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Get Started with Modeling for Process Discovery

By Genevieve van den Boer posted Wed October 28, 2020 03:25 AM


IBM Blueworks Live is your front door to digital transformation with the IBM Cloud Pak for Automation. The digital transformation journey starts with the Gather phase, where the focus is on identifying a sponsor and business goals, building your team of business and technical subject matter experts (SMEs), and capturing the model of the current business operations and pain points. In the fourth posting of this series of articles, we introduced some guidance for holding collaborative process discovery workshops. In this posting, we will discuss approaches to start to discover the current state baseline for your digital transformation initiative, by determining the level and defining the scope of the process.


Before you start modeling, you need to determine at what level you want to start capturing the process. Is it going to be a very high-level model or a low-level detailed model? Generally, you will want to start at a high-level and then drill down into details once you have that high-level context. If you have already defined a process framework, you may be expanding a process identified within the framework. If you are starting from scratch, you might start with a medium-level model to understand a specific process. To determine the level to start at, consider the purpose of the model, the audience, and the author(s) as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1: Determine the Level


Another way to look at process levels is using the levels 1-5 as defined by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC).

Process levels from APQC as defined in the Process Classification Framework* :

  1. Category – highest level of process in enterprise
  2. Process Group – a group of processes
  3. Process – includes core elements to accomplish the process, as well as variants and rework
  4. Activity – key events performed when executing a process
  5. Task – fine grained and vary across industries

Blueworks Live is typically used for APQC process levels 2-4 as it represents WHAT the process does, whereas implementation-specific tools, such as Process Designer for IBM Business Automation Workflow (BAW), are used to represent HOW the process is executed.


Once you have determined the purpose, audience, authors and level of the model, the next important aspect to consider is the scope. Think of your process as a box; use that box to define the scope. Name a single activity on the process blueprint in Blueworks Live with the name of your process. You can start in the Discovery Map view with this initial activity. Then start to fill in some details about the process from the outside, that is, attributes that define what is out of the box, not inside the box.

Figure 2: Define the Scope

Ask yourself these questions to determine the process scope:

When does the process start? End?
What’s the value? Or what is the purpose of the process?
When is the process completed?

Capture the purpose and value of the process in the Documentation of the process. Document how the process starts and ends. When you switch over to the Process Diagram view at later stage, you can add this documentation to the start and end nodes of the process with meaningful names and descriptions to indicate how the process starts and ends.

Use the SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer) approach to further refine the boundaries of your process by asking these questions:

How is the process started? By whom? What is the trigger?
What are the inputs? Who supplies them - Supplier(s)?
What are the outputs? Who consumes them - Consumer(s)?

Use these questions to validate and re-validate the scope of the process. Capture the Supplier(s) and Input(s) in the process Details pane to define how the process starts. Add the Customers(s) and Output(s) into the process Details to define how the process ends. In the simple example shown in the following figure, these values are entered for a process that prepares a pot of coffee for a customer order.

Figure 3: Process Details with SIPOC

As you discuss the process and refine the scope of the process ‘box’, record any activities discussed that fall outside the box as backlog or parking lot to revisit later. You now have the starting definition of your process, ready for further discovery.

In this article we introduced some approaches to determine the level of model to start with, and how to define the process scope and start modeling the as-is process. In our next posting, we’ll discuss how to fill in the model of your current state continuing to use SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer) and also RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) methods.

*The APQC Process Classification Framework® (“PCF”) is an open standard developed by APQC, a nonprofit that promotes benchmarking and best practices worldwide. The PCF is intended to facilitate organizational improvement through process management and benchmarking, regardless of industry, size, or geography. To download the full PCF or industry-specific versions of the PCF, as well as associated measures and benchmarking, please visit
"APQC Process Classification Framework (PCF) - Cross Industry"

"Using a Process FW as a Taxonomy"