BPM Summer Camp: Business Users and BPMN

I presented today on the second part of Active Endpoints’ BPM Summer Camp, discussing just how much BPMN your business users and analysts need to know. Michael Rowley, CTO of Active Endpoints, gave a demo of BPMN using their system, including illustrating a number of the concepts that I introduced in my presentation.

You can view and download my slides here:

A few other references based on the questions at the end of the presentation:

We have the third and last part of BPM Summer Camp, “Five Things You Should Never, Ever Try in Process Development”, on July 22nd; head over to the landing page to sign up for that, as well as see a replay of the first two parts.

BPMN In The Real World Slideshow

Webinar done, we’re just on the final Q&A; I saw about 170 people logged in at one point, a pretty good turnout. The replay will be available on the VOSibilities blog or on iTunes.

Here’s my slides, with the “Process Model Hall Of Shame” removed:

As I mentioned in the presentation, there are a lot of great resources on the BPMN standard; my presentation was about how people are actually using it rather than the standard itself.

BPMN 2.0 Industry Update

It’s webinar day here at Column 2: this is my third in a row, this one an update on the BPMN 2.0 standard by Robert Shapiro, who participates in both the OMG BPMN 2.0 and WfMC XPDL 2.2 standards efforts. We’re already starting to see vendor support for BPMN 2.0, even though it’s not yet fully released, as well as books and training materials.

The concept of subclasses in process modeling has been included in this version, where there is a simple subset of eight elements used for process capture by non-technical process analysts/owners (start, end, sequence flow, task, subprocess, expanded subprocess, exclusive gateway, parallel gateway), then a larger subset for a “descriptive” persona, a larger-still subset for a “DODAF” persona, then the entire set of more than 100 elements:

BPMN 2.0 element subclasses

You can download the accompanying PowerPoint deck for a more complete view of subclasses and their corresponding personas. I can certainly understand why many of the event variations were pushed out of the simple subclass, but I’m not sure that I agree with excluding pools and lanes, since these are pretty commonly used constructs. Also not sure why the US DoD’s enterprise architecture standard is impacting what is supposed to be an international standard.

These subclasses are important for vendors of modeling tools, but also for those looking to use BPMN as a standard for representing processes: this gives a good idea of how to split up the standard by the type of reader (persona) so that you don’t overwhelm the less technical audiences with too much detail, but also provide the greater levels of details for complete process specification.

Shapiro went on to discuss what most consider to be the most important (and likely the most controversial) part of BPMN 2.0: diagram interchange; BPMN 2.0 does not include an XSD schema, and there is ongoing work to create an XSD that is aligned with the metamodel. For those of you who follow BPM standards, you’ll know that XPDL is currently the de facto standard for process model interchange, supported by many vendors; these efforts are continuing in a separate organization (BPMN is managed by OMG, XPDL by WfMC) so it’s good that Shapiro and others are there to bridge the efforts across the two standards. We’re now seeing the emergence of XPDL 2.2, which will support the interchange of BPMN 2.0 process models. XPDL may eventually disappear in the face of a comprehensive BPMN 2.0 diagram interchange standard, but that will take years to happen, and a lot can happen in that time. In the meantime, XPDL will likely be used as an alternative diagram interchange format for BPMN 2.0 diagrams, with vendor support required for both standards.

The Business Process Incubator site has been created by several of the companies participating in both BPMN and XPDL standards efforts as a source for information as well as a variety of standard-related tools such as Visio templates. Shapiro also predicts that many tool vendors will release web-based BPMN 2.0 modelers, as well as BPMN and XPDL converters.

If you’re interested in where BPM standards are headed, it’s worth listening to the entire webinar, especially the Q&A at the end; I imagine that it will be available at the registration link on the WfMC site that I posted in the first paragraph.

Robert Shapiro on BPMN 2.0

Robert Shapiro spoke on a webinar today about BPMN 2.0, including some of the history of how BPMN got to this point, changes and new features from the previous version and the challenges that those may create, the need for portability and conformance, and an update on XPDL 2.2. The webinar was hosted by the Workflow Management Coalition, where Shapiro chairs the conformance working group.

He started out with how WPDL started as an interchange format in the mid-90’s, then became XPDL 1.0 around 2001, around the time that the BPMN 1.0 standard was being kicked off. For those of you not up on your standards, XPDL is an interchange format (i.e., the file format) and BPMN prior to version 2.0 is a notation format (i.e., the visual representation); since BPMN didn’t include an interchange format, XPDL was updated to provide serialization of all BPMN elements.

BPM standards timeline

With BPMN 2.0, serialization is being added to the BPMN standard, as well as many other new components including formalization of execution semantics and the definition of choreography model. In particular, there are significant changes to conformance, swimlanes and pools, data objects, subprocesses, and events; Shapiro walked through each of these in detail. I like some of the changes to events, such as the distinction between boundary and regular intermediate events, as well as the concept of interrupting and non-interrupting events. This makes for a more complex set of events, but much more representative.

BPMN event types

Bruce Silver, who has been involved in the development of BPMN 2.0, wrote recently on what he thinks is missing from BPMN 2.0; definitely worth a read for some of what might be coming up in future versions (if Bruce has his way).

One key thing that is emerging, both as part of the standard and in practice, is portability conformance: one of the main reasons for these standards is to be able to move process models from one modeling tool to another without loss of information. This led to a discussion about BPEL, and how BPMN is not just for BPEL, or even just for executable processes. BPEL doesn’t fully support BPMN: there are things that you can model in BPMN that will be lost if you serialize to BPEL, since BPEL is intended as a web service orchestration language. For business analysts modeling processes – especially non-executable processes – a more complete serialization is critical.

In case you’re wondering about BPDM, which was originally intended to be the serialization format for BPMN, it appears to have become too much of an academic exercise and not enough about solving the practical serialization problem at hand. Even as serialization is built into BPMN 2.0 and beyond, XPDL will likely remain a key interchange format because of the existing base of XPDL support by a number of BPM and BPA vendors. Nonetheless, XPDL will need to work at remaining relevant to the BPM market in the world of BPEL and BPMN, although it is likely to remain as a supported standard for years to come even if the BPMN 2.0 serialization standard is picked up by a majority of the vendors.

The webinar has about 60 attendees on it, including the imaginatively named “asdf” (check the left side of your keyboard) and several acquaintances from the BPM standards and vendor communities. The registration page for the webinar is here, and I imagine that that will eventually link to the replay of the webinar. The slides will also be available on the WfMC site.

If you want to read more about BPMN 2.0, don’t go searching on the OMG site: for some reason, they don’t want to share draft versions of the specification except to paid OMG members. Here’s a direct link to the 0.9 draft version from November 2008, but I also recommend tracking Bruce Silver’s blog for insightful commentary on BPMN.

BPM Milan: Paul Harmon keynote

After a few brief introductions from the various conference organizers (in which we learned that next year’s conference is in Ulm, Germany), we had a keynote from Paul Harmon on the current state and future of BPM. It covered a lot of the past, too: from the origins of quality management and process improvement through every technique used in the past 100 years to the current methods and best practices. A reasonable summary of how we got to where we are.

His “future promise”, however, isn’t all that future: he talks about orchestrating ERP processes with a BPMS, something that’s already a well-understood functionality, if not widely implemented. He points out (and I agree) that many uses of BPMS today are not that innovative: they’re being used the same way as the workflow and EAI systems of 5 years ago, namely, as better programming tools to automate a process. He sees the value of today’s BPMS as helping managers to manage processes, both in terms of visibility and agility; of course, it’s hard to do that unless you have the first part in place, it’s just that a lot of companies spend too much effort on the first level of just automating the processes, and never get to the management part of BPM.

He discussed the importance of BPMN in moving BPMS into the hands of managers and business analysts, in that a basic — but still standards-compliant — BPMN diagram can be created without adornment by someone on the business side without having to consider many of the exception flows or technical implementation details: this “happy path” process will execute as it is, but won’t handle all situations. The exceptions and technical details can be added at a second modeling/design phase while still maintaining the core process as originally designed by the business person.

He also showed a different view of a business process: instead of modeling the internal processes, model the customer processes — what the customer goes through in order to achieve their goals — and align that with what goes on internally and what could be done to improve the customer experience. Since the focus is on the customer process and not the internal process, the need for change to internal process can become more evident: a variation on walking a mile in their shoes.

His definition of BPM is very broad, encompassing not just the core processes, but performance management, people, technology, facilities, management and suppliers/partners: an integration of quality, management and IT. Because of the broad involvement of people across an organization, it’s key to find a common language about process that spans IT and business management.

Although they’re not there yet, you can find a copy of his slides later this week by searching for BPM2008HarmonKeynote at BPtrends.com.

Another new BPMN book

Another new BPMN book, this one by Stephen White (arguably the inventor of BPMN) and Derek Miers: BPMN Modeling and Reference Guide. It won’t be released until September, with a public launch at the Gartner BPM summit in DC. From the product description:

This book is for both business users and process modeling practitioners alike. Part I provides an easily understood introduction to the key components of BPMN (put forward in a user-friendly fashion). Starting off with simple models, it progresses into more sophisticated patterns. Exercises help cement comprehension and understanding (with answers available online). Part II provides a detailed and authoritative reference on the precise semantics and capabilities of the standard.

I wrote earlier this week about the just-released BPMN book by Tom Debevoise and Rick Geneva; this is obviously the year that BPMN goes mainstream, or at least makes the attempt. White and Miers’ book, although a bit longer than Debevoise and Geneva’s, is also more than twice the price, and also doesn’t seem to offer an e-book option: hard to become a staple of every process-oriented person in an organization at a $40 price point.

I’ll be very interested to read Bruce Silver‘s review of these books. Unless, of course, he’s writing his own. 🙂

Microguide to BPMN

I noticed in one of Tom Debevoise’s posts last week that he recently co-authored the book The Microguide to Process Modeling in BPMN, and on closer examination, I see that his co-author is Rick Geneva of Intalio, with Ismael Ghalimi writing the foreword.

From the product description on Amazon:

With over fifty implementations listed, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is an increasingly successful Object Management Group (OMG) standard. Whether you are in government, manufacturing or retailing you can accurately depict your processes in BPMN! Yet, OMG BPMN specification 1.1 is abstract, lengthy and complicated. So, learning to use BPMN can be daunting. So you will need the strait forward [sic] information in this book. This guide gathers all the ideas, design, and problem solving of BPMN into one simple, focused book, and offers concrete true-life examples that explain BPMN’s approach to process modeling.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet so can’t compare it to the many other sources of BPMN instruction out there, such as the recently-released BPMN, the Business Process Modeling Notation Pocket Handbook. Unfortunately, Debevoise and Geneva’s book doesn’t appear to be available as an e-book.

BPMN 1.1 poster

Previously, I posted about the free BPMN 1.0 poster available for download from ITPoster.net, and now the Business Process Technology Group at the Hasso Plattner Institute has published one for BPMN 1.1. Both provide a good quick reference; the BPT version has just the graphical object notation, while the ITPoster version also includes some patterns and antipatterns.

Also, check out BPT’s BPMN Corner, which has a number of good BPMN links, including Oryx, a web-based BPMN editor, and BPMN stencils for Visio and OmniGraffle.

Oracle BEA Strategy Briefing

Not only did Oracle schedule this briefing on Canada Day, the biggest holiday in Canada, but they forced me to download the Real Player plug-in in order to participate. The good part, however, is that it was full streaming audio and video alongside the slides.

Charles Phillips, Oracle President, kicked off with a welcome and some background on Oracle, including their focus on database, middleware and applications, and how middleware is the fastest-growing of these three product pillars. He described how Oracle Fusion middleware is used both by their own applications as well as ISVs and customers implementing their own SOA initiatives.

He outlined their rationale for acquiring BEA: complementary products and architecture, internal expertise, strategic markets such as Asia, and the partner and channel ecosystem. He stated that they will continue to support BEA products under the existing support lifetimes, with no forced migration policies to move off of BEA platforms. They now consider themselves #1 in the middleware market in terms of both size and technology leadership, and Phillips gave a gentle slam to IBM for over-inflating their middleware market size by including everything but the kitchen sink in what they consider to be middleware.

The BEA developer and architect online communities will be merged into the Oracle Technology Network: Dev2Dev will be merged into the Oracle Java Developer community, and Arch2Arch will be broadened to the Oracle community.

Retaining all the BEA development centers, they now have 4,500 middleware developers; most BEA sales, consulting and support staff were also retained and integrated into the the Fusion middleware teams.

Next up was Thomas Kurian, SVP of Product Development for Fusion Middleware and BEA product directions, with a more detailed view of the Oracle middleware products and strategy. Their basic philosophy for middleware is that it’s a unified suite rather than a collection of disjoint products, it’s modular from a purchasing and deployment standpoint, and it’s standards-based and open. He started to talk about applications enabled by their products, unifying SOA, process management, business intelligence, content management and Enterprise 2.0.

They’ve categorized middleware products into 3 categories on their product roadmap (which I have reproduced here directly from Kurian’s slide:

  • Strategic products
    • BEA products being adopted immediately with limited re-design into Oracle Fusion middleware
    • No corresponding Oracle products exist in majority of cases
    • Corresponding Oracle products converge with BEA products with rapid integration over 12-18 months
  • Continue and converge products
    • BEA products being incrementally re-designed to integrate with Oracle Fusion middleware
    • Gradual integration with existing Oracle Fusion middleware technology to broaden features with automated upgrades
    • Continue development and maintenance for at least 9 years
  • Maintenance products
    • BEA had end-of-life’d due to limited adoption prior to Oracle M&A
    • Continued maintenance with appropriate fixes for 5 years

For the “continue and converge” category, that is, of course, a bit different than “no forced migration”, but this is to be expected. My issue is with the overlap between the “strategic” category, which can include a convergence of an Oracle and a BEA product, and the “continue and converge” category, which includes products that will be converged into another product: when is a converged product considered “strategic” rather than “continue and converge”, or is this just the spin they’re putting on things so as to not freak out BEA customers who have put huge investments into a BEA product that is going to be converged into an existing Oracle product?

He went on to discuss how each individual Oracle and BEA product would be handled under this categorization. I’ve skipped the parts on development tools, transaction processing, identity management, systems management and service delivery, and gone right to their plans for the Service-Oriented Architecture products:

Oracle SOA product strategy

  • Strategic:
    • Oracle Data Integrator for data integration and batch ETL
    • Oracle Service Bus, which unifies AquaLogic Service Bus and Oracle Enterprise Service Bus
    • Oracle BPEL Process Manager for service orchestration and composite application infrastructure
    • Oracle Complex Event Processor for in-memory event computation, integrated with WebLogic Event Server
    • Oracle Business Activity Monitoring for dashboards to monitor business events and business process KPIs
  • Continue and converge:
    • BEA WL-Integration will be converged with the Oracle BPEL Process Manager
  • Maintenance:
    • BEA Cyclone
    • BEA RFID Server

Note that the Oracle Service Bus is in the “strategic” category, but is a convergence of AL-SB and Oracle ESB, which means that customers of one of those two products (or maybe both) are not going to be happy.

Kurian stated that Oracle sees four types of business processes — system-centric, human-centric, document-centric and decision-centric (which match the Forrester divisions) — but believes that a single product/engine that can handle all of these is the way to go, since few processes fall purely into one of these four categories. They support BPEL for service orchestration and BPMN for modeling, and their plan is to converge a single platform that supports both BPEL and BPMN (I assume that he means both service orchestration and human-facing workflow). Given that, here’s their strategy for Business Process Management products:

Oracle BPM product strategy

  • Strategic:
    • Oracle BPA Designer for process modeling and simulation
    • BEA AL-BPM Designer for iterative process modeling
    • Oracle BPM, which will be the convergence of BEA AquaLogic BPM and Oracle BPEL Process Manager in a single runtime engine
    • Oracle Document Capture & Imaging for document capture, imaging and document workflow with ERP integration [emphasis mine]
    • Oracle Business Rules as a declarative rules engine
    • Oracle Business Activity Monitoring [same as in SOA section]
    • Oracle WebCenter as a process portal interface to visualize composite processes

Similar to the ESB categorization, I find the classification of the converged Oracle BPM product (BEA AL-BPM and Oracle BPEL PM) as “strategic” to be at odds with his original definition: it should be in the “continue & converge” category since the products are being converged. This convergence is not, however, unexpected: having two separate BPM platforms would just be asking for trouble. In fact, I would say that having two process modelers is also a recipe for trouble: they should look at how to converge the Oracle BPA Designer and the BEA AL-BPM Designer

In the portals and Enterprise 2.0 product area, Kurian was a bit more up-front about how WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic UI are going to be merged into the corresponding Oracle products:

Oracle portal and Enterprise 2.0 product strategy

  • Strategic:
    • Oracle Universal Content Management for content management repository, security, publishing, imaging, records and archival
    • Oracle WebCenter Framework for portal development and Enterprise 2.0 services
    • Oracle WebCenter Spaces & Suite as a packaged self-service portal environment with social computing services
    • BEA Ensemble for lightweight REST-based portal assembly
    • BEA Pathways for social interaction analytics
  • Continue and converge:
    • BEA WebLogic Portal will be integrated into the WebCenter framework
    • BEA AquaLogic User Interaction (AL-UI) will be integrated into WebCenter Spaces & Suite
  • Maintenance:
    • BEA Commerce Services
    • BEA Collabra

In SOA governance:

  • Strategic:
    • BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Repository to capture, share and manage the change of SOA artifacts throughout their lifecycle
    • Oracle Service Registry for UDDI
    • Oracle Web Services Manager for security and QOS policy management on services
    • EM Service Level Management Pack as a management console for service level response time and availability
    • EM SOA Management Pack as a management console for monitoring, tracing and change managing SOA
  • Maintenance:
    • BEA AquaLogic Services Manager

Kurian discussed the implications of this product strategy on Oracle Applications customers: much of this will be transparent to Oracle Applications, since many of these products form the framework on which the applications are built, but are isolated so that customizations don’t touch them. For those changes that will impact the applications, they’ll be introduced gradually. Of course, some Oracle Apps are already certified with BEA products that are now designated as strategic Oracle products.

Oracle has also simplified their middleware pricing and packaging, with products structured into 12 suites:

Oracle Middleware Suites

He summed up with their key messages:

  • They have a clear, well-defined, integrated product strategy
  • They are protecting and enhancing existing customer investments
  • They are broadening Oracle and BEA investment in middleware
  • There is a broad range of choice for customer

The entire briefing will be available soon for replay on Oracle’s website if you’re interested in seeing the full hour and 45 minutes. There’s more information about the middleware products here, and you can sign up to attend an Oracle BEA welcome event in your city.

BPMN survey results

I really didn’t sit down this afternoon to write that last enormous post on the Great BPMN Debate, I remembered that Jan Recker (co-author on the research paper that sparked the debate, although not a participant in the debate) had sent me a pre-release copy of a paper that he authored, “BPMN Modeling — Who, Where, How and Why”, which summarizes the results of the survey that he conducted last year. One thought led to another, and before you know it, I’d written an essay on the most exciting thing to happen in BPM standards in ages.

Back to Jan’s paper however, which will be published this month on BPTrends. He surveyed 590 process modelers using BPMN from over 30 countries, and found some interesting results:

  • BPMN usage is split approximately in half over business and IT, which is a much higher percentage of IT users that I would have guessed. Business people are using it for process documentation, improvement, business analysis and stakeholder communications, whereas IT people are using it for process simulation, service analysis and workflow engineering.
  • As you might expect given that result, there’s a wide variation in the amount of BPMN used, ranging from just the core set for basic process models, to an extended set, to the full BPMN set. It would be interesting to see a correlation between this self-assessment and usage statistics based on the actual BPMN diagrams created, although as far as I know, the survey respondents didn’t submit any examples of their diagrams.
  • Not surprisingly, only 13.6% received any formal BPMN training, and I believe that this is the primary reason that most people are still using only a tiny subset of the BPMN constructs in order to create what are effectively old-fashioned flowcharts rather than full BPMN diagrams.

He finished with a list of the major obstacles that the respondents reported in using BPMN, or places that they would like to see improvement:

  • Support for specifying business rules, which echoes many of the other discussions that I’ve seen around having some standardization between process and rule vocabularies and modeling languages.
  • Support for process decomposition, although I really didn’t follow his argument on what this means.
  • Support for organizational modeling, particularly as that relates to the use of pools and lanes: sometimes, for examples, a lane indicates a role; other times, a department. There are some things happening at OMG with the Business Motivation Metamodel and Organizational Structure Metamodel that may help here.
  • There are some BPMN constructs that are less often used, although it’s not clear that anyone recommended getting rid of them.
  • The large number of different event types is problematic: “ease of use of process modeling is sacrificed for sheer expressive power”. This is a variation on the previous point (and on the crux of the Great BPMN Debate), indicating that actual BPMN users are a bit overwhelmed by the number of symbols.

I’ll publish a link to the paper when it appears on BPTrends; it’s fairly short and worth the read.