One of the most successful innovations of the BPMS vendors to date has been incorporation of process modeling within the suite. Process modeling used to be a standalone business activity, requiring expensive proprietary tools that gave little thought to any automated IT implementation. By adding a modeling tool to the suite – separate from the executable process design tool, but linked to it via shared artifacts – BPMS took a critical first step toward one of BPM’s principal objectives, bridging the gap between business and IT.
Because it assumes an eventual IT implementation, BPMS’s process modeling component looks a lot different from its predecessors in the business process analysis (BPA) and enterprise architecture (EA) worlds. Instead of a proprietary notation and metamodel, it leverages BPMN, an industry standard, and emphasizes a combination of simplicity, expressiveness, and semantic precision. That combination allows the process model to serve as more than vague “business requirements” for the to-be implementation. In leading BPMSs, the BPMN model is an artifact shared with IT and actually incorporated into the executable design. Moreover, because it is standardized, the modeling tools are low-cost, in many cases free, and understanding of the notation is no longer isolated to a small priesthood in the organization.
But the BPA and EA suites offer something that BPMSs still mostly do not: a repository of business-oriented modeling artifacts. BPMSs today provide some form of repository for executable design artifacts, but these are meant for developers not business analysts. As BPM evolves in most organizations from isolated projects to enterprise-scale programs, the need for such a business-oriented repository is now becoming apparent to BPMS vendors, and I think in 2009 it will become a key differentiator in the BPMS competitive landscape.
Such a repository would include artifacts such as the following:
You could argue that such a repository and additional models would simply replicate a BPA suite inside the BPMS. And to a certain extent that’s true, except that just as they did with the BPMN tool, BPMS vendors are more likely to eliminate the bloat and focus on something simpler, more streamlined, less expensive, and totally integrated with the BPMS’s executable design environment. The business artifact repository will not replace the developer’s registry/repository, and some form of federation of the two is likely. Look for leading BPMS vendors to tout their repositories next year.
Bruce Silver (bruce[at]brsilver.com) is an independent industry analyst covering BPMS technology and the author of The BPMS Report series on bpminstitute.org.
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