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Happy Birthday to the BPMN 2.0 Model Interchange Working Group

Today, two years ago, the BPMN Model Interchange Working Group (MIWG) of the OMG met for the very first time and I’ll take a look on what has been achieved so far. The mission of this working group led by Denis Gagne is to support, facilitate, and promote the interchange of BPMN Models among different tools. In order to do that, we created a test suite of currently eight BPMN 2.0 reference models that can be used to test the import and export capabilities of BPMN tools. So far test results of 23 tools have been submitted by vendors or users and dozens of findings have been reported to the vendors so that they improve their tools. Furthermore, the BPMN MIWG conducted two public demonstrations, in which multiple tools collaborated on a single BPMN model to showcase what is possible with diagram interchange.

BPMN MIWG in Numbers

Participating BPMN 2.0 Tools

The MIWG’s Test Automation Sub-Group created a comparison table that lists all tools participating in the MIWG. This serves as a main entry point into exploring the test results of different tools that have been collected and analyzed by the working group.

Almost all of the tools shown in this table can be used to model processes for execution in BPMN engines like the Camunda BPM platform.

Camunda’s Engagement for BPMN Interchange

Camunda has been heavily contributing to the working group from the very beginning. We see BPMN as a great tool for Business-IT Alignment, but only if business analysts and process engineers can actually interchange models between their respective tools. Thus, we build several BPMN tools that have import as well as export facilities and regularly test them with the reference models of the MIWG to ensure BPMN 2.0 compliance. You may remeber Jakob’s talk from bpmNEXT, where he pioneered true roundtripping between third-party business tools  Bruce Silver recognized that camunda are the first ones to do that well. Two years later, thanks to the work of the BPMN MIWG an increasing number of tools support the roundtrip. Within the BPMN MIWG, Camunda contributes its specification expertise gained in the BPMN 2.0 Task Force at the OMG and leads the Test Automation Sub-Group, which develops tools to analyze the submitted test results.

Demonstration Highlight

The definitive highlight was the impressive demo that the BPMN MIWG did at the end of March 2014. We already showed 8 different tools working on the same model in June 2013 in Berlin. This time no less than 15 tools participated in creating a single collaboration diagram.

I represented camunda in the demo using three of our latest BPMN tools:

In addition to the sheer number of tools, we also pushed our limits in several other directions: With 15 tools the time would have not been enough to work in a sequence. Thus, we worked in parallel and then merged different parts together. The following BPMN process shows our story board for the demo.

Another challenge was, that we wanted to show the demo at two different conferences that unfortunately took place at exactly the same time: The bpmNEXT conference took place near San Francisco whereas the OMG Technical Meeting in Reston was located at other end of the United States near Washington. Since, there was no chance to travel between both conferences in such a short time, we decided to do a live stream of the show through Google Hangout and YouTube. On the one hand this gave us the chance to also include participants and viewers that otherwise would not have had a chance to attend. On the other hand this also gave us a good chance of running into technical issues during the show, but luckily Power Point was the only thing that crashed.

Videos of the Live Demo:

Future Work

After the basic layouting capabilities have been covered, the MIWG is now beginning to work with executable models. Camunda recently submitted test case C.1.0, which contains technical attributes for execution inside Camunda BPM. This test will ensure that tools will not loose technical attributes during a roundtrip and that is a precondition for successful Business-IT Alignment.

Furthermore, the working group created a proposal of how colors could be interchanged among BPMN 2.0 tools. Another stream of work looks into alternative implementations of Service Tasks in BPMN.

In June 2015 at the OMG Technical Meeting in Berlin, the MIWG is going to show another demonstration that will also include interchange of executable process models and potentially execution in multiple process engines.

Call for Participation

The BPMN MIWG is open to the public, i.e. you don’t need to be an OMG member in order to join us. Vendors as well as users are welcome to test their tools and help us improve BPMN model interchange. If you are an analyst or blogger, talk about this project in order to convince more vendors to make their BPMN 2.0 tools work together with others.

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