in a given business process – this includes the “what happens when something goes wrong” paths in the process.

This view of a business process model is commonly confused with what we in the software world would consider a business requirements document for a software build. I say “confused” because folks in the software world would tend to ignore some of the inter-professional elements of the process and focus more on the clicks and file updates in the user experience. The message here is to remind vendors and software folks that we can’t always push our own definition of a business process model or map onto what business analysts are trained to produce.

BPMN and Business Process Modeling

A common point of debate during vendor comparison is whether or not the workflow builder experience is BPMN compliant. It was interesting to see the perspective of a business analyst coach as she walked future business analysts away from the anxiety that comes from trying to use the correct component from the 50+ elements in the BPMN library. In reality, Laura provides, most business analysts still use simple workflow diagrams to visually model their business processes. In fact, in Laura’s courses she teaches business analysts about the 5 modeling elements that are used 90% of the time. There is definitely a place for BPMN, but for less complex processes that don’t need a sophisticated modeling structure right away – just start with the basics! You can go here to download Laura’s free business process template. (Disclosure: Laura was nice enough to offer some affiliate links for us to see how much interest there is and compensate NoCodeDev accordingly.)

7 Steps to Diagramming a Workflow

Many vendors provide solid recommendations when it comes to best diagramming practice within their toolsets. Here is a good look at an agnostic, business analysis focused approach. Laura provided much more detail than just these basic steps in her article here.

  1. Identify the Process
  2. Name Your Process
  3. Identify a Clear Starting Point and Ending Point
  4. Identify Your Purpose for Diagramming the Workflow
  5. List or Draw Out a Series of Steps
  6. Look for Exceptions or Rules
  7. Refer to the Standard Elements of the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN is still important as a basis)

Through our affiliate link here can find some free real world samples of workflow diagrams at Laura’s site too! It includes 22 real world visuals from UML diagrams to whiteboard drawings that a real business analyst used in their career.

We’ll be adding Laura and her team to our list of experts who can help you train up your team on business analysis best practice – which is a great first step for any workflow automation or digital transformation project.