Do Modern EA Tools Cater For Business Processes?

BPMN has been with us since 2004/2005 I believe. I commented on the draft standard from a holistic modelling viewpoint. It must have been 2004 I think. BPMN 2.0 incorporated some of the features I suggested. No doubt some other holistic business modellers said similar things!

Nearly twenty years after BPMN’s debut, some tools are doing a good job of incorporating process capability. Adoption of BPMN by the Object Management Group (OMG) has probably helped its profile, but nevertheless all is not well for the Business Architect or Business Analyst who wants to use BPMN as part of an enterprise suite.

Why are some tools not incorporating BPMN?

EA tools have had a lot of time to incorporate BPMN thoughtfully, but not all have. Tools come in different flavours though, and it heavily influences how they view BPMN. Industry analysts are unfortunately slow at noting distinctions in reports though.

Here are some flavours I have found whilst reviewing the landscape the last year or so:

Documentation Tools

These tools are centred around documenting your enterprise. They may not do analytics, they may not do BPMN. In addition these tools are not designed for easy visual modelling, but rather to gather information well. Some are not even driven by visual modelling but may create visual models from the input. Some tools with a bent to documentation do not facilitate live modelling well, and are very dialog box driven rather than dragging and dropping to form objects and relationships.

Framework Tools

Some EA tools are tied tightly to frameworks that don’t have much of a process concept. These may incorporate business capability and process decomposition (which is really another term for functional decomposition), but stop short of describing the HOW of process using BPMN.

Data Oriented EA Tools

There are tools that are very, very good at handling data. They can hook into databases and give you a very solid representation of your physical data stores throughout your enterprise.


There are a few tools that are starting to use AI to explore your IT stack and document your technology stack, applications and integrations.

M.Y.O. Meta-Model

It’s understandable that some vendors have forged ahead to define their own meta-data schema in order to represent the enterprise. Tools with their own meta-model can be useful if they align really well with your enterprise and you are unlikely to change, but they can be painful if they can’t export framework data accounts to a standard meta-model.

The value of customising the meta-model mustn’t be underestimated from a user perspective though. Many organisations have methods and perspectives that can’t find expression without this capability. Whilst an initial foray into modelling may not demand this kind of use, once a few projects have been run more experienced staff will likely stay asking “Can we make it do this?’

Tools That Add On BPMN Without Enough Thought

There are tools that add on BPMN capability as a stand alone module. Many of these have been built around UML and decided to view BPMN as another way to document the business or applications, but not related to the UML based data. Other tools are based on a framework like Archimate which deals with business capabilities and ‘process decomposition’ but doesn’t recognise BPMN. Some of these tools nevertheless have added BPMN. Where there is a concept of business process, BPMN diagrams can be integrated to some extent.

– at top process level

– at lower level processes

– for reusable processes

Embedded processes in my opinion should not be linked into a process decomposition as they are modelled that way to explain an often concrete and complex process that is best explained by creating digestable pieces.

What About Process Oriented Tools?

Process Oriented EA Tools

An EA tool that caters for process modelling in my experience must incorporate the following:

1. They must have meta-model integration so BPMN processes connect with other concepts of process

2. The user interface must readily associate process hierarchy to BPMN. It must also allow association of objects within the BPMN diagram to like concepts in the framework meta-model. Examples include roles, locations, applications, documents and information and events.

3. The tool must allow fluid modelling of relationships and diagrams, being fast enough to facilitate live BPMN modelling sessions, including child processes.

What is your experience?

What is your experience with EA tools? What do you use? What have you evaluated? How do they rate? Please let me know!

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Steve Barnes
The Process Expert
mob +61 483 891 835