The Business Process Management (BPM) approach is becoming increasingly popular in large organizations and in medium-sized companies. In the same time, we see new initiatives to match the different needs (advice and expertise, dedicated infrastructures, modeling tools) and the different situations (new projects, rework processes, optimization). Considering all these criteria, it can become very difficult to choose the right partners for the implementation of a BPM strategy. Our contribution will focus on the issue of modeling tools: drawing tools, analysis tools and process design, execution tool … What are we talking about? how to choose? according to what criterias? how to appreciate the short / long term criteria? The key idea here is to choose the right tool that will match your right needs.
BPM Cloud Modeling: the big change!
Modeling in the cloud is the big trend in 2015 in the market for BPMN tools. With this new modeling approach, the market of BPMN tools is now structured as follows:
- Classic desktop tools, with the most extensive functional scope for BPMN experts or experienced users.
- Desktop drawing tools, easier to use but less advanced and without collaborative features.
- Online drawing tools, very light and very collaborative, but not really useful in a truly professional mode which requires a strong model conformance in order to be able to perform various analysis on it.
- Online modeling tools – the new segment – that are both “real modelers” and “collaborative tools”, but depending on the level of maturity.
Of course, there is not a single tool that works for all kind of projects. You probably know the maxim: “in 80% cases, we only use 20% of a features”, you can have as many features as you want in a tool, they probably will not be all useful for a project. However, there is “fundamentals” every tool should have. Let’s go in depth.
17 comparison points
We identified 17 points that BPMN tools should provide. There are quite different and go from the ability to share your models to the adherence with the BPMN 2.0 OMG standard. We crunched results for:
- Bizagi, a classic desktop tool,
- Visio 2013, a desktop drawing tool,
- Lucidchart, an online drawing tool,
- GenMyModel, an online modeling tool.
These results are summarized in the following table:
|Easy to Use|
|Easy to Install|
|Real Time Collaboration|
|Revision history & Restore|
|Auto BPMN Syntax Checking|
|Create Elements using Shortcuts|
|Add image in diagram|
|Object property Edition|
From this table, we observe that there is a clear advantage for web-based tools. Not only they are totally installation free, but they also provide real-time collaboration. They best suit for team work, at the same time and on the same model. More important, you can access your work from anywhere at anytime.
However, accessibility is not the only point that should be taken into account. BPMN is a language, its syntax rules should not be broken. There are two ways to ensure BPMN compliance: during your modeling session or after your modeling session. In both cases at least, you are sure that your model is correct and you can forward it to execution/simulation engines. The advantage for performing syntax check during construction is the following: practically it gets easier for non experts to quickly produce models that conform the BPMN standard. The resulting BPMN models are valid all along the modeling process. But strict BPMN adherence is not commonly implemented. Bizagi and Visio-2013 implement model validation afterwards while LucidChart does not check anything. Yet adherence is the key to interoperate with third party environments.
Another point underlined here is related to productivity. Designing a business model can be a hard thing to achieve, time must be used to think and not to struggle with the modeling tool. People also want BPMN tools to help them get design models quickly. Example libraries may avoid you to start from scratch. A model repository is an interesting idea as it enables you to search through existing models. A solution to your problem may already exist, or at least a part of it. Let’s face it, some of our modeling problems are common to others.
Also, the use of shortcuts is a strong feature which releases the user from the classical click routine. These kind of features definitely impact the user experience and enables you to gain in productivity while easing the tool accessibility.
That’s all folks. Hopefully the key points highlighted above will help you see clear in the BPMN tool jungle. If you are about to choose a BPMN modeling tool, keep in mind that there’s one tool for one specific usage. And think about conformity and interoperability!