Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is a management approach that aims to improve organizational performance by radically redesigning core business processes. It goes beyond incremental improvements to fundamentally rethink how work is done, which leads to improvements in productivity, cycle times, quality, and customer satisfaction.
Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) are a visual modeling technique used to represent the flow of data through a system and the processes that transform the data. DFDs can be effective process models for Business Process Reengineering (BPR) for several reasons.
Simplicity and Understandability
As any guide to data flow diagram basics illustrates, DFDs use just a few simple elements – data flows, processes, data stores, and external entities – to model complex business processes and systems in an intuitive, visual manner. This makes DFDs easy to understand for both business and technical audiences involved in BPR. The high-level DFDs show the overall processes and data flow, while lower-level DFDs provide more detail on sub-processes.
Focus on Processes
A key aspect of BPR is analyzing existing processes to identify opportunities for redesign and improvement. DFDs provide a process-centric view, clearly mapping out the current processes and data flows. This helps identify process inefficiencies, bottlenecks, redundancies, and gaps that need to be addressed.
DFDs allow modeling of business processes end-to-end, crossing departmental boundaries. This is important for BPR since optimizations require an enterprise view of processes, not just department-specific views. DFDs aid in analyzing processes from an end-to-end workflow perspective.
Analysis and Simulation
Once built, DFD models enable useful analysis for BPR – identifying optimization opportunities, simulating improvements, and capability analysis. DFDs support what-if analysis to simulate the impact of process changes on the overall workflow.
Documentation and Communication
The graphical nature of DFDs aids communication about existing or proposed processes and data flows with both technical and non-technical stakeholders. DFDs become part of the documentation of the improved business processes.
While DFDs are an intuitive and useful process modeling technique, they have some limitations for BPR use.
Lack of Detail
DFDs work best for high-level mapping of processes and data. They lack the complexity to accurately model all decision logic, resource allocation, and underlying data structures.
DFDs focus on information flows, but do not capture organizational structure and responsibilities, timing, business rules and other operational details.
DFDs represent a snapshot of the process flows at a point in time. They do not capture how processes change over time.
There are many variations in how DFDs are modeled, with no standards on notation and semantics. This can limit interoperability.
DFDs are a simple but powerful process modeling technique useful for BPR. They provide an intuitive visualization of current processes and data flows, aid end-to-end analysis of workflow, assist in identifying improvement opportunities, and facilitate communication between business and IT groups. While DFDs have some limitations in terms of detail, perspective and dynamics, they remain one of the most useful process modeling methods for business process reengineering initiatives.