Through a fog of BPM standards

If you’re still confused about BPM standards, this article by Bruce Silver at BPMInstitute.org may not help much, but it’s a start at understanding both modelling and execution languages including BPMN, UML, XPDL, BPEL and how they all fit together (or don’t fit together, in most cases). I’m not sure of the age of the article since it predates the OMG-BPMI merger that happened a few months ago, but I just saw it referenced on David Ogren’s BPM Blog and it caught my attention. David’s post is worth reading as a summary but may be influenced by his employer’s (Fuego’s) product, especially his negative comments on BPEL.

A second standards-related article of interest appeared on BPTrends last week authored by Paul Harmon. Harmon’s premise is that organizations can’t be process-oriented until managers visualize their business processes as process diagrams — something like not being able to be truly fluent in a spoken language until you think in that language — and that a common process modelling notation (like BPMN) must be widely known in order to foster communication via that notation.

That idea has a lot of merit; he uses the example of a common financial language (such as “balance sheet”), but it made me think about project management notation. I’m the last person in the world to be managing a project (I like to do the creative design and architecture stuff, not the managing of project schedules), but I learned critical path methods and notation — including hand calculations of such — back in university, and those same terms and techniques are now manifested in popular products such as MS-Project. Without these common terms (such as “critical path”) and the visual notation made popular by MS-Project, project management would be in a much bigger mess than it is today.

The related effect in the world of BPM is that the sooner we all start speaking the same language (BPMN), the sooner we start being able to model our processes in a consistent fashion that’s understood by all, and therefore the sooner that we all starting thinking in BPMN instead of some ad hoc graphical notation (or even worse, a purely text description of our processes). There’s a number of modelling tools, as well as the designer modules within various BPMS, that allow you to model in BPMN these days; there’s even templates that you can find online for Visio to allow you to model in BPMN in that environment if you’re not ready for a full repository-based modeling environment. No more excuses.

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