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).

How to work from home

This post differs from those which you can normally find on my blog, because it is not about process management. We are now in a very exceptional period and people and companies all around the world are doing their best to help others. I also want to do what I can from my part.

Since many people had to start working from home I thought it may be useful if I share some tools that I use with success for some time. Some of those tools help me in my work as a consultant at BOC Group, others are very useful for remote work with a team of volunteers in an NGO and the rest help me run this blog.

1. Tools for coordinating the work

It is very difficult to coordinate work on a basis of e-mails only if you do not have face to face contact with others. Of course in a perfect world you would be using some cool BPMS/workflow applications coordinating your processes, apps built using low code solutions which would allow you to work from anywhere or bots doing most of the work for you, but most likely your organization is not there yet and you need something fast.

A) Slack
Slack is an awesome tool which allows you to share messages and files with your team members in a context of channels or threads. This way you can have a quick overview of what is going on and finish projects without hundreds of e-mails. You can also have voice or video calls from Slack.

NGO where I am involved uses free tier of Slack which has a limit of 10 000 messages, so I can confirm that it works perfectly for small to mid-size team and if your team is bigger commercial plans should also work for you.

B) MS Teams
Teams offers very similar functionalities to Slack. You can share messages, files, have voice or video calls. It was available as a freemium for some time already, but in recent days Microsoft kindly increased support for users of free version. You can use Teams at work or at the university for remote classes (there is a special free plan for education).

2. Tools for planning the work

If you need to change the way you work it is a good idea to plan it in such a way that others can see what needs to be done and easily post updates. There are many tools for task and project management, but below you can find my favorites.

C) Trello
This is a brilliant tool for managing tasks and projects, which I use daily. It uses kanban approach and organizes your tasks as cards which can be extended with lots of additional details (responsible people, due dates, links, checklists and many more) and placed on boards to provide better visibility of the status.

Trello is only one of several great tools offered by Atlassian. So if you need something for a small team (up to 10 people) to collaborate with others on documents (Confluence) or track issues or projects (Jira) check their free offer: https://www.atlassian.com/software/free

D) Asana
Asana is also a great tool for managing tasks and projects. It has lots of cool features and I was their happy user for years.

3. Tools for video meetings with others

Sometimes you need to have a meeting with people outside your organization and show them something. If you need something more reliable than Skype, here are my suggestions.

E) GoToMeeting
Whenever I need to make an online session with a customer GoToMeeting is my first choice. I am normally using commercial version, but the free one should be sufficient for a start. GTM is rock-solid and very easy to use.

F) Zoom
When I was doing video interviews for BPM Tips online summit few years ago I used Zoom very often and this was a great choice. It allows you to run small webinars too (up to 100 participants and 40 minutes) apart from unlimited 1 on 1 meetings on a free plan. Zoom also has a very useful feature of switching backgrounds if you do not want to show your messy room 😉

4. Tools for screen recording

If your job, like mine, requires explaining something to others probably you do not enjoy writing long instructions nobody reads. But there is a better way: very often one short video can save you hours of back and forth communication.

G) Loom
For years I was using desktop application for screen recordings and then uploaded the recordings, so that people could watch them. It was slow and cumbersome. With Loom it literally takes seconds from finishing videos to sharing it. You can also cut unnecessary parts or even use animated GIF as a video preview.

5. Tools for measuring time

One of the difficult aspects of working from home is knowing how to divide time between work and other tasks. If you want to make sure you know how much time do you spend on work and how long did you need to finish given tasks time trackers come to the rescue.

H) Toggl
There are lots of various time trackers on the market, but my favorite one is Toggl. It is super easy to use and you can integrate it with many other applications.

Hope some of those tools will help you stay productive and safe during this time! If you have any ideas of what could be helpful for you from my side let me know in comments or via e-mail!

Process automation – workflow, RPA, and beyond

Process automation – workflow, RPA, and beyond

Are you interested in process automation?

If so, I may have 2 interesting things for you.

1) I recently published the first version of a course “Process automation – workflow, RPA, and beyond” on Udemy and want to share it with my readers.

This is an early version of a course with content mostly covering workflow/BPMS tools. I will be adding more videos about RPA and other tools soon, but to decide what to focus on I would like to hear feedback from people with an early adopter attitude 🙂

If this sounds interesting use the link below to join the course for free:
and tell me what should I add!

I hope you will find the course useful.

Link is valid until November 11th.

UPDATE: since many of you joined I thought it would be cool to extend the free access till Thanksgiving. This is my way of saying “Thanks” for being my reader 🙂

UPDATE2: You can join the course for a lowest Udemy price (9,99 USD) using this link: https://www.udemy.com/process-automation-workflow-rpa-and-beyond/?couponCode=BPMTIPS

2) Do you want to learn more about various aspects of intelligent automation from the leading companies? AI EMEA Live online summit is currently running. You can still register to get access to all recordings on:

Basics of BPMN

BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) is a de-facto standard for modeling detailed processes for documentation and automation purposes.

When it comes to process documentation, each good process model should help us answer the questions we have for a process.

Those questions differ from organization to organization, but most commonly what we need to know is:
1) What starts the process
2) What are the results of a process
3) What needs to be done
4) What are the possible variants
5) Who does what
Keep reading →

Interview with Adrian Reed – Re-claiming Strategy: a crucial element for organizational success

Interview with Adrian Reed – Re-claiming Strategy: a crucial element for organizational success

Strategy is often seen as toy for the top managers – something too high level to have any practical application.

However according to the quote often attributed to Sun Tzu “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

Deep down we all feel that organizations need to make their strategies actionable if they want to succeed.

To show you how to approach this topic and why is it important for all BPM efforts I invited for an interview Adrian Reed.
Keep reading →

Do you want to learn about DMN?

If you had a chance to read post about BPM skills in 2016 where 13 experts shared their predictions about what will be hot topic in BPM this year you probably noticed that quite a few trends were mentioned.

One of those hot topics is Decision Management and a new standard from OMG: DMN (Decision Model and Notation).

Next week I will have something really interesting for you on this topic, but in the mean time I would like to share with you two ways you can learn more about DMN: bpmNEXT 2016 conference and MOOC “BPMN meets DMN: Business Process and Decision Modeling”.
Keep reading →

Clay Richardson on Customer Journey Mapping and Lean Startup for BPM

Clay Richardson on Customer Journey Mapping and Lean Startup for BPM

If you had a chance to read recent post with predictions from top BPM influencers about hot BPM skills in 2016 you could notice Customer Journey Mapping being mentioned several times.

To help you decide if you should consider adding it to your BPM toolbox, I invited Clay Richardson from Forrester Research for an interview.

Clay shares many great insights on topics like Customer Journey Mapping and aligning it with BPM, Lean Startup Techniques, Low-Code Application Development and much more.

Keep reading →