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A note on BPMN elements

What represents the core of BPMN? A look at some basic notation. This in the wake of controversy concerning how well business users will do with BPMN 2.0.

Over a number of years BPMN has arisen as a notation to describe business processes. As with any notation or methodology there are disagreements among concerned parties about: what should or should not be included in such a notation, which are the most useful or relevant parts, and which individuals within an organization are most likely to succeed when using the notation.

Sometimes the disagreements have led to controversy, as has been the case in the wake of a recent Gartner analyst's blog lamenting the high-level of technical skills full-fledged BPMN can require. Is there a BPMN sandbox of elements in which the non-technical staff can safely 'play'? That is hard to say, but a discussion would start with a look at BPMN elements as they are now construed.

While different individuals focus on different BPMN elements that they consider most important, there are some basic elements to BPMN notation that are agreed upon. Contained in the core set are flow objects that include events, activities and gateways; connecting objects that include sequence flow, message flow and associations; and artifacts that include data objects, text annotations and groups.

A distinguishing part of BPMN is emphasis on elements known as swimlane types. These comprise the pool and the lanes.

According to OMG, a pool swimlane is a graphical container for separating a set of activities from other pools of activitity. Activities thus being the atomic unit of the overall business processes. A lane, used to organize and categorize activities, is a sub-partition within a pool.

Again, per OMG, lanes are often used to separate the activities associated with a specific company function or role. Sequence Flow may cross the boundaries of Lanes within a Pool, but Message Flow may not be used between Flow Objects in Lanes of the same Pool.

If you ignore some domain specific bits, this all may seem similar to common flow charts. In fact, BPMN is flow-chart based notation specifically targeted for business processes, and agreed to by various parties adhering to the BPMN standard overseen by the Object Management Group.

BPMN 2.0 may principally be described as an attempt to offer a better connection between Web services-based BEPL and BPMN. While offering clear benefits, BPMN 2.0 has somewhat roiled the waters in terms of new elements – at this point there are more than 100 elements involved with BPMN. Quite a few subclasses now characterize BPMN. As noted, the blogosphere has been replete with controversy of late as different individuals have wondered aloud if there actually is such a thing as a core of BPMN elements that would be proper for use among less technical staff.

Related BPMN information
BPMN for business professionals: Burn, baby, burn –
Core BPMN elements -
Business Process Modeling Notation -
BPMN Methods and Style - Bruce Silver bog
Business users and BPMN - Sandy Kemsley blog

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