BPMS Watch: Step Up to "Full" BPMN
By: Bruce Silver, Principal, Bruce Silver Associates
Monday December 11, 2006
When you get started in BPM, the first step invariably is documenting your current, or as-is, process. You can gather the
facts from process participants and process owners in a variety of ways - in a group, putting yellow stickies on the wall, or in
separate interviews. But eventually you face the challenge of reducing that collected knowledge into a structured,
semantically precise yet intuitively understandable, diagram - a process model.
The majority of process "models" in the wild are simply Visio diagrams, applying shapes and lines as the individual modeler
sees fit. That simplifies the task for the individual modeler, but diagrams without precise process semantics tied to a
structured notation have limited value. They are not immediately understood by others without a detailed accompanying
narrative, making it harder to achieve the number one goal of process modeling, which is shared understanding of how the
process works. Moreover, these unstructured models are merely descriptive, and cannot be used to project process
performance using simulation analysis. For that you need both a structured notation and a methodology to use it correctly.
Nor can they be used to fulfill BPM's "Third Wave" promise, that a model of a new and improved process can be used to
actually generate an executable implementation.
All right, you accept that your old seat-of-the-pants Visio diagrams are less than optimal as process models, so you look for
a "real" modeling tool. You quickly find that there are a multitude of them available, each with its own diagramming notation,
usually some variant of a flowchart or swimlane diagram. These tools tend to fall into one of two categories. Full business
process analysis (BPA) tools, such as IDS Scheer ARIS or ProForma's ProVision, make use of a welter of interlinked
models, of which the diagrammatic process model is just one. A variant of this category, blending into the more IT-oriented