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CMMN – The BPMN for Case Management?

Scott Francis recently asked a legitimate question: Will BPM vendors adopt CMMN, or will they rather focus on topics like mobile/social/local/cloud? (Read the complete blog post here)

As the obviously biased CEO of one of the few vendors who implemented CMMN already, I am actually sceptical. My experience with BPMN during the last 8 years was, that most of the established BPM vendors balked at implementing it, argueing that they already had something “better” for the same use case. I suppose it’s the same with Case Management now, so I predict they will only make the effort of supporting it when pressed by the market – just like it happened with BPMN.

However if and when that is going to happen, depends on the success of the standard among the users. Despite being criticized for being too complex, that’s what happened with BPMN: It got adopted by users who wanted to draw processes in BPMN, and therefore asked tools to support it, including execution. Of course at some point there was also the typical force of a “hype topic” involved, but that alone would not have been sufficient. Looking back, I think you can safely say that BPMN’s success was well deserved.

With CMMN as a notation, I am not so sure. Filipe commented on Scott’s Post that the visual logic of a CMMN diagram is not very obvious, and I would agree, especially when I compare it to BPMN. This could become an issue.

On the other hand, on the execution level the standard makes a very good impression, it seems to be well-thought-out. That’s not a surprise, since it has been defined by people who were already experienced in the practical matters of case management.

So if CMMN does not appear as the next silver bullet, why did Camunda implement it in the first place? Basically for two reasons:

1) We wanted to implement Case Management anyway.
2) We looked at the CMMN spec and found it very sound and well aligned with our own understanding of case management concepts.

I think these are good reasons, and in a way it means we were just kind of lucky 🙂

As a bottom line, I am very stress-free when it comes to the odds of CMMN. I think we implemented Case Management in a smart way, extending the capabilities of our product while keeping it light-weight and developer-friendly. Since Camunda is open source, we already see people using the new features and get helpful feedback. Since we push out stable releases twice per year and alpha releases in between, we can rapidly improve this new implementation.

And at the same time, we support a new standard, that may be not perfect, but definitely makes sense and is a step in the right direction.

For me, this is a very comfortable and even exciting status quo, and I want to express my gratitude to our product team (especially Roman) as well as Denis Gagné who has proven to be a very supportive technology partner (Trisotech provide a very recommendable CMMN Modeler).

If anyone is interested, here are some more resources:

Hands-on Webinar about how to use CMMN with Camunda

CMMN with Camunda – Getting Started Tutorial

CMMN Implementation Reference Guide

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