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March 26, 2007

Business process modelling using BPMN

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Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is the new up and coming standard notation for business process modelling. Whether it will become your preferred notation is to be seen, but BPMN does have the benefit of hindsight to take the best of previous notations (Petri Nets, UML, BPEL, YAWL, etc) and become a truly universally used standard.

The standard of BPMN v 1.0 was adopted in February 2006 by the Business Modeling & Integration (BMI) Domain Task Force . The BMI itself is the result of the integration of the Business Process Management Initiative and the Object Management Group (OMG).

No “BPMN for dummies” have yet been published to my knowledge, but the BPMN Information website has a BPMN tutorial of slides and some other didactic material. The full BPMN 1.0 specification by the OMG is available from their catalogue :

Intalio is one of the few BPMN toolsets that are Open Source, whilst IBM are said to be putting their weight on their Websphere. Such toolsets have of course all the necessary for execution and computer simulation in the IT system development process.

But what does BPMN mean to you if, like me, you are not a software developer? Well, whichever the business of your organisation, this business is likely to consist of processes.

Documenting those processes allows you to manage them and to manage organisational change and generate innovation. Now, in order to document a business process you can either use a verbose narrative, or you can produce a diagram of the workflow.

If you are going to produce a workflow diagram, you might as well use a graphic notation that will be widely recognised. BPMN is such a notation, a ready made language with its standardised graphic symbols and semantics… and with specific software to do it fast!

Business process modelling can therefore be put to good use as a Knowledge Management (KM) tool. A typical KM scenario would be to document knowledge of processes for handover before the staff who know leave and their knowledge is lost.

Indeed the concept of business process modelling in computer science and business management has been around longer than the term knowledge management. Call it business process re-engineering, business process change, business process management, or just business process analysis, but it can contribute much to KM in your organisation and do it graphically.

What I would like to see developed is a Wiki type of tool that would allow collaborative working on BPMN workflow diagrams, i.e. not a text wiki but a graphic wiki for BPM. Would any business analysts out there welcome the inception of such a tool?

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