Bruce Calls for a Cease-Fire

Scott Francis
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Bruce Silver’s post could be interpreted as calling for a cease-fire in the BPM-ACM debate:

It boggles my mind that we are still having this debate, but there it is: Is BPMN compatible with ACM?  The latest round started with a paper presented by Keith Swenson at a BPM conference, stirred up by Sandy Kemsley’s review, and kicked into full riot by an ebizQ comment thread.  The supposedly winning argument from the ACM side is that a doctor – the purported archetype of an ACM user (really?) – is never going to edit a BPMN diagram, but is willing to add or tick off items in a checklist.

That pretty much captures the debate.  He left off the argument on our blog, but that’s okay – it was really related to Sandy’s review, and a tangent to the main discussion.

Bruce sums it up pretty well right here:

  • BPMN is a definition language.  End users, whether they are doctors or computer scientists, are not supposed to define process logic, case logic, or any other kind of repeatable business logic.  That’s why we call them end users.

This argument seems to cause confusion with some folks on the ACM side of the discussion.

  • Inserting ad hoc tasks to a process or case instance at runtime is mostly a UI issue.  True, BPMN is not very ad hoc-friendly, but BPMN-based tools have successfully worked around that.  Oracle, for example, does it through WS-HumanTask.  Roubroo does it by versioning the BPMN definition and migrating the instance automatically under the covers.

Again, this seems to confuse some folks on the ACM side of the discussion. Maybe because it just isn’t how they think of BPMS and BPMN. And then (emphasis added):

  • If ACM is only about ad hoc task management in a checklist, why are we even talking about it?  Microsoft, Google, and the like basically own that space, and they can have it.  The “A” in ACM is adaptive, meaning there is some defined logic that advances the case.  That means that with ACM, just as with BPMN, there are definition tools and there are end user tools, related but not the same thing.

(I think Keith Swenson would argue the definition tools for ACM need to be the sam as the end user tools – which probably eliminates defining re-usable processes for other users)

Despite a lengthy rant on Bruce’s blog comments, there really wasn’t a good answer to this – if it is really just a checklist, why are we debating it so much? Why would it be so revolutionary and different?