Large Models in BPMN

Scott Francis
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A research paper was recently published, which purports to research improving the traversal of large hierarchical process repositories.  After a good introduction and background to the topic, the authors quickly jump to IDS Scheer and IBM’s Websphere as examples of BPM tools.  And next, the authors jump to the conclusion that 3D modeling will solve the problem of complex modeling in BPM. However, the evidence presented is incredibly unconvincing.  3D modeling may hold some promise for BPM, but the examples presented don’t look more understandable to me – they look less understandable. It seems like, conceptually, 3D might take advantage of our innate spatial relationship capabilities and render complex things more understandable… but that isn’t what comes across from the examples in this paper. Much more powerful than “3D” is the concept of containment, and representing containment. Containment is a form of abstraction that allows me to talk about the behavior of a black box, but then shine a light inside the black box and you can see additional details at a finer granularity, only if and when you choose to.  Containment is the key abstraction needed for understanding large models, and 3D just looks like a fun science project by comparison.  Abstraction by containment is a big part of how we process geography, maps, and directions… and process flows are a geography (road / map) of sorts. Meanwhile, we’ll have to keep waiting for the silver bullet for making large complex models more understandable or accessible!