BPMN – Just Do It…

I’m a big fan of Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) and, of course, Web Services. But it strikes me that not many companies understand the benefits of BPMN or how to approach it.

This could simply be down to the fact that discussions on BPM are often driven by big name software vendors who just want to sell software. They do this by promising a utopia of right click engineering where a BA’s efforts are instantly turned out as executable code.

But sadly this utopia usually only exists in the salesman’s demo. Doing it for real is much, much more difficult. In reality making BPMN models executable actually requires lots of tweaks in the tooling that are non-standard. BPMN is not really100% translatable into code just yet. There are bits missing, and someone has to fill in the gaps.

But bear with me on this – I still argue that its worth investing in BPMN right now, even if you can’t “auto-magically” execute these processes on a server.

My reasoning is that first and foremost, BPMN is a modelling language, so you don’t need expensive tools to create a process model and get business benefits from it. UML sets a precedent for this argument. UML allows us to refine requirements and designs, but it was rare in practice for UML tools to generate executable code (and vice versa) even though there are plenty of tools that support this feature. The value of UML was in the model and the communication it facilitated between collaborators.

The truth is, executing BPMN may not be important just yet – no matter what the tool vendors say.

I’ve visited companies that do pure BPMN modelling without process execution and they’re very happy with the business benefit they derive from models alone. They understand that even static BPMN models have business value. BPMN describes their business processes in a standardised format that is accessible to everybody. BPMN promotes discussion and helps build consensus. In summary, BPMN facilitates business change very effectively.

Secondly, the tooling and standards are evolving rapidly. In the near future, the pain of auto-magically turning BPMN into executable processes will diminish (if you don’t beleive me check out Intalio). If you follow my advice and start building models now then you’ll have an easier time moving to those tools in future. You’ll have an established library of business processes described in BPMN and your own pool of fully trained BPMN authors at your disposal.

For more information and ideas on this subject, why not get in touch?

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