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BLUEPRINT

IBM Blueworks Live (BWL) is a cloud-based software product that offers a collaborative environment to build, view, share, review, and improve your business processes.

Introduction

IBM Blueworks Live adheres to BPMN 2.0 (Business Process Model & Notation) standard, meaning that it follows a universally understood flowcharting technique.

Whilst Blueworks Live offers an intuitive interface for basic use, it also allows for highly detailed process mapping once you know more about the functions it offers. By teaching yourself about the functions and features of Blueworks Live you open yourself to a world of possibilities within the software. These more advanced functions will ensure that you are accurately and thoroughly mapping your processes to the point where you can obtain the most benefit.

For me, a history student with no developing or business analysis background, I was a complete beginner when it came to the concept of process mapping, let alone any sort of software to do such a thing. Teaching myself as much as I could about Blueworks Live, and process management was important for me to ensure I can use the full spectrum of Blueworks capabilities as well as tell others why it is beneficial.

I found the best way to learn the capabilities and more advanced functions of Blueworks Live were varied, this blueprint will explore these methods of learning.

Background Research

This refers to finding out the main uses and advantages of Blueworks Live – by knowing the capabilities of the software you can better take advantage. This doesn’t necessarily mean learning how to use Blueworks Live, rather just understanding why it is a useful piece of software and what the possible outcomes of using it are. This may not be an issue for everyone – especially if you were involved in the buying process – but if you are completely new to the software, it could be helpful.

Just by googling ‘what is Blueworks Live’ a wealth of links come up, both webpages and YouTube videos – work your way through whatever seems valuable to you and make notes that you can refer back to later on. To be safe, stick mainly to sources from IBM or their resell partners.

Caution: be sure that what you are looking at is as recent as possible to ensure you aren’t finding out of date instructions.

The Blueworks Live ‘Help’ tab takes you to a landing page full of information varying from ‘Get Started’ to ‘How To’ documentation and videos. These will be the most relevant and reliable sources you can find online so give them a look for any queries you have about how to use Blueworks Live.

The page also includes a link to ‘Community’ where you can post any questions you have about using Blueworks Live for other users – not necessarily from you company – to answer. You can also see other questions and answers left so that you can find solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had.

BlueworksLive – Process made simple. 

Blueworks Live Introduction

When you first enter Blueworks Live you are offered an introductory demonstration. Whilst this is a basic process, you learn how to initially map a process as well as how to implement things such as exclusive gateways and subprocesses.

I use this example process to try out any new tricks or features I learn – e.g., linking processes (test), trying different gateway types, adding events, trying playback with different methods/pathways.

Have a play around!

Once I understood the basics (adding activities, milestones, swim lanes, exclusive gateways etc.) I had a go at making diagrams that were empty of information but that I could demonstrate what I had learnt so that it was not just in theory anymore.

These diagrams can easily be deleted at a later stage, but for now it allows me a practice area so I don’t have to change actual processes before I know what I am doing.

This is just another way of getting to grips with the capabilities of Blueworks Live and process mapping – you can try to implement things such as linked processes or create process apps without interfering with established blueprints.

YouTube videos

YouTube demonstration and run-through videos are an easy way of learning tips and tricks. For example, I learnt how to create decision tables that can be used across your Blueworks Live spaces (as you allow) in order to create a standard for all users to adhere to, as well as how to manage the glossary (as a glossary manager or admin account) in order to maintain terminology, policies, and documentation as preferred.

These are things that I would not have necessarily learnt just through introductory trials etc. so it is important if you want to have more advanced skills that you have a look around at other sources for knowledge.

Hint – Blueworks Live has evolved quickly and some materials may show features that are no longer in the product. Make sure you are viewing the latest information. Despite this problem the older descriptions can be very insightful.

The ‘IBM Support and Training’ account also post ‘release preview’ videos to update people on any new features or changes to Blueworks Live. These are useful run-throughs on how you can use and benefit from updates and so are something to bear in mind when you are teaching yourself about Blueworks Live, ensuring you have the most up to date information.

IBM Blueworks Live – Release Overview
Getting Started with IBM Blueworks
Advanced Demo
Process Diagramming – Tips and Tricks

Building a Business Process

Hint – A great way to use references and connect them to Blueworks Live is to split your screen and follow the video in the tool. Pause the video to investigate features and lookup terms that are new to you.
 

Google any terms you don’t understand

This may seem obvious, but to get the most out of anything it is important that you understand as much as you can. By searching any phrases you don’t know, you are opening the opportunity of using those functions to yourself.

As someone who came in completely ignorant to all things business process, there were many things I did not understand – by teaching myself, I unleashed a number of new capabilities and thus broadened what I could do with Blueworks Live. For example, I did not know what a ‘boundary event’ was after it was mentioned in a video I had watched – after googling what it meant, I found a whole wealth of information I didn’t have before. I also found associating details such as what ‘intermediate events’ were as well as the different types of events that could occur. These are all things that I didn’t know I needed but can now use in my process diagrams to enhance them even further.

By eliminating the unknown, you are more willing to use things that you may have bypassed due to lack of knowledge. This will benefit you in the long run due to the ability to create more in depth, detailed business processes.

A useful way of learning terminology is to google and note take. Due to the fact that Blueworks Live adheres to BPMN 2.0, the terminology and icons should be the same across all process mapping software, and so there should be many sources available for you to learn from. Whilst this may be the case though, it is still helpful to stick mainly to Blueworks Live specific publications.

I also found that having a copy of things such as icon names and functions on hand is helpful to look at whilst starting out. You won’t need it for long, but whilst you are getting to grips with what’s what it will come in handy as a reminder – think of it as a cheat sheet. If you are also a person who won’t necessarily always be on Blueworks Live it could serve to jog your memory should you go periods of not using the software.

IBM demos and hands-on-labs

These were quick online tutorials through IBM that gave more additional knowledge on features of Blueworks Live.

Through the lab ‘Manage Custom Properties’, I learnt how to create new properties/fields that would appear throughout Blueworks Live for the use of anyone you allow.

In the example given, I created properties to indicate benefit, cost, and volume levels – assigning values (low, medium, high) to allow the comparison of areas of a process – in this case it would have highlighted any areas that were haemorrhaging money vs. areas that were creating revenue etc. through the further use of a heat map.

This function is very useful in practice, as it makes analysing where areas of benefit or areas in need of improvement occur within a process.

It is important to note that some labs require certain accesses on Blueworks Live (admin, glossary manager, etc.). If you do not have these accesses, you can still read through the steps and benefit from the knowledge of how to do more advanced functions.

Conclusion

As a general note for finding sources to read through, it is important to see how recently they’ve been published – the newer the source the more useful it will be to you. IBM resources and the help tab in Blueworks Live is your most reliable option, so start with these for doing research and getting update information. If you want to know more general information about process mapping and management then find what makes sense to you. BPMN 2.0 will ensure that the general business process mapping symbols etc. are the same across different software to allow universal understanding.

If you are new to Blueworks Live but your colleagues aren’t, utilise them, ask questions when needed, they will also be useful sources of practical information on how to efficiently map your business processes.

The process of learning is different for everyone, so take a look around online and find what works best for you in order to get the most out of your Blueworks Live experience.

To continue on your Blueworks Live learning journey, find out about their Playback features from 5 Things You can Do with IBM Blueworks Live Playback.

 

 

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