BPMN ISO Standard

BPMN is a specification that defines a graphical notation for representing business processes in business process diagrams and a meta-model, which forms the foundation for representing business processes in machine-readable files.

The primary use of these graphical diagrams is communication, whereas the primary use of machine-readable models (i.e. files) is process automation. As explained below, in both cases, their value increases with the number of entities (i.e. humans, machines) capable of understanding them.

Process diagram-based communication

Process diagrams are generally used to underpin conversations by supporting communication and understanding. They act as the backdrop for virtually all improvement projects.

Process diagrams often form the basis of a comprehensive business reference, explaining how the entire operation fits together. They feature in training materials and act as a basis for sharing best practice inside a company.

Communication always requires something in common. For diagram-based communication, all involved people must be able to speak and interpret the same modeling language. This requires a standardized process modeling language that has been clearly defined and therefore understood by different people in the same way.

bpmn iso standard figure 1Figure: Process diagram-based communication – all people must share a common understanding of process diagrams

Process model-based automation

Machine-readable process models (e.g. XML files) carry the instructions for how work should happen, who should do it, escalation conditions if it is not done in time, links to other systems, etc…

The products move work around the organization, ensuring that critical steps are performed correctly and that work items do not fall through the cracks.

One of the main benefits of process model-based automation is that if the work needs to change then, instead of writing new computer programs, (the traditional approach) the supporting process models are adapted and the behavior of the organization will adapt correspondingly.

In order to share models between different tools, and to assure independence from specific vendors, different tools and vendors have to support the same modeling language- it is this that requires a standardized process models based automation.

bpmn iso standard figure 2Figure 2: Process model-based automation requires a clear and precise definition of business processes – standardization facilitates interoperability.

The need for standardization

The best solution for process diagram-based communication and process model-based automation is one enables humans or machines to “speak” a common process modeling language that is precisely defined and clearly understood by all people and all supporting IT tools.

A standardized process modeling language adds the following benefits:

It enables process diagrams based communication – This means that we can share our processes with our employees, partners and customers, without worrying that other people will misinterpret the communication

It enables process based collaboration – This means that we can model, observe and improve processes as a team, which is far most effective than individual efforts

It enables the development of standardized IT tools – This supports process modeling and automating activities. The standardization of IT tools means that we can share process diagrams and executable process models between different modeling tools. Standardization also minimizes the risks of vendor lock-in.

What is ISO?

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization and is an internationally body that draws on representatives from international standards bodies to create globally accepted specifications for products, services and best practice, in order to break down barriers to international trade.

ISO was founded in 1947, and to date has published almost 20,000 standards across a broad range of areas.

ISO logo figure 3Figure: Logo of the International Organization for Standardization

ISO/IEC 19510:2013

ISO/IEC 19510:2013 stands for Information technology – Object Management Group Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

It represents an ISO version of BPMN, and is identical to OMG’s BPMN 2.0.1. It was released on 15th July 2013.

ISO introduces BPMN as follows:

The primary goal of ISO/IEC 19510:2013 is to provide a notation that is readily understandable by all business users, from the business analysts that create the initial drafts of the processes, to the technical developers responsible for implementing the technology that will perform those processes, and finally, to the business people who will manage and monitor those processes.

Thus, ISO/IEC 19510:2013 creates a standardized bridge for the gap between the business process design and process implementation.

ISO/IEC 19510:2013 represents the amalgamation of best practices within the business modelling community to define the notation and semantics of Collaboration diagrams, Process diagrams, and Choreography diagrams.

The intent of ISO/IEC 19510:2013 is to standardize a business process model and notation in the face of many different modelling notations and viewpoints. In doing so, ISO/IEC 19510:2013 will provide a simple means of communicating process information to other business users, process implementers, customers, and suppliers.

Before becoming an ISO standard, BPMN was already recognized the de-facto standard for business process modeling. However, by including BPMN into the family of ISO standards will have improved the trust, sustainability and (ultimately) adoption of BPMN.

In the future we can expect a worldwide standardization of the description of business processes and continued advances in an increasingly IT-supported global economy.

Sources Used:

  1. International Organization for Standardization (ISO), http://www.iso.org.
  2. ISO/IEC 19510:2013, http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=62652.
  3. Object Management Group (OMG), http://www.omg.org/.
  4. BPMN 2.0.1, http://www.omg.org/spec/BPMN/2.0.1/.
  5. BPMN Modeling and Reference Guide. Future Strategies Inc., Lighthouse Pt, FL, 2008.

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Gregor received his PhD in 2008 in the fields of software engineering and information systems and has nearly a decade of experience in BPMN, starting to investigate and actively use BPMN since its introduction in 2004. In addition, he has participated in the development of one of the first BPMN modeling utilities - a package of plugins for Visio, which were introduced early in 2005 and is the main author of the first BPMN poster (bpmn.itposter.net), which has been translated into several languages and already exceeded 50.000 downloads.