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As this is the first BPM Forum post covering BPMN, what are the biggest challenges facing BPMN right now?
Thursday, March 13 2014, 09:37 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 09:48 AM - #Permalink
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    BPM what?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 09:52 AM - #Permalink
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    The lack of the “bigger” architecture, which should enable together the following features: • BPMN should use a standard execution semantic which can be validated and which guarantees the adequate interpretation of models by different software for different uses, e.g. for functional testing, performance simulation and execution. • It should be possible to represent the same business process model with different levels of detail, e.g. a high-level view for a normal user, and a more detailed view for a business analyst. • There should be a modelling procedure which guides different stakeholders how to use these different levels of detail. • Details of the execution of business processes should come from a coherent set of standards, similar to that provided by the W3C for HTML: a) xHTML for structure and content, b) CSS for presentation, c) DOM-based API for dynamic modifications, and d) some other specialized standards. Thanks, AS
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    Thursday, March 13 2014, 09:57 AM - #Permalink
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    I presume you are focused on BPM Model notation ? Two consistent challenges; First, there is still a fundamental challenge of organizations adopting the notation and building it into their vernacular. It still is a techie speak approach and challenges the business (as BPM really needs to be driven by business to be successful.) Business Architect and Business Analysts are still integral to the adoption so the real success is when the business is able to either adopt the nomanclature and 'speak' or BPMN evolves. This somewhat leads me to challenge two, that notion that technology needs to evolve for more business hands on. We see numerous tools that are attempting to capture and articulate the business easier via BPMN however there is not consistency in the approach even though they use BPMN. Some technologies are trying to eliminate the need for BPMN by enabling organizations to build right into the tool using drag/drop, screen flows to capture business process (putting aside under the cover rule activity). More technology platforms are hitting the street and existing technology vendors continue to evolve, but I would say in turn muddy the waters on how best to approach BPM technology build and deploy.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 11:12 AM - #Permalink
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    Dr Alexander Samarin wrote: The lack of the “bigger” architecture, which should enable together the following features: • BPMN should use a standard execution semantic which can be validated and which guarantees the adequate interpretation of models by different software for different uses, e.g. for functional testing, performance simulation and execution. • It should be possible to represent the same business process model with different levels of detail, e.g. a high-level view for a normal user, and a more detailed view for a business analyst. • There should be a modelling procedure which guides different stakeholders how to use these different levels of detail. • Details of the execution of business processes should come from a coherent set of standards, similar to that provided by the W3C for HTML: a) xHTML for structure and content, b) CSS for presentation, c) DOM-based API for dynamic modifications, and d) some other specialized standards. Thanks, AS
    Some quick comments here, since I think these points are pretty typical of what is thought. BPMN is a process modeling language, so criticizing it for not being an architectural modeling language is both unfair and inaccurate. BPMN modeling can be done within an architectural modeling context, but it requires methodology and convention to be done (or at least done well). Thus, this "challenge for BPMN" is just as much a "challenge for architecture" as anything else. BPMN does have a standard execution semantic. It just happens to be complex, and the spec itself contains areas of ambiguities and inconsistencies that do beg for clarification in an updated version. The idea of a reference model to validate interpretations would be great, but politically it is infeasible. The closest thing to that is what we at the OMG Model Interchange Working Group (MIWG) use to test interchange between tools whose vendors are willing to submit for testing. Multiple modeling levels/views are already possible with BPMN. The two conformance classes (Descriptive and Analytic) can be used to support such different views. And methodologies and conventions exist for creating those different views, but they are add-ons to BPMN. What is admittedly missing is a means by which different levels can be tied to the same business process in some formal way. I'm working on something like that now, but it is ultimately (IMO) going to be a mix of methodology and convention with some meta-model constraints tossed in. But this was not a BPMN problem, but a model management problem, so it was not in the standard. BPMN must prevail in the marketplace, just as the standards cited above had to do. It is the dominant process modeling language, but adoption is probably not yet at the stage cited above. So the challenge is in making adoption easier, I think, and not so much in the standards setting.
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      "BPMN is a process modeling language, so criticizing it for not being an architectural modeling language is both unfair and inaccurate." Of course, BPMN is not a architectural modelling language. It is an integral part of a coherent "set" of standards for BPM (as a discipline). Unfortunately, there is no architecture for this "set" of standards.

      I thought I made this clear (sorry, English in not native language) by using the example of W3C which has developed the "web architecture".

      Repeating - the main challenge of BPMN is the absence of commonly-agreed BPM architecture.

      Thanks,
      AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 11:26 AM - #Permalink
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    (My excerpts)
    Stuart Chandler wrote: First, there is still a fundamental challenge of organizations adopting the notation and building it into their vernacular...Business Architect and Business Analysts are still integral to the adoption so the real success is when the business is able to either adopt the nomenclature and 'speak' or BPMN evolves. This somewhat leads me to challenge two, that notion that technology needs to evolve for more business hands on. We see numerous tools that are attempting to capture and articulate the business easier via BPMN ...are trying to eliminate the need for BPMN by enabling organizations to build right into the tool using drag/drop, screen flows to capture business process (putting aside under the cover rule activity)....
    Adoption is the problem. Flexibility and complexity are the reasons, IMO. The spec was a consensus, and the collective desire was to support different modeling styles with a formalized language for them all. And the spec is complex as a result of this flexibility. These have, unfortunately, given rise to bad modeling practices and bad models out there that outnumber the good ones by a factor of at lease 100-to-1. I do agree that once we can easily show how this relates to the Business Architecture, we should be able to get better traction with it. Some of the pure modeling tools (as opposed to process design-based IDEs for BPMSs) that I track are actively working on making the tooling interface more intuitive, reducing the need to know BPMN semantics, and on relating the models to a broader architecture. The EA modeling tools out there approach BPMN as just another construct, and (IMO) rarely get the BPMN treatment right. With the process modeling vendors now engaged, we may see more movement to a integrative and coherent use of BPMN in creating models. Hope springs eternal!
    • Stuart Chandler
      more than a month ago
      I agree that governance of modeling techniques is a problem. The spec is the spec. I believe BPMN is a good foundation more than in past attempts at business process and activity notations but like anything bridging from concept to inherent activity is the challenge. In addition, trying to accommodate various stakeholders in one approach is a challenge. Adoption is key and I do think the answer is getting tool vendors to drive more standardization in modeling technique (taking into account stakeholders, ie. business, technology etc.) but not squeezing out flexibility is the objective.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 11:32 AM - #Permalink
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    So far, the comments are indicative of how much misunderstanding about BPMN is out there. Some of that is the spec's fault, but I mostly blame the tooling vendors for being much more interested in making marketing claims rather than help the market for BPMN to stabilize itself. Personally, I believe the challenges are these: - increase successful adoption rates (note the qualifier there) through training of practitioners, support for interchange amongst tool vendors, and simplification of the interface for creating models - position BPMN as a process modeling language that informs and is informed by governing architectures (e.g., a Business Architecture) at the meta-model level and the naming of architectural objects. But, in the end, the spec must be the spec, and it is for the process modeling communities to help make all of these things happen.
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      Re " The idea of a reference model to validate interpretations would be great, but politically it is infeasible."

      There is a heuristic in systems architecture - if politics does not fly then the system will never do.

      Thanks,
      AS
    • Lloyd Dugan
      more than a month ago
      Fair enough, but such a thing is without precedence in the OMG standards world. And the business model for OMG is not likely to see antagonizing its tool vendor membership as in its own interests. Just look at the state of interchange today - in the US, leading modeling vendors see interchange as either unnecessary, a nice-to-have somewhere down the product roadmap, or as a consulting opportunity. Those outside of the US, particularly start-ups or not yet calcified by intransigent thinking, are the ones who have taken it seriously. I'd love it if we had a Joint Testing Center like what is used to certify J2EE app servers, but it is unlikely. And so, I'm not going to pine for something that will never be. But I will take to take to task vendors overreaching on claims.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 12:04 PM - #Permalink
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    Per Lloyd Dugan re: adoption rate, on the business side what is even more important than convention or methodology is, would be, ease of use. On the technical side, interchange (round tripping) and optimization. Why? Axiom: A process model does not a performant workflow make. Every engine has idiosyncrasies and a process model doesn't always effectively take those into account when being transferred to that engine. Just my tuppence.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 12:08 PM - #Permalink
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    In my opinion, the great challenge of BPMN is to find a set of standards that allow to define a structured business architecture, simplified and accessible to people of business at the highest levels, and then its decomposition into more technical levels until the execution on servers, ensuring integration with the upper levels and promoting a clear participation of different stakeholders. Only this way, can ensure high quality and low cost since the needs of business until its implementation and execution of business processes.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 12:37 PM - #Permalink
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    You can see BPMN interchange demonstrated last June in Berlin at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rauyme2fj4. A second round is scheduled for the OMG Tech Meeting in Reston, VA in a matter of weeks.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 01:20 PM - #Permalink
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    Many valid points above, no need to repeat that. Still... :) I will provide my perspective as a simple customer. I am the only real customer I met so far that loves and understands BPMN (not something to brag about, come to think :) ). I showed a lot of customers a simple BPMN diagram and they gave up almost instantly (except for the ones trying hard to be polite). So yes - adoption is the fundamental challenge, but I see the reasons from a different viewpoint: - BPMN is being currently seen and developed as a vendor / technology standard, not as a customer-focused set of friendly best-practice tools. Yet it still gets shoved in the faces of customers as a marketing claim. BPMN needs to take a backseat from sales pitches / GUIs and deepen its contribution to a complete SoA philosophy; - due to its high (and increasing) sophistication, BPMN is being held captive to a very limited top-notch customer audience (the CTOs of the world, with some exceptions), that keeps requiring new features in the hope this will fix their broken business architecture. This is ripe for disruption from below, innovation dilemma-style. But I agree we should not accuse a modelling standard of too many sins, rather I'd recognize the need that BPMN grows its scope (or joins other efforts?) towards a more complete business-focused architectural language, including data, vocabulary, and rules.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 13 2014, 04:55 PM - #Permalink
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    The biggest challenge would be a compliance suite that tests the precise semantics of a given drawing. If such a test was produced, we would immediately find that all of the vendors (except the one making the test) would be shown to be out of compliance. At that point you have two choices. One, is to force vendors to be in compliance, in which case they would all run away from the standard and deny any support for it. The other, is to get rid of the conformance suite. Oh! I guess we are there already. :-)
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      I think the Web Standards test http://acid3.acidtests.org/ is an example to handle the conformance. It is a vendor-independent and as far as I remember, several years ago no web browser got 100/100. Sounds like the third choice.

      Thanks,
      AS
    • Lloyd Dugan
      more than a month ago
      I know I'm repeating myself, but what the hey! At a schema level, and thus at what is understood at a meta model level, we already have such a tool at BPMN MIWG! But participation is voluntary by vendors, and the scope is limited to just interchange, meaning that one tool's serialization into BPMN XML will be rendered the same way as another. However, schema/meta model-based rules are mostly structural. In BPMN, there are scads of rules that operate as constraints on or definitions of modeling elements that simply are not representable in schema/meta model. Thus, enforcement of operational semantics is left to the vendors to show, in things like syntax checkers or modeling filters, and this is inconsistently realized just as interchange is inconsistently realized. Having talked to a # of vendors over the years, I think that they (especially the US ones) are fully prepared to continue to think of this market as the wild west, where land claims are fluid and who has the gun is in charge. Hence, the vision Keith calls out is highly unlikely...unless he wants to saddle up and be our version of Wyatt Earp! ;-)
    • Keith Swenson
      more than a month ago
      What customers want is true portability. Lets use the example of Java: a programmer writes in java, and it runs on all Java execution environments. Books are written on Java without any particular regard to where you will run it. I CAN make a Java module (a JAR) and give it to someone else, and they can 99.99% of the time use it.

      What customers want is to start drawing diagrams now, and then 6 months from now decide and purchase an execution environment, and for their processes to run. (OK-- once you stop your fits of laughter you can continue reading.) There are many reasons why this does not work today -- some are arbitrary vendor differences, but I think there are many more reasons that are structural and inherent to the problem domain, and may never be solved.
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      It seems that the main challenge of BPMN is that BPM is the vendor-centric market not the customer-centric one. Yet.

      Thanks,
      AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 14 2014, 08:10 AM - #Permalink
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    The biggest challenge to BPMN is failure to be end user friendly and comments suggest this is unlikely be achieved. It has been part of the evolution in the way BPMSolutions could be created but is unlikely to be the sustainable technology for the future due to its techie nature and poor end user engagement. The biggest threat is a new simpler approach and this was at the core of our R&D started over 20 years ago. The fact is business logic never changes and we were able to articulate in generic terms the human and systems tasks (including the UI) that support users. We recognised the inbuilt power of the relational database that could facilitate instant multi dimensional connectivity. Because we were able to articulate such “tasks” and ascyronous linking as generic they could be stored as data in a relational database. This simple but power design philosophy opened a door to a new business architecture with the interesting result that basically starts the commoditisation of business software; the new alternative to COTS and custom coding. This may well have been BPMN’s original mission but lack of that critical “business understanding” has failed to deliver and without that business architecture will not progress? It was only after we built the core engine that uniquely combined front and back office (another BPMN failing?) that we decided to create a graphical interface as the process design (GPD) and build environment. We discovered that by a simple declarative technique the configuration created in the GPD could at a click set up the application ready to run. The core to this R&D was published last year http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/object-model-development-engineering/78620 We have been through the “disruptive” experiences as Mahatma Gandhi articulated on human reaction to something “new” “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you then they fight you, then you win” Business people get it very quickly but IT struggle and we have had plenty ridicule and being ignored including by the big analysts? So now we prepare a new model to distribute with or without US driven “standards” which in my view very often hold back evolution to take products to a mature state and Enterprise Software is long over due for that move!
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, March 18 2014, 12:26 PM - #Permalink
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    The biggest challenge? That people ever mention it to the business -- Quickest way to kill or delay innovative approaches? Make the LoB think it's a fad. Remember the idea that business folks would write SQL? Let's keep acronyms behind closed doors...
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