What is BPMN?

For those new to business process management the acronym BPMN has probably crossed your desk more than once. The first three letters seem pretty obvious, but what does the acronym in whole stand for?

BPMN stands for Business Process Model and Notation. It is a standard that is controlled by the Object Management Group. It is on its 4th iteration and currently is Version 2.0.

BPMN is a way to visually/graphically depict and represent a business process. It is similar to UML, but focuses exclusively on business processes.

Has four basic components:

  1. Flow objects – represent the main components of the workflow (events and activities)
  2. Connecting objects – represent the connections (get it?) between events/activities/artifacts
  3. Swim lanes – represent the responsible parties linked to events/artifacts
  4. Artifacts – provide additional information to the viewer of the model

In follow-up blog posts, we will delve into the BPMN components in more detail as well as discuss the modeling tools that support the standard.

What is business architecture?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who had looked at my LinkedIn profile and noticed that I had listed business architecture as skill/job of mine. He had never heard of this discipline and jokingly asked if I design businesses.

My gut reaction was to say “Of course not”, but the more I thought about it I started to realize that business architects do help clients to design/remodel their businesses.

The Object Management Group defines business architecture as:

A blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.

This quote aligns very closely with how I view business architecture.

Step 1 – Designing the vision
Blueprints for Willborough Home

The first step in building a house is to draw the blueprint. In order to draw a relevant blueprint you need to determine the purpose of the building. How you design a building is a lot different if you are building a home vs a store vs a factory. Similarly, the way you design a business depends on if you are building a manufacturing business vs a consulting business vs a restaurant. The strategic vision for the business is your blueprint…it guides all future decisions.

Step 2 – Laying the groundwork


The next step would be to clear the land and to lay the foundation. This ensures that the building is stable and has a footing to stand on for years to come. Similarly, when designing/remodeling your business you need to determine what you are building it upon. In this case that would be the strategic planning. This involves performing a review of the business landscape and determining what your goals and objectives are.

Step 3 – Raising the roof

I has...part of a roof

The next main step is to frame the structure. In a building this framing is often done using wood, but in some applications metal is used instead. Again, the purpose of the building can impact implementation. Similarly, when you are building your business you create a framing which in this case is the collection of processes you use to run the business. You need to start with your particular strategy to define your processes…no one approach works for all.

Step 4 – Finishing touches

After you have finished framing your house (or defining the processes/operations) you need to finish the building. This involves putting in windows, doors, etc. In designing a business the finishing touches are the tools that you use to support your processes. Oftentimes, they are IT systems but they can don’t have to be. They can also be change management, training, or other support processes.
House in Boydton, 1912

Of course, there are additional steps between the steps I listed above in building a house (plumbing, wiring, etc). Similarly, there are additional processes needed to fully define your business (organizational structure, prioritization, etc). However, you should be able to see now that the term business architecture is not as nonsensical as many people think it is.

So from now on when someone asks me to define what a business architect does, I will not hesitate to say that we help build businesses.

Consensus is for suckers


We have all heard on at least one occasion that we should strive for consensus in the decision-making process. This sounds simple enough, but is it something we should really aim for?  According to Wikipedia, “Consensus is the community resolution when opposing parties set aside their differences and agree on a statement that is agreeable to all, even if only barely.”  Doesn’t sounds quite as positive a goal now does it?


Why is consensus good?

Consensus is actually a good thing from an execution standpoint:

  • When you have a team that works together to reach a decision, you have a team that is more likely to stand behind the decision.
    • Since they have become a proponent of the decision, they will be more likely to voice their support to outsiders
    • They will work to ensure that the decision/goal is achieved. This is useful when you are incrementally improving a process or product as they will be the team that has influence over the outcome.

Why is consensus bad?

On the flip side of the execution piece, consensus is bad from an innovation standpoint:

  • Dynamics of groups often force consensus because dynamic/dominant characters tend to push everyone to their side and peer-pressure forces the stragglers to join the majority
    • This limits the number of inputs which can reduce the chance of new ideas
  • Innovation rarely comes from consensus because people are not likely to agree on something revolutionary and novel
    • In order to gain consensus you often have to give up on some of the more audacious aspects of the idea



In conclusion, you need to determine your goals of a project when deciding how hard to press for consensus. If you are working to improve existing processes/products then consensus can be a fine goal.

However, if you are trying to shake things up and change the world, then consensus will get in the way of your goals. Do you think Steve Jobs cared about consensus? No, he cared about making something amazing.

That’s not how we did it at my old job

Everyone has heard a colleague utter the phrase “That’s not how we did it at my old job.” Chances are you have said it yourself at one time or another. It is a common refrain and is sure to inspire mixed reactions from those who hear it.

  • Some people may think that the person is bringing relevant information to the table.
  • Others may think that the person is just trying to make themselves seem important.
  • Others may think “that will never work here”

The truth is that everyone leverages past knowledge/experience to conduct their current job. If this was not the case, managers would not care about professional experience. Hiring people who have performed similar jobs helps with the on-boarding process and execution of a job.

However, where we need to be careful is assuming what worked at one company will work at the current one. This is due to the fact that companies are very different from each other:

  • Goals – each company wants to maximize profits, but how they wish to achieve this varies. Some want to increase the amount of profit per project. Others want to increase the number of projects with each client. The goal of the company (and each project) may vary from company to company and applying preconceived notions can be problematic.
  • Internal processes – even if your previous company had the same goals as your current job, the processes that are used to get there may vary. Company formal (Policies, SOPs, and Work Instructions) and informal processes are likely to vary from company to company. Unless you take the time to learn the processes of your current company you are likely to run afoul of them.
  • Stakeholders – over time at your previous jobs you became familiar with your stakeholders and learned what they required of you. At a new job you need to take time to do the same thing. Each stakeholder (internal and external) needs/wants different things. Assuming they all want the same will lead to project and professional stumbles.

Using previous experiences will help you prepare for a new job, but when you join a firm you must be careful to take the time to understand how/why your current company operates. Focus on the goals, processes, and stakeholders of the new job. Taking the time to understand how your current job works will improve how you operate and may also help prevent any missteps.