What’s in a name?

Names are vital to our everyday lives. They help us make sense of the world around us, and influence the way we think about everything from companies to colleagues. Without names, communication becomes more difficult, clarity is lost, and confusion sets in. This is also true when it comes to Business Process Management, and especially when naming business processes in your business process mapping and modeling.

It is always worth taking the time to clearly identify your business activities, then give them an appropriate and understandable name within your organization’s business process models. This saves valuable staff and management time and resources that may otherwise have been spent trying to interpret and understand your business process models, and allows you to more easily replicate and standardize the way you record how you do, what you do.

But a word of warning! Good names are valuable but can be hard to think of. There are a number of mistakes that appear all too frequently when organizations map their operational processes. To avoid these pitfalls in your work, and ensure you reach your business goals with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, simply read on…

What is a business process?

First, a quick definition. (Business Process Management experts will know this already, but a quick recap never hurts!) A business process is a collection of related, structured activities that produce a specific service or product, for internal or external customers. Within each business process, there may be any number of sub-processes, and both processes and sub-processes are made up of individual tasks.

Naming business processes: Five common mistakes

When creating a workflow model, each process, sub-process, and task will require a separate name.  The following five common mistakes therefore apply to each of these three categories.

1. The name is meaningless.

An easy-to-understand name should describe the goal of the process being named, or if it’s a task, describe the result of completing the task. For example, if a process requires an email to be sent to a customer confirming they have ordered a specific product, a good process name would be ‘Send customer confirmation email.’

This is a clear statement of the end result of the process. It also avoids uncommon abbreviations (e.g. ‘Send C-em to customer’) and industry-specific jargon (e.g. ‘Send confirmation email to manufacturing technologists’).

2. The name is too long—or too short.

A general rule for effectively naming business processes is that one word probably isn’t enough, but more than three or four is probably too many. In the confirmation email example above, ‘Send email’ is too short and too broad to be useful, while ‘Check product is in stock, then fill in email template and email completed template to customer,’ is too long and too detailed. (In the latter case, it would be best to break the process down into its component tasks and name each one.

3. The name is inconsistent.

If you name a process one thing in one business process model, but something different in another model, you immediately increase the likelihood of confusion and frustration among management and staff. Not only that, but you remove the chance to copy or reuse your process models in different contexts, which means you may be stuck recreating or reengineering very similar process models for no reason.

It is also important to maintain consistency within a specific business process model, if the same type of process or task appears more than once. If you have ‘Send customer confirmation email’ as the name of one process, but another task in the same process model is called ‘Email product confirmation to customer,’ workflow managers searching for improvements may miss instances of duplication or repetition, and thus an opportunity for increased efficiency is lost. In addition, a consistent naming structure allows for easier searching, more effective ongoing management, and quicker investigations of errors or issues in the business process models you create.

4. The name is too vague.

Each process or task name should be based on a specific verb—in other words, a ‘doing word.’ In the example, ‘send’ is the active word, and refers to a single action. A poorly-written process or task name would include words like ‘manage’, ‘do’, ‘process’, ‘handle’, or ‘facilitate’, as these words convey that an action is required, without actually clearly stating what that action is. A surefire recipe for confusion!

5. The name was decided by one person.

Business process planning is a fundamentally collaborative activity. As such, you should work on defining and naming business processes and tasks in a group. While it can be resource intensive, this helps all employees and management in an organization (or at least in the relevant business area) understand the rationale behind each name.

More importantly, designing a whole workflow diagram on your own also misses the opportunity for real-time feedback and group agreement on the scope of each process and task. Deciding names collaboratively ensures teams agree on what the end goal of each process and task really is. This can often lead to unexpected and usually highly beneficial discussions of the way your business really works, including identifying bottlenecks, redundant organizational processes, and unnecessary management processes.

Next steps

Naming business processes is clearly a vital part of a successful Business Process Management initiative. To learn more about effective naming practices, and view some completed models yourself, Signavio offers 10 Workflow Examples Using Signavio Workflow Accelerator

If you’re ready to get started with your own Business Process Management initiative, and want to see how Signavio Business Transformation Suite can help you get the most out of your clearly-named workflow models, sign up for a free 30-day trial today.

Published on: April 13th 2018 - Last modified: April 27th, 2018