“Less is more” or: What do you really need for professional business process mapping?

“Less is more” carries the notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. This tiny phrase is attributed to the German-American architect and designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969). He was one of the founders of modern architecture, the last director of the famous “Bauhaus” and a proponent of the simplicity of style. This construction design rule is can be applied to software and model design as well.

mies van der rohe

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe Architecture

Today’s professional process modeling tools come with a plethora of functionality. Enterprise architects and business analysts know how to make the best use of these sophisticated tools: they create their frameworks and architectures and run complex analyses.

On the other side there are handy and easy-to-use diagramming tools like Microsoft® Office Visio®. Visio’s popularity is not just a matter of enterprise agreements and attractive volume pricings. Consultants and business users love Visio® and are familiar with it as an Office tool which supports their productivity and diagramming needs in an accessible manner.

However, the out-of-the-box standard edition of Visio® 2010 provides no real modeling support; shapes from arbitrary stencils may for instance be used however, there is no validation of modeling rules.

The new Visio® 2013 Professional comes with rich modeling support for BPMN™ 2.0, but be careful your business users might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of BPMN shapes, particularly the rich set of different types of BPMN™ events. And besides BPMN™ models additional model types are needed to describe the business architecture of an organization such as a functional decomposition or organizational charts. And last but not least, professional modeling is about creating object definitions (e.g. for your org units, business roles, applications systems, etc.) and re-using them as object occurrences where appropriate. In other words: Modeling is more than dropping nice-looking shapes onto a diagram.

The BPM-X team has boosted Visio’s productivity by introducing a professional modeling engine plugin called BPM-X Designer. While not changing the native look & feel of the application, its highlights are:

  • Easy customization of the modeling language, be it on a BPMN™ functional level suitable for daily use, EPC (event-driven process chains) or any other language.
  • The rules imposed by the modeling language are controlled while you are modeling in Visio®. (The plugin internally manages the rule set inside a meta-model, so rest assured you are taken care of.)
  • Validations can be run to ensure correct model semantics. You can for instance check that “a start event should not have an incoming sequence flow”.
  • Object definitions can be created and then be re-used as occurrence copies. This is fundamental to run model analyses.
  • The multi-language support permits maintaining model contents in a manifold of different languages.

When designing the BPM-X Designer modeling engine, we deliberately kept the spirit of Visio® and its GUI. This is to keep training efforts really low and to benefit from the business users’ experiences in working with Visio®. The modeling engine guides the user from the background to permit qualified process mapping rather than being a distraction in the foreground. Less is more

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