Simplifying BPMN 2.0

March 23, 2010

Though BPMN has emerged as a dominant business process modeling standard, the jury is still out on whether it is suitable for business people. Even for IT people, some argue that the number of constructs you need to understand in order to build a process model is too large. Future standards for adaptive case management will require even greater end user participation in process modeling.  

Consequently, the requirements for a simple, robust, extensible, and flexible modeling framework are growing. Over the years, we have developed a few principles for making modeling languages simpler to use. These principles represent a move away from the prejudice that everything should be defined as classes, which so dominates OO and MDA.  

The results of applying these principles to BPMN 2.0 could be a reduction of its size by up to 50%. The resulting framework would also handle typical evolution scenarios better, by removing the need for a lot of type change of individual elements. Finally, it would better support complementary visualizations of the process, like the 12 different process views we described earlier.

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Business processes are commonly defined as a set of related activities directed at producing an outcome. In bureaucratic case processing, the outcome is typically a decision, which is documented in a case file and communicated using e.g. formal letters. For the management, improvement and automation of some of these processes, BPM and workflow systems are adequate. Knowledge intensive processes like engineering, design, and construction, however, produce outcomes that are far more complex. To manage, improve, and automate such processes, we must design product models and process models in parallel, with evolving product structures as the core and foundation. This post presents a case from oil&gas field development, outlines why a product-driven business process management approach is needed, and how it is applied. Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this year, Henk De Man of Cordys published two papers on case management at bptrends, one about different modeling approaches, and another about the approach taken by Cordys. This contribution has also been submitted to the OMG as an answer to their dynamic business activity modeling RFI. I recommend these papers to anyone interested in flexible BPMS, and applaud the company for making this information public. These descriptions represent the best I have seen from any vendor in this field.

Our active knowledge architecture approach is well aligned with this proposal from Cordys, though our emphasis is the complex creative and artistic human-interaction processes that are typically organized in projects. Projects are larger and more complex than cases, requiring multi-dimensional modeling and continuous elaboration of project plans as instance level process models. This post explores similarities between case management and process-oriented knowledge architectures, and proposes some additional use cases and solutions that we believe would make case management simpler and more useful for a wider range of dynamic business activities. Rather than defining new languages for different kinds of processes, we believe that a common process modeling core standard should support dialects (or profiles) for different modeling scenarios, such as “BPMN for standard BPMS”, “case management”, and “project planning and execution”. Read the rest of this entry »

Several languages have been proposed for business process modelling. Though most of them follow the conventional representation of processes as a series of steps, they emphasize different aspects of processes and related structures, such as organizations, products, and data. Consequently, they are suited for different kinds of processes. Even if you are determined to use a particular technique, knowledge of alternative approaches can still guide the modelling, by surfacing complementary points of view. In addition to the common transformational process models, this post discusses block structured languages, storytelling, and process modeling languages that are hierarchical, flow-oriented, role-oriented, communication-oriented, declarative, goal-oriented, timelines, product and document state machines etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Active knowledge modeling and business process management are two approaches for executing models of business processes. In its most recent reincarnation, business process management deals with composition, choreography and orchestration of web services. It includes mapping of data between the services, but compared to earlier workflow management systems, BPM standards such as BPEL is weak in the area of user involvement. Mechanisms for to-do-lists, progress monitoring, and manual exception handling are lacking(cf. BPEL4People, and human interaction management).
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