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Decision Modeling – a technique for Process Modelers


Paul Harmon of BPTrends had an interesting post last month – What Techniques Should a Process Methodology Support? – that made me want to make a pitch for decision modeling as a core technique for process modelers. In his article he quotes a friend as saying that this friend

“didn’t include Decision Management (or Business Rules) in process, but left it to IT”

Like Paul I disagree with this friend of his. As Paul eloquently puts it

“To not show where major bodies of knowledge were required and used to make important decisions would be to seriously undermine one’s understanding of the organization.”

Identifying and describing the critical decisions in business processes is not only critical to understanding the organization, in our experience failing to do so results in over-complex business processes. Complex conditional events or gateway conditions, lots of rules-based annotations and even nests of gateways are used where really a decision should be identified explicitly (see this paper on decision-led process innovation for more). With the advent of the Decision Model and Notation standard for decision modeling these decisions can also be effectively described using a simple, easy to understand notation. This notation shows how knowledge and information are used to make decisions, allowing process modelers to describe how that decision should be made at that point in the process. As Timo Laukkanen, Process Director, Finnish Tax Administration said in his case study:

“Decision modeling enables us to model our business by dividing it into concrete parts that are understandable to business people without being too detailed. It also helps us not to lose sight of the overall picture of the process while delving deep into the details of business rules.”

We have taught literally hundreds of process modelers how to develop decision models using DMN. It’s an effective technique and one that will be increasingly critical for business process modelers. If you want to know more check out our white paper on decision modeling with DMN and sign up for our free decision modeling tool, DecisionsFirst Modeler.


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