BPMN and the Business Process Expert

Over the past several months I've been doing a lot of work with SAP to beef up the modeling-related content on their BPX community site. BPX stands for Business Process Expert, a term intended to describe a new role in the organization, straddling the line between business and IT. I see BPMN as a critical enabler of this role, because it for the first time allows process modeling, a business function, to be directly integrated with process implementation design... throughout the process lifecycle. Traditional modeling notations assumed the model was standalone, used for documentation, analysis, and generation of "business requirements" handed off to IT, who would start over in a new design tool with a different metamodel, different data model, and different programming model. Agile? I don't think so.

BPMN enables a new iterative implementation style in which business collaborates directly with IT throughout the cycle, rather than a one-time handoff. That's because the BPMN model has the expressiveness and semantic precision to underpin an executable design. The BPM Suites that do it right -- and those that don't are trying to move that way -- don't start over in a separate design tool but layer implementation properties on top of the BPMN model objects - activities, gateways, and events. So the model, i.e. the BPMN diagram, remains an abstract business view of the implementation throughout the development and maintenance cycle.

Achieving this demands a new role, the BPX, who can translate process knowledge and business requirements into the BPMN model and work with IT in that iterative/collaborative fashion. The BPX community site on SAP Developer Network (SDN) is trying to facilitate the growth of this role, with free resources of all sorts, including a series of articles and Flash tutorials on BPMN modeling which I authored.

The BPX site tries to remain free of any SAP marketing, although I've never understood why. It may seem odd that SAP is pushing this line of thinking -- sounds more like Lombardi or Appian, you might say. But SAP has been peeling back the veil from their new Project Galaxy, a BPMN-based BPMS (they call it a "business process platform") based on Netweaver. In the continuum of BPMS design environments, it's clearly on the Lombardi-Appian end rather than the IBM-Oracle end. I made the screenshots in my Flash mini-training on BPX from an early beta of the tool... it's pretty nice.

Marco ten Vaanholt, head of the BPX community, and I did a webcast recently on ebizQ. If you're interested in this topic, I recommend it, along with my BPMN articles and free training on the BPX site.