BPM Think Tank Day 2: BPMN/BPDM Roundtable

I’m just getting to the last of the BPM Think Tank sessions, namely, the roundtables and one lunch session that I had documented on paper. The three sessions of roundtables spanned Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and were some of the best conversations that I had at the conference. I’ll cover each of the ones that I attended in a separate post, then the summaries of the others in another post, just to keep things from getting too long. These were fairly unstructured, general sessions so the notes might be a bit fragmented

The first roundtable that I attended was BPMN and BPDM, with Stephen White of IBM and Antoine Lonjon of MEGA.

There are insufficient books and tools for educating the community on how to use BPMN for different purposes. There is a requirement for a reference document to educate end-user organizations that is smaller and more understandable than the specification (possibly both a business-oriented primer and a technical reference). Stephen stated that additional reference documents will be available within a few months. There is an HTML version of the specification online at ModelDriven.org.

Small consulting organizations and independents can’t realistically get involved in standards creation so we’re always “users” of the specification. I didn’t raise this point, but do agree with it — paying my own travel expenses and missing out on days of revenue to attend standards meetings several times each year is just not in my budget.

BPM vendors are unlikely to replace their own internal model formats with BPDM, but will translate to/from BPDM. Vendors need to review and understand BPDM and how it maps between different representations. There is a need for BPMN/BPDM conformance testing and certification of BPA/BPM products.

BPDM gives BPMN credibility as a modelling format since the specification is now “complete”. There was a great deal of discussion, both in this session and at other times during the think tank where this same point was raised, namely, that BPMN was rushed out without a serialization format, and that may have been a short-term mistake. One person at the table was concerned that combining BPMN and BPDM, and thereby increasing complexity, may be a mistake.

A comment that Phil Gilbert made on my TIBCO webinar Q&A post made a valid point about how there’s two main use cases for BPMN: non-executable process mapping and analysis by business analysts, and “visual coding” to create an executable process. We discussed this a bit at the roundtable, particularly around how business analysts could use the basic shapes (i.e., skip some of the internal graphic symbols that distinguish between different flavours of the shapes) and hence might benefit from a much simpler training program to get started. There was some discussion about how far up the chain that BPMN will or can be used for modelling businesses, e.g., whether it can be extended to strategy and goals or whether that’s more the mandate of BMM (Business Motivational Metamodel)

I had an interesting side conversation with Antoine after the roundtable ended about adoption patterns for BPMN and BPDM. Although standards organizations tend to have the “if you build it, they will come” attitude towards standards adoption, I believe that there needs to be some good reasons put forward for why BPDM provides benefits to the end customer and for the BPM vendors before we can expect to see widespread adoption.

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