Metastorm-Proforma Sidebar

BPMS vendor Metastorm acquired BPA vendor Proforma today, kind of a surprise to me, since the last thing most business analysts want is to have their modeling tool funnel them into some proprietary runtime. Sandy as usual has it covered. I bring it up only because a graduate of my BPMN training pinged me about a white paper on the Metastorm website that disses BPMN big-time while at the same time admitting that the company probably needs to adapt its proprietary "SAR" notation to be more like the unlovable standard. The paper raises all of the usual canards about BPMN - it's too complicated for untrained business analysts, but does not cover all the implementation detail needed for execution. It's funny when a tool vendor confuses a diagramming standard with the capabilities of a commercial tool. A profound misunderstanding of the real power of BPMN - that it actually can be used, at different levels, by business people documenting their as-is process and by developers building a next-generation executable implementation. If Metastorm's acid test is usability by business people without any training, I say good luck with the Proforma acquisition.

Certainly BPMN is not perfect. Let's face it, nobody really loves it, but most agree it's the closest thing we have today in the BPM world to a real multivendor, architecture-neutral standard, and the one standard that addresses the biggest issue in BPM today, which is true business-IT collaboration. OK, not entirely architecture-neutral, since BPMN effectively demands that the orchestration engine can respond to events in some fashion. That's usually the place where traditional workflow engines (and BPA tools) can't handle BPMN. Some deal with the problem by leaving events out of the tool palette. But the right approach, in my view, is to admit it's the right direction, and incrementally move to accommodate it, as TIBCO and Savvion are doing.