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Use Entity Modeling to Streamline Business Process Design and Development

Over the past 10-15 years, organizations have made great strides in business process improvement by adopting business process management (BPM) suites as part of business transformation efforts. Why the great improvement? It’s because BPM suites separate business and process rules from the application code, making it easier and faster for business analysts and developers to design, build, change and improve processes using visual modeling tools.

As a result, the deployment of BPM software and a BPM methodology has given organizations of all sizes and locations a plausible and effective alternative to 1) developing time consuming custom applications or 2) deploying packaged solutions that may require some or even extensive customization to fit the organization’s improved or transformed business processes.

BPM software offers organizations a third alternative: codifying business and process rules in a separate system that allows developers and business analysts to quickly build and modify business processes as the business changes over time. (For more information on BPM software, see the Digital Clarity Group report, Tackle Complex Processes With Dynamic BPM Suites and Business-Ready Apps.) This third alternative has greatly improved how systems are developed in organizations that have deployed BPM suites and has reduced the frustrations of developers and business analysts who have sometimes felt as if they were running as fast as they could, only to discover they were trapped inside a hamster wheel going round and round–getting nowhere.

Concept of business loop with running businessman     In addition to the key benefit from BPM described above, over the past five years, BPM suites have delivered even greater value by tackling some of the hardest processes to automate—specifically, processes that change quickly–frequently requiring a unique path for a single type of (or even a single) instance–and also rely upon document management, collaboration, social and analytics software in addition to process automation. These BPM solutions are typically known as advanced case management or dynamic case management or just plain old case-management. The emergence of BPM products that support highly dynamic processes and unique instances of work have delivered even greater value than some of the initial BPM software, making it possible for organizations to automate their most “unruly,” complex, risky and dynamic business processes.

But in the never ending quest for greater productivity, deploying a BPM software suite for process automation, and using dynamic case management software for tackling complex processes is not enough. Whether it’s greater use of agile, the deployment of low-code software or something else, organizations are constantly searching for greater developer efficiency and faster software deployments. And that’s how entity modeling may (or may not) come into the BPM picture.

Here’s why: some BPM vendors make extensive use of entity modeling throughout their products, while others have not yet incorporated it into their solutions. And that’s a big deal if your organization is looking to acquire a BPM software product. Entity modeling can save project teams significant amounts of time in data integration by 1) adopting a more natural view of the real world, consisting of entities and relationships; 2) providing a high degree of data independence; and 3) creating the basis for a unified view of data.

  • Without entity modeling, the entire data payload (e.g., variables) must be structured into the new process by developers, who must declare all variables associated with the new process. This modeling approach uses named value pairs on processes so that each process owns its own variables. This extra activity is required even if the variables have already been declared by existing business processes or process fragments; the declaration occurs every time a new business process uses the data.
  • But with entity modeling, the variables in one process can be reused in other processes without requiring the variables to be declared again. This is possible because the process models share access to the same data, eliminating the need for named value pairs. Instead, the data dimension is resolved by entity structures created through entity modeling.

That’s why incorporating entity modeling into the BPM software product provides greater business value– it costs less to develop, takes less time, and creates more flexibility by enabling multiple processes to use a single case. (For more information, see the Digital Clarity Group report, Use Entity Modeling for Simplified Application Development During Business Process Automation.) Organizations seeking to buy a BPM software product should look closely to determine how the vendor integrates variables are into multiple business processes. And this is particularly important if the organization’s processes are highly adaptive, dynamic and integrated with multiple collaboration, analytics and document management systems. That’s one way to get the BPM project team off the process design and development hamster wheel.


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