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BBC 2016: BPMN, CMMN, DMN: The standards every BA should be aware of


Final session for me at Building Business Capability is Denis Gagne of Trisotech talking about the intersection of process, case and decision modeling – BPMN, CMMN and DMN – and the importance of these standards to business analysts.

Denis reminds us that all organizations are facing a new digital future with rapid technology change, changing customer behavior and increasing competition. Music, media, transportation and more have been disrupted and everyone is at risk of disruption. In response companies cannot just focus on operational improvement (good for the company, not for customers) or just on customer experience (expensive for the company) – we must focus on both – on transformation, on outcomes and on new business models. We must do new things that make our old things obsolete. And this requires LOB managers and executives, enterprise and business architects, business and process analysts to bring different perspectives to bear effectively.

garnterworktypesGartner has a great model of work efforts and all these must be improved, requiring a focus on structured and unstructured processes as well as on decisions. And these improvement efforts must balance cost against quality, and time against value. Different approaches balance these things differently, leading to different kinds of improvement. Business analysts in this world he argues therefore you need to have three practices in your toolbox:

  • Process Management – with BPMN, Business Process Model and Notation
  • Case Management – with CMMN, Case Management Model and Notation
  • Decision Management – with DMN, Decision Model and Notation

These notations provide unambiguous definitions for processes, cases and decisions. These can be interchanged and even more importantly is that the skills in developing and reading these models are transferable. This means that despite turnover, multiple parties and external resources, we still know what the model means.

whentouseThe most common question he gets is when to use which. BPMN he says is about processing, CMMN is about managing context and DMN is about deciding. It’s not too hard… And he had a nice chart showing the difference between BPMN and CMMN that also showed the broad applicability of DMN.

  • BPMN allows you to define a process – a triggering event followed by a sequence of activities that lead to some business outcomes – using standard shapes to represent the elements.
  • CMMN allows you to define a case – in a context there is an event followed by a condition and an action – again using standard shapes.
  • DMN allows you to define decision-making – decisions, decision requirements and decision logic – also using standard shapes

He wrapped up with some great advice:

  • In BPMN and using too many gateways – you need DMN to model that decision-making
  • In BPMN and using too many intermediary or boundary events – you need to use CMMN to model the case work you have identified
  • In BPMN and using ad-hoc processes – replace them with CMMN
  • In CMMN and using lots of sequencing – use BPMN

The standards as a set he says allow you to build a more agile, intelligent and contextual business.

By the way, my new book on DMN – Real-World Decision Modeling with DMN – is available