Process Is The Main Thing

@ Anatoly Belaychuk’s BPM Blog

Humans Swimming In The Intalio Pool

Somehow I got involved into the long discussion with Rick Geneva about best practices of process modeling and execution. Now after we’ve spent a lot of bytes at his blog it’d be fair to allocate some of my provider’s. Besides, after initial verbal firefight Rick resorted to the heavy artillery of process diagrams. Being unable to retaliate in comments at his blog I had to retreat to my own turf. :)

I spoiled Rick’s intention to remain vendor-neutral and eventually we came to studying Intalio’s way of using pools and swimlanes which I believe is… well… not quite obvious and not widely used. Yet it’s great for me to know how things are done with Intalio because I know several specialists who seem to be happy with it but couldn’t get the idea.

Rick presented a diagram of a simplified sample process where a manager wants to hire someone:

Rick comments:

The diagram style is a hybrid, which shows both the swimlane approach and the single pool approach that shows only the BPM automation system. In this case the primary participant is the automation system. However I could easily reverse this to have any one of my people participants to be the primary.

Now this is how I’d model the same process:

It differs from Rick’s diagram in many aspects:

  • Pools are used for external entities and/or processes. “Candidate” is such an entity: we don’t control his process, all we have is a messaging protocol.
  • There is no such thing as “primary participant”. There is a single swimlane in “Hiring Process” pool but it’s only because we simplified it to a bare minimum. In reality there would be also “Functional Manager”, “Security Officer” and maybe others. From my point of view, the idea of primary participant is bad: the process is supposed to break the walls between department walls. More participants, more separated they are in terms of geography and organization structure - more value one may expect from process management and BPMS.
  • There is no such thing as “executable system”. For me it’s like drawing “DBMS” on a database diagram. 

Rick argues:

Systems that only support one pool with many lanes are implying that they are human centric workflow, with some system capability.

Sorry Rick, I have enough of this: one party call the other “some legacy workflow vendors” and they in turn call the opponents “webservices orchestration vendors”. OK, I draw this diagram in a modeler that doesn’t have execution engine yet I can see how it can be executed in Tibco, Interstage or Oracle aka Fuego. The key is engine’s capability to process messages flow - workflow can handle only control flows.

Anyone wants more pools? No problem, I can draw internals of the Candidate’s process:

Is the diagram better now? I don’t think so. The beauty of process choreography is loose coupling: the changes in one process does not affect the other as long as messaging interface is followed. One cannot achieve this with process orchestration as I noted in my previous post and I believe this is Rick’s point too.

Previous diagram lacks loose coupling so I’d rather draw the candidate’s process in a separate diagram:

I share completely Rick’s concern:

I suggest the collaborative approach where IT and BA work together.

But sorry Rick - I didn’t meet a business analyst that would accept your style, it’s too technical. So we fall back to the traditional way: an analyst draws some vague diagram then throws it over the wall to developers and they convert it into executable code that the analyst is unable to read.

And I don’t believe it must be that technical like it is in Intalio.

04/19/09 | Responces | , ,    

Comments (4)

  1. AS 04/20/09 09:44 PM

    I agree with Anatoly’s diagramms and think that they can be more explicit — see

  2. Marcel 11/10/09 08:33 PM

    Dear AS.

    First I need to say that I am quite new to BPMS so some implications on the practices are not clear to me.

    Regarding this post, the way you proposed isn´t quite divergent from Anatoly´s purpose?

    I mean, basically you also separate executable flow from human centric flow, which was criticized by Anatoly.

    Please do not understand as criticism rather to take this opportunity to understand better those practices and implications.


  3. AS 11/10/09 09:48 PM
  4. MamuMehdi 03/12/12 07:55 AM

    I agree with Anatoly’s diagramms too.

Comments are closed

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