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Somehow I knew this was going to happen... The BPMN notation is a hot topic nowadays and if you criticize a hot topic, you get blamed, because you are against it. Well, I don’t have a problem getting blamed, but I want to take the chance to clarify some points.

There are people saying BPMN is not suitable for business users, because BPMN is too complex. Now, people add me to this group, because I criticize BPMN. So is BPMN too complex for business users? My answer is Yes and No!

  • Yes BPMN contains many redundant modelling elements. For example, you can express an “either-or” decision using an exclusive gateway or conditional sequence flows. I think this redundancy makes BPMN too complex for no reason. There should be exactly one way to express an “either-or” decision and not several. We have to get rid of those redundancies and we try to do that with your support.
  • No – BPMN is used for many different purposes such as business process modelling or workflow automation. I’m totally fine with this broad scope and I don’t argue against it. Here, conformance levels will help to create subsets of the notations for different purposes. In this respect, I love BPMN, because you can start with basic business process modelling and grow up to advanced topics such as process automation. At the beginning, you don’t have to care about the modelling constructs needed for process automation, which is good!

I hope that at some point the discussion around the complexity of BPMN will get rid of vendor pitches and people start to think openly about the good and bad points of BPMN!

by Stephanie Zeidler
Posted on Fri, 03/19/2010 - 18:13

 I like BPMN. We used it in a Start-Up company to align processes globally and we also used the documentation for training. I agree that the complexity is high if you claim to design perfect processes which could be used e.g. for process automization but it is also possible to reduce complexity by using the most common elements only (at the beginning) . In our project we only used the most common elements for documenting core processes of the company. And we were surprised that even people who never heard about BPMN before were able to read the documentation and to understand and use it. BPMN could be learned step by step - even if you are not an autodidact. 

by Roland Woldt
Posted on Sat, 03/20/2010 - 22:05

Wow, there's a lot of steam in the discussion and not only because it was Friday :-) But it is an interesting read.

Without the philosophical detour ("we're become a more technological society") and attitude, I think any standard is better than none. I also agree with you that BPMN is too complex, but this is something that can be fixed - and I disagree that we have to have backward compatibilty - (like you do). The problem I see here is that the discussion is dominated by techies and not regular folks.

That means that unsuccessful constructs should be retired in major versions of the spec and standard patterns implemented in the tools (as ARIS fragments "out of the box"?). In addition to that there should be some fall back mechanism for different user roles, for example by creating different views of the same model based on the user role. It doesn't make sense IMHO to have a "level 1" model (and I am using Bruce Silver's classification here) and then two more models for the various other states (analytical and technical).

There should be some cleverness in the tool that shows the simplified version to business users and a more complex diagram to the advanced users, so that you don't have to maintain multiple versions of a model in one release cycle. This should work similar to the layer functionality in graphics programs like the GIMP/Photoshop. AFAIK no BPM tool can do this as of today :-(


by Sebastian Stein Author
Posted on Mon, 03/22/2010 - 10:07

Hi Stephanie,

really interesting report, because many people would expect that being startup and doing BPM doesn't fit. Of course, it is the other way around, because startups usually have very limited resources and must optimise their back office processes as much as possible. Here, a standard notation and free tools come in handy I guess.


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