SBVR & BPMN as Pillars of Business Engineering

The optimal combination of BPMN and SBVR is an excellent language to undertake the challenge to specify the structure and processes of Business Engineering.  BPMN is a graphical language.  An SBVR graphical language based on CogNIAM has been introduced and combined with SBVR.  The Business Engineering Community has started to describe the contributing silos such that the result is an integrative Business Engineering discipline.


In the Netherlands a new movement has recently been established to integrate various disciplines into an integrative discipline, called Business Engineering.  The concept definition is:

Business Engineering is the emerging integrative discipline for business-driven development of substantially automated business services, including human involvement and interaction.  Business Engineering continuously adapts business services to stay aligned with business vision, mission, strategy, and policy.[2]

One major pillar of Business Engineering is a formal version of SBVR.[5]  Another pillar is a well-selected subset of BPMN.[4]  The major idea of Business Engineering is to provide a truly integrative discipline to help the business.  The optimal combination of BPMN and SBVR is called Semantic Modeling.

Semantic Modeling is an approach to describe (part of) a business or subject in such a way that all communication about that (part of) the business or subject is

  1. understandable to all stakeholders,
  2. complete,
  3. free of redundancy,
  4. consistent,
  5. determinate, and
  6. formal.

It furthermore provides the means to describe the process aspects, including a selectable degree of abstraction, sub-processes and tasks, both for persons and machines, events, and decisions.

Semantic Modeling consists of a structural part and a structuring part, fully integrated.

A prime candidate for the contents of and description of the structural part of Semantic Modeling is ORM3, the optimal combination of SBVR,[5] [6] [7] CogNIAM,[3] and ORM2.[1]  The contents of the structuring part are primarily based on CogNIAM.  A prime candidate to describe the structuring part is a version of BPMN combined with SBVR.

The optimal combination of BPMN with SBVR embedded is the language of integrative Semantic Modeling.  Semantic Modeling is an emerging independent discipline to describe the structure and the structuring of communication between persons and between persons and communication equipped artifacts.  It is proposed to teach such a discipline in nearly every first year of higher education, using a formal SBVR Structured English version to teach predicate logic.

Body of Knowledge of Business Engineering

Our current challenge is to come up with the body of knowledge of Business Engineering.  One of the immediate questions is:  what is the process to develop the body of knowledge for the generic subject called Business Engineering?

It is proposed to make a bridgehead, or several bridgeheads and gradually extend and integrate them.  To develop a fully-integrated BE discipline will be a first-class challenge.  My interpretation of the aim is to integrate all of the following sub-disciplines, with a few extensions, into one coherent body of shared meanings that can have various sub-models (or sub-bodies of shared meanings):

  1. Business Intelligence (BE)
  2. Business Process Management (BPM)
  3. Business Rules Management (BRM)
  4. Corporate Performance Management (CPM)
  5. Enterprise Architecture (EA)
  6. Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
  7. Enterprise Decision Management (EDM)
  8. Enterprise Information Management (EIM)
  9. Knowledge Management and Engineering (KME)
  10. Model Driven Development (MDD)
  11. Regulative Compliance Management (RCM)
  12. Requirements Engineering (RE)
  13. Semantic Modeling (SM)
  14. Semantic Web (SW)
  15. Value Chain Management (VCM)

Let us start somewhere, i.e., let's build a bridgehead.  We need an architecture for

  1. the structure,
  2. the structuring, and
  3. how these two relate.

For various practical reasons I prefer to start with the architecture of the structure.  Postulations — there are three levels of structure:

  1. The level of the ground facts
  2. The level of the domain specific conceptual schema
  3. The level of the generic conceptual schema

How to describe the structure of the knowledge or how to describe the results?  SBVR has been chosen as it provides the means to use:

  1. concept definitions,
  2. fact types,
  3. fact type forms, and
  4. rules.

When needed semantic and speech communities are added.

How to describe processes or structuring?   BPMN, enhanced with SBVR where necessary, will be used to describe processes.

This is the core part of Business Engineering.  In this language all the following subjects will be integrated:  BE, BPM, BRM, CPM, EA, ECM, EIM, KME, MDD, RCM, RE, SM, SW, and VCM.


[1]  Halpin, Terry & Tony Morgan, Information Modeling and Relational Databases, March 2008, ISBN:  978-0-12-373568-3. return to article

[2]  Hermans, Leo, forum post on Business Engineering Community, URL: return to article

[3]  Nijssen, Sjir & John Hall, "SBVR Diagrams:  A Response to an Invitation," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 7 (Jul. 2007), URL: to article

[4]  Object Management Group (OMG), Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) Specification, Version 1.1, Jan. 2008.  Available as document formal/2008-01-17 at return to article

[5]  Object Management Group (OMG), Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR), Version 1.0, Object Management Group (Jan. 2008).  Available as document 08-01-02 at
SBVR 1.0 and supporting files are available at to article

[6]  Ross, Ronald G., "The Emergence of SBVR and the True Meaning of 'Semantics':  Why You Should Care (a Lot!) ~ Part 1," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (March 2008), URL: to article

[7]  Vanthienen, Jan, "SBVR:  The ABCs of Accurate Business Communication," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (March 2008), URL: to article

# # #

Standard citation for this article:

citations icon
Sjir Nijssen, "SBVR & BPMN as Pillars of Business Engineering" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 10, (Oct. 2008)

About our Contributor:

Sjir   Nijssen
Sjir Nijssen CTO, PNA

Dr. Sjir Nijssen is CTO at PNA in the Netherlands ( Dr. Nijssen started with fact based business modeling in the early seventies, at Control Data’s European headquarters in Brussels. Since then it has been more than his full-time occupation. It was there where NIAM (Natural language Information Analysis Method), a fact based business practice and notation, was conceived. After holding a position as professor of Computer Science for seven years, he founded the company PNA in 1989, exclusively dedicated to delivering business requirements, consulting and educational services fully based on fact orientation. PNA currently employs over 50 people. PNA has been awarded the first accreditation in the Netherlands for a bachelor curriculum entirely based on extended fact orientation, in which all subjects are delivered in fact orientation knowledge format (including fully describing concept definitions, fact types, fact type readings and rules).

Dr. Nijssen can be reached directly at

Read All Articles by Sjir Nijssen
Subscribe to the eBRJ Newsletter
SBVR & BPMN as Pillars of Business Engineering
SBVR Diagrams: A Response to an Invitation
SBVR: N-ary Fact Types and Subtypes — Understandable and Formal
Hooray, SBVR has arrived!
SBVR ~ Ground Facts and Fact Types in First-Order Logic
In The Spotlight
 Silvie  Spreeuwenberg
 Jim  Sinur

Online Interactive Training Series

In response to a great many requests, Business Rule Solutions now offers at-a-distance learning options. No travel, no backlogs, no hassles. Same great instructors, but with schedules, content and pricing designed to meet the special needs of busy professionals.