Bruce Silver: BPMN Explained

  • November 10, 2014
  • Scott

Bruce has (probably) written more about BPMN than anyone else alive.  Maybe more importantly he’s written better about BPMN, more often, than anyone else.

He picks up the thread again with two posts recently under the heading “BPMN Explained.”  Bruce picks out details that are important, but we BPM practitioners spend so much time around BPMN that we can easily lose sight of these details when explaining BPMN… like the fact that it is an open industry standard under OMG:

First, BPMN is an open industry standard, under the auspices of the Object Management Group.  It is not owned by a particular tool or consulting company.  A wide variety of tools support it, and the meaning of the business process diagram is independent of the tool used to create it. With BPMN you don’t need to standardize on a single tool for everyone in the organization, since they all share a common process modeling language.


Second, unlike flowcharts created in a tool like Visio or Powerpoint, the meaning of each BPMN shape and symbol is quite precise…

As Bruce points out, even if you don’t have the intention of automating or orchestrating your processes with software, BPMN can be a useful “common language” for IT and Business to capture common understanding of how the business works and how the processes flow.

Bruce kicks off the second installment with a bang, to address some common BPMN complaints:

First, you need to understand exactly who is complaining.  If it’s a legacy tool vendor wedded to their proprietary (“much better!”) notation, well that speaks for itself.  Ditto if it’s a gray-haired process improvement consultant whose idea of a modern tool is a whiteboard that prints.  Which is most of them.

BPMN has rules and details – and those can get in the way.  But those same rules provide clarity of meaning.  Moreover, a subset of the shapes suffices for most users.

BPMN was also designed in such a way that you can as easily white board the diagrams as you can use a software package or piece of paper.  That’s a useful but overlooked feature for impromptu discussion of process, to get on the same page, so to speak.



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