Modeling a Net-Centric Department of Defense (DoD) Enterprise using BPMN 2.0

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If a picture is a worth a thousand words, a standardized model is definitely worth multiple pages of a requirement specification. Business and IT have long used tabular descriptions, flowcharts and other means to capture and describe how their business processes are run, but if a modeling format has to go beyond being just a sketch, it requires a standardized, non-proprietary notation which can be uniformly understood by all. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) has achieved a position of eminence amongst users, software vendors and service providers by providing a standard, open modeling notation.

With the upcoming 2.0 release, BPMN[1] can now claim to be a more robust and complete visual design layer and execution format for Business Process Modeling as it can:

  • Provide a formal definition of its constructs. BPMN 2.0 has a formal meta-model defining the different BPMN constructs and their relationships.
  • Provide a standard exchange format for models. This allows BPMN models to be exchanged between different modeling tools and Business Process Management Systems (BPMS).
  • Support more explicit execution semantics. The 2.0 version has a more precise description of how to interpret and execute a BPMN model and has rules on how to transform BPMN models to Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL).
  • Enforce better conformance to the specification via conformance sub-classes. There is a proposal to add sub-classes to the specification [2]. This would allow different tool vendors to claim compliance to a sub-set of elements.

BPMN has the goal of supporting both the ease of use and simple expressivity required by a business user and the detailed technical details required by IT and execution engines. Despite the different constructs required to satisfy these requirements, BPMN 2.0 does a good job of straddling both of these use cases.

The US DoD is a huge enterprise with enormous complexity and heterogeneity. Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF) [3] has been designed to be the overarching, comprehensive framework and conceptual model enabling the development of architectures to facilitate organized information sharing across the DoD enterprise. Unfortunately DoDAF is not prescriptive enough for the actual methodology or notation to be used for creating a particular artifact. Operational Viewpoint (OV)-6c Event Trace Description have been used to describe Business Process Models within DoDAF but to quote from the DoDAF website “DoDAF does not endorse a specific event-trace modeling methodology. An OV-6c may be developed using any modeling notation (e.g., BPMN) that supports the layout of timing and sequence of activities…”. In the absence of a uniform representation, not only is it difficult for users from different parts of the enterprise to understand the model, but also there is no vendor-neutral manner to convert the model to an executable representation. As different parts of the DoD have to conduct more joint operations, integrated and federated architectures become more important, hence the interoperability of Business Process Models is required.

The DoDAF Persona or Conformance Sub-Class of BMPN 2.0 provides the answer by providing a standard format for the notation and exchange of these models. This is in part based on the DoD Business Transformation Agency (BTA) guidelines for designing Business Process Models using BPMN [4]. As the BMPN2.0 DoDAF Persona spells out the exact primitives that are to be used, modelers will have a fewer and standard set of primitives to learn. This will reduce the modeling “dialects” and allow higher quality of models to be created which will be better understood.

On the other hand, the DoD’s focus on Net Centric Warfare has resulted in numerous SOA initiatives and a plethora of web services. Current OV-6c models don’t have an easy linkage to SOA or Web Services. With the introduction of best practices, patterns and tool support to ensure that BPMN2.0 models are created which are correctly transformable to WS-BPEL, DoDAF OV-6c models can be easily transformed for execution by a BPMS. These best practices, coupled with BPMN2.0’s improved support for execution semantics can help enlist the services already created to carry out some of the process activities, thus helping top down meet bottoms up.


[1] BPMN v2.0 Beta 1 [][2] Robert Shapiro, Update on BPMN Release 2.0, Febuarary 2010[3] DoDAF 2.0 [][4] Enterprise Architecture based on Design Primitives and Patterns. Guidelines for the Design of Business Process Models (DoDAF OV-6C) using BPMN, April 27,2009



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