The future of digital operations – Combine case, process and decision

Based on last years’ experience in implementing case management solutions, we gained best practices to configure better CMMN models in the Ground lion platform. More specifically, to model more efficient and with more detail for execution in our runtime environment. Furthermore, we became more and more convinced that CMMN, BPMN and DMN have a future together, despite their own focus.

From an analyst perspective

To be clear, these three modelling notations are meant to describe what happens in real life and to be a standard language which leaves no room for misinterpretations. However, using it as a basis to configure and build a user-friendly, operational IT system, is something different.  In our opinion BPMN, CMMN and DMN are three different ways to look at the same reality. Each of the notations can define what is going in its own way. The question we hear frequently is how to decide which notation to use in which situation. Our vision has evolved from ‘choosing between them’, towards ‘combining them’ (if useful), which leads to the closest detail in your analysis. Because, if you look at the same object from every angle, the combination will provide you with the broadest and most thorough overview. One notation highlighting certain concepts more visually explicit than another. Off course this means an analyst should master all three notations…

Let us explain with the example of making a large investment:

  • A CMMN case model describes the investment case from an information context perspective, or ‘bigger picture’. It gives insights in milestones to reach and possible best-practice activities – possibly grouped in phases and conditional rules – to choose from and to be planned in the runtime. Activities are planned based on information at hand and using the expertise of the people involved (from the full context and knowledge work standpoint).
  • DMN describes all the required ‘pre’-decisions, data inputs and business knowledge to take an informed decision in a decision requirements diagram (DRD). If (parts of) the decision-making logic can even be written down in boxed expressions, full automation is possible via a decision service (from a decision-making standpoint).
  • Using BPMN, you can shine a different light on the investment case, by prescribing the activity sequence of an investment process and visualising all stakeholders involved in pools and swim lanes (from activity sequence standpoint).


From an execution perspective

The modelling part sounds quite logical, right? When using these models directly for execution in an IT system, even more care and detail is needed. If the business operation contains largely ad-hoc and event-based activity, CMMN will make for an easier modelling and starting point. Process fragments inside a case model should be described through BPMN, and system automated decisions through DMN compliant expressions. If your business operation is a clear repeatable sequence of activity, use BPMN as a starting point, including system automated decisions in DMN.

Want to learn more about these modelling notations and how to use them correctly?

The Ground lion experts are happy to help.

(Koen De Maesschalck)

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