Business Process Modeling Tools, Techniques and Methodologies – An Industry Applied Needs And Perspective
Business Process Modeling Tools, Techniques and Methodologies -
An Industry Applied Needs And Perspective
Oh Chin Boon
firstname.lastname@example.org / MarvelousOh@hotmail.com
June 28, 2010.
(This is a released paper and is tracked by Turnitin)
More than a dozen process modeling techniques and methodologies exist with sparingly littered adoption guidelines or suitability analysis. Some of which is at risk of irrelevancy in the face of a changing landscape that is quickly stirring up in the process modeling industry of tomorrow. This paper aims to provide a more profound understanding into existing modeling tools, techniques and methodologies. Thus and matching these closely with the needs and perspective from various industries, users and trends in a bid to bring better awareness around business modeling tool vendors, not also forgetting to raise the bar for the veteran market players.
Business process modeling, process modeling, BPMN, modeling tool.
A fair number of process modeling techniques and methodologies exist publicly together with tools that have sprung up in the recent years. Most of which are readily accessible to the public and in the open source domain while some are made available for specific royalties, for example, the IDS Scheer ARIS software.
The popularity of business process modeling, change management, re-engineering and its entire umbrella family have only sprung up in the recent years and been sharing the limelight with mainstream hot topics such as Business Intelligence, distributed middle ware applications, Cloud Computing, Software as a Service (Application Service Provider spin-off), and the such. What used to be a rather closed domain field and expertise is seeing increased adoption and interest in the community coming especially from the non technical field group.
In the course of rising popularity, a few techniques and methodologies have reign acceptance amongst the community over the years, some have become a de facto, while a few others cater only to specific and narrow needs or industry tailored.
2. OVERVIEW OF SELECTIVE CURRENT TOOLS, TECHNIQUES AND METHODOLOGIES
2.1 IDS Scheer ARIS
IDS Scheer is a software company that specializes in process and performance management software. It is remarkable to mention that ARIS may have been one of the first mainstream tool vendor to have rolled out a general working release of process modeling tools based on the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) 2.0 specification lately released by governing body Object Management Group (OMG).
BPMN is the main modeling language used in ARIS.
To extends its software to the general public, ARIS makes available a free version of the fully functional ARIS bundled with various free online training resources, the ARIS Express. Such incentive is commonly seen as a business move to widen adoption and interest base, and it usually pays off in the long run.
In a market survey  pp.4, ARIS shares as much as 3.3% of the BPMN tool, ranking eight with Microsoft Visio in the first place at 18.2%, and lagging slightly behind ILOG JViews by .5%.
However, the especially high placement of the Microsoft Visio tool and adoption as a BPMN tool is not without caveats.
“Microsoft Visio is a nice drawing tool – not a BPM workstation let alone engine. … It may well help users to familiarize themselves with the basic idea of process modeling and BPMN – but that’s about it.”  pp.3
Microsoft Visio tool provides BPMN alike stencils and a large drawing workspace canvas to work on, it is seemingly able to undertake the task of diagramming and documenting an entire domain’s business processes. However, as it is not a true process modeling tool, it lacks of various functionalities standard process modeling tools offer. Even as the next slated release of Visio features team collaboration, it is only holding on by the skin of its teeth as a true process modeling tool.
Within the BPM domain, ARIS is a pretty known and current BPM tool vendor and evangelist.
2.2 IBM WebSphere ILOG, JViews. (Formally ILOG)
IBM WebSphere ILOG, formally ILOG before IBM’s acquisition in 2009, is a business process management software suite integrated with IBM’s WebSphere suite of middle ware tools for a complete all rounded enterprise application development. IBM WebSphere is arguably one of the most comprehensive middle ware tools provider out in the market, paring with brands like Oracle and even with its own other product line, the Rational software.
Business Process Modeling Notation is the preferred visual modeling language in use with WebSphere ILOG, although not exclusively, and is being asserted by an independent commentator as “the one modelling language used by all business analysts to model business process diagrams.”  pp.1
“Today all the Business analysts uses Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) to model business process diagrams.”  pp.1
It is interesting to note that while the authors  asserted a rather umbrella statement, BPMN is considerably still the most used and preferred modelling language however when performing process modelling.
“51% of respondents stated to be using BPMN for business purposes … while the remaining 49% used BPMN for more technical purposes.”  pp.2
And alike ARIS, ILOG specializes mainly in BPM and makes available freely a trial version of its software for public access. It is notable to mention that such a practice was only put in place sometime after the acquisition by IBM as it used to be only through regional representatives or an education memorandum of understanding that the public may get hands on with the software.
3. PROCESS MODELLING PRACTITIONERS
It is critical to note that the determinant of tools, methodologies and techniques employed on process modelling activities may have had a side effect upon by the demographic of their users. It is notable to mention that it is becoming of recent trend that process modelling experts are coming from disciplines of business sector, what it used to be only a technical person’s field.
Having said, educators have also been seen in the past years offering Computer Science and Information Technology related courses and programs to non technical personnel.
The National University of Singapore (NTU, Singapore.) is one such education institution that offers a double degree program of dual disciplines, in business and computing . Successful graduates possess sufficient business specific domain knowledge, empowered by technologies.
It is also not uncommon for companies to selectively send top field domain experts to process modelling courses as is seeming the most efficient, accurate and surest method of capturing current business processes. Such practices may become disruptive to the subject’s daily job scope, bringing about an adverse upset to the value chain of the company. However it is notable that process change, documentation or management is usually a top down decision, and is always very much aligned to the long term growth of the company and thereafter will be more willing to take the plunge.
“Unfortunately, many companies fail to emphasize process modeling activities until the company is in a crisis thus looking for immediate solutions to problems that developed over extended periods.”  pp.31
Where it is unfortunate that process modeling activities only start to step in during or after a crisis, such companies may have already started looking at the problem at full force, whether in the form of a budget adjustment or manpower reshuffle.
Historically, business process modelling is performed by a third party who could have minimal to no domain knowledge of the business process (es) in survey. These modelers tend to engage themselves with activities to relate themselves to the business of the company and sometimes such arrangements may or may not work out best.
Having surveyed the trending, the landscape for process modeling demographic is seemingly experiencing a shift in paradigm where there are more modelers with a firmer stronger background in the day to day business of the company than there are technology purists who have only the surest knowledge of process modeling techniques, tools and techniques.
3.1 Who uses the BPMN, now and then.
Business process modeling notation is a widely used modeling language within the process modeling domain. Many tools vendors and practitioners in the field come ready with BPMN knowledge and background.
The Business Process Modeling Notation sets itself different from other modeling languages in identifying itself as a all rounder, yet with profound research and absolute relevance to the business process industry. It steers clear from serving only a specific or narrow cause, yet enables its users to engage in all levels of process modeling activities.
At the most basic level of BPMN, it could be engaged as if a flow chart. Taking gateways for an example, there could be inclusive, parallel, and exclusive.
Although not conclusive to make an umbrella statement that the BPMN should be the only process modeling language to use when conducting various business process capturing or re-engineering related activities, it is notable to mention that there are as many as 62 adopted tool vendors updated with OMG with another four of such pending planned implementation.
“Current Implementations of BPMN (62 listed), Planned Implementations of BPMN (4 listed)” 
Certain exigencies or special cases may call for a modeling language other than BPMN, which is also the focus of this paper.
4. DRIVERS FOR BPM ACTIVITIES
Several reasons exist for an organization of various sizes and revenue models to conduct BPM activities. The word organization is used in place of company as non-profit model organization too have their fair share of brush with BPM.
“Small and medium enterprises appear to have become more receptive towards mergers over the past few years, and the trend could continue to grow, suggests data collated by BT and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).” 
And although less common, mergers may also form up minority of the reasons for BPM. Pertaining to acquisitions, before, during and after, parent companies usually would study inter processes in a bid to differentiate and streamline processes.  pp.19
When Asia data center and web hosting giant Webvisions purchased sister company Skydio in 2010  to strengthen its data center facilities and foot hold in Asia, part of its agenda was to ensure the smooth transition of its 10, 000 customer base from Skydio to Webvisions. With B2B and B2C customers ranging from typical domain name buyers to co-location facilities renters, and differences in processes of each companies, it could not have done so not without the support of formal business process activities.
In the age of rising manufacturing cost, human resource being the most costly variable of many businesses, companies are constantly looking for ways to maximize workers productivity. Machine and computer automation  pp.19 is the closest answer, but usually not without a higher upfront cost and time investment. As such, such activities are largely pertaining to the maturity level of the company in question.
It is interesting to mention the recent workers strike and suicide fiasco coming from Foxconn China, the hardware manufacturing wing of many Silicon Valley companies and particularly Apple Inc. And just like a wild fire, motoring giant Honda had one of hers soon after. In the midst of probes, Apple Inc. had made multiple responses, one of which is a one off wage increment to workers on her product line bypassing the management.  And almost like a knee jerk effect possibly to safeguard the interest of these technology giants, press releases have sent down a message commenting on the probable increase in automation related activities. 
With developing countries with primary and manufacturing industries soon embarking on their journey to become a developed country, inter activities such as automation  could give rise to increased BPM activities in the coming years ahead.
5. BP ACTIVITIES
5.1 Bulgaria Health Care Reform
The Bulgaria Health Care Reform is one whereby its aim is to shift from a communistic culture to a more socially responsible health care system that is also commonly found in the Western European countries.  To do so, it requires a complete overhaul to its systems and people. A change management was required and put into place.
Unlike a company or an organization, the change management in Bulgaria takes effect on a larger scale basis, involving more coordinators and possibly over a bigger distance than it would be under a roof in companies or organizations. It is therefore notable to mention that ARIS, mentioned earlier in this paper as a focused BP tool provider, is part of the Bulgaria Health Care Reform effort.
When modeling the process model, the task force has identified and broken down processes into Management, Core and Support processes which is somewhat different from another set of methodology mentioned, Descriptive Modeling, Analytical Modeling, and Executable Modeling .
“…descriptive modeling …high-level, occasionally ignoring BPMN’s diagram validation rules, but easy to communicate across the organization…” 
Descriptive modeling focuses on the high level bird eye view of business processes, quite often also referred to as level one modeling, the output of descriptive model often defies rules, syntax’s and logical barriers in order to come up with a big picture. Models built at this level are usually not compilable by engines into actualized forms. The flexibility of descriptive modeling enables business users who may assume little technical knowledge to quickly carry out her work.
“Level 2 modeling requires understanding of BPMN’s various decision and merge patterns, events, and exception handling patterns…” 
Analytical modeling calls for more details, compliance to most modeling syntax’s, and complete basic and alternate flows. Models built at this level may or may not be executable.
The executable model, although rather a vendor specific model, and which it has to, is the lowest level of the three models mentioned. It may be seen as a deeper appreciation of the analytical model with fine grained tuning in the direction of the targeted BP tool for realization purposes. As per its name suggests, executable models are, executable.
It is not an uncommon practice for tool vendors to introduce lock ins such as this. The Oracle Sun Java JSR specification is one such example. The JSR is an aligned process where multiple big name vendors and prominent contributors set in to agree on an oriented specification, the process is sometimes iterative and may take months to years to come to a finalization from its initial drafting stages. During this time, tool vendors must agree on and build and align their products in accordance to the JSR. They may then choose to add in flavors on top of it. Java evangelists may recall the “jboss-web.xml” web deployment descriptor for Java Enterprise Application which is a JBoss centric descriptor enhancement for “web.xml”, it breaks interoperability should users switch their middle ware application servers.
“Most companies that have committed a major effort in this area … are still using non computer intepretable models (static)…”  pp.31
This 1996 article referenced the trend of companies which have put in major efforts in BP only to be employing non computer interpretable techniques is what the paper aims to stamp out. Users should engage themselves with tools and vendors that they are comfortable with working on an organizational level. Organizations should stop and are ceasing performing double work by first not employing the use of proper BP tools.
The changing industry of business process modeling requires tools, techniques and methodologies that do not come as a heavyweight and monolithic block what it has now become for modeling systems and software. What exists for the technical community has been beneficial and contributive but may not also be true for the process modeling community which now compresses of mainly non technical business experts. Yet, it must still allow for modeling at different levels of complexity and detail, according to requirements and exigencies.
BPMN as a modeling language succinctly sums up the needs for business process modeling. With the current attention and coverage it is getting from the industry, BPMN is bound to grow strong and strengthened by the user base it acquires in due time.
Methodologies and techniques on the other hand risk becoming the white elephant in today’s and tomorrow’s context with more seats in the BP industry going to the business people. Existing methodologies and techniques must be devised quickly to stay ahead of the curve in the face of an interest losing crowd who may be more focused on end to end productivity from a non technical point of view and who would prefer to throw it over the wall to the IT people more than anything else.
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