Frank's Blog

BPMN Book Review 

The first official book on BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) is out in the stores, titled 'BPMN Modeling and Reference Guide', written by Stephen White and Derek Miers. Both have been---and are---deeply involved in the creation and maintenance of the BPMN.

While the book itself aims at business users and process modeling practitioners, it is also quite interesting for people who are already familiar with the notation. The authors decided to split the book into two parts: an introduction and a reference section.

The first chapters fade slowly into the topic, with one short chapter dedicated to the importance of modeling and the BPM setting in general (chapter 2). In chapter 3, the different categories of processes (orchestration, choreography, collaboration) are introduced and chapter 4 discusses complexity issues. Chapter 5 provides a scenario-based BPMN introduction. This is the main chapter of the first part, but is rather short (32 pages).

The main part of the book is the reference section. There are distinct chapters on activities, events, gateways, swimlanes, artifacts, connectors, and advanced features. The reference itself focuses on the core features and explain their use in a precise (but yet very compact) manner.

I personally like the style of writing very much, especially since it's even interesting if you already knew the specification. One reason is the critical viewpoint that the authors bring into discussion every now and then, e.g. 'The first version of BPMN (now 1.1) included some of the concepts that support choreography models' (p.31). Of course the authors don't do that for fun. Instead they always mention that things will be clarified and better in BPMN 2.0---their proposal of BPMN 2.0.

Another thing that I like is the running example in the introduction part. It's a new kind of example that I haven't seen before and it heavily relies on signals. Still, I have some doubts regarding the lifecycle of those signals---how long are events valid (even a signal flare disappears after some time?), do events cross several instances (they should, since otherwise they could not reach different instances in other pools, they shouldn't, because otherwise a 'Bad Credit' signal kills all running instances?). But maybe there will be some clarification in BPMN 2.0.

Yet another nice thing is the reference section that also discusses advanced things like transactions. The authors use some kind of virtual token to depict the suggested execution semantics.

But, the 225-page book is not an extended version of the specification. While the authors mention that there are things like attributes, they never directly discuss them. The BPEL-mapping is not even touched.

Concluding, I can recommend the book to anyone interested in---or working with---BPMN. I have some doubts, however, if that anyone has no BPM knowledge. While it's targeted at business users and practitioners, it's definitely not an introductory book to process modeling.

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