Modeling tools: big, complex, expensive things or providers of real business value?

Documenting your business processes is the first step in any process transformation initiative. Most organizations start by drawing graphical representations of their processes – effectively flowcharts - using lightweight software like Microsoft Visio, or SmartDraw. But are mapping software tools enough or should companies take a more serious look at modeling tools?

The difference between process mapping and process modeling tools is like the difference between a 2-dimensional road atlas and a GPS, says Mark McGregor, The road atlas has a lot of information in it but it’s in a format that is very difficult to use while you’re driving. In a similar way, while mapping tools can provide you with nice drawings of your processes, modeling tools can provide you with a more robust, 3-dimensional view.

So why don’t more organizations use them? According to a 2012 benchmarking study "Are Process Mapping and Modeling tools missing the target?" that Mark McGregor conducted while at analyst firm MWD Advisors, modeling tools have gained relatively little traction at organizations. In this interview, McGregor, comments on why he thinks that is, elaborates on the difference between mapping and modeling tools and explains what he sees as the benefits of modeling tools. Mark now works as Director of Business Architecture at OpenText and is working to address many of the perceptions he talks about during his interview, not least in terms of better bridging the gap between users and vendors.