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  • By Geoff Hook
  • In Blog
  • Posted 07/02/2013

Geoff Hook explains the concept of BPSim and how it will help to make simulation more accessible for users

The BPMN 2.0 standard is used by many business process modelling and workflow automation tools to represent and exchange models in an XML format. The standard has until now lacked a framework for the inclusion of process analysis data to accompany these models. Over the past year Lanner has been involved as a major contributor in the development of a standard format for the exchange of this data in order for business process analysts to have greater access to predictive analysis techniques including simulation.

This initiative has been undertaken under the umbrella of the WfMC (Workflow Management Coalition) and is directly linked to BPMN (business Process Modelling Notation) standard. Predictive analytics techniques such as simulation have grown in importance in the eyes of BPM vendors in the past few months as companies start to leverage the power of big data combined with process knowledge within their organisations.

Lanner already has a number of OEM relationships with major vendors for its L-Sim Server™ product and I expect many more vendors to start taking advantage. Gartner analysts are frequently commenting on simulation’s increased importance for BPM and refer to simulation capability when ranking and commenting on specific vendors.

Working on a standard – BPSim

The working party known as BPSWG (Business Process Simulation Working Group) has representatives from BPMS vendors, simulation software companies and independent consultants. The committee has been expertly chaired by Denis Gagne, CEO, Trisotech, and its purpose was to define an open transport mechanism that allows modelling tools to exchange data with simulation engines.

Working on a standards committee was a new experience for me; the members coming from many different backgrounds, countries and having a wide range of experience. Some members were quite knowledgeable in simulation, others new to the area. Other members had worked in the formation of the BPMN 2.0 standard. At times the process seemed frustrating, all of us having limited time due to our main business functions, and some subjects required a considerable amount time to discuss and come to an agreement on. Ultimately though, we have developed a powerful framework standard, called BPSim, which allows process and resource data required for simulation to be added to BPMN 2.0 elements. BPSim also accommodates the output of results data from predictive simulation analysis.

The Principles of BPSim

BPSim begins from the principle that the BPMN 2.0 model is a ‘fixed’ canvas for experimentation. A number of perspectives have been defined, each containing relevant parameters, examples being the Control Perspective, containing the parameter Probability (often used at a sequence flow element), and the Time Perspective, containing Processing Time (often used for a task element). These parameters are then used define input data for processing or send a request for result data to be returned. For example, a result request could ask for total processing time at a task to be returned.

Scenarios can be constructed through the addition of simulation specific parameters such as Duration, the period of time to be simulated and Replication, the number of times a scenario should to be run using different random numbers to drive the statistical sampling and in order to achieve realistic variability.

Next Steps

How the industry will consume this standard and how it is used to deliver real value for business remains to be seen - a standard only becomes useful when it’s adopted! There is still significant scope for innovation by vendors to provide ‘smart tools’ built on top of this standard to make simulation much more widely accessible by users in the BPM world.

The specification documentation, XML schema and a ‘Guide for Implementers’ are being produced and should soon all be available via www.BPsim.org. The Implementers' guide contains examples of correct XML based upon three sample models.

At Lanner we have been implementing the standard in L-Sim Server; this provides an alternative to the API for partners to integrate with L-Sim Server based upon existing support for BPMN 2.0. The BPSim specification essentially provides a ‘menu list’ of simulation data parameters by BPMN element which potential integrators or users of simulation can chose to populate. The diagram below demonstrates L-Sim Server’s interface using the BPSim standard.

Those of us who have worked on the standard would be pleased to provide further explanation and discuss the wide range of potential uses for such a standard. More information regarding BPSim including conference presentations will be available during 2013.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed working with the wide range of people on the committee and seeing simulation from an alternative point of view, whilst also being able to ‘evangelise’ on simulation to a captive audience….hopefully I haven’t bored them!

335-BPSim.png

This diagram shows how a BPM or modelling tool can interact with the L-SIM server simulation from Lanner using BPSim XML


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