Writing by Peter Hilton

Permission to enjoy process modelling

How to indulge in making process models 2015-03-12 #BPM

Gerry Dincher CC BY-SA 2.0

The process modelling trap explains why BPM practitioners risk becoming obsessed with process diagrams: they may discover the joy of coding in process models. This is no surprise, if you realise that process modelling is a form of disguised programming.

This parallel between process modelling and conventional programming suggests a few ideas for the BPM community. As a process engineer, amateur or otherwise, you’d do well to give yourself permission to enjoy modelling.

Modelling for its own sake

First, embrace modelling for its own sake, because it’s so satisfying, while setting realistic expectations about whether it’s work and who should pay for it. Commercial BPM goes wrong if you’re not thinking about what the customer needs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more modelling is a bad idea.

If you like playing around with process models, have a go when you get home from work, use Meetup to organise modelling sessions, and look further afield than your colleagues for people to explore a shared interest with.

Escaping business-IT projects

Second, allow modelling activities to escape the constraints of commercial IT projects. In a commercial context, unnecessary modelling is indeed waste, but doing less modelling is solving the wrong problem. Instead, embrace the idea of non-commercial modelling for anyone who thinks it’s cool. If you call it ‘research’ you might even recognise the same kind of benefits your get from other kinds of research.

Unsolicited process models might be like technology in search of a problem to solve, which is a common complaint about IT interactions with business units. However, it takes a lot of familiarity with possible solutions to have options to choose from when faced with a business problem. Only if you try modelling every possible processes will you have a broad understanding of which process models are useful, and which are ridiculous.

Open-source process modelling

Finally, build communities and do it with other people. Process modelling is sufficiently niche that practitioners are often isolated in their organisations. Online communities help, but BPM forums remain unsatisfactory because talking about modelling just isn’t as much fun as actually doing it. What online BPM communities need is open-source process modelling.

Entirely despite themselves, open-source software developers have created excellent collaboration tools for online open source communities. The tools built for sharing open-source licensed code written in conventional programming languages are eminently suitable for sharing process models in BPMN format.

The only reason that we don’t have repositories of open-source process models is that the BPM community hasn’t published them in large numbers yet. What’s more, we’re almost at the point where process engineers have widespread tools for web-based process diagrams to use.

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