Effective Process Modeling with BPM & BPMN

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Effective Process Modeling with BPM & BPMN

By Matjaz B. Juric and Ana Sasa

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The Essential BPM & BPMN Cheat Sheet

Business Process Management (BPM) is a set of related activities, such as process modeling and design, process execution, process monitoring, and process optimization. BPM is based on a flowcharting technique similar to activity diagrams from Unified Modeling Language (UML). This DZone Refcard provides an overview of the BPM lifecycle together with the roles and results of business process modeling. It gives an overview of the Business Process Modeling Notation and presents the most important BPM patterns. The Refcard also covers BPMN workflow patterns, other constructs, hot tips and more.
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Effective Process Modeling with BPM & BPMN

Effective Process Modeling with BPM & BPMN

By Matjaz Juric and Ana Sasa

About Business Process Management

BPM (Business Process Management) is a set of related activities, such as process modeling and design, process execution, process monitoring, and process optimization. This Refcard provides an overview of the BPM lifecycle together with the roles and results of business process modeling. It gives an overview of the BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) and presents the most important BPM patterns.

BPM: Business Process Lifecycle

A business process lifecycle covers the following phases (Figure 1):

  • Process modeling - definition of the process models using the selected methodology and notation (such as BPMN).
  • Process implementation – implementation of end-to-end IT support for the process. SOA provides technologies and tools to make the implementation phase quick and efficient.
  • Process execution and monitoring – execution of the process and monitoring of the process to gather the Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
  • Process simulation – simulated execution of the process with the objective gathering KPIs and identifying optimization points.
  • Process optimization – improving the process efficiency, effectiveness, agility, flexibility, and transparence.
BPM process lifecycle

Figure 1: BPM process lifecycle

Hot Tip

KPIs are financial and non-financial metrics used to help an organization define and measure process efficiency. Examples of a KPI are “Average revenue per customer”, “Average time for response to a customer call”, “ Average order amount”, etc.

Hot Tip

Business activity monitoring (BAM) is real-time observation of key performance indicators.

BPM: Modeling

Why do we Model Business Processes?

Design new business processes Focus on business goals, KPIs, customer needs, and business partner expectations.
Model existing business processes Assure the right flow of activities. Identify normal flows and possible exceptional flows.
Identify inputs and outputs of activities.
Identify key documents and sources.
Identify business rules.
Restructure existing business processes Focus on the activities and their added value. Focus on lines of business and their relations. Model responsibilities and roles.
Development of endto-end IT support for business processes Detailed modeling of process flow.
Detailed modeling of data, documents, business objects, and
interfaces.
Detailed exception handling.

Who should take part in process modeling?

The team should include different profiles and encourage looking at the process from different angles. This is particularly important for optimizations. Four to six people is usually an optimal team size. The following table lists the various profiles that should comprise the team:

Role Responsibility
Line of Business Expert Good, in-depth knowledge of the process.
Process Owner Responsible for
Moderator Responsible for the meeting, for asking questions for leading the discussion into the right direction.
Modeling Expert Responsible for design the process model (during and after the meeting).
QA Owner Responsible for the alignment of processes in aspect of total quality management.

How do we model?

Approach Problems
Top-down We start with the process architecture. First we identify the major process activities and their flow. Then we model each activity into more detail.
  • High level process modeling requires good knowledge about the process and some experience.
  • Modeling lower levels can reveal inconsistencies on higher-levels.
Bottom-up We start with the identification of activities. We model sub processes and business transactions and merge them into processes.
  • We get lost in the details.
  • Getting overview of processes and their relations can become very difficult.
  • We can focus on too many details.
Inside-out We start with core processes. We expand them with adding support processes around core processes.
  • It can be difficult to identify core processes and how to progress into the right direction.

Hot Tip

The Inside-out approach is usually the most pragmatic approach to prcess modeling. Provide a brief explanation of why it is the most pragmatic approach.
As-Is model We model the process as it is currently executed. Knowing the current as-is state is necessary for any future optimizations. We need to clarify whether we will model the process as it should be performed, or as it is performed in reality. Often there are significant differences between the two. When we model the as-is process we should not make on-the-fly modifications - not even those which seem obvious. We should however make notes of all possible modifications for the to-be process model.
To-Be model We model the optimized model, where we should consider:
  • Extent of changes – do we want evolutionary or revolutionary changes
  • How radical the changes to the process can be
  • Organizational and other limitations
  • How the to-be model will be accepted by the involved people and what organizational changes will it require

How to approach designing a process model:

We should model the process to understand the detailed structure of it. We should identify at least the following:

  • Process activities, on various levels of details (depending on the selected approach)
  • Roles responsible for carrying-out the process activities
  • Events, which trigger the process execution and events that interrupt the process flow
  • Input and output documents exchanged within the process
  • Business rules that are part of the process

Below is the most conventional approach for designing a process model, in order of occurrence:

  1. Identify the roles
  2. Identify the activities
  3. Connect the activities with roles
  4. Define the order of activities
  5. Add events
  6. Add documents
Process model

Figure 2: Process model for each individual process

Process model 2

Figure 3: Results of Business Process Modeling

About BPMN

BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) is a graphical notation for business process modeling. The objective of BPMN is to support business process modeling for business and technical users. It provides a notation that is intuitive yet able to represent complex process semantics. BPMN is maintained by the Object Management Group.

Flow Objects

Flow objects are the main BPMN constructs that define the behavior of a business process. There are three categories of flow objects:

  • Activities: they represent the work performed within a business process (see Figure 4).
  • Gateways: they represent how a sequence flow diverges or converges in a business process (see Figure 5).
  • Events: they depict that something happens in a business process (see Figure 6).
Figure 4

Figure 4: Activity types and markers

Figure 5

Figure 5: Types of gateways

Figure 6

Figure 6: Events, event triggers and results

Connecting Objects

Connecting objects are used to connect flow objects to each other and to other information. There are three categories of connecting objects: Sequence flow ( see Figure 7), Message flow ( see Figure 9), Association ( see Figure 11).

arrow right Defines the order of execution of flow objects.
sequence Sequence flow with a condition (conditional flow).
Default Flow Default flow, which is chosen if none of the conditions are satisfied.

Figure 7: Sequence Flow

Figure 8

Figure 8: Construct that can be connected via sequence flow (blue shaded field represent a legal connection)

Figure9 Shows the flow of messages between two entities.

Figure 9: Message Flow

Figure 10

Figure 10: Construct that can be connected via message flow (blue shaded field represent a legal connection)

Figure 11

Figure 11: Association

Other constructs

swimlanes

Figure 13: Swimlanes and pools

Artifacts

Figure 14: Artifacts

Exception Flow

In order to model an exception flow, we use intermediate events attached to the boundary
of an activity. If such event is triggered during the activity execution, the flow is redirected
through the intermediate event.
Example: The activity
Check With Supplier
of the example
process has an
intermediate timer
event attached to
its boundary. If the
supplier does not
provide a response
within a certain
timeframe, we
remove the item from
the order.
Exception Flow

WorkFlow patterns with bpmn

Sequence
Workflow Pattern Description:
An activity starts after completion of another activity.
BPMN:
Activities are connected by a sequence flow directed towards the subsequent activity.
Example: After
checking if the
supplier can provide
the necessary items
in the Check With
Supplier task, we
notify the customer
about their order in
the Notify Customer
task.
Workflow
Parallel Split
Workflow Pattern Description: A path diverges into two or more parallel subsequent paths. The subsequent paths execute concurrently.
BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in several ways:
  • We use several outgoing sequence flows for a flow object;
  • We use a parallel gateway to divide a sequence flow into several sequence flows.
  • We use an expanded sub-process in which we place the activities to be performed in parallel.
  • We use an inclusive gateway with equivalent conditions.
Example 1: After receiving payment for the order we prepare the ordered items for shipment and issue the receipt concurrently.
Solution 1: Parallel split
with outgoing sequence
flows.
solution1
Solution 2: Parallel split using
a parallel gateway solution2
Solution 3: Parallel split using
an expanded sub-process solution3
Example 2: If the order items are in stock we send the confirmation of the order to the
customer and reserve the ordered items in the inventory. These tasks are performed in
parallel. Otherwise we check if the supplier can deliver the items
Solution 1: Parallel split using an inclusive gateway
solution1.1
Solution 2: Parallel split using a parallel gateway
solution2.1
Synchronization
Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into one subsequent path. The
subsequent path is enabled when all the preceding paths complete (and-join).
BPMN: The Pattern can be implemented in two ways:
  • We use a parallel gateway to merge several sequence flows into a single flow. The outgoing flow activates when all the incoming sequence flows are enabled.
  • We use an expanded sub-process in which we place the activites to be performed in parallel. Expanded sub-process completes after all the activities it contains complete.
Example 1: After preparing the ordered items for shipment and issuing the receipt, we ship
the package to the customer.
Solution 1: Synchronization using a parallel gateway.
solution2.1
Solution 2: Synchronization using an expanded sub-process.
solution2.1
Exclusive Choice
Workflow Pattern Description: A path diverges into two or more subsequent paths. When
the incoming path is enabled exactly one of the subsequent paths is selected and enabled.
BPMN: We use an exclusive gateway.
After analyzing the order
we check whether the
customer has provided
a promotional code.
If a promotional code
is provided we collect
discount information and
use it to calculate final
price. Otherwise, we
calculate final price for the
order without discounts.
Example 1: Exclusive choice with data-based exclusive gateway
Example1
After we notify the
customer about the
earliest possible delivery
of the ordered items, the
customer may change the
ordered items, confirm the
proposed date or cancel
the order. If the customer
does not respond in a
certain timeframe an
intermediate timer event is
triggered.
Example 2: Exclusive choice with event-based exclusive gateway
Example2
Simple Merge
Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more alternative paths converge into a single
subsequent path.
BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in two ways:
  • We use an exclusive merge gateway to merge alternative paths.
  • We use a flow object with two or more incoming sequence flows. The incoming sequence flows represent the ends of alternative paths. Any one of the incoming sequence flows trigger the flow object.
  • Note: The behavior is the same in both cases provided that the incoming sequence flows are alternative.

Example: The two alternative paths used to calculate the final price of the ordered items are merged using the exclusive merge or by sequence flows leading to the “Check Inventory” task.
Solution 1: Simple merge with exclusive merge gateway
Solution 1
Solution 2: Simple merge with sequence
flows to a flow object
Solution 2

Advanced Branching and synchronization pa tterns

Multi-Choice
Workflow Pattern Description: A path is diverged into two or more subsequent paths. One or
more subsequent paths may be executed.
BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in several ways:
  • We use an inclusive gateway.
  • We use a collection of contidional sequence flows.
  • We use a complex gateway.
Example 1: Based on requirements the customer specified in the order, we confirm the order
via e-mail, by regular mail or both. Example solutions 1 nd 2 represent equivalent behavior.
Solution 1: Multi-Choice with an inclusive gateway
Sol 1 inclusive
Solution 2: Multi-Choice with conditional sequence flows
Solution 2 sequence
Example 2: An order from the received order
list may concern one or more departments.
Depending on this, one, two or all three
subsequent branches can be executed.
Example 2 branches
Structured Synchronizing Merge (Synchronizing join)
Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into a single subsequent path. Several incoming paths may be enabled, in which case they are synchronized before the subsequent path is activated. In different process instances different number of incoming paths may be taken.
BPMN: We use an inclusive gateway.
Example: Based on requirements the
customer specified in the order, we confirm
the order via e-mail, by regular mail or both.
If both activities are required to be executed,
paths have to be synchronized before the
process can continue.
Diagram1
Multi-Merge (Multiple Merge)
Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into a single subsequent path. Each Incoming path activates the subsequent path.
BPMN: We use sequential flow for every ending of a converging path directed towards the flow object of the beginning of the subsequent path.
Example: We confirm the order via e-mail, by
regular mail or both. if either of the activities
takes place, the order information file needs
to be updated.
Diagram2

Iteration based patterns

Arbitrary Cycles (Unstructured Loop)
Workflow Pattern Description: Loops that have more than one entry or exit points.
BPMN: Sequence flow connected to an upstream activity.
Updated Inquiry
Structured Loop
Workflow Pattern Description: A task or a subprocess is repeated while or until some condition is true.
BPMN: We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
  • We set the value of the LoopType attribute to “Standard”,
  • We set the contidion expresion for the attribute LoopCondition,
  • to model a “while” loop we set the value of the attribute TestTime to “Before”,
  • to model an “until” loop we set the value of the attribute TestTime to “After”.
Example: After receiving a list of orders the
Process Order subprocess is performed
for every order until the end of orders is
reached in the list.
List 1

Multiple instance patterns

Multiple Instances without Synchronization
Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. They run concurrently and are not synchronized on completion.
BPMN: We set the values of activity attributes as follows:
  • LoopType attribute to “multiInstance”,
  • MI FlowCondition to “None”.
  • we set the value of the MI_Ordering attribute to “Parallel”
  • Example: For every order in the order list an
    instance of the Process Order subprocess
    is invoked. The subprocess instances are
    executed concurrently. Every instance
    generates a token that continues after the
    instance is completed.
    Process Order
    Multiple Instances with a Priori Design-Time Knowledge
    Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances is known at design time. They run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.
    BPMN:
    We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
    • we set the value of the LoopType attribute to “MultiInstance”,
    • the expression of the MI_Condition attribute returns an integer representing the number
      of instances known at design time,
    • we set the value of the MI_FlowCondition attribute to “All”.
    • we set the value of the MI_Ordering attribute to “Parallel”
    Example: If a request for a loan exceeds
    1000 USD the loan needs to be checked for
    approval by 3 eligible employees.
    checked
    Multiple Instances with a Priori Run-Time KnowledgeWorkflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances depends on various run-time factors. Instances run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.
    Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances depends on various run-time factors. Instances run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.
    BPMN: We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
    • we set the value of the LoopType attribute to “MultiInstance”,
    • the expression of the MI_Condition attribute is based on run-time factors and returns
      the actual number of required instances at run-time,
    • we set the value of the MI_FlowCondition attribute to “All”.
    • we set the value of the MI_Ordering attribute to “Parallel”
    Example: The process receives a list of all
    orders. The expression of the MI_Condition
    attribute depends on the number of orders
    in the list, which can be different for every
    process instance. For every order in the
    order list an instance of the Process Order
    subprocess is created. The subprocess
    instances are executed concurrently. After all
    the subprocess instances are completed, the
    process continues.
    checked 2

    Termination Patterns

    Implicit Termination
    Workflow Pattern Description: A process or a subprocess instance terminates when there is nothing else to be done and it is not deadlocked. The instance has completed successfully.
    BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in one of the following ways:
    • We end every path of the process or subprocess with an end event. If we use a start event we must use at least one end event.
    • An end of a path in the process is indicated by a flow object without an outgoing sequence flow. The process completes when all tokens that were generated for the instance are consumed.
      • Note: We must either conclude all paths with an end event (with an exception of compensation activities) or not use end event for the given process/subprocess.
    Example: In the example process there are two alternative paths that the process instance can take. If the order cannot be fulfilled, the customer is notified. After this the end event is reached and the process completes. If the order can be fulfilled several activities take place and ordered items are shipped. After this the process reaches an end event and completes.
    paths1
    Explicit Termination
    Workflow Pattern Description: Aprocess or subprocess terminates and the remaining work is cancelled.
    BPMN: We use a terminate end event.
    Example: In the example, the process splits into two parallel paths after order analysis.
    If additional documentation is required, the customer is notified. Even though order
    preprocessing activities already take place, if the customer does not send the required
    documentation in time, the process terminates explicitly and all the remaining activities are
    cancelled.
    Parallel Paths

    Conclusion

    BPM is essential for continuous improvement of business process efficiency and effectiveness with the overall goal to produce business results faster, cheaper, better. This Refcard has provided the overview of the BPM lifecycle, presented the BPMN notation and demonstrated the most important patterns.

    Other References and Resources

    M.B. Juric, R. Loganathan, P. Sarang, F. Jennings: SOA Approach to Integration, November 2007. OMG: Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), Version 1.2, January 2009.

    M.B. Juric, P. Sarang, B. Mathew: Business Process Execution Language for Web Services 2nd Edition, January 2006. H. Gaur, M. Zirn, et al.: BPEL Cookbook: Best Practices for SOAbased integration and composite applications development, July 2006.

    Wil van der Aalst, Arthur ter Hofstede, et al.: Workflow Patterns, http://www.workflowpatterns.com/.

    About The Author

    Photo of author Matjaz B Juric

    Matjaz B Juric

    Matjaz B Juric, Ph. D., is associate professor at the University of Maribor and the head of the SOA Competency Centre. He has been consultant for several large companies on the BPM/SOA projects and has worked on projects, such as SOA Maturity Model, SOA in Telcos, performance analysis and optimization of RMI-IIOP, etc. Matjaz is author of courses for the BPEL and SOA consulting company BPELmentor.com. He is also a member of the BPEL Advisory Board.

    Photo of author Ana Sasa

    Ana Sasa

    Ana Sasa has dedicated the last five years exclusively to the field of SOA. She has worked on a number of IT projects for government agencies and large companies and has specialized knowledge and experience in the technical, business and organizational aspects of BPM and SOA. She is a researcher at the University of Ljubljana.

    Recommended Book

    BPMN and BPEL

    Learn how to model business processes in an SOA-compliant approach using BPMN, translate them into BPEL and execute them on the SOA platform. A practical guide with real-world examples illustrating all key concepts. This book is for CIOs, executives, SOA project managers, business process analysts, BPM and SOA architects, who are responsible for improving the efficiency of business processes through IT, or for designing SOA. It provides a high-level coverage of business process modeling, but it also gives practical development examples on how to move from model to execution. We expect the readers to be familiar with the basics of SOA.


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