May 17 2010

Recently on the blogosphere and on Oracle Technical Network (OTN), there have been posts asking about Oracle BPM's support for BPMN 2.0. How can any vendor claim to support a standard that has not yet been finalized?

The BPMN 2.0 beta 1 specification from August 2009 is 496 pages. Someone like Mariano Benitez, who is a co-chair on the BPMN standards committee and knows Oracle BPM intimately, might have a list of how Oracle BPM 11g supports BPMN 2.0, but I doubt this is the case even for him. There are gaps in Oracle BPM 11g's support for BPMN 2.0 (e.g. Conversation diagrams and the support for pools) just as there are gaps in every vendor's current support for BPMN 2.0.

It is true that the BPMN 2.0 specification is not yet finalized. The committee is making tweaks in the way the different vendors store their process models. Similar to the AD/Cycle specification for CASE tools in the early 1990's, the goal is to make the way the different vendors store their XML models compliant between one another.


Here's why I think BPMN is incredibly important. I've been lucky to have been able to work on BPM projects for the last decade. What I've liked about the 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 BPMN specifications is that I can walk into a customer's building on Monday morning and we're all speaking the same language immediately because we model using an easy to understand role based activity flow diagram that has been around for years. The BPMN activity icons look basically the same whether they're using a BPA tool like iGrafx or a BPM tool like Appian, Oracle BPM 10 or 11, or IBM's Lombardi. I spend hundreds of hours interviewing subject matter experts (SME) to create as-is and to-be process models. My point is that once the BPMN activity model icons and patterns are internalized. it takes comparitively little time to model and document a process understood by executives, managers, developers, SMEs and business analysts inside a tool. It has been incredibly rewarding to help solve a company's immediate and strategic business problems by helping them design and improve their processes . What I've found most rewarding has been to add the implementation details (e.g. user interfaces, integration to systems and databases) necessary to activate the business processes for end users using a powerful tool like Oracle BPM.

Here's my bottom line. I should probably care about the way the process models are stored by the various BPA and BPM vendors as defined by the BPMN 2.0 specification but I just don't. I've written utilities that convert models from one tool into another for customers and found it to be a frustrating way to make a living. I applaud the BPMN 2.0 specification for trying to enable the compatibility of the way vendors store their process models for execution, but I see it as AD/Cycle history repeating itself. Not to sound cynical but I believe that the implementation details the different BPM tools add will always be vendor specific. I'm focused much more on the benefits that the modeling notation BPMN provides us. There are few differences between the BPMN 1.1 and 2.0 notation standards. It has been stable for years and the notation won't likely change much over the next month.For a practical book on BPMN written by an expert, read Bruce Silver's

BPMN Method and Style: A levels-based methodology for BPM process modeling and improvement using BPMN 2.0.

About the Author

Dan Atwood

Dan has more than sixteen years of experience in all phases of design, development, and implementation of software applications using BPM. He has developed Oracle BPM, BAM, business rule and integration solutions for financial services, insurance, food cooperative, and telecommunications clients.

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