What Is Business Process Modelingby Michael Havey, author of Essential Business Process Modeling
"The boxes and arrows of outrageous fortune ...." When a business analyst stands at a whiteboard, sketches the flowchart of a business process as a cluster of boxes linked by arrows (apologies to Shakespeare), and asks the software team to make it run, Business Process Modeling (BPM)--sometimes known as Business Process Management--comes to the rescue. BPM is a set of technologies and standards for the design, execution, administration, and monitoring of business processes. A business process is the flow or progression of activities (the "boxes")--each of which represents the work of a person, an internal system, or the process of a partner company--toward some business goal.
Over the years, the scope of business processes and BPM has broadened. Less than a decade ago, BPM, known then as "workflow," was a groupware technology that helped manage and drive largely human-based, paper-driven processes within a corporate department. For example, to handle a claim, an insurance claims process, taking as input a scanned image of a paper claims form, would pass the form electronically from the mailbox (or worklist) of one claims specialist to that of another, mimicking the traditional movement of interoffice mail from desk to desk. BPM today is an enterprise integration technology complementing Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), and Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). The contemporary process orchestrates complex system interactions, and is itself a service capable of communicating and conversing with the processes of other companies according to well-defined technical contracts. A retailer's process to handle a purchase order, for example, is a service that uses XML messages to converse with the service-based processes of consumers and warehouses.
The Ideal BPM Architecture
My forthcoming book, Essential Business Process Modeling, explores the concepts, design, and standard specifications of BPM. BPM today is somewhat of a morass, my book argues, with far too many misunderstood, misapplied, and excessively hyped vendors and standards. In its survey of the landscape of BPM, my book emphasizes standards over vendors, because standards are a better source of concepts, and bring greater clarity to the subject. Granted, BPM's standards are ostensibly a murky alphabet soup (see Table 1), but when the best of them are combined properly, they form a surprisingly intelligible architecture, shown in Figure 1.
Table 1. BPM standards
|Business Process Execution Language (BPEL)||OASIS||Execution Language|
|Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)||Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI)||Notation language|
|Business Process Modeling Language (BPML)||BPMI||Execution language|
|Business Process Query Language (BPQL)||BPMI||Administration and monitoring interface|
|Business Process Semantic Model (BPSM)||BPMI||Process metamodel, in fashion of Object Management Group (OMG) Model-Driven Architecture (MDA)|
|Business Process Extension Layer (BPXL)||BPMI||BPEL extension for transactions, human workflow, business rules|
|UML Activity Diagrams||OMG||Notation language|
|Workflow Reference Model||Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC)||Architecture|
|XML Process Definition Language (XPDL)||WfMC||Execution language|
|Workflow API (WAPI)||WfMC||Administration and monitoring, human interaction, system interaction|
|Workflow XML (WfXML)||WfMC||Choreography (or similar to it)|
|Business Process Definition Metamodel (BPDM)||OMG||Execution language and/or notation language, as MDA metamodel|
|Business Process Runtime Interface (BPRI)||OMG||Administration and monitoring, human interaction, system interaction, as MDA metamodel|
|Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI)||World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)||Choreography|
|Web Services Choreography Description Language (WS-CDL)||W3C||Choreography|
|Web Services Conversation Language (WSCL)||W3C||Choreography|
|Web Services Flow Language (WSFL)||IBM||Execution language|
|Business Process Schema Specification (BPSS)||OASIS||Choreography (and collaboration)|