BPMN 2.0 (to be released late Q2, 2010) includes some additional artifacts that are quite useful for documentation purposes. In BPMN 1.2 there was only the data artifact, text annotation, and group shape. There are now 6 more artifact shapes. This post outlines the new shapes and my thoughts on what the impact will be to BPMN process modeling.
The BPMN 2.0 specification adds a number of improvements and fixes to the BPMN 1.2 spec. Up until now I haven’t been watching it closely because there were too many changes going on, and it won’t be until July 2010 before BPMN 2.0 is final and released to the public. Due to my recent introduction and collaboration with one of the coauthors of the spec, Vishal Saxenda, I got an insiders look at what’s changing.
The new specification is over 500 pages long, which is much more than most of us have time to digest. Furthermore, the specification is heavily laden with XML and references to mapping BPMN to the BPEL runtime. This is quite useful for standardizing BPM systems but might be more technical than the average process modeler wants to hear about. Over the next few posts on this blog I will be highlighting some of the most important changes, and what it means to you as a process modeler.
In this post I will describe the new BPMN 2.0 task and activity types.
Advanced process modeling (for the rest of us)
Recently I spent some time in Singapore teaching an advanced process modeling class. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Singapore is adopting process oriented strategies, and how well the students learned from this event. But I also realized something about BPM and process modeling. There is a general lack of knowledge world-wide of how to actually execute on process management. Some countries are doing better than others, but in the ten years that BPM has been mainstream, we still haven’t gained much ground in terms of getting the word out.
OMG has done a fabulous job at giving the world a specification for a modeling notation that far exceeds the potential of flowcharts. The problem is, we are still at a point where we have a specification, but no practical knowledge on how to apply it to a real-world business process. There are still only a handful of us in the BPM space that understand the BPMN specification fully. If this BPM industry is to take off, there has to be more visibility on the benefits of getting away from the old flowchart approach. Instead of trying to sell a BPM system (that’s the easy sell to make a some quick money) we should be teaching BPM practice. You cannot buy BPM. You have to practice it every day. Read more »
Process modeling today is more about managing complexity than it is drawing a diagram. Even the as-is process model is very complex these days. The individual worker has never been more empowered, due to the technology we employ. What used to be the work of 10 people can now be accomplished by 1 person. But these efficiency gains come at a price. A human being can only do so many things before they become saturated with information. Task prioritization becomes difficult.
Event Based Exclusive Gateway
The event driven gateway is one of the most useful symbols that I know of in BPMN. Yet it’s often overlooked as a solution to common problems. It is a compound symbol, inheriting attributes of other BPMN shapes. First of all, it’s a gateway that is used to split sequence flow paths. The gateway is the diamond symbol. Inside this diamond shape you will see the intermediate event shape, which is the double thin line circle. Inside the intermediate event shape there is the pentagon, which is a symbol for multiple events. So when you put all of this together we have a gateway that deals with multiple intermediate events.
In all of my classes I tend to get more questions about the event based gateway than any other shape in BPMN. This is probably because there are so many use cases for it, and its pattern to many people appears to be drawn backwards. Most beginners in BPMN tend to draw the pattern with the intermediate event shapes to the left of the gateway. Let’s start by looking at the basic pattern and then discuss some of the potential business scenarios where you could use this notation.
In the IT world, trends come and go. The next “must have” or “must do” today is a dust collector tomorrow. Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about BPM, and whether or not it will continue to be a growing trend, or are its days numbered? He said to me “are you still doing that process stuff? BPM is old news.” My reply to this was simple. While trends of automating processes come and go, process management has been around since before the computer. The computer enables people to be more efficient in many ways. But the software you use today is constantly being replaced by latest, greatest trend. BPM is not software. It’s not something you buy. It’s something you do. There are many systems on the market based on older technologies that make them go out of favor as new systems emerge. But to say that BPM is ancient history would be like saying that business its self is ancient history as well.
I will be doing an advanced process modeling training in Singapore on October 14th and 15th, 2009. This is a public class through my employer, Intalio. However, the content of this class is not specific to Intalio. In fact, it’s applicable to any form of process modeling even if you have no intention of creating executable process models. The course will contain in-depth coverage of my upcoming book content including process patterns and the Process Modeling Framework (PMF).
I’m using this class as a test run of the book content. Also there will be some hands-on exercises and real-world use cases to analyze. So if you happen to in the area during October, I’d love to have you in my class.
Recently I have been doing a series of presentations on SOA and BPM with a combined governance strategy and framework. It seems that BPM and SOA are a hot topic these days, but there doesn’t seem to be much knowledge on how to effectively combine both practices into a unified effort where both IT and business collaborate towards the same goals. This is the problem that BPM tried to solve back in 2002 but was not widely adopted because of the lack of IT backing of the tools. Now that SOA is becoming common practice it’s time for a second look at what BPM can really do for an organization.
There are many ways to accomplish loops in the BPMN specification. Flowcharts only offer one way to cause a loop back, but BPMN offers 4 explicit ways, and potentially dozens of ways to create a loop implicitly. Often my students ask the question “so, aren’t they all the same thing?” Technically, yes, and no. Sorry to say it, but there is no right answer according to the specification. This is up to you to figure out. The specification does however offer many options that can be used to express certain situations. But to a newcomer to BPMN, the challenge is always which one should you use, when, and why.