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BPMN – Jump Start for PI Consultants

Lately there has been a lot of discussions, blogs and articles released around SAP Netweaver Process Orchestration. For those who are still oblivious to the new dimension from SAP, I strongly recommend that you read the article, “When 3 Become 1: SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration Blends Solutions to Improve Flexibility and Better Align IT and Business


One of the striking feaures of the Process Orchestration stack, is NW BPM plugging into SAP PI and thus as SAP claims, providing a comprehensive platform for the next generation business process modelling. It looks at streamlining the whole business process to achieve increased visibility and auditability.


I wouldnt want to spend a lot on what NW BPM really is and how it functions but what interests me more as a PI consultant is the shift from the traditional ccBPM towards NW BPM (A more technical way to put it would be to say the transition from BPEL to BPMN).


My interest in understanding how BPMN differs from BPEL started from SAP TechEd 2011. One thing that struck me when Volker Stiehl was presenting the ‘PMC106 Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) for System Integration’ session was the emphasis on Human centric processes coming together with integration centric processes. BPEL is block-oriented. In BPEL every conditional branch or parallel split is required to connected downstream.  BPMN differs mainly in a way that it is graph-oriented, by which any activity can be routed anywhere else in the process (as I read somewhere that even back to a previous step) . This thus makes it highly flexible. 


On searching further on the topic of the major differences between BPEL and BPMN, the internet threw up interesting reads. As always with two different standards, there were debates. Some of the stimulating ones were;

1. BPEL: Who Needs It Anyway?

2. BPMN 2.0 VS BPEL, The Debate Is Just Starting

3. BPEL vs BPMN 2.0: Should you care?


From a SAP NW Process Orchestration perspective SAP has made one thing pretty clear. BPMN is the way forward for orchestration. 


The right place to grab your understanding of BPMN is indeed SDN. There is an excellent article series by Dr. Bruce Silver that talks about BPMN on extensive scale. Even though the series is a bit old in time (we now have BPMN 2.0), I believe this will provide a much needed overview on BPMN for the PI consultants who will soon find themselves venturing into the Process Orchestration world.


You would be surprised that there are three shapes that predominantly become the basis of the entire notation. 



These shapes then take different meanings as details get added to it. The different types of Activites, Gateways and events is detailed in a single reference guide here. I found it to be a very useful manual to be printed and posted beside one’s desk.


As we start going deeper into the BPMN world, one question that could potentially come to any PI consultant’s mind is around the migration of ccBPM processes to the BPMN processes? The answer I got from SAP was that it was not possible or rather to be politically correct, it is recommened that you invest time and money on redesigning your ccBPM based development onto BPMN. It also makes me wonder why shouldnt ideally a SOA based EAI tool not support both BPEL and BPMN standards.

Looking at the simplicity and adoption of BPMN, one thing is for sure that SAP has made a significant step in providing an up to date platform. Surprisingly when I did a bit of research of my own, I got to know that most of the ESB/EAI tools in the market currently already are on the BPMN based modelling platform. 

SAP Netweaver Process Orchestration will be a single java stack installation available from NW 7.31. I am really looking forward to see the response to it from customers who have planned to adopt Process Orchestration in the recent future.

Hope this blog will provide to be a good start for those who are looking to understand BPMN.

Happy learning!

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