I spent an interesting day last week in Birmingham (or Brum as it is affectionately known) at a workshop on Business Process Modelling given by Balbir Barn of Thames Valley University. Birmingham has certainly changed since my youth there and the workshop was held in the completely redeveloped Brindley Place area of the city. This used to be a decaying network of stinking canals, collapsing Victorian warehouses and rat-infested walkways. It is now home to flash hotels, bars, offices and a series of conference venues including Austin Court, where the workshop took place. Lunch included chocolate covered strawberries which were extremely tasty, although probably ethically dubious given that this is March.
The workshop itself covered Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) a diagrammatic notation for representing workflows in the business environment. This probably sounds fairly dull, but it is quite interesting in that it was aimed at higher education and is a sign that universities are becoming more aware of the methods used in the commercial sector. Towards the end of the day, one subject of debate was the likely uptake and impact of using such workflow tools in higher education settings. It can certainly be argued that there are parts of the university system that are akin to the bureaucratic functions of a business (HR, payroll, student registration, course validation). But what of more non-traditional areas like library repositories or e-learning systems? Delegates were certainly interested in debating the potential return-on-investment for groups of developers within the education community who have spent time learning and mastering these kinds of workflow tools.