bpmNEXT 2014 Wednesday Afternoon 1: Mo’ Models

Denis Gagne of Trisotech was back after lunch at bpmNEXT demonstrating socializing process change with their BPMN web modeler. He showed their process animation feature, which allows you to follow the flow through a process and see what happens at each step, and view rich media that has been attached at any given step to explain that step. He showed a process for an Amazon order, where each step had a slideshow or video attached to show the actual work that was being performed at that step; the tool supports YouTube, Slideshare, Dropbox and a few others natively, plus any URL as an attachment to any element in the process. The animated process can be referenced by a URL, allowing it to be easily distributed and socialized. This provides a way for people to learn more about the process, and can be used as an employee training tool or a customer experience enhancement. Even without the rich media enhancements, the process animation can be used to debug processes and find BPMN logical errors (e.g., deadlocks, orphan branches) by allowing the designer to walk through the process and see how the tokens are processed through the model – most modeling tools only check that the BPMN is syntactically correct, not for more complex logical errors that can result in unexpected and unwanted scenarios. Note that this is different from process simulation (which they also offer), which is typically used to estimate performance based on aggregate instances.

Bruce Silver took a break from moderating to do a demo together with Stephan Fischli and Antonio Palumbo of itp commerce on wizard-based generation of “good BPMN” that they’ve done through their BPMessentials collaboration for BPMN training and certification. Bruce’s book BPMN Method and Style as well as his courses attempt to teach good BPMN, where the process logic is evident from the printed diagram in spite of things that can tend to confuse a reader, such as hierarchical modeling forms. He uses a top-down methodology where you identify the start and end states of a process instance, then decompose the process into 6-10 steps where each is an activity aligned with the process instance (i.e., no multi-instance activities), and enumerate the possible end states of each activity if there is more than one so that end states within subprocesses can be matched to gateways that immediately follow the subprocesses. This all takes a bit of a developer’s mindset that’s typically not seen in business analysts who might be creating BPMN models, meaning that we can still end up with spaghetti process models even in BPMN. Bruce walked through an order-to-cash scenario, then Stephan and Antonio took over to demonstrate how their tool creates a BPMN model based on a wizard that walks through the steps of the BPMN method and style: first the process start and (one or more) end states; then a list of the major steps, where each is named, the end states enumerated and (optionally) the performer identified; then the activity-end state pairs are listed so that the user can specify the target (following step), which effectively creates the process flow diagram; then, each activity can be expanded as a subprocess by listing the child activities and the end states; finally, the message flows and lanes are specified by stating which activities have incoming and outgoing message flows. The wizard then creates the BPMN process model in the itp commerce Visio tool where all of the style rules are enforced. Without doubt, this creates better BPMN, although specifying a branching process model via a list of activities and end states might not be much more obvious than creating the process model directly. I know that the itp commerce and some other BPMN modeling tools can also run a check on a BPMN model to check for violations of the style rules; I assume that detecting and fixing the rule violations from a model is just another way of achieving the same goal.

Last up before the afternoon break was Gero Decker of Signavio to demonstrate combining process modeling and enterprise architecture. Signavio’s only product is their process modeler – used to model, collaborate, publish and implement models – which means that they typically deal with process designers and process centers of excellence. However, they are finding that they are now running into EA modelers as they start to move into process architecture and governance, and application owners for application lifecycle management. EA modelers have to deal with the issues of whether to use a unified tool with a single object repository for all modeling and unified model governance, or multiple best of breed tools where metamodels can be synchronized and may be slaved between tools. Signavio is pushing the second alternative, where their tool integrated with or overlays other tools such as SAP Solution Manager and leanIX. Signavio has added ArchiMate open standard enterprise architecture model types to their tool for EA modeling, creating linkages and tracing from ArchiMate objects to BPMN models. Gero demonstrated what the ArchiMate models look like in Signavio, then how processes in leanIX can be directly linked to Signavio process models as well as having applications from the EA portfolio available as performers to specify in a Signavio process model. Creating of process models in Signavio that use applications from the portfolio then show up (via automated synchronization) in leanIX as references to that application. He also showed an integration with Effektif for approving changes to the process model in Signavio, comparing the before and after versions of the flow, since there is a pluggable connector to Signavio from Effektif processes. Connections to other tools could be built using the Signavio REST API. Nice integration between process models and application portfolio models in separate tools, as well as the model approval workflow.

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