BPM lifecycle for ARIS models in IBM Business Process Manager V8.0, Part 1: Importing ARIS models into IBM Process Designer

This two-part article series focuses on a practical approach for a standard-based, cross-tooling, and cross-vendor business process management lifecycle that implements ARIS Event-driven Process Chains (EPC) models in the IBM® Business Process Manager suite, as they were created within its own repository. Part 1 describes two ways of importing process models from ARIS into IBM Process Designer via a standard BPMN2.0 import as as well as in the ARIS XML format. Part 2 shows how to merge a newly imported ARIS model version with the already extended and executed process in Process Designer.

Plamen Kiradjiev (kiradjiev@de.ibm.com), Executive IT Architect, IBM

Photo of Plamen KiradjievPlamen Kiradjiev is an IBM Executive IT Architect with a strong background in business process management, application integration, and complex IT environments. He has been working with IBM since 1995, first with Global Services, and then in 2004 with Software Group Technical Sales with a focus on the Automotive and Public sectors. Plamen invested several years in methodology, tools, and best practices for integrating ARIS with WebSphere as well as led and advised dozens of client engagements in that area.



Stefan Karsten (skarsten@de.ibm.com), Client Technical Specialist, IBM

Photo of Stefan KarstenStefan Karsten is a Client Technical Specialist with the German Technical Sales Team, focusing on Business Process Management and Decision Management. He worked on different assets for WebSphere Lombardi BPM and IBM BPM for 5 years now, and on BPM practice with different solutions for 12 years. He developed most of the services in this article.



Michael Lackerbauer (michael.lackerbauer@de.ibm.com), Solution Architect, IBM

Michael Lackerbauer is a Senior Solution Architect with the German WebSphere Technical Sales Team, focusing on Business Process Management and integration. He has many years in designing and developing solutions based on the WebSphere BPM and integration portfolio.



September 2013 (First published 20 June 2012)

Also available in Chinese

Introduction

Many companies and institutions have been using ARIS for years to document their business processes. ARIS, specifically ARIS Business Architect, is a popular modelling tool that uses Event-driven Process Chains (EPC) for documenting business processes. The next natural step is optimizing and executing those processes. With the maturity of standards like Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and their absorption in the standard BPM products, business departments can leverage their legacy of ARIS EPC models and bring them to execution.

This article series describes how a documented EPC model in ARIS can be transformed into a running process in IBM Business Process Manager (IBM BPM). It can be seen as the successor of the ARIS2WebSphere approach described in Importing BPEL code from ARIS SOA Architect into WebSphere Integration Developer. This article provides the next level of maturity, openness, productivity, and tools support by lowering the constraints in the modeling conventions required for the BPEL-based integration, and demonstrating the import capabilities into IBM BPM, such as BPMN2.0 to native ARIS XML.

Part 1 of the article series describes two ways of importing process models from ARIS into IBM BPM Process Designer as:

  • A BPMN2.0 representation via the standard import according to the BPMN2.0 execution conformance specification.
  • An ARIS XML via an import framework asset.

Part 1 ends with the IT-extended process executed on WebSphere Process Server. The import framework asset is provided in the Download section of the article and shortly explained to enable its extension and adjustment. Figure 1 illustrates the two options for bringing the ARIS EPC models to execution, which are described in the next two sections.

Figure 1. Two options for importing ARIS models into IBM BPM
Two options for importing ARIS models into IBM BPM

Importing BPMN 2.0 from ARIS

Exchanging process models based on the current specification BPMN 2.0 provides important advantages like openness, sharing artifacts between different tools, and avoiding vendor lock-in, both on the business modeling and process execution platforms. This is the preferred way of integration. The prerequisites for realizing a BPMN 2.0-based integration are as follows:

  • ARIS Business Architect or Designer V7.2 with BPMN 2.0 capabilities (at the time of writing this article, the BPMN 2.0 export functionality was in development).
  • IBM BPM Process Designer V7.5 and above, including the native BPMN 2.0 import function based on the Execution Conformance according to the specification.

From ARIS EPC to BPMN 2.0

As shown on Figure 1, applying the integration based on the BPMN 2.0 specification requires a two-step approach within ARIS:

  1. Transforming the existing EPC model into a BPMN 2.0 representation.
  2. Exporting the BPMN 2.0 model.

Even if each transformation causes potential loss of information, this two-step approach is needed to bring the legacy EPC representation into the BPMN 2.0 standard. The fact that this transformation is done within the same tool and the chance to adjust the intermediate logical model eases this circumstance. With the establishment of BPMN 2.0 and the enhanced productivity and collaboration based on the same model representation within different tools across business and IT departments, it is expected that business analysts move to modeling in BPMN 2.0, at least for processes that are created for execution and automation. As mentioned, the BPMN 2.0 export capability has not been available at the time of writing this article, so it cannot be demonstrated here.

The following section uses an early ARIS BPMN 2.0 export based on the OMG BPMN 2.0 Nobel Prize sample that has been tested in the course of cooperation with ARIS Development. Figure 2 shows the snapshot of the ARIS BPMN 2.0 representation.

Figure 2. Nobel Prize OMG sample as ARIS BPMN 2.0 representation (see enlarged Figure 2)
Nobel Prize OMG sample as ARIS BPMN 2.0 representation

Importing BPMN 2.0 into IBM Process Designer

The exported .bpmn file is to be converted into a zip archive so it can be imported via the standard import wizard of the Process Designer. The BPMN 2.0 format is recognized, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Process Designer Import Process App wizard
Process Designer Import Process App wizard

After clicking OK, the process application is created and some information and warning messages are shown. One of the warnings applies to the collaboration construct that is not supported by the BPMN 2.0 import. There are also some informational messages regarding the generation of Business Objects. IBM BPM implements the BPMN 2.0 specification. IBM provides all of the capabilities included in the Common Executable sub-class as well as useful modeling constructs and extension beyond the sub-class. The result of the "Nobel Committee Medicine" process immediately after the import looks like Figure 4.

Figure 4. Nobel Committee Medicine process in Process Designer (see enlarged Figure 4)
Nobel Committee Medicine process in Process Designer

As shown in Figure 4, the Data Objects are also created as well as the Data Mappings based on the Data Inputs, and Outputs between the Tasks and their service or human tasks implementations. The latter allows the direct playback of the process even before specifying the concrete data structure, Coaches (GUI implementations), or Integration Services. This enables a step-by-step iterative development by running playbacks at each step of the process implementation progress.


Importing ARIS XML

As mentioned in the previous section, the BPMN 2.0 export capability of ARIS was not been available at the time of writing this article. Therefore, this section describes another way of importing ARIS EPC models into IBM BPM, with the least requirements for the ARIS tooling to leverage the ARIS-specific XML export format. This approach can fill the gap until the BPMN 2.0 export is available or can be used as an alternative for older or other versions of ARIS. In both cases, any switch from the one to the other approach is possible and does not change anything in the overall development process. The prerequisites for both sides are:

  • For ARIS: Any version or edition from version 7.1 and later
  • For IBM BPM Process Designer: Version 7.5 and later with the Import Framework used to import the proprietary ARIS XML format (included in the Download section).

Exporting ARIS EPC as ARIS XML

The stand-by ticket scenario shown on Figure 5 is used in this section. After buying a stand-by ticket, the customer will be charged by the Payment system unless he cancels his reservation directly or via the Service center 24 hours before the flight.

Figure 5. Standby ticket EPC model
Standby ticket EPC model

Another detail is that the Booking Data Cluster is aligned with the following data structure containing the flight and customer record details, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Booking record structure
Booking record structure

To process the XML export for the Stand-by ticket model, right-click on EPC in the ARIS Process Explorer and select Export > XML file, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Exporting the EPC model as an ARIS XML file (see enlarged Figure 7)
Exporting the EPC model as an ARIS XML file

The output is saved as "standby1.xml" in the local file system.

Importing ARIS XML into IBM Process Designer

An Import framework is used for the ARIS XML file to import into IBM BPM Process Designer. The next section describes the architecture and install of the framework as a task callable from the Process Portal under the URL of http://localhost:9080/portal (the local version used here is IBM BPM V8.0), as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Call Import framework from IBM BPM Portal
Call Import framework from IBM BPM Portal

The following screens shown in Figures 9 to 11 ask for a project name (Process Application in IBM BPM terms) and the shortcut that will be created, the ARIS XML file location, and some layout parameters that can be left to the default values.

Figure 9. Import framework screen 1
Import framework screen 1
Figure 10. Import framework screen 2
Import framework screen 2
Figure 11. Import framework screen 3
Import framework screen 3

Finally, Figure 12 shows the output report with created diagram and related artifacts.

Figure 12. Import framework import log
Import framework import log

Figure 13 shows that the process is created after some alignment, adding the appropriate coaches for the user tasks and configuring the events with Process Designer.

Figure 13. Standby ticket process in IBM BPM Process Designer (see enlarged Figure 13)
Standby ticket process in IBM BPM Process Designer

The imported process is executable immediately after the import. Also, the data structure Booking is created based on the ARIS model, so it can be directly used for creating the coaches for the user tasks. As the focus here is not the step-by-step process implementation with Process Designer, Figure 14 shows the playback of the extended process that was originally created as an ARIS EPC.

Figure 14. Process playback with the configured user interface (see enlarged Figure 14)
Process playback with the configured user interface

Importing the Framework implementation description

The Framework is implemented as an IBM BPM 8.0 process application. It uses the internal Java™ API that is also used by Process Designer to build process diagrams manually and store them in the Process Center. The process application consists of several services that includes all transformation logic written in server-side JavaScript and enhanced by Java API method calls to convert the input files into the internal BPMN representation. They are not just for the ARIS Markup Language (AML), but also for other formats like WebSphere MQ FDL or XPDL.

All services have a prototype status and they are not designed for production. The main service is "lsw XML Import", where a user provides all information such as import format type and import file name. This service routes the information to the right sub service, which is created for each supported import format. In the case of ARIS, it is called "lsw Import IDS Sheer ARIS Model".

The IBM BPM Java API, which is for internal use only, allows a programmer to create its own automated services to take the ARIS AML files and to parse the content. Because EPC and BPMN have a few artifacts in common, the transformation from EPC to BPMN can at least map most elements of AML to the internal representation of the IBM BPM for a process diagram, which is almost BPMN. Listing 1 shows how EPC artifacts, in this case XOR and OR gateway types, are mapped to the internal BPMN elements.

Listing 1. Handling EPC artifacts in the example of gateways
if (type == "ST_OPR_OR_1") {
 tw_typeString = "COMPONENT_TYPE_GATEWAY,OR_GATEWAY_TYPE,1";
} elseif (type == "ST_OPR_XOR_1") {
  tw_typeString = "COMPONENT_TYPE_GATEWAY,XOR_DATA_GATEWAY_TYPE,-1";
} elseif (type == "ST_OPR_XOR_2") {
  tw_typeString = "COMPONENT_TYPE_GATEWAY,XOR_DATA_GATEWAY_TYPE,1";
.....

The mapping logic builds data models first, and then the processes top-down. That means the first BPMN process and subprocess diagrams are created, then the lanes, all the flow components, and finally all connections between the flow components. Because the diagram orientation in ARIS can be different than that is used in IBM BPM, another step is taken to achieve a better diagram layout. This is done by a method that takes the X-coordinate of all components and sorts them from left to right, plus relinks the connections for a better layout result. If all the information has been mapped, all the data is stored immediately in the Process Center database and ready for execution. No further steps are needed.

The information for the mapping is retrieved from AML as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Mapping AML to BPMN 2.0
BPMN artifactAbstract Javascript code using xpath for AML parsing
Process
var processes = aml.xpath("//Group/Model[@Model.Type='MT_EEPC']")
Pool No AML information available, only one default pool is created.
Lanes
var orgtypes = "OT_ORG_UNIT,OT_POS,OT_GRP,OT_ORG_UNIT_TYPE, 
OT_PERS_TYPE,OT_APPL_SYS_TYPE"; 
var lanes = aml.xpath("//ObjDef[" + 
"@TypeNum='"+ orgtypes.split(",").join("'  or 
@TypeNum='") + "'" + "]");
Flow components
var arisTypes = "ST_FUNC,ST_SYS_FUNC_ACT,ST_OPR_OR_1,ST_OPR_XOR_1,
ST_OPR_AND_1,ST_EV,ST_EV_S,ST_EV_E,ST_PRCS_IF,ST_SYS_FUNC_TRG,
ST_VAL_ADD_CHN_SML_2,ST_VAL_ADD_CHN_SML_1,OT_FUNC";

var xpathSyms = "@SymbolNum='" + 
arisTypes.split(",").join("'  or @SymbolNum='") + "'"; 

var components= aml.xpath("Model/ObjOcc[" + 
xpathSyms + "]");
Connections between flow components
var conns = aml.xpath("ObjOcc/CxnOcc");
Data models
var datamodels =  
aml.xpath("Model/ObjOcc[(@SymbolNum='ST_CLST'");

Conclusion

The article demonstrated two ways of importing ARIS models into IBM BPM using BPMN 2.0 and ARIS XML. While the first option provides the strategic and standard-based approach that is supported by standard product capabilities; the second approach provides an easy and direct way with the lowest prerequisites for the ARIS tooling.


Downloads

DescriptionNameSize
ARIS XML import frameworkARIS_XML_Import_Framework_all_IBM_BPM_versions_V8.5.3.zip15,740KB
Test artifactsARIS_TestAssets_part1.zip1,662KB

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ArticleTitle=BPM lifecycle for ARIS models in IBM Business Process Manager V8.0, Part 1: Importing ARIS models into IBM Process Designer
publish-date=09202013