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BPMN linking business and IT for BPM/SOA

The oft stated SOA goal of bringing together business and IT to work on applications is being realized by users of the BPMN, argues Ismael Ghalimi, a leader in its development.

When working on service-oriented architecture (SOA) projects, business analysts and IT professionals speak the same language when they work with Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), says Ismael Ghalimi.

BPM is the killer app for SOA.
Ismael Ghalimi
Founder and CEOIntalio Inc.

"There is no disconnect between what the business people are doing and what the IT people are doing in BPMN," said Ghalimi, founder and CEO of Intalio Inc., the open source business process vendor. He is also the founder of the Business Process Management Initiative, which published the first version of BPMN in 2003. has since merged into the Object Management Group (OMG), which ratified BPMN 1.1 earlier this month. This past week, Ghalimi's company released Intalio|Designer, which he said is the first process modeling tool to support the new notation.

From the beginning, the goal of BPMN was to give business people and IT people a common language to model business processes for business process management (BPM), Ghalimi said. Now, he says, he is seeing the goal realized in the two-day training sessions his company holds for its BPMN tool.

"What we're experiencing with our training at Intalio is that half of the people who come for training are business analysts and half are technical people," he said. "That was the vision when we started seven years ago, but we didn't know we could do that."

After two days of training, the business and IT people are all speaking the same BPMI language, Ghalimi said, although they may be working at different levels of specificity.

"For the first time both business analysts and IT people can use the same language and notation to represent business processes," he said. "They won't necessarily use all same symbols. The process model of business analysts is going to use less shapes, less kinds of events. The technical people are going to use more shapes, more details, more sub-processes."

He offers the example of modeling the process of entering a purchase order into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The business analyst might model from it as the creation of a header and then the typical line items in a PO. The IT professionals would take that basic BPMN model and then add in all the programming details that would actually make the PO model work in an ERP application, he said.

"The technical people can extend the process with all the details," Ghalimi said, "but they are using the same notation and they are using the same tool."

Because they share a common language the business person can potentially watch and learn the details beyond the business model if they want to dive deeper into the technology, Ghalimi said. The business analyst can review what IT has done to make the initial model work, and perhaps decide to do a more detailed design the next time around.

BPMN doesn't get top billing among standards for SOA, but the founder says it is important.

"It is important because it is essentially the only available standard for modeling business processes," Ghalimi said.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink, LLC., said that BPMN still has a ways to go as a standard in terms of compatibility with Business Process Execution Language.

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"BPMN 1.1 resolves several ambiguities in version 1.0, like throwing and catching events, and also adds new notation specifications, such as the Signal event, which supports the broadcasting of an event to any event listener, either within the process or in another process," Bloomberg said. "What BPMN doesn't have, however, is a complete conversion to BPEL, requiring vendors who support both standards to add proprietary extensions to link them. As a result, this is no more than a minor update. We would expect BPMN version 2.0 to be fully compatible with BPEL, or even an eventual merger of the two standards into one at some point."

BPMN is an important standard for SOA, Ghalimi argues because it achieves the goal of bringing business and IT together in the common cause of BPM.

"We think that SOA is very much the enabling infrastructure for BPM," Ghalimi said, "and BPM is the killer app for SOA."

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