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Top-Down Modeling and BPMN Subprocesses

Blog: Method & Style (Bruce Silver)

Books on process modeling generally warn against getting bogged down in detail. They tend to recommend a top-down methodology that starts with a big-picture end-to-end view and drills down just as far as you need for your modeling purpose. In preparing my Process Modeling with BPMN training I stumbled across a pretty good recipe for how to do this in Worflow Modeling by Sharp and McDermott – one of the only books on the topic I can recommend. My training overlaps slightly with the information-gathering phase that Sharp and McDermott talk about, but mainly focuses on how to put that knowledge into BPMN, so you can share it, run it through a simulation engine, or even generate an executable implementation.

Subprocesses are a very handy concept in BPMN. Besides providing a natural way to draw a condensed top-down view with drill-down to any level of detail, BPMN subprocesses also determine the boundaries of when an event can be received – a change to an order in process, for example. But I find that one really basic property of BPMN subprocesses gets in the way of top-down modeling, as described by Sharp and McDermott, or anyone else for that matter.

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