Business Process Reengineering - Process Charting

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Introduction - Business Process Charting

About The Author & The Article

Jonathan Bishop, Group Chairman, Bishop Phillips Consulting. [1]

Copyright 1995-2019 - Moral Rights Retained.

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Charting the Business Process - A Unified and Holistic Approach

Why Chart?

There are many reasons we may wish to chart a business and its businesses processes including mapping of data flows, documenting process steps, designing automated and hybrid systems, defining intra and inter-organisational relationships, defining or analysing service agreements, etc.

What is a (Business) Process Chart?

A process chart is a diagramatic representation of a set of processes, that models the enveloping organisations as if it were a machine with a functional domain that encompassed the diagrammed processes.

From a computational perspective, a business process chart is a diagramatic program describing human, machine, natural, organisational, functional and non-functional systems using digraphs.

What are the Characterisitics of a Good Process Charting Method?


This author proposes that the objectives of a good process charting system should be to:

  • improve the understanding and clarity of the data represented in the chart,
  • enable domain specific analysis (such as efficiency, economy, effectiveness, reliability, etc),
  • enable viewing of the processes at multiple levels of detail simultaneously,
  • chart the target analysis domain completely,
  • seemlessly represent both automated and non automated processes in the same chart,
  • enable the automated modelling of the system directly from the chart (which implies the charting "meta-language" should have a consistent "syntax" and semantics - similar to an "ideal" computer language),
  • represent processes across diverse operations, industries, products and services without context specific modification of the syntax or semantics,
  • produce charts from unfamiliar industries (etc) that are understandable to a moderately experienced chart reader, with no prior background in the subject charted, and
  • enable the construction of "proofs" of the processes.

In this author's view these objectives are assisted when the charting system assumes the properties and conventions of well designed computer programming language - albeit a visual one. These properties include the grammatic (semantic and syntactic) consistency, structured functional encapsulation, object reuse and polymorphism, conceptual inheritance, simplicity and functional expansion.

Consistent Identifiable Grammar

The grammar of a process charting method defines the symbols, their meaning, and the rules for "legal" combinations of these symbols and meaning of such combinations.

In computational languages the atomic element in a programming language's grammar is called a token. In a text based computational language these tokens are strings of one or more characters, some of which are defined in the language with a special meaning. The tokens comprise the syntactic elements of the grammar. The grammar itself defines a consistent semantic interpretation of the syntactic elements when combined in pre-defined combinations.

In a process chart the atomic element is a symbol that maps to a real world object such as an organisation, a person, a data element, a process (or function), a data store, etc. These symbols comprise the syntactic elements of the charting method's grammar, and the charting rules document a grammar which delivers a consistent semantic interpretation of the syntactic elements when combined in the pre-defined combinations.


A well designed charting system is internally consistent in atomic structure and behaviours, while mapping completely (in a mathematical sense) to the real world scenario being modelled.

To be conceptually useful, "completeness" chould be able to be "proven" - at least theoretically. This explanation implies an algebraic representation (eg predicate calculus) of the process charted should be derivable from the charting language. Having said that, it should be noted that few computing languages have such a mathematical validity test available (SQL being one notable exception).

Minimal Syntactic Complexity

Completeness in oricess modelling is a complex topic, and one fraught with some potentially counter productive implied solutions. For example, a charting system with a unique symbol for every-process might achieve completeness, but it would achieve this at the expense of very high grammatic complexity.

The strength of process charting approach lies specifically in its ability to categorise, simplyify, and standardise our view of a social system. If one measure of language complexity lies in the number of rules in a grammar, then the greater the range of predefined (or reserved) symbols in the language, the greater the number of rulee that will be required to define their use.

Complexity, under such a measure, is minimised when the number of unique predifined "terms" is minimised. The mover restricted is symbol set, however, the more symbols must be used to represent simple everyday-repeating processes.

The BPC Business Process Charting Method

The core symbols of the process charting language are defined in the BPR overview. This author postulates that all human-machine processes can be documented with this minimum set of symbols. The simplicty of its symbol set (and therefore grammar) can lead to diagramatic complexity.

Certain objects and their processes occur with such rapidity, that diagrammatic complexity is reduced significantly by expamding the core set of symbols as shown in Business Process Reengineering - Chart Key.

Charting Example - Electronic Grants Management System

The process charting method included on the following pages demonstrates the business process charting method as designed by this author and improved with input from clients and staff of BPC over 24 years. The example charts represent the BPC Process Reengineering Modelling and the BPC Stakeholder Community model in action in a real world situation. The resulting demonstration is a fully functional government grants management process for whole-of-government administration of government grants to the public.