Learning Guide

Business Process Modeling Notation Mini-Learning Guide

BPMN provides a vocabulary for drawing business processes similar to a flow chart. It was developed by the Business Process Management Initiative, which is now part of the Object Management Group. It has been

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gaining a lot of traction in business circles over the last couple of years because it provides a language for business people to model what is going on in their business, or to communicate how they want it to operate to systems architects and programmers.

BPMN does not provide any means to directly create applications on top of the model. The simplest approach to using BPMN is to use tools like Microsoft Visio to diagram a process. More sophisticated tools enable organizations to simplify the conversion of business models into SOA applications.

This guide provides links to background information to help you understand BPMN and various articles to help understand the context in which BPMN is being used. In addition, there are links to a number of articles exploring the interplay of BPMN and BPEL and roundtripping. This is one of the most exciting areas spanning the standards based world of business modeling and SOA development.

BPMN Organizations

Object Management Group/Business Process Management Initiative
The official BPMN site maintained by the Object Management Group. The site includes a BPM vendor directory and the latest news related to standards releases and meetings.

BPMN Forum
This Web community dedicated to BPMN includes modeling tools, specifications, training, publications, and mailing lists. The site explains why BPMN is smaller and better suited for business analysis and process workflow than the Unified Modeling Language™ standard for software-intensive systems.

Getting Started

Open Source BPMN Modeler in Eclipse

If you would like to jump right into BPMN, you can download the BPMN modeler for Eclipse here.

The BPMN Modeler is a business process diagram editor for business analysts. It uses a light and flexible object model. Possible uses and extensions of the modeler include:

  • Create BPMN diagrams to document process orchestration or workflows.
  • Generate org.eclipse.stp.bpmn EMF objects. Traverse, annotate, and transform to generate BPEL or other object models.
  • Extend the editor to support drag & drop and other application specific usage.
  • Implement a particular version of the BPMN specification: add the properties, validation services, generation algorithms
  • Create another domain model and map it to the notation provided here.

Download a BPMN Poster
This quick reference guide can be printed out to help you get started in creating BPMN models. It is designed to help process analysts and other users getting familiar with BPMN notation and BPMN best practices. The poster is in PDF format and is suitable for A4 to A2 letter sized printing.

BPMS Watch: Ten Tips for Effective Process Modeling
Bruce Silver, principle of Bruce Silver Associates, gives a quick rundown on how to create process models that are effective in their primary mission - maximizing shared understanding of the as-is or to-be process. He provides ten tips from his Process Modeling with BPMN course to go beyond the spec and learn a basic methodology, best practices, and specific diagram patterns to use in common situations.

Introduction to BPMN

BPMN and Business Process Management: An Introduction to the New Business Process Modeling Standard
This guide by Telelogic, an IBM Company, explains how BPMN is used to model business processes and Web services. This paper also provides details on how BPMN fits within BPM, BPEL's, BPMS's, UML, and other new industry standards and initiatives.

BPMN linking business and IT for BPM/SOA
When working on service-oriented architecture (SOA) projects, business analysts and IT professionals speak the same language when they work with Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), says Ismael Ghalimi. He goes on to describe how Business Process Management is the killer app for SOA.

Introduction to BPMN
This paper is intended to provide a high-level overview and introduction to the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN). The basics of the BPMN notation are described in terms of the types of graphical objects that comprise the notation and how they work together as part of a Business Process Diagram. Also discussed are the different uses of BPMN, including how levels of precision affect what a modeler will include in a diagram.

BPMN 2.0 Overview
Bruce Silver dives into some of the new features expected with BPMN 2.0, which is expected in June 2009. His five favorite things include:

  1. Model interchange between tools
  2. Non-interrupting events
  3. User action
  4. Business rule task
  5. Easier event implementation

Roundtripping BPMN and BPEL

On the Translation between BPMN and BPEL: Conceptual Mismatch between Process Modeling Languages
Jan Recker and Jan Mendling dig under the covers to explain some of the technical challenges in translating between BPMN and BPEL. They note that the conceptual mapping between both languages remains unclear, thus it is undecided whether any BPMN diagram can be transformed to BPEL. They argue that there is conceptual mismatch between BPMN and BPEL that needs to be identified in order to guide the language integration process semantically. This approach is generic and can also be utilized as a guiding framework for identifying conceptual mismatch between other business process modeling languages.

Why BPEL Matters
Ismael Ghalimi, CEO of Intalio, explains the limitations of BPMN and why it needs the support of BPEL to create SOA applications. With all of the attention that BPMN has been getting in the business community, he argues that executable processes cannot be designed with BPMN alone. He notes, "If your BPM vendor of choice is advocating that only BPMN matters, they're using proprietary ways to make your processes fully executable, usually requiring a lot of custom code development, and this is the last thing you want for your processes. Whenever you find yourself listening to such a misleading marketing pitch, simply ask the following question: 'Can you show me the code behind the boxes and arrows?'"

BPMN and BPEL in Perspective
Bruce Silver weighs in on Ismael Ghalimi's recounting of the history of BPMN and BPEL. He notes that while BPMN has succeeded in the BPMS world in spite of its shortcomings, BPEL's shortcomings have largely confined it to the SOA/integration space, where "business-empowerment" does not have especially high priority.

This was first published in April 2009

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