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In this blog I elaborate about the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard, which advantages it brings you and how you should use this standard in a powerful manner. BPMN is the de facto international standard for modeling business processes. Version 2.0 was released in 2011 and the standard is maintained by the Object Management Group. It is an extensive standard with formal semantics which enables you to describe your business processes up to the level of automating the processes by a process engine. For my work I use BPMN 2.0 to create process models and I think it is a powerful notation for describing business processes. However, you need to keep some cautions in mind. By presenting the advantages and some guidelines of applying the standard, I hope to make you enthusiastic for this beautiful standard!
Why use BPMN 2.0?
First of all, I would like to present three major advantages of using BPMN 2.0:
Like English is a language used for verbal and written communication all over the world, BPMN is an international graphical ‘language’ (standard) that is used to communicate all over the process world. Since it is universally adopted as a process modeling standard, stakeholders outside the organization like auditors, partnering organizations and system implementers understand this standard. This enables you to communicate about your business processes in a clear and consistent manner.
BPMN 2.0 is tool- and vendor independent. The standard is free to use and has a standardized underlying XML-scheme which makes you flexible with respect to contracting tool vendors when using tool support for describing or executing your business processes.
BPMN 2.0 is a very rich standard with a lot of different concepts. It enables you to describe your processes in great detail and use the right semantics for each of the details. The nature of the language enables you to bridge the gap from IT to business (and vice versa) and can be used to execute processes directly in an automation engine. Especially the many possibilities of modeling event driven behavior makes BPMN very powerful compared to other modelling languages.
BPMN 2.0: Handle with care
However, some firm critics exist because BPMN 2.0 should be too complicated for business stakeholders. I can understand that the BPMN 2.0 standard does become complicated when you ‘just simply’ start using the standard and all of the included concepts. Therefore, I want to present you some valuable tips to apply BPMN in practice:
Keep it pragmatic: The above mentioned richness of BPMN is also the seam side (and often expressed criticism) of the language; the richness of BPMN seduces people to create theoretical perfect models, which are no longer understood by stakeholders. Realize that a lot of the BPMN concepts are intended for expressing automation details (i.e. process execution) or exceptional situations. Since approximately 90 % of BPMN 2.0 users only use the standard to visually describe their business processes instead of execute the process directly in a process engine, I strongly advise you to keep the amount of concepts used for your process models limited.
Less is more: The bottom line is easy; the on the eye endless amount of concepts are not part of the standard to communicate to business stakeholders. To a certain level BPMN is quite intuitively to understand, but a tremendous amount of concepts should not be used to communicate to business stakeholders. Think about your own language; how many of the words in your own language (count them in a dictionary) do you use to communicate to a three-year-old kid to make him something clear? And your kid already had three years to learn that language! Most of the business stakeholders simply do not speak BPMN on a mature level so you should adapt the use of the language to your target audience. Only use those concepts that are essential to communicate your message!
Consistency results in clarity: Except for communicating BPMN process models to business stakeholders, applying BPMN in a simple manner also has the advantage of securing consistency in the different process models created in your organization. This requires clear conventions between the users of the standard: which concepts do we use, how do we use them and how do we name them in a recognizable way? Besides that, conventions with respect to lay-out are important for bringing your message in an unambiguous way to your business stakeholders.
Hopefully this offers you my perspective on using BPMN 2.0. Although BPMN is a great standard, the creation of BPMN models is not an end in itself. Above presented tips may help you to use BPMN in an effective manner. The ultimate goal of creating process models is to deliver value to your stakeholder(s). Since value is expressed in terms of benefits that are perceived by the stakeholder, the stakeholder is the starting point of creating process models. The starting point is therefore to identify your stakeholder and what information he needs in a process model! If you do so, I am sure that BPMN brings you the value you are looking for!
Learn more about BPMN during our BPMN Foundation training course. Do you have any additional do’s or don’ts for using BPMN 2.0? Please share by leaving a comment!
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