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"Essential Business Process Modeling": Best Practices for Building Process-Oriented Workflow Applications

September 13, 2005

Sebastopol, CA--One of the most fashionable three-letter acronyms in software today is BPM. It stands for Business Process Modeling, the step-by-step rules for resolving a particular business problem, such as processing an insurance claim or booking a client's travel arrangements. Once referred to as "workflow," BPM is a hot topic among everyone in the enterprise, from software developers to CEOs. In theory, BPM is a model of business efficiency. In practice, it's often something different.

"Before the reign of software, 'workflow' meant passing paper from person to person," comments Michael Havey, author of Essential Business Process Modeling (O'Reilly, US $44.95). "Now, BPM processes are built to interact as services with other services. Endless material about BPM can be found on the Web, but it is a morass of vendor sales pitches, insubstantial business and technical articles, and imprecise technology. When BPM is introduced into a modern consulting project, it's frequently used to solve problems that BPM was not meant to solve."

With Essential Business Process Modeling, Havey dispenses with the confusion by demonstrating standard ways to code rigorous processes, which become the centerpieces of a service-oriented architecture. Relying on his experience as an architect of several major BPM applications--and his years with BEA and IBM working on BPM product solutions--he describes BPM concepts, discusses the major standards in detail, and develops examples of process-oriented applications using free tools that can be run on an average PC. His unique and timely book also introduces BPM design patterns, best practices, and select underlying theory.

"The topic of BPM is simple to the beginner," Havey says. "The business analyst designs the process, the process is run by an engine, and the engine has Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and human interaction capabilities. In practice, the intermediate-level student of BPM, who knows the basics and is responsible for building a BPM-based solution, is lost in detail. Irrational exuberance about BPM might compel him to believe that BPM is the solution to all enterprise application problems."

BPM, however, is suited only for process-oriented applications. "A travel agency application, for example, passes the 'acid test' because it is best understood in terms of the state of the itinerary, and is defined at all times by how far the itinerary has gotten," Havey explains. "In an ATM, any sense of process is fleeting and inessential. An ATM is an online transaction processor, not a process-oriented application."

Essential Business Process Modeling not only tackles what a process-oriented application is, but how to build one. In part one of the book, Havey takes readers through BPM concepts, including a prescription for a good BPM architecture. Part two explores the sea of competing standards, and part three offers comprehensive BPM examples, including human workflow in insurance claims processing, and an enterprise message broker.

"The ideas behind BPM were not concocted by hurried developers pressured by considerations of time to market," Havey says. "On the contrary, process modeling is a huge topic in the community of computer scientists. Current standards and products are founded on academic findings. Still, BPM is an emerging discipline with too many standards and vendor-specific approaches to process modeling. Looking at one process editor after another, each with a distinct set of symbols and associated semantics, makes one yearn for rigor and precision."

With Essential Business Process Modeling, Havey turns that yearning into a practical approach for building BPM applications that rise above the noise of vendor claims and competing standards.

Additional Resources:

Essential Business Process Modeling
Michael Havey
ISBN: 0-596-00843-0, 332 pages, $44.95 US, $62.95 CA
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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