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Evolution of Business Process Modeling by Eduardo Chiocconi

Juergen Kress
PaaS & Middleware Partner Adoption

imageIt has been a while since I wrote about the different process types, and why there is not a single silver bullet process modeling styles. If you want to read more about my first write up, you can follow this link to read more: Not all processes are created the same.

Structured Business Processes

In the early days of our business process automation space, the incumbent process modeling experience was mostly using flow diagrams. These flow models layed out a well defined set of business process steps (aka: activities) whose primary purpose was the capture best practices and standard procedures. These procedures needed to be followed in the organization that adopted them. When these structured business process models were implemented in a BPMS (Business Process Management Systems) solution, the implementing organization got a means to digitize these standard procedures and how they wanted to run their business processes and enforce execution all across. Not only business processes followed a very strict recipe, but in highly regulated industries, it offered the a way to check the audit trail records for each business process transaction, helping reduce risk and enforce compliance to policies and regulations. As structured flow diagrams became more mainstream and multiple products offered their own flavor of notation (also with their own notation interpretation), the BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) standard offered a common and agreed way to document business processes. This important standardization step also brought some order in the space, and helped BPMS vendors to focus efforts in supporting this business process modeling de-facto standard (or a good subset of it really!). Examples of these business process type include onboarding new customers (this is an across the board use case but very common in finance and insurance), managing approvals across different domains like order discounts and performing the multiple necessary validation steps before some coverage can be granted. Bottom line, examples exists in every industry and with varied complexities.

Unstructured Business Processes

But not all processes are the same! While structured flow-based business processes are indeed a great tool in the toolbox, this notation does not serve well other types of business processes that are completely unstructured or follow a more relaxed set of dependencies. The sequence and order in which process steps or activities are executed is determined every time there is an event in the process and this really goes against the structured and deterministic model we talked on the first section. In this unstructured modeling style, business process steps or activities are not connected via arrows or transitions. Each activity has an activation and termination expression or rule. These rules can refer to other activities or also make reference to the specific data defined for this business process (for example service type, place of origination, specific SLAs, etc). This new way of defining dependencies really allow a BPMS engine to execute following an event drive mode since each time something happens to the process (for example another step is executed), the BPMS engine needs to determine which activities need to be activated (and also likely terminated). As certain events occur for a process instance, the process has the ability to reconfigure itself and determine a new path. Read the complete article here.

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