Business Process Modeling Languages and Tools

Business Process Modeling Languages and Tools

James McCutcheon, Nik Thompson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch694
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A business process may be defined as a set of interrelated tasks, roles, and resources working in concert to achieve a business objective or goal (Dumas, La Rosa, Mendling, Reijers, 2013). Business Process Modeling is the activity and discipline of transferring tacit and explicit business knowledge and experience into formalized descriptions, specifications, and diagrams that focus on process structure and interaction, rather than technical details (Weske, 2007). These models are expressed as meta-models and are combined with a notation language to consistently describe similar business constructs (Weske, 2007).

BPM has two primary uses: systems development and business process management (Havey, 2009). As the terms Business Process Modeling or Business Process Management may share an acronym there is potential for confusion surrounding the two concepts. This is further confounded by the fact that some modeling tools are contained within Business Process Management software suites. For the purposes of this article, the abbreviation BPM will refer strictly to the topic of Business Process Modeling.

Business Process Management, and by extension BPM, has evolved from the analysis of Workflow Management practices. Workflow Management was the subject of many papers in the 90’s (van der Aalst, ter Hofstede & Weske, 2003) and was primarily focused on the automation of structured processes (Weske, 2007). Accordingly, Workflow Management struggled to model behavior, which while difficult, is essential for effectively and accurately modeling business processes (Smith, 2003). This influenced BPM pioneers to focus on bridging the gap between Workflow Management systems and business processes (Weske, 2007).

The primary advantages of BPM are clarity and discovery. BPM identifies, defines, and enumerates steps, inputs, outputs, requisite resources, and expertise so that a business process can be understood and replicated by third parties or in software for automation (Recker, 2006). While a thorough understanding of the process being modeled is desirable before embarking on formalization, a more incremental approach is realistic as the modeling process itself will help to identify shortcomings, misunderstanding and ambiguities in the current documentation and the modeler’s process discovery. Dumas et al. (2013) call BPM a “boundary spanning” field that allows stakeholders from a breadth of disciplines to communicate with a shared language.

BPM may also be practiced informally and this is likely in organizations that have not been introduced to formal techniques but have independently identified the advantages of BPM activities. Formalized languages, techniques and notations, however, hold the benefit of being standardized: they are understandable by many individuals in the industry, not just those inducted into the ad hoc standard of a single organization, and minimize potential for misinterpretation (van der Aalst, et al., 2003). They have also undergone rigorous analysis and testing by various standards bodies, such as the Object Management Group (OMG).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Visio: A popular software package first released by Microsoft in 2000 that allows for the simple creation of a wide variety of different models including BPMN and UML diagrams.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN): A popular modeling language for representing business processes.

Business Process: A set of tasks, roles, and resources working in concert to achieve a business objective or goal.

Object Management Group (OMG): A non-profit organization that produces standards for object-oriented systems, especially modeling languages.

Event-driven Process Chain: A modeling notation used within the ARIS process management framework. Use for representing business processes.

Business Process Management: A continual process of designing, monitoring, analyzing, and improving business processes.

Business Process Modeling: The discipline of representing business knowledge and processes in a formal, standardized format.

Unified Modeling Language (UML): A modeling language primarily used to represent object-oriented software solutions. UML includes a set of widely used graphical notations including Class, Activity, and Use-Case diagrams.

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