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What is a business process in software engineering?

Talha Ashar

A business process refers to a collection of linked activities that produce a service or product for a client. Typically, a business process is represented as a flowchart that depicts the life cycle of the process.

Product owners often carry out business process modeling to optimize business performance, operations, and management. As a result, the development and test teams can analyze the workflow represented by a business process and identify possible changes that can lead to greater efficiency in the activities associated with the development of the product or service.

The activities of a business process workflow are illustrated below:

The Business Process Lifecycle

Aims of a business process

To maximize the efficiency of your workflow, you must consider the following points when developing a business process:

  • What activities does your product lifecycle currently involve?

  • What current activities are not needed?

  • How can you improve the current activities?

  • What activities are you not doing that should be done?

  • What activities are you not doing that should not be done?

By carefully addressing the questions above, you can develop a framework that will allow you to optimize workflow.

Benefits

Business process models deliver the following benefits:

  • Identify and remove redundant activities.
  • Improve communication throughout the workflow.
  • Remove bottlenecks in the workflow to maximize efficiency in product delivery.
  • Testing guidelines can be drawn up by non-technical staff. Later, these guidelines can be used to develop User Acceptance Tests.

Visualization

As discussed earlier, a key component of a business process is to identify possible positive changes in the workflow. Consequently, the usage of diagrams becomes an essential part of the business process. Diagrams allow the production staff to visualize the workflow and identify changes more easily.

Some popular business process modeling techniques are as follows:

  1. Business process modeling notation.
  2. UMLUnified Modeling Language diagrams.
  3. Flowcharts.
  4. Data flow diagrams.
  5. Role activity diagrams.
  6. Gantt charts.

Example

Suppose that you have been tasked with designing a sales management business for a retail store. In this case, a business process may be the sales workflow, i.e., when a customer places an order up to the time the order has been delivered. One possible way to identify improvements in the workflow could be to visualize it using a UML diagram, as shown below:

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The above diagram separates the sales workflow into 33 categories: the customer, the sales assistant, and the stockroom personnel, along with their related tasks. The entire business process can now be visualized as a set of separate tasks, which can be analyzed in greater depth to identify possible improvements, e.g., the method used by the stockroom personnel to update or check stock.

This business process allows both management and the relevant sales staff to study their respective responsibilities and develop possible improvements. In addition, this particular UML diagram also serves as a useful guideline for software testers. They can use the diagram to identify the different components of the product and develop tests accordingly, reducing the effort of the testing process.

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Talha Ashar
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