BPMN is still useful for small businesses

I received by email a couple questions today, repeated below with my answers.

I am an independent software developer turned architect / business analyst. Over the last year or so I have found quite a bit of work by going into businesses and explaining them how their own internal processes work (through made up flowcharts and long winded explanations).

Question 1: Do you think the BPMN is overkill for documenting a small businesses BP?

It probably is more extensive than you need, but that does not mean it should not be used. When you draw a diagram, you want to be sure that the audience will understand it. We all too easily fall into using conventions that mean certain things that the audience will not get right away. To the extent possible, you always want to use a recognized notation. The “Basic BPMN” is a good common base for us all to work on.

BPMN includes many capabilities, and even some redundant ways of doing things. It may not be necessary for you to use all of these capabilities. You can probably ignore those extended capabilities if you don’t need them.

Question 2: Do you think it is worth it for me to learn the BPMN standard and create valid BPMN by sticking to it’s rigid structure?

Again probably yes. Rigid structure usually means clearer communications. Making up your own symbols and notation guarantees that your audience will have to learn it, and will not understand until you have explained it. Using BPMN symbols correctly means that there is some chance that the audience will understand without you having to explain it. By taking on the burden of learning a formal notation, you make it easier for your audience, and that is as it should be.

The one caveat is if you have a situation that simply can not be communicated using BPMN. I may require such an elaborate diagram in BPMN that it is hard to get the meaning from the noise. I have not seen a lot of those cases, but it depends upon what you are doing. I would be interested in discussing such cases if you encounter isolated examples of them. You then have two choices: (1) adapt BPMN to your purpose, or (2) abandon BPMN and make your own notation. Option 1 is almost always the better choice because the audience understands part of the drawing, but it does leave you open to criticism that you have not used BPMN “correctly”. All actual running BPMN systems that I know of have adapted or extended BPMN to some degree.

Even if you don’t save your diagrams as XDPL, I think you will find that BPMN offers an advantage simply when you learn it and apply it as correctly as you can.

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2 Responses to BPMN is still useful for small businesses

  1. ALAN CREAN says:

    http://www.demoprocessmaster.com/HTML/Output/Simple%20Process/Simple%20Process.html is a nice simple look at how basic BPMN can help get a message over to an extended team

  2. Karren Barlow says:

    Thanks for the info! I have also found a site where there are BPMN Symbols Explained that is very straightforward and easy to use!

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