Back to school 2021 – free online courses for BPM professionals (and not only)

Do you want to sharpen your BPM skills and learn something new? This post is for you!

Below you can find list of free courses and trainings based on past editions of this post (in case you are curious here are the links: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015).

Let’s start with the gold standard of BPM courses 🙂
Keep reading →

Inclusive gateways (OR) and tokens

This post is a part four of the series about token and process flows in BPMN.
So far, we covered the simple flow (part 1), situations where only one of the alternative paths could be selected (part 2), as well as cases when all paths outgoing from a parallel gateway need to complete before the process can continue after the merge (part 3). Now, it’s time to tackle more sophisticated situations.

Inclusive gateways

Inclusive gateways (commonly called OR) can be used to show that certain paths will always happen and others only sometimes – depending on certain conditions. You could say that OR gateway behaves like a (compact) mix of XOR and AND gateways.

It’s easy to recognize the OR gateways since they are diamonds with a circle inside (you can think that this marker is a slightly distorted “O”).

Let’s start by comparing OR gateway with XOR.

For XOR gateway you could have many paths outgoing from the gateway. The same applies to OR gateway – there can be 2, 3, or more paths.

Now, let’s take a look at the conditions on the outgoing paths.

For XOR gateway token would take a first path with a condition which is true. So while in practice we would expect the conditions to be mutually exclusive, in theory it could happen that two of them are true at the same time. However, XOR sends a token to a first path which has a true condition, so only one of the paths can be selected.

For OR gateway situation is different. Conditions of all paths are checked and each path which has a true condition gets a token. That’s why we will normally use a pair of OR gateways – for splitting and merging – just like for AND gateways.

Please take a look at the image below and compare differences between XOR and OR gateways.


How would your process log look like if we would have a hot (but not sunny) weather? For both types of gateways the result would be the same: ABEF.

To make it easier to remember let’s assume that it is a process of preparations for a walk and that task B is “Take a bottle of water”.

What about sunny, but not hot weather? Again, both are identical and we get ACEF. Task C could be “Take a sunscreen”.

And weather neither hot nor sunny will give us ADEF in both options. Task D could be “Take a hoodie”.

All those examples have only one token in a process instance, so we do not need any synchronization.

But if our weather is hot and sunny at the same time we will have a different situation.

Our XOR gateway cannot handle it well and (assuming the top path is checked first) we will have ABEF, so the same option as for the hot, but not sunny days. In other words, we will take a bottle of water, but not a sunscreen. Ouch! We might get a sunburn.

Luckily OR gateway comes to the rescue, and we will have ABCEF, which means we will not leave home without a bottle of water and sunscreen. Therefore we will be safe both from sunburn and dehydration 😉

Now, let’s see how do AND and OR gateways compare. As we already discussed, OR gateways allow you to duplicate tokens, just like AND gateways. However, they allow you to send tokens only to selected paths and have a smarter synchronization.

Why smarter? Merging AND gateway waits for tokens from all incoming flows, while merging OR knows which paths were active. So we can easily leave home without hoodie if it is hot 🙂

Last interesting feature of OR gateways which is similar to AND gateways is that you can have paths without a condition. Since they are always valid, they will also always get a token.

Please take a look at the animation below (taken from my course):

If you are worried that readers of your diagrams may not know it, you can always call those paths “always” 🙂

On the other hand – if you are feeling geeky and names of paths like “Neither hot nor sunny” don’t sound technical enough for something which basically reminds you ELSE clause from programming you can mark such path as a “Default Sequence Flow”. It will get a nice slash at the beginning.

Please note that “default” does not mean it is most probable, expected, most profitable etc. path. It only means that token will take this path if no other path has a valid condition.

I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of most common gateways in BPMN. Stay tuned for a new post – this time about Tasks.

PS. If you are curious – there are more gateways in BPMN, but the ones we covered so far should be sufficient for the most of you.

Parallel gateways (AND) and tokens

This is a third part of the series about tokens in BPMN. The first part was about basics and simple flow, the second one was about exclusive gateways (XOR). This time we will cover cases when our process has parallel paths.

Parallel gateways

Parallel gateways (commonly named AND) allow you to show that there are certain things in your process that need to happen, but they do not need to be performed sequentially. Like every gateway, it has a diamond shape, but with a + marker inside.

They can be performed at the same time e.g. by different people or some skilled multitasker 😉 but this is not required.

Important thing is that Parallel gateway will “copy” an incoming token, so that every outgoing Sequence Flow gets one. Those tokens flow independently through your process, so usually we need a second Parallel gateway to combine them again into a single token. This is called synchronization.

Why do we need synchronizations? There are several reasons. Technical reason: if you do not synchronize tokens, they will continue flowing and activating subsequent Activities. Business reason: usually we need AND gateways to show that some things need to be done before something else can happen.

Let’s imagine a simple process of preparing a report. After an initial analysis of a request we need some input from 3 teams: finance, marketing, and sales. It does not matter who sends us input first: finance, marketing, or sales. We need them all. After we have those 3 elements we can prepare a final report and send it.

Does it make sense to make a report on a basis of data from sales only? Probably not. Would the recipients be happy if we would be sending them 3 separate reports instead of one consolidated document? Unlikely. That’s why in 99% of cases AND gateways are used in pairs: one for splitting and one for synchronizing paths.

In case you are wondering what happens in this 1% when there is no synchronizing AND gateway: tokens flow independently, possibly causing some tasks to happen few times (so in an example above we could have a log ABEFCEFDEF). Only after the last token reaches end event process instance ends (unless you use terminate end event of course).

Since every path will get a token (we do not check conditions as we did in XOR) usually it does not make sense to add names to AND gateways.

Now, you may be wondering – would it be possible to have some paths which always happen and others which happen when certain conditions are true? Spoiler alert: you can do it with Inclusive gateways (OR), which we will cover in part 4.

BPMN vs Data Flow Diagrams (DFD)

Recently I was asked to provide a brief comparison between Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) and BPMN and I thought it could be also useful for other people who are wondering which one to use.

As you probably noticed from other posts I work with BPMN a lot and had a chance to see many areas where it can be helpful, while I rarely see DFDs being currently used (of course except education).

Both BPMN and DFD are mature notations. DFD notation was created in the 1970s and popularized by few legends of software engineering including Edward Yourdon and Tom DeMarco. BPMN 1.0 was published in 2004, while current version 2.0 has slightly over 10 years (counting from beta release). While BPMN is still being extended and improved (e.g. by BPMN MIWG), I am not aware of any ongoing activities regarding DFD notation.

There are some differences regarding goals of those notations. BPMN charter (taken from BPMN.org) is as follows: “A standard Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) will provide businesses with the capability of understanding their internal business procedures in a graphical notation and will give organizations the ability to communicate these procedures in a standard manner. Furthermore, the graphical notation will facilitate the understanding of the performance collaborations and business transactions between the organizations. This will ensure that businesses will understand themselves and participants in their business and will enable organizations to adjust to new internal and B2B business circumstances quickly.”

For DFD focus is different. As the name suggests data flows are of utmost importance. BABOK v3 states the purpose of DFD in a following way: “Data flow diagrams show where data comes from, which activities process the data, and if the output results are stored or utilized by another activity or external entity.” It’s interesting to compare it to Yourdon’s statements from “Just Enough Structured Analysis”: “This is important to keep in mind: DFDs cannot only be used to model information-processing systems, but also as a way of modeling whole organizations, that is, as a tool for business planning and strategic planning.”

Both notations have strong theoretical background meaning they are not just pretty pictures. DFDs are based on a graph theory. BPMN can also be analyzed using formal methods.

As for the symbols, situation is more interesting. BPMN is a standard, so you can easily see which icons should be used for which object types. However, for DFD notation there are several variations, so icons proposed by Yourdon and DeMarco differ from those proposed by Gane and Sarson. Needless to say – while you can easily interchange BPMN diagrams between various tools it is not the case for DFD since there is no standard interchange mechanism.

An additional difference relating to symbols is their availability. In DFDs you have 4 elements (Process, Flow, Store, and Terminator/External entity). In BPMN you have many more symbols. On the one hand, it means that DFDs may be easier to read (especially by people with no training). However, on the other hand, it also means that BPMN allows you to show more aspects in your diagrams (e.g. process flow versus data flow).

Back to school 2020 – free online courses for BPM professionals (and not only)

Just like in the past years I prepared for you list of online courses (and other materials) which can help you learn more about BPM.

(You can also read the past editions from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015).

1) Fundamentals of BPM

There are many courses about BPM, but those 2 really rock 🙂

Since some time 2 MOOCs by professors Marcello La Rosa, Marlon Dumas, Jan Mendling and Hajo A. Reijers are no longer available on Future Learn and QUT platforms, BUT:

a) You can access all the videos via Fundamentals of BPM website (there are also slides and other materials!):
http://fundamentals-of-bpm.org/mooc/

(you need to look for part “Links to all video materials are available here (Copyright 2015-2017, Queensland University of Technology. All rights reserved).”).

b) You can also jump directly to YT playlists for those 2 courses
Introductory MOOC: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9iw99lS3PrhyvCeigicFy0ncMOimILeX

Long MOOC: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9iw99lS3Prg0hPSCiOz9AXeEmj8W8fL8

c) Professor La Rosa kindly allowed me to present this content in a form more convenient for you.

Materials from a short introductory MOOC, “Business Process Management: An Introduction to Process Thinking“ (about 1,5 hours!) are available on a following pages:

Business Process Management: An Introduction to Process Thinking – Week 1

Business Process Management: An Introduction to Process Thinking – Week 2

Business Process Management: An Introduction to Process Thinking – Week 3

Materials from the long MOOC “Fundamentals of BPM”

Part 1: Process identification and discovery
Interviews

Introduction to BPM

Process Identification

Essential Process Modeling

Advanced Process Modeling

Part 2: Process analysis and redesign
Qualitative process analysis

Quantitative Process Analysis

Process Redesign

Part 3: Process implementation and monitoring
Process-Aware Information Systems

Process Implementation with Executable Process Models

Process Monitoring & Closing

Now, like in 2018 post I want to share with you also other courses (MOOC and others) organised by platform.

2) Coursera

If you like to learn on the go you will appreciate nice mobile application Coursera offers. Most of the courses are by default paid ones (with access to all the content, possibility to check yourself and interact fully with others plus get a certificate), but you can always select the free path (called “Audit the course”) and access all the videos plus some of the course content. Courses on Coursera are MOOCs, so they have start and end dates, but you can switch sessions if you are falling behind (you may need it since they all start on the same date…).

2a) “Design Thinking for Innovation” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/uva-darden-design-thinking-innovation)

Course description: “Today innovation is everyone’s business. Whether you are a manager in a global corporation, an entrepreneur starting up, in a government role, or a teacher in an elementary school, everyone is expected to get lean – to do better with less. And that is why we all need design thinking. At every level in every kind of organization, design thinking provides the tools you need to become an innovative thinker and uncover creative opportunities that are there – you’re just not seeing them yet.”
Created by: University of Virginia
Taught by: Jeanne M. Liedtka

2b) “Digital Transformation” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/bcg-uva-darden-digital-transformation)

Course description: “Digital transformation is a hot topic–but what exactly is it and what does it mean for companies? In this course, we talk about digital transformation in two ways. First we discuss the pace of change and the imperative it creates for businesses. Next we provide the context for this transformation and what it takes to win in the digital age. Then we walk through BCG’s proprietary framework, which helps you identify key areas to digitize, including strategy, core processes, and technology.”
Created by: BCG, University of Virginia
Taught by: Michael Lenox, Amane Dannouni, Sonja Rueger, Ching Fong Ong

2c) “Introduction to Operations Management” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/wharton-operations)

Course description: “Learn to analyze and improve business processes in services or in manufacturing by learning how to increase productivity and deliver higher quality standards. Key concepts include process analysis, bottlenecks, flows rates, and inventory levels, and more. After successfully completing this course, you can apply these skills to a real-world business challenge as part of the Wharton Business Foundations Specialization.”
Created by: University of Pennsylvania
Taught by: Christian Terwiesch

2d) “Process Mining: Data science in Action” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/process-mining)

Course description: “Process mining is the missing link between model-based process analysis and data-oriented analysis techniques. Through concrete data sets and easy to use software the course provides data science knowledge that can be applied directly to analyze and improve processes in a variety of domains.”
Created by: Eindhoven University of Technology
Taught by: Wil van der Aalst

2e) “Six Sigma Principles” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/six-sigma-principles)

Course description: “This course is for you if you are looking to learn more about Six Sigma or refresh your knowledge of the basic components of Six Sigma and Lean. Six Sigma skills are widely sought by employers both nationally and internationally. These skills have been proven to help improve business processes and performance. This course will introduce you to the purpose of Six Sigma and its value to an organization. You will learn about the basic principles of Six Sigma and Lean. Your instructors will introduce you to, and have you apply, some of the tools and metrics that are critical components of Six Sigma. This course will provide you with the basic knowledge of the principles, roles, and responsibilities of Six Sigma and Lean.”
Created by: University System of Georgia
Taught by: Bill Bailey, Gregory Wiles, David Cook, Christina Scherrer

2f) “The hidden value – Lean in manufacturing and services” (https://www.coursera.org/learn/lean-manufacturing-services)

Course description: “Lean is a powerful methodology that enables managers and employees to shift their mindset and helps companies to keep their business sustainable by creating competitive advantage. Today, in an increasingly complex and dynamic world, where companies struggle to maintain competitive advantage, Lean is more important than ever.”
Created by: École des Ponts ParisTech, BCG
Taught by: Aurélie Delemarle, Thomas Frost, Salvatore Cali, Elsa Blume

3) OpenHPI

This is an e-learning platform offered by German Hasso Plattner Institute. It offers a mix of MOOC and on demand courses (i.e. archives of past editions). All courses are available for free. Mobile application is available.

3a) “BPMN Meets DMN: Business Process and Decision Modeling” (https://open.hpi.de/courses/bpm2016)

As you can see from the URL this is a self-paced course based on a MOOC from 2016.
Course description: “This course introduces concepts of business process modeling using the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) industry standard. Participants will learn the elements of process models and their precise meaning. Based on a thorough understanding of business process models, the last part of the course covers decision models using the Decision Model and Notation (DMN). Decision models complement process models by representing concrete, operational decisions, both with their structure and their decision logics. The course centers around concepts and language to describe and analyze business processes and decisions. It does not cover methods on how to model, improve, monitor or implement business processes. Still, a deep understanding of business processes and decisions is a useful basis for these activities.”
Taught by: Prof. Dr. Mathias Weske
Starts: Self-paced

3b) “Business Processes: Modeling, Simulation, Execution” (https://open.hpi.de/courses/bpm2019)

This is a more recent course 🙂
Course description: “Business process models play a central role in analyzing, simulating, and executing business processes. They serve as a communication vehicle for professionals with different background and expertise, ranging from business administration, quality management, and organizational development to systems architectures, and software development.

This online course introduces concepts of business process modeling and decision modeling using the industry standards Business Process Model and Notation, BPMN, and Decision Model and Notation, DMN. The course also covers concepts to describe and analyze business processes and decisions, and to simulate and execute them using modern BPM tools.”
Taught by: Prof. Dr. Mathias Weske
Starts: Self-paced

3) Courses and materials provided by tool vendors.

3a) Automation Anywhere (https://www.automationanywhereuniversity.com/)

Automation Anywhere provides a nice library of online courses. Some of them are free, others are very reasonably priced.
There is also free introductory course on Udemy by Automation Anywhere.
https://www.udemy.com/beginners-guide-to-rpa-automation-anywhere/

3b) Bizagi (http://elearning.bizagi.com)

Bizagi offers 10+ courses about their tools.

3c) BOC Group (https://knowledge.boc-group.com/en)

If you want to find lots of webinar recordings (also done by yours truly 😉 about various aspects of BPM, search no more!

3d) Bonitasoft (https://www.bonitasoft.com/videos)

There are dozens of video tutorials, webinars and other materials.

3e) Camunda (https://camunda.com/learn/videos/)

Camunda offers library of video tutorials. And they have something unique – a hawk 😉
PS. They also have cool online conference: CamundaCon: https://www.camundacon.com/

3f) Pegasystems (https://academy.pega.com)

30+ missions, 250+ modules – do I need to tell you more?

3g) UiPath (https://www.uipath.com/rpa-academy)

Many interesting courses for RPA pros and newbies.

3h) WorkFusion (https://automationacademy.com/)

4 free courses and many more additional options

4) Last but not least

And now, additional option to learn valuable things about BPM online (however not for free): BPM Tips is a Media Partner of the Building Business Capability 2020 conference.

If you plan to attend BBC 2020 the following code “BPMBBC” will give you 15% discount.

You can learn more in this post: https://bpmtips.com/building-business-capability-2020/

Building Business Capability 2020

BPM Tips is a proud media partner of Building Business Capability 2020, the official conference of the IIBA.

This year, for obvious reasons, BBC will be a virtual conference. It will take place on October 19-23, 2020.

You can participate in livestreams of conference sessions and workshops (recordings are also available, so you can watch everything you want) PLUS new options possible thanks to the new format of the event:
* BBC Conference Extra
* Practitioner’s Chats
* BBC People’s Choice Discussions
* Virtual Coffee Roundtables and
* BBC Beyond

With nearly 100 presenters, 18 conference tracks and 4 trails there are hundreds of possibilities for you to learn something useful and meet new people.

Learn more about BBC 2020 and register. If you plan to attend BBC 2020 the following code “BPMBBC” will give you a 15% discount.

PS. You can also watch selected recordings of sessions from BBC 2019 to see how much you can learn there!