There are three major challenges in using BPMN 2.0 as a holistic (360°) approach to Business Process Management (BPM):
- Semantic Alignment
BPMN like all other high-level process languages is context agnostic. This is good, as it allows a wide adoption throughout the industry. On the other hand it means that it does not explicitly express concepts found in business contexts, such as customer, accounts, discounts etc. As people from business and IT often have a very different view on certain business aspects, it is essential that they share the same semantic context in order to understand each other. If not, a process designed by a business person will not be understandable by an IT person and vice versa. In case BPMN is applied in combination with an outsourcing approach things get even worse.
- Level of Details
BPMN2.0 is designed for automatic execution on a process engine. The goal is to have one process model from analysis to execution. But people from business and IT require different very levels of detail in their process descriptions. This is why a processes created by business people are usually not detailed enough for IT people. IT processes are usually full of technical information required for automation, rendering the process almost useless for business people.
The BPMN standard introduces several conformance levels (modeling, execution, BPEL, choreography). This is good as it fosters reusability of BPMN diagrams amongst different tools. At the same time the standard explicitly allows model extensions, “to satisfy a specific need, such as the unique requirements of a vertical domain” (quote from the spec). Thus, to avoid vendor lock-in, one at least has to be very careful in choosing the right model elements.
BPMN 2.0 should not be applied naively. Unfortunately this is often happens, especially when the standards are young. To be successful with BPMN 2.0 one has to find the right mixture of standards, design principles and methods.
For instance the semantic aligment problem can be mitigated by applying Scrum for analysis and process development. A multi-layer process design can help to address the level of detail problem. And choosing the the right product can increase portability.
This is nothing that comes for free by just using BPMN 2.0. It is rather something that needs to be actively managed by experienced engineers.