Beginners Guide to Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN)

By Kate Eby | November 28, 2016

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Although many big organizations still use the written word to describe their processes and requirements, a significant amount of evidence suggests that pictures are a better way to communicate. This is where modeling languages come in. Modeling languages allow companies to show their processes pictorially to minimize error and miscommunication. They can also be used to delineate responsibilities, find areas for improvement, and plan for future changes.

In this article, we look at business process modeling and notation (BPMN) as a standard of modeling languages for enterprises. We’ll discuss what it is, what it was, and how it should be used. We’ll review BPMN elements and extended elements in detail, as well as provide guidelines for modeling and tips for using the notation. We present examples of BPMN models, and finally, we’ll offer a method for choosing a BPMN tool.

What Is Modeling Notation and BPMN? An Overview

Process modeling notation is a language that’s readable to humans and that describes the structure and elements of a business sequence. The vocabulary is defined, and the language is organized such that we understand how it should flow and how the information is presented. As a data science, process modeling notation includes about 40 different elements, delineated with rules about their use.

This language tells stories about our work. By creating a model similar to a flowchart with this language, a business can capture, analyze, understand, automate, and even optimize their processes. As with any language, it’s important to learn the terms and rules of grammar. Since the 1960s, countless notations and their varying structures have come and gone. When it comes to a modeling notation, experts recommend that you choose a standard that is based upon your purpose, that it is supported by a wide number of tools, and that comes with training and references.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standardized graphical notation that is used globally for business process modeling . It is open source, which means that the original code is available for anyone to change and use. The specification defines its symbols and shapes precisely.

BPMN starts and ends with the business process flow diagram. This is a technical map of an organization’s flow and practices, presented in a standardized language, and available for users to improve, share, and follow.

The Object Management Group (OMG) , a nonprofit technology standards consortium, governs and maintains BPMN. OMG offers several certification programs, including the OCEB Certification (OMG Certified Expert in BPMTM) for BPMN. The field of business process management (BPM) approves of standardization and often uses software (BPMS) that includes the BPMN language. Some are low-code platforms, meaning that the business can configure its BPMS to work with its incumbent software and needs.

The BPMN language is not owned by a commercial enterprise, though Trisotech is a commercial software and consulting company that helped develop BPMN by building on its standards internationally. It has also been involved in developing and setting BPM standards, XPDL, BPSim, and CMMN, and is considered a leader in BPMN consultation.

At its core, BPMN is intuitive. Even when staff members do not understand the exact symbols, they can figure out the meaning of the workflow. However, for more advanced users, the nuances are apparent. For example, in the simple process below, Lane 1 starts a task. This could be your company, which is the pool. Your department is Lane 1, which starts the process and completes the first task. The work is then sent to another department (in Lane 2), which sends it back for Task 3 and completion. This seems more complex with the standardized language, but if you add names, it is very clear. You can model this simplicity throughout your processes, even those that appear very complex.

Basic BPMNc Diagram

A simple BPMN process map

OCEB 2 Program

The OCEB 2 Program has five examinations, each offering a certification. After the Fundamental level, there is a track for business and another for technical. In the BPM world, these certifications assure employers that you understand not just the principles, but also the practice of BPM. The OCEB 2 Certification was designed by 25 BPM professionals from the commercial industry, with the intent of providing this assurance to their peers and prospective BPM employers. The certification gives BPM practitioners an edge over their uncertified competitors.

When to Use BPMN

Different users of BPMN describe it as simultaneously complex, simple, prohibitive, and helpful. There are certainly times when you will prefer to use this standardized language. Three reasons you would want to use BPMN versus another notation include:

Its use is tied to organizational objectives . In this scenario, your business would require a specific modeling notation language in order to stay consistent, especially if they have international business interests. Out of necessity, this modeling is generally more formal than most.

You commonly use the same handful of elements in a specific concept . In this scenario, you are able to draw selectively from BPMN as needed, and there is less concern about other users misunderstanding.

You want to show your breadth of BPM knowledge . Nothing says you are a BPM expert like understanding the modeling language designed specifically for it. When you apply for positions that require BPM expertise, this knowledge and experience could set you apart.

OMG merged with the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), the inventors of BPMN, in 2005. Since its inception, five releases of BPMN have followed. BPMN 2.0 arrived in early 2011. The five versions and their dates of release are below. Each version is linked to its official specifications.

BPMN 1.0, released May 3, 2004

BPMN 1.1 , released January 17, 2008

BPMN 1.2 , released January 3, 2009

BPMN 2.0 , released January 3, 2011

BPMN 2.0.2 , released January 3, 2014

BPMN was originally a modeling notation that was meant to give all stakeholders, from high-level decision makers to technical staff, a standardized language for diagrams. But with the release of version 2.0, BPMN became about models and notation. The difference is that instead of standardized models alone, BPMN offers a standardized XML (Extensible Markup Language) schema that can map between software tools. At this time, more than 80 tools support BPMN.

OMG originally developed the Business Process Definition Metamodel (BPDM) as a bridge between BPMN and software. BPDM describes the rules, constraints, and theories of BPMN so that software programs can map and use it with an XML syntax (such as the Business Process Execution Language, or BPEL). The originators thought users should be able to move process models from one modeling tool to another without losing information. According to OMG , “By providing a common, syntax-independent vocabulary for business process concepts, BPDM standardizes the way BPMN diagrams are stored and exchanged.” However, according to experts, the advent of BPMN 2.0 negates the need for BPDM. Further, experts say that BPEL does not fully support BPMN.

BPMN 2.0 also improves the following:

Semantics : The execution semantics (meanings) for all BPMN elements were formalized.

Notation : New diagram types were added with new contexts for use. These include choreography and conversation diagrams. Choreography diagrams center on the flow of messages and between-process interactions. These diagrams chiefly focus on the interaction between the pools. There is no central control, responsible entity, or observer. Conversation diagrams focus on conversations between the participants, showing a bird’s-eye view of the information exchange between participants. BPMN 2.0 also made improvements to events, adding non-interrupting events and event subprocesses. We discuss the event improvements in the “Extended BPMN Modeling Elements” section of this guide. With sub-processes, BPMN 2.0 added more than 50 new elements. Elements are the symbols that represent different parts of the process.

Technical : The formal meta-model was defined.

Choreography Diagram

Example of choreography diagram. The choreography diagram in the center represents the communication between the pools.

Conversation Diagram

Example of conversation diagram. Conversations diagrams show a different view and incorporate two new elements: the hexagon and the double line.  

According to some experts, not everything in BPMN 1.0 has a partner in BPMN 2.0. However, software packages are available that provide migration pathways to update older models.

OMG states that there will not be another version of BPMN for at least two to three more years. Since many users want a stable long-term platform, OMG is not in a hurry to get to BPMN 3.0. In 2014, OMG did release a complement to BPMN called the Decision Model and Notation (DMN), which provides a separation in the decision and the process. DMN was designed to work to connect with BPMN as a schema model in XML format via the identified processes and tasks, as well as through the decision knowledge base data type. In other words, BPMN shows the processes, while DMN models show how decisions are made in the processes.

BPMN’s main goal is to be a notation that all users can understand. This includes not only the businesspeople who manage all of the processes, but the business analysts and the technical developers. Other goals of BPMN include:

Provide a consistent structure.

Be highly readable throughout all levels of the process.

Ensure that the model is complete without any additional documentation required.

Be able to be shared with IT as an executable process.

Your BPMN diagram should represent not only business process activities, but can and should show the following:

Any information that is exchanged during process implementation.

Control checkpoints that show the sequence of data exchange and activity implementation.

Personnel roles and any needed additional personnel.

What information systems support the process.

How the process in regulated in the business rules and legal framework.

The implementation.

business model process notation

BPMN Diagram Perspectives

Many organizations strive for interoperability, where different software applications and IT systems are able to communicate, exchange data, and use the information and knowledge from the exchanged data. You can consider interoperability from three perspectives: private business processes, public business processes, and collaboration business processes. For IT, these perspectives are important for the ability to exchange data.

Private business processes detail:

Internal activities

Departments responsible for each task


Rules that regulate the processes

Information systems

Public business processes:

Concentrate on the interaction between internal processes and those of other organizations

Do not review organizational structure, information systems, or rules

Collaboration business processes:

Show all interactions for every organization in the process (two or more businesses)

Do not provide internal processes for any organization

Help identify the software that supports the processes

Contain two or more pools

This makes sense in BPMN, because part of the purpose of BPMN 2.0 is to exchange BPMN models between different software systems. There are noted limitations on this interchange; these are intentional on the part of the designers of BPMN 2.0 because they wanted to ensure maximum flexibility. Visually, these include colors of shapes and text, shape decorations such as shadows, gradients, backgrounds, text wrapping, and thickness and style of lines. Semantically, these include proprietary extensions such as the script of a script task, user task implementation, and global user task implementation.

BPMN Constraints

For all of BPMN’s capabilities, it is specifically constrained to business processes. Some organizations and analysts assume that BPMN is a magic bullet for all of their process modeling needs. However, the following processes are not meant to be supported by BPMN:

Organizational structures and resources

Functional breakdowns

Data and information models

Business rules

These types of processes can be addressed in other UML models or additional documentation. It must be noted that BPMN models are not data flow diagrams (DFDs), which show the flow specifically of data information from one place to another. These diagrams provide only one view of a process through the data.

Target Audience for Business Process Modeling Notation

BPMN was designed so that all users can understand it: businesspeople, business analysts, and IT staff. Although the BPMN originators had these groups in mind during development, they were also concerned with how they could link BPMN to other OMG standards. Further, although the standard supports all of these professionals, not all professionals design to the same level.

Bruce Silver discusses three levels of BPMN users in the trainings that he conducts. Level 1 is your typical user who employs only a handful of symbols. Their diagrams are simple and conform to a very traditional standard. Some journals estimate that almost 90 percent of users are at this level of design. (This figure is referenced by many blogs and periodicals, but there is no specific study that supports it.) Level 2 users provide the layer that IT professionals can then add to. It is essentially a more advanced business process layout using less common

BPMN Elements

BPMN keeps elements of a business process model to a minimum so that the look and feel of the diagram stays as consistent as possible. You can always add more detail after the basic categories are complete.

There are two types of elements: descriptive and analytic. Within this framework, you’ll find over 40 different elements, each with rules about when they can and cannot be used. Business analysts developed descriptive elements to model processes as documentation, and technical staff developed analytic elements to model executable processes within the software.

The five basic categories of elements are:

1. Flow Objects . These define the behavior of business processes.

Events: What happens during a process. There are three main types: Start, Intermediate, and End. An event is also what happens during a process. For example, an event could be that “a message is sent,” “an error occurred,” or “cycle is completed.”

Activities: Work performed in a process; also known as tasks .

Gateways: These determine the sequence flow path in a process. Gateways have internal markers that give additional detail to show how the flow is controlled. These are decision points in a process. For example, if a condition is true, then processing continues one way; if false, then another.

2. Data : These elements call out information about the activities. Data is either provided or stored for the activity.

Data objects

Data inputs

Data outputs

Data stores, where processes can either read or write information. A data store continues beyond the life of the process.

3. Connecting Objects : These connect the flow objects to each other or to other information.

Sequence flows: This element shows the order in which activities are performed.

Message flows: This displays the messages and the order of flow between participants.

Associations: This element is used to link information and artifacts (see below).

Data associations: These have an arrowhead to indicate direction of flow in an association.

4. Swimlanes : In BPMN, a swimlane is an element that shows where the responsibility for the process resides, and a pool represents the participant. Lanes break apart the pool as a partition of responsibility, showing the location of activities. Lanes can also delineate phases (first phase, second phase, etc.). In other words, a pool is a container for a single process, and a lane classifies the activity within it.

Lanes do not have semantics in BPMN; they are merely a partitioning concept. You can arrange swimlanes either vertically or horizontally. Lanes are optional and may be nested. Some issues with swimlanes:

Flow elements are connected differently depending on whether they are in a pool or between pools.

Only message flows can be used when communicating between pools. Message flows designate the exchange of messages.

A pool cannot contain more than one process.

Sequence flows should not be used between pools. Lanes are more appropriate where sequence flows are necessary, not pools.

5. Artifacts : These are used to give extra detail about the process. The two standardized artifacts are:

Groups: This is a hatched box around a group of elements to designate visually that they are related. This does not affect sequence flows.

Text Annotations: Extra text, attached with an association, that gives additional information. Also known as a comment.

6. Message : This element is shown in the tables in the specification guide for BPMN, but not put into a specific category. It is used in extended notation as well. A message represents communication between participants.


The five basic categories of BPMN elements.  

Extended BPMN Modeling Elements

Extended modeling elements take the basic elements, add notation, and change their meaning while still showing consistency. The following sections are a foray into extended elements. The elements shown are not meant to be exhaustive, but provide the most commonly used elements in BPMN.

An example of an extended element is the use of a Start Event. A message element is then added, and the meaning changes from plain “Start” to a “Start triggered by a message.” The extended modeling element in this scenario allows users to specify how the event begins, not simply that it has begun, adding to the detail in a process.

BPMN start event

Events Extended

We know there are three type of events: start, intermediate, and end. These events can also be broken down into catching events, throwing events, and interrupting or non-interrupting events. A trigger defines catching events. Once the trigger is activated, the event starts. Throwing events are assumed by BPMN to trigger themselves. They do not react to triggers; instead, the process triggers them. Whether an event is interrupting or non-interrupting is related to the action. When an interrupting event is fired, the action is blocked. When a non-interrupting event is fired, the action continues.

BPMN event sub processes

Extended Event Sub-Processes

Activity Tasks, Sub-Processes, Transactions, and Call Activities Extended

You can add to tasks as well, with extra notation to show more specificity. The following image shows the notation and the meaning of each.

Receive waits for a message from an external participant.

Script is a task executed by the engine.

Manual is a task the operates without the aid of engines or applications.

Receive (Instantiated) is a task that is designed to wait for a message to arrive from an external participant. It then instantiates a process.

Service is a task that uses a web service or automated application.

User is a human task scheduled through a manager.

Send is a task that is designed to send a message to an external participant.

Business Rule is a task that confirms with the business rules engine the input prior to executing.

BPMN business rules

Three types of markers are specified for a task as well. These include loop, multiple instance, and compensation.

Loop will continue as long as the condition is true; a numeric cap may be specified.

Multiple instance may execute in parallel or sequentially. An expression or a data-driven setup can be used to determine the number of instances.

Compensation tasks specify some type of recompense or payment, either into or out of the process.

BPMN loop tasks

Loop tasks, sequential multiple instances tasks, and compensation tasks, respectively.

Sub-processes show lower levels or more detailed levels in a process event task. A collapsed sub-process is shown below:

BPMN sub process

Additionally, you can combine four types of markers with the sub-process marker. These include loop, multi-instance, ad-hoc, and compensation.

BPMN compensation

Source: OMG

Transaction Sub-Process

A transaction sub-process is embedded. You can use it to group multiple activities and show that they either fail or succeed collectively. These groupings of processes are surrounded by a double border to show they are a transaction.

Transaction image

In the above example, the flow moves to a Cancel End Event in the case of an error due to unavailable bookings. This activates the process rollback, and any completed reservation activity will be undone. The tasks in this example are undone in the reverse order that they were completed.

Gateways Extended

Notation may be added to gateways to represent different kind of control behavior, such as making decisions, branching, merging, forking, and joining. The types of possible gateways are exclusive, event-based, inclusive, complex, and parallel.

Exclusive gateways are the main type. They may have the X in the middle, or they may be empty. They model alternative paths and are where the diversion takes place.

Event-based gateways are used to model the alternative paths, but are based on events that occur, not the expression of flow.

Inclusive gateways can be used to model alternative and parallel paths. They evaluate all condition expressions and take paths with a positive result.

Complex gateways model complex synchronization behavior.

Parallel gateways create and join parallel flows. They check no conditions.

BPMN parallel

Data Objects Extended

Data objects are available in processes and sub-processes. Aside from the main type of data object, you can add notation to indicate data input, data output, collection data item, collection data input, and collection data output. Data inputs and outputs relate to the entire process. Collection data relate to the actual collection of some type of information during the process.

BPMN object

From left to right: Data input, data output, data object collection, data input collection, and data output collection.

Connecting Objects Extended

The addition of extra notation to connecting objects can extend their usage in BPMN. These include conditional flows, default flows, exception flows, and compensation associations.

Conditional flows are used in merging and branching in place of a gateway. A conditional expression is defined at its origin.

Default flows are only selected if no other sequence flows available. Conditions on a default sequence flow are always ignored. There may be only one default flow per object.

Exception flows occur outside of the normal flow of the process and are based on an intermediate event on the boundary.

Compensation associations are used when an activity is canceled, and the process must be set to its original state.

BPMN arrows

Conditional flows and default flows.

BPMN exception flows

Exception flows and compensation flows.

BPMN Critique

Critics have written widely about BPMN and why it is not appropriate for widespread use. The majority of the criticism centers on BPMN’s complexity. With more than 100 unique elements (resulting from the five main elements and their additional notation), it is too much to learn, too easy to make errors, and too granular for business processes alone, according to critics. Further, doing BPMN for the sake of doing BPMN causes more harm than good.

Other risks of BPMN include:

Mistakes in the Modeling Elements : This would decrease the clarity of process flows, rather than increase the communication.

Increased Complexity in Modeling : With more time required for analysis, the value of the product decreases.

Lack of Stakeholder Understanding : If stakeholders need everything explained, it could introduce errors and incorrect information.

Bruce Silver , who helped draft BPMN 2.0, says, “Business analysts should learn the semantics and rules, and that for most effective use the method and style of BPMN should also be learned.” Most professionals and organizations stick to a handful of symbols, so there is not much to learn. This in fact makes the notation simple. Diagrams can be extended for more granularities as needed, such as with an IT implementation. Further, BPMN is designed to model both human-centric and IT processes with equal accuracy. It also has the power and precision to display a clear vision of how your business works, saves time by showing unnecessary tasks, and reduces your employees’ rates of overlooked, forgotten, or poorly executed work.

BPMN diagrams have certain capabilities that other modeling languages do not. According to Silver, “Restricting BPMN to the part that is familiar from traditional process mapping is to miss its essence, which is the expressiveness required to describe not only the process’s normal or ‘happy path,’ but the various exception paths as well, and to do so with the semantic precision needed by IT to translate any proposed improvement into a working implementation.”

Essentially, Silver is saying that while it is well and good to model the few simple elements, the real value of BPMN lies in its capacity for the unusual circumstances (the exception paths) and to have those translated for automation. (Note: A happy path is the default scenario that features no exceptions or error conditions — the sequence of events where everything goes as expected.)

Even with the criticisms leveled at BPMN, it is still one of the most widespread and desired standards for process modeling available today. According to “ The State of Business Process Management 2016 Report” from BPTrends, 64 percent of businesses surveyed are interested in adopting BPMN.

Guidelines of Process Modeling

Process modeling guidelines are the same for any language or notation. In a 2009 paper on process modeling, authors Mendling, Reijers, and van der Aalst explain the main guidelines of modeling, regardless of the language used. They outline guidelines that may be considered best practices:

Use as few elements as possible in the model. This aids readability and decreases errors.

Minimize the routing paths per element. BPMN regulates routing paths via gateways.

Use one start event and one end event. BPMN requires this, and depending on the software it does not allow more than one. BPMN does give intermediate events where required.

Model as structured as possible. This means that the diagrams are balanced. In BPMN, gateways should not be used to join and split at the same time; they should be balanced and joined equivalently. Further, the same type of gateway should be used to split and join the flow.

Avoid or routing elements. This means that elements in models should not be an either/or question, but modeled such that the decision is an and or an xor . An xor gives mutually exclusive answers. In BPMN, gateways are not capable of being and .

Use verb-object activity labels in your naming convention. This decreases ambiguity.

Draw your models left to right (not top to bottom) unless the bulk of your stakeholders write ideographic languages (such as Japanese, Chinese, etc.) for easier understanding.

Decompose the model if it has more than 50 elements. That is, break a system into its component subsystems, processes, and subprocesses. This is related to guideline number one, in that having the least amount of elements keeps the errors low. BPMN has sub-processes that can decompose a model.

How to Select a BPMN Modeling Tool

To take full advantage of the BPMN modeling language, use a tool. Although you can draw BPMN with a pencil and paper, doing so does not take advantage of the majority of its benefits. Software programs that specialize in BPMN allow users to model faster and easier, and it enforces the majority of the BPMN rules automatically. Software tools also decrease errors in the diagram, allow for easier reading on the human eye, and give the all-important capacity to capture the associated XML.

What are the recommended criteria in choosing a BPMN tool? At last count by , there were anywhere from 70-100 tools that could fully support BPMN modeling. These include free, open source, and proprietary tools, as well as tools whose sole function is not BPMN, but support it anyway. To further complicate the selection process, a number of plugins to existing programs support BPMN modeling. The choice you make is critical because much time and money will be invested in not only learning BPMN, but in the production of the models.

Experts agree that if your business needs the standardization of BPMN, then the tool should first be able to claim BPMN compliance. For BPMN 2.0, compliance is defined within the ISO/IEC 19510:2013 standard. This ISO standard represents the best practices in business modeling. If the language is meant to be consistent in its meaning, it must first be standardized. In this, the tool must have four types of conformance:

Process Modeling Conformance supports the elements and attributes of three subclasses: the descriptive, analytical, and common executable. The descriptive and analytical subclasses provide the information necessary to visually represent the diagrams. The common executable is the description of the data for the XML and meta-model.

Process Execution Conformance tools must fully support the import of process diagrams. This is the support and interpretation of the meta-model via the semantics and activity lifecycle.

BPEL Process Execution Conformance supports full mapping, from BPMN models to BPEL.

Choreography Modeling Conformance tools provide elements, appearance, semantics, and interchange, as well as BPMN choreography types.

Aside from actual BPMN conformance, one method to choosing a modeling tool is as follows:

Define your business objectives and requirements. Know ahead of time what functional and nonfunctional requirements your business will have for BPMN.

Define the selection criteria and the weight of each. Do your users need syntax checks? Do they need pop-up menus? Do they need help in documentation? Develop a chart that delineates your business’s required criteria, so you can pick a program that meets your needs.

Identify some candidate tools. With as many tools available to date, it is impossible to test-drive all of them. Once you delineate and weight your selection criteria, some of the potential tools will not be feasible. From there, if demos are available, order them. Evaluate how easy it is to install, identify any operability problems, and explore the support in the BPMN tool.

Test-drive one model. Once you discover the best candidates, use a consistent model that represents your company to test across the remaining applications.

Select your winner. Once you have multiple examples of the same model, you will have notes on each program, how easy the model was to develop, and the end look and feel. This should lead to your choice of BPMN tool.

How to Implement a BPMN Process Map

It is clear that BPMN is a relatively simple, straightforward language that professionals use to standardize their process maps. If you have existing process maps, you could start by standardizing them with BPMN symbology. If you haven’t mapped processes before, start by creating the maps:

Mapping processes

Download Mapping Processes Checklist

Optimizing a proces checklist

Download Optimizing a Process  Checklist

Quintessential Tips for Working with Business Process Modeling Notification

There is little doubt that learning BPMN is complicated, but it appears to be a worthwhile venture. Some BPMN experts have formal education, and some do not. Reading the current specification manual from OMG is not considered the best way to learn to model BPMN. Most, if not all, experts agree that learning through doing is best, putting the elements into understandable context.

Model with a top-down approach. According to Stephen White in an interview on the Leonardo Blog , “The top-down approach will ensure that the depth of modeling is consistent throughout the effort of process modeling in your organization. I'm not saying that every single process model needs to be the same amount of granularity. It depends on the purpose.”

Every BPMN symbol should have a label.   

Events should be labeled object + past participle . For example, “Process started.”

  • Start events should have how the process is activated.
  • End events should have the process “end state.”

The pool should always be labeled with the process name and role (for lanes).

Tasks should be labeled as verb + object . For example, “Eat lunch.”

Gateways should be labeled with a question. For example, “Packaging complete?”

Outgoing sequence flows should be labeled with answers to the gateway questions. For example, “yes” or “no.”

Avoid crossing flows as much as possible. A good process layout with few crossing lines is easier to read.

Symmetric structures are easier for the human brain to understand.

Draw equal task sizes. However, the size of the task element does not indicate the size of the task in BPMN.

Show exception handling explicitly.

Use message flows consistently. Attach the message flows to the boundary of the process pool at all levels of the diagram to add to your business context.

Consider using sub-processes to define scope. Sub-processes can be wrapped around part of your sequence when exceptions occur without penalty.

Limit the number of concepts in the model. Since most BPMN users are describing business processes, users should keep it simple and only use the required elements for maximum readability.

Set standards for your organization. Clear, regularly used conventions, such as elements, naming, methodology, and layout should be developed per business so that there is additional consistency for stakeholders.

Consider using a legend that explains the symbols for stakeholders who are not often exposed to BPMN.

Try not to simply send diagrams out to stakeholders, but take the time to explain the processes to those not trained in BPMN.

Consider making two models of the same process if you have a large number of stakeholders without BPMN experience: one model for business users (with less elements), and one executable model.

BPMN Diagram Samples

The following models are from OMG, and they represent most of the elements described in this guide. This should give you an understanding of how a BPMN diagram looks.

Pizza Model

The Pizza Collaboration

Hardware Model

Shipment process of a hardware retailer

Other Business Process Modeling Languages

No discussion of BPMN would be complete without reviewing other modeling languages, such as BPEL, YAWL, and UML. These languages have been used in the evolution of BPMN, to make it more applicable and garner wider use in the industry.

Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and BPMN

BPEL (officially known as web services - business process execution language, WS-BPEL) is an XML-based orchestration language that allows companies to seamlessly work together by using web services to share data. It was created to standardize how processes are executed. Generally, it is meant for completely automated processes, especially when companies want to turn processes into XML for automation, even robotic process automation (RPA).

BPEL is based on web services in that each of the business processes involved are considered to be a web service. BPEL specifies the order in which web services should be invoked. An orchestration language identifies the executable process of message exchanges with other systems. BPEL supports two types of business processes: executable and abstract processes. BPEL is mainly meant to be employed by IT users, primarily because there is no graphical notation associated with it. BPEL is not meant to be accessed by business analysts or end users.

BPEL was often used in conjunction with earlier versions of BPMN. Users wrote BPMN notation, and BPEL was the execution language. Although there was and currently is a very high degree of correlation between BPMN and BPEL, there is no perfect system for one-to-one mapping between them. Some business processes may map in a way that is not executable. With the release of BPMN 2.0, BPEL was no longer necessary as the core XML language. BPMN 2.0 came with its own XML specification language.

Current trends in the industry suggest that more businesses are leaning toward using BPMN 2.0, and BPEL adoption has decreased considerably since 2007. According to “ The State of Business Process Management 2016 Report ,” only 8 percent of businesses are interested in adopting BPEL.

There are arguments within the industry that revolve around when to use BPEL vs. BPMN, especially since there is overlap between the two, and many problems could be solved using either BPMN or BPEL. Most large enterprises do not consider using only BPMN or BPEL; instead, they use both, depending on the scenario. Experts recommend that if your organization needs both, keep the BPEL worker processes in separate composites from the BPMN business processes. The following is a chart, culled from countless sources around the web, that details different scenarios where either BPMN or BPEL are recommended.


Yet Another Modeling Language (YAWL)

YAWL (yet another modeling language) may be considered an alternative language to BPEL. YAWL is based on Petri nets, which are part of a mathematical modeling and reasoning language. It is also open source, which means that the original source code is available to anyone to change and use. YAWL is considered easier in communicating to stakeholders than BPEL because of the intuitive user interface. YAWL and BPMN have some concepts in common — namely, tasks, gateways (as a decorator in YAWL), and flow.

Unified Modeling Language (UML)

Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a general-purpose modeling language also managed by OMG and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an approved language standard. UML is similar to BPMN in that it is an open source modeling language. Whereas the whole of BPMN is devoted to business process modeling, only UML’s activity diagram is suitable for business process modeling. Overall, UML is object-oriented, while BPMN is process-oriented.

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What is BPMN?

The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is visual modeling language for business analysis applications and specifying enterprise process workflows, which is an open standard notation for graphical flowcharts that is used to define business process workflows. It is popular and intuitive graphic that can be easily understand by all business stakeholders, including business users, business analysts, software developers, and data architects.

History of BPMN

BPMN is derived from the synthesis of multiple business modeling notations. Originally published by the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI) in 2004, BPMN is now being maintained by the OMG since the two organizations merged in 2005. BPMI merged with OMG, the Object Management Group. A BPMN Specification document was released by OMG in February, 2006. Version 2.0 of BPMN was developed in 2010, and the actual version of the specification was released in December 2013. The latest version ( BPMN 2.0.2 ) has been formally published by ISO as the 2013 edition standard: ISO/IEC 19510 .

Benefits of BPMN

BPMN allows us to capture and document business processes of an organization in a clear and consistent way that ensures relevant stakeholders, such as, process owners and business users are involved in the process. Thus, the team can response to any issues identified in the processes more effectively. BPMN provide comprehensive and yet rich notations that can easily be understood by both technical and non-technical stakeholders. Business process modeling provides important benefits to companies and organizations such as the ones listed below.

  • An industry standard developed by the OMG consortium, a not-for-profit industry group
  • Provides businesses with the capability of defining and understanding their procedures through Business Process Diagrams
  • To provide a standard notation that is readily understandable by all business stakeholders
  • To bridge the communication gap that frequently occurs between business process design and implementation
  • Simple to learn yet powerful enough to depict the potential complexities of a business process

The Goal of BPMN

  • Technical experts responsible for process implementation
  • Business analysts who create and improve the processes
  • Managers who monitor and control the processes

Overview of BPMN

Knowing how the business operates is the first and the most critical step of business process improvement. Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN), provides a graphical representation of business workflows that anyone, from business analyst to stakeholder, can easily understand; aiding in business process analysis and business process improvements.

Any process described with BPMN is represented as a number of steps (activities) that are performed consequently or at the same time according to certain business rules. Take a look at the "Place Order online" process which can be used in an on-line store that place orders on the web.

Business Process Diagram

BPMN Notation

In BPMN, the processes are described by means of diagrams with a series of graphic elements. Such visual presentation makes it easy for the users to understand the logic of a process.

BPMN has been primarily developed to design and read both simple and complex diagrams of business processes. For that, the BPMN standard classifies the graphic elements by categories: as a result, the elements are easily recognized by the users who work with business process diagrams.

Basic Constructs

There are five basic categories of BPMN elements. Each of them represent a unique aspect of business process.


Swimlanes are graphical containers that represent participants of a process. There are two types of swimlanes - pools and lanes.

Flow Elements

Flow Elements

Flow elements are elements that connect with each other to form business workflows. Flow elements are the primary elements that define the behavior of a process. There are three kinds of flow elements: Events, Activities and Gateways.

Connecting Objects

Connecting Objects

Flow objects are not isolated, but rather connected in order to form a flow. The connectors that connect the flow objects are called connecting objects. There are four kinds of connecting objects: Sequence flows, message flows, associations and data associations.


Data is mainly information needed or produced when executing a business process. There are four kinds of data: Data objects, data inputs, data outputs and data stores.

BPMN Swimlanes

Swimlane objects (aka: Swimlanes) in BPMN are rectangular boxes that represent participants of a business process. A swimlane may contains flow objects that are performed by that lane (participant), except for black box that must have an empty body (we will talk about black box later on in this tutorial). Swimlanes may be arranged horizontally or vertically. They are semantically the same but just different in representation. For horizontal swimlanes, process flows from left to right, while process in vertical swimlanes flow from top to bottom. Examples of swimlanes include Customer, Account Department, Payment Gateway and Development Team.

There are two kinds of swimlanes: Pools and Lanes.

Pools represent participants in a business process. It can be a specific entity (e.g. department) or a role (e.g. assistant manager, doctor, student, vendor).

Inside a pool, there are flow elements. They represent the works that the pool needs to perform under the process being modeled. However, there is one kind of pool that has no content at all. It is known as the blackbox pool. Blackbox pool is often used when modeling entities external to the business process. As it is external, its internal flow does not have any impact on the process being modeled, hence can be skipped, producing a blackbox. The following BPD (business process diagram) gives you an example of a blackbox pool. Customer is a blackbox. Since the process focuses on how the chef prepares a meal, what the customer does is none of the process' interest. The use of blackbox depends on the perspective the process takes. If you need to model the process of how a customer places an order, the flow of Customer will be modeled, making the Chef pool a blackbox.

Black Box Pool

Lanes are sub-partition of pools. For instance, when you have a pool Department, you may have Department Head and General Clerk as lanes. Same as pools, you can use lanes to represent specific entities or roles who are involved in the process.

Lanes may contain other lanes to form a nested structure when needed. However, BPMN helps you primarily on modeling business process. Do not try to build nested lanes just for modeling the structure of your organization. If you want to model the organization structure, use the organization chart instead.

Activities are works that are performed within a business process. They are shown as rounded-rectangle, with names describing the works to perform.

There are two types of activities: Task and Sub-Process. When we want to model an atomic work which cannot be further broken down or makes no sense to do so, we use a task.

Activity Tasks

On the other hand, when we want to model a non-atomic, complex work that can be elaborated into smaller works, we use a sub-process. A sub-process can be broken down into another level of details. For this reason, a sub-process usually contains another BPD modeling its details.

Activity Sub Processes

Note that the selection of task or sub-process is not just about how complex a work can be but also about how detailed you need to know about the work. If you are a customer, you probably don't want to know how your payment is being processed. However, if you are the shop, how to process customer's payment becomes important.

Events are something that happen and may have impacts on a business process. An event can be either external or internal. As long as they can influence the process being modeled, they should be modeled. Events are shown as circles. In some cases, there are icons within the circles to represent the type of the event trigger.

There are three types of events: Start Event, Intermediate Event and End Event. Trigger can be specified for each of them to indicate under what condition an event is being triggered.

Every process should have a start event to show the beginning of business process. It allows readers to locate in BPD where the process begin. Moreover, end event is used to indicate where a business process completes and intermediate event is responsible for driving business flow based on the event it specifies. Intermediate event can be attached to an activity for modeling an event that may happen DURING the execution of that activity and it may also be connected by a connecting object for modeling an event that may happen AFTER the execution of the flow element before. We will talk in more detail later on in this tutorial.

Take a look at the following example. It would give you some ideas on how events work. Basically, the diagram is saying when we receive an order, we begin to process it. If and only if there is no credit limit remained, we check on the problem. Process ends when the order has been processed or the problem has been identified.

BPMN Event Example

Gateways are responsible for controlling how a business process flows. They are shown as diamond shapes. In a process, the work to do and the output may vary under different external or internal conditions. For example, a discount will only be offered to a VIP buyer but not to anyone else. Gateway is where conditions are evaluated and the decision is made.

Here are some typical types of gateways:

Data-Based Exclusive Gateway, also known as exclusive gateway is used to control process flow based on given process data. Each outgoing flow which is connected from gateway corresponds to a condition. The flow with satisfied condition is traversed. Only one flow will be traversed.

Data Based Exclusive Gateway

Inclusive Gateway can be used to create parallel paths. The conditions of all outgoing flow are evaluated. All flows with positive result will be traversed. Therefore, it may result in executing multiple flows if multiple conditions are satisfied.

Inclusive Gateway

Parallel Gateway is used to model the execution of parallel flows without the need of checking any conditions. In other words, all outgoing flows must be executed at the same time.

BPMN Parallel Gateway

Event-Based Gateway is used to model alternative paths that are based on events. For example, to wait for someone's reply, either Yes or No is needed to determine the path to traverse. The gateway is therefore followed by two connected intermediate events with message triggers, with one representing Yes message and another one for No. When any ONE of the events is triggered, then the flow that follows that event will be taken. All the other events and their followed flows will no longer be valid.

BPMN Event Based Gateway

Sequence Flows

Sequence flow is used to connect flow elements. It is shown in solid line with an arrowhead. It shows the order of flow elements.

BPMN Sequence Flow

You can only use sequence flow to connect flow elements within the same pool: either within the same pool/lane, or across lanes in the same pool. If you want to connect elements across pools, you cannot use sequence flow but message flow instead.

Message Flows

In BPMN, the communication between pools is achieved by the use of message. Message flow is used to show the flow of messages between pools or flow elements between pools. A message flow is shown in dotted line with an arrow head. Some examples of message that flows between pools: fax, telephone, email, letter, notice, command.

BPMN Message Flow

Very often, when executing a business process, there may be data produced, either during or after the end of the process. For example, a successful execution of the Place Order task will produce data like purchase order, invoice, receipt, etc. In BPMN, data can be modeled by several types of 'data' objects such as data objects, data inputs, data outputs and data stores. There is a well-defined way to manage the states of data, like instantiation, completed, deleted, etc.


A group is a box with dotted line border, providing modelers a mechanism to group shapes by different categories.

BPMN Group

Text Annotations

A text annotation can be used to add extra detail to flow objects in a BPD. It does not affect the flow but gives details about objects within a flow.

BPMN Text Annotation

BPMN - An Example

The True Aqua Distilled Water Company is a young distilled water supplier in the city. They sell distilled water for business and for home use. Now, the True Aqua Distilled Water Company wants to increase their market share from 5% to 10% in the next 12-18 months. To reach this objective, they are trying to find ways to increase operating efficiency and to fulfill higher level of customers' satisfaction.

BPMN Business Process Diagram

The delivery of distilled water is carried out once a week on every Wednesday. So, on every Wednesday morning, the customer service assistant will forward orders to the Logistics Department for delivery. Once the manager in the Logistics Department has received the orders, he will arrange the delivery by assigning workers to manage different orders, printing and posting the schedule. The workers receive the calls and deliver water to the customer accordingly.

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business model process notation

Clearly visualize business processes

Standardize and communicate important business processes to your team using Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

Streamline business processes with BPMN diagrams

Standardize your business processes with detailed yet easy-to- understand diagrams for all levels of your organization.

What is Business Process Model and Notation?

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standard way to represent business processes from beginning to end. It’s designed to remove the ambiguity of process specifications and provide the context needed to complete it. As  process mapping  is often very complex and confusing, BPMN provides a universal solution that uses standard modeling techniques and standardized symbols, allowing process models to be easily shared and read by anyone—whether technical or non-technical BPMN diagrams provide an easy-to-understand visual representation of the steps involved in a process, giving sufficient detail to enable successful implementation. They allow for better communication and collaboration and are particularly helpful when trying to increase efficiency and identify areas for improvement.

The benefits of BPMN

All organizations can benefit from improved business processes supported by BPMN. With business process modeling software, you can create simple or complex diagrams—whatever your process requires. The flowcharts you make can easily be recognized and understood by stakeholders, whether they have a technical background or not.

The primary purpose of BPMN is to help support business process management throughout the organization with a standard that’s understandable for all its users. Some of the benefits of BPMN are:

  • Understanding.  As you create BPMN diagrams that all teams can decipher, intricate and complex workflows become easier to understand. It allows businesses to define their business procedures.
  • Standardization.  Having one solution in place allows information to be quickly shared—and understood by everyone. BPMN works as a standard notation for all levels of your stakeholders.
  • Simplicity.  Diagrams are a visual learning tool, making them easier to understand than narrative text. It’s also an industry standard, so there’s little room for error. 
  • Communication.  BPMN helps bridge the communication gap between various teams, departments, and organizations by designing flowcharts that all department levels can understand.
  • Collaboration.  BPMN brings all relevant stakeholders into the process, making it an effective collaboration tool. Multiple departments can review your flowchart and almost immediately identify the business process, outcomes for your team, and next steps without much detail.
  • Empowerment.  As BPMN promotes effective and efficient communication across all departments, employees are empowered to create flowcharts representing their business processes and other activities. When teammates can quickly interpret your chart, they can make knowledgeable business decisions faster.

How BPMN works

BPMN provides a visual flow that bridges the communication gap between internal and external teams, showing the actions needed from the first to the final step. And as a global standard for process making, it’s been maintained at a single source.

Originally developed by the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), BPMN has been maintained by the Object Management Group (OMG) since their merger in 2005. OMG currently houses other worldwide standards, helping to develop enterprise integration standards for various technologies and industries. In version 2.0 of BPMN, the name was changed from Business Process Modeling Notation to Business Process Model and Notation.

As the number one priority of BPMN is to create an easy-to-understand notation for process models while translating their inherent complexities, BPMN tackles this by organizing the graphical aspects into specific categories. By helping readers recognize the symbols within a chart through a small set of notation categories, they’ll be able to identify the essential elements and understand the diagram at hand. BPMN works to capture pertinent data and present it graphically , accurately, and consistently throughout all your teams. Additional information and context can be added to a flowchart without changing the look and feel of the diagram. Each symbol and icon have a specific meaning or note for an action.

Creating a BPMN diagram is simple, especially if you already use diagramming software . You’ll need to understand and deploy the visual language and design elements used throughout all BPMN diagrams to create a visual representation of your process.

BPMN design elements

BPMN is a collection of symbols and rules used on how to connect those symbols to a business process model. The BPMN language used in those models is based on flowcharts and graphical notations divided into the following five elements.

business model process notation

Flowcharts connect elements that help form a process.

  • Events: Depicted as circles, these represent an occurrence. Events are broken into three types: Start signaling the first step of the process, intermediate describing any event that occurs between the first and the last, and end signaling the final stage of your business process.
  • Activities: Visually presented as a rounded corner rectangle, these represent a task performed by a person or system. There are four BPMN activity types: task, sub-process, call, and transaction.
  • Gateways: Diamond-shaped icons signal if an activity needs to go through a different process flow. A few different gateway symbols separate and connect flows, including exclusive, inclusive, parallel, and complex.

business model process notation

Connecting object

Connecting objects symbolize how objects are connected within the flow.

  • Sequence flows: Displaying the order of business activities with a solid line and arrow.
  • Message flows: Messages that “flow” across different departments or organizations, represented by a dashed line with a circle and an arrow.
  • Associations: Dotted lines connecting artifacts or text to an event, activity, or gateway.
  • Data associations: These dotted lines with an arrow represent data with flow objects. Data associations show the inputs and outputs of activities.

business model process notation

Swimlanes are graphical icons representing the process participants and who is accountable for which parts.

  • Pools: These are significant participants, whether within the company or externally, working in the process.
  • Lanes: These objects show the activities and flow for a participant, dictating their responsibilities within the process. Many lanes can make up a single pool, as a pool is determined by which actions must be completed by that group in the process.

business model process notation

An artifact clarifies information added to the diagram while not affecting the flow. Artifacts are associated with a process or connection by an association connection.

  • Text annotation: Copy providing context to a part of the diagram.
  • Groups: The logical grouping of activities without changing the flow of the diagram.

business model process notation

Data objects provide the information needed to produce or execute a business process, represented as a file icon. Data objects are also considered artifacts since they don’t directly affect the message or sequence flow.

  • Data objects: Showing what data is necessary for an activity.
  • Data input: External data input for the entire process.
  • Data output: The results of that data throughout the entire process.
  • Data stores: A place to read or write data, lasting throughout the process.

The latest iteration, BPMN 2.0, builds off the previous versions, providing a more extensive set of icons, symbols, and notations, allowing for more detail when necessary. 

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Create BPMN diagrams in Visio

Learn how to create BPMN diagrams in Visio for the web using the BPMN Shapes stencil.

Build BPMN-compliant processes

Learn how to create BPMN 2.0 compliant processes in the Visio desktop app or start from a template.

Add swimlanes to a flowchart

Learn how to add swimlanes to your flowchart and change their label, size, or position.

Validate your BPMN diagrams

Check Visio diagrams against the BPMN 2.0 standard and view, ignore, or remove any validation issues.

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Learn best practices for BPMN

Read the beginner’s guide to using BPMN in your day-to-day business.

Frequently asked questions

What is bpmn used for.

BPMN is used to document a sequence of events needed to complete a business process in a standard way that’s easy to understand.

What is business process modeling?

Business process modeling is the graphical representation of a company’s business processes or workflows to identify potential improvements.

What is the difference between BPM and BPMN?

The difference between BPM and BPMN is BPM depicts how work is assigned to complete an organizational goal while BPMN illustrates any type of business process.

Is BPMN a programming language?

BPMN is considered a graphic programming language as each icon has a defined use within a standardized process.

How is BPMN different than a flowchart?

A flowchart is a graphical representation without standards, while BPMN is a standards-based approach to graphical representation for business processes.

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BPMN Tutorial: Quick-Start Guide to Business Process Model and Notation

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Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) is like a flow chart on steroids.

It’s the one true way to graphically map your processes and is a globally-recognized, standardized method. In other words, it’s information any business looking to draw reliable process maps needs to know.

When you map your processes (especially with a standardized method like BPMN), you start being able to:

  • Get a clear vision of exactly how everything in your business works
  • Save time by eliminating unnecessary tasks
  • Reduce the rate your employees forget, overlook, or wrongly execute work

So, what exactly is it?

I compared it to a flow chart but much more than that: it has the functionality for representing things like information moving between teams, data being stored on the cloud, and departments working in parallel on the same process.

Although, at its simplest, a process map drawn with BPMN looks like this:

business model process notation

BPMN makes it easy to understand the flow without actually understanding the exact symbols because it’s a simple, intuitive method.

It has been under active development since 2004, and is now widely accepted as the  way to draw process maps. That’s because:

  • It’s simple and easy to understand at a glance
  • It’s precise, with a wide range of symbols to cover every use case
  • It’s designed to model both human-centric and IT processes with equal accuracy

The main scope of BPMN, as described by Trisotech :

“It provides businesses, with the capability of understanding their internal business procedures in a graphical notation, and gives organizations the ability to communicate these procedures, in a standard manner”

On the scope of this BPMN tutorial:

If you’re going to take a stab at mapping your business processes but don’t know where to start with transferring the rough notes and sketches into maps anyone can use, this is the article for you. It will get you acquainted with the basic concepts, and also give you references to deeper documentation you can use if you need it.

Overall, this guide will work as a standalone for the majority of uses cases startups and small businesses face .

The history of BPMN

Business Process Model and Notation was originally developed under another name in 2000 by the Business Process Management Initiative — a non-profit organization founded by industry BPM leaders from companies like Ernst & Young and Versata.

The aim was to standardize how processes were visually represented, and that aim has been carried on since 2004 by Object Management Group — a NFP technology standards consortium, snappily abbreviated as OMG .

business model process notation

As businesses change — and IT becomes more vital — OMG keep BPMN updated, and able to handle new kinds of processes. At the time of writing, we’re on BPMN 2.0, which defines more symbols and map types to represent the real ways modern organizations get work done.

Learning BPMN

Learning BPMN is similar to learning a programming language; while you can read overviews and short quick-start guides or watch video tutorials, the best thing you can do to get to grips is make sure you understand the basics, then start mapping out your business processes while reading the documentation whenever you’re not sure how to represent something .

Understanding lanes and pools

The canvas for a map drawn with BPMN consists of lanes and pools.

business model process notation

Pools represent different organizations or entirely separate processes. Lanes represent different teams or individuals within the same organization.

Pools are the biggest unit on a map: they’re the areas that contain lanes, events, tasks, etc. They represent  who is doing the task. If we were to map our customer support process, there’d be one pool for Process Street and one pool for the customer. Work can flow between pools, signifying something like sending the customer a message.

The exact usage of pools and lanes can be a matter of taste. Whether you use separate pools to represent different departments in your company or just opt to use lanes, there are some hard and fast rules:

  • Each pool can contain a maximum of one process
  • Pools represent participants: companies, customers, or departments

Often, processes need two or more departments to interact with each other. For example, a simple order fulfillment process might look like this:

  • Customer places order over the telephone with credit card
  • Order clerk charges credit card
  • Clerk notes down SKU and customer details
  • Clerk emails SKU and details to the warehouse
  • Item is packaged up with label
  • Shipping mail it to the customer

Or, in BPMN:

business model process notation

The main canvas (or pool) of a process map can be divided up into rows (or lanes). Each lane represents one parallel of the process, and shows both the exact tasks and responsibilities each department has, and the interplay between them.

Lanes don’t always mean departments or people. According to Camunda’s  reference , they can be:

  • Positions in the primary organization, for example, accounting clerk
  • Roles in the secondary organization, for example, data protection officer
  • General roles, for example, customer
  • Departments, for example, sales
  • IT applications, for example, CRM system
  • Differentiating manual and automated steps

You’ll also notice some new shapes in the example above. The message shape signifies information transferred between two activities, and the shaded circle represents the end of the process.

Understanding basic notation

business model process notation

The basic shapes of BPMN are very similar to flow diagrams, but instead of representing pure logical stages, they can also represent business-specific actions, like messaging other departments, and escalating issues.

Activities represent tasks

Activities are simple for most purposes. Just a rectangle with rounded corners. They represent work to be done, like a checkbox on a checklist or an item on your todo list.

Connecting objects show associations and the flow of work/information

Since BPMN aims to show the flow of activities, it uses three different kinds of connecting objects that show how the activities are related to each other:

business model process notation

Sequence flow the basic line that connects together elements of your map. It shows the flow of work, and is necessary for connecting together activities. Without a sequence flow, your map is invalid.

Message flow  is used when different departments or organizations send information between each other. Since you don’t get up and go and oversee the work in different departments when you want a task done, message flow represents a request or the sharing of information, not a strict action. It’s the only kind of flow that can take place between pools or lanes (organizations or departments).

Association is used to tie documents, databases, and other artifacts together with activities. For example, if you had an activity to sign off on a purchase order, you’d use a document symbol and an association line to link the two together.

business model process notation

Gateways deal with logic/decisions

business model process notation

Similar to diamonds in regular flow charts, gateways represent a split or convergence in the process chart.

For example, when making a choice of what to eat, the process will split depending on the final meal choice, but will converge at the point where the meal is eaten, because no matter which  meal is chosen, it will eventually be eaten.

Event Gateways

Not all gateways are choices, though. It could be that the continuation of the process depends on getting hold of more data, or waiting for a specific time, or meeting some other condition. In that case, it’s represented as an event gateway , and branches into whichever event takes place next.

For example, if you’re waiting for over a week for your delivery to come, you might reach a point where you decide whether to wait patiently, or  call the shipping company. You’d have an event-based gateway at that point, branching into waiting more time, or into calling. Like this:

business model process notation

In the above diagram, take note of the time and message shapes — both very simple concepts that don’t need much elaboration!

  • Time can either be days/hours/minutes or specific dates/years/quarters.
  • Messages are any information directed by and to a specific recipient (individual, department, organization, etc.). It can be data, files, emails, phone calls, letters, etc.

Parallel Gateways

If a task isn’t dependent on another task, there’s no reason for them not to be done in parallel when the process begins. To represent this on a BPMN map, use a parallel gateway .

business model process notation

All that signifies is that there is now a chance for both subsequent tasks to be started : the process breaks down into two parallel branches.

Exclusive Gateways

Sometimes, a process can go only one of two (or any number of) ways. For example, either the podcast recording is accepted and moves onto the editing stage, or it’s rejected and moves back to the editor for another pass.

That’s an example of when you would use an exclusive gateway — because there’s no third option. It looks like this:

business model process notation

Inclusive Gateways

An inclusive gateway breaks the process into multiple branches, with an explanation of which condition must be met for the flow to continue down that branch.

business model process notation

An example given by Lucidchart to explain a inclusive gateway is a process that forks based on a specific customer’s response to a survey. They explain :

“One process is triggered if the consumer is satisfied with product A. Another flow is triggered when the consumer indicates that they are satisfied with product B. A third process is triggered if they aren’t satisfied with A. There will be a minimal flow of one and a max of two.”

Inclusive gateways allow for multiple possible outcomes to be selected. For example, the customer could be both ‘not satisfied with A’ and ‘satisfied with B’, and in that case they’d be sent the voucher and also get added onto the B list.

An example of BPMN concepts in action

Here’s an example of a process map using the basic shapes, made with

business model process notation

To explain, above we have two pools with one lane each. The process is started by the customer, who sends a ticket to your company’s support team. Support responds, and then waits two days. If the customer hasn’t replied, the ticket is closed. If the customer is satisfied, the ticket is closed. Otherwise, communication continues until one of those conditions is met.

It’s a massive oversimplification, but it’s a start, and a good way to illustrate the basic concepts.

Diagram tools that support BPMN

It’d be mad to use a pen and paper for technical drawing like this, so take your pick from the range of BPMN tools available: [free] is an amazing tool, especially considering that it’s 100% free. You  can pay for features like integrations and compliance, but overall the core software is free, supports every BPMN symbol, and makes it easy to create great process maps.

business model process notation

Microsoft Visio [$15.50/month]

Microsoft’s behemoth of a process mapping tool — Visio — is the industry standard that all other mapping tools wish they could take down. Just because it’s the most widely used doesn’t mean it’s the best; it’s widely used because it’s packaged with Office 365 and other Microsoft packages. It doesn’t integrate, it’s incompatible on Mac, and it’s the most expensive.

It is, however, easy to use and is the subject of a lot of helpful guides around the web.

business model process notation

Lucid Chart [starting at $4.95/month]

While Visio is quite a rigid product, Lucidchart allows for real time collaborative editing, chat, and comments. That can make process development in BPMN a collaborative activity, encouraging teams to work together and helping keep the process accurate with less margin for error.

business model process notation

SmartDraw [$14.95/month]

SmartDraw was designed with power users in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard for new users to pick up. It groups its symbols in a similar way to, meaning that all your BPMN symbols will be in one place, easy to access.

Additionally, it includes a method of quickly drawing flows that link together:

Implementing BPMN: your first step

The first step to implementing process maps using BPMN depends really on your starting point.

  • If you have existing process maps, you could standardize them with BPMN
  • If you have never mapped a process before, use this checklist  to create one, and this checklist to optimize a process.

Follow this checklist for every process you choose to map:

As for implementing BPMN itself, just make sure to use a BPMN-compatible tool like the ones listed above, and refer back to the documentation if you need assurance.

To put these techniques into practice you’ll need more than just process maps. Process maps are good for overviewing a flow but they’re not going to be followed by your team. Check out the links below to read about the software you need for the use case you’re dealing with:

  • Workflow software
  • Business process management software
  • Onboarding software
  • Standard operating procedure software

I hope this guide has helped you better systemize your business, or learn a new skill you can use to effectively map processes 🙂

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Benjamin Brandall

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street .


Hi Ben, Thanks for another excellent article. I’ve used BPMN for a few years, but haven’t yet settled on a “good enough” tool – I’m always trying new ones. We need our clients to also be able to edit the diagrams once we have finished our assignment, I’ll give your suggestions a go. I’d also love to know what tool you used to create the BPMN graphics in this post – it doesn’t seem to be any of the ones you mention, such as or Lucid Chart. They are really eye-catching, what did you use? Regards, Terry.

Glad this post gave you some new things to try. Unfortunately, the graphics in this post weren’t done by BPMN software — they were made by our talented designer, Adam! 🙂

Nice tutorial but how do you combine the rigid BPMN with the flexible ACM (adaptive case management) on which Process Street seems to focus?

A really good point. We’re hoping to implement some of the BPMN features in Process Street in the near future.

Great article… ProcessStreet is amazing… we love it and our customer, too… 🙂 Greets chris from germany

Awesome! Thanks for the encouragement.

Hi there, great article. I learnt a lot. Is this sentence correct: “Parallel Gateways: If a task isn’t dependent on another task, there’s no reason for them to be done in parallel when the process begins.” Shouldn’t it be if a task isn’t dependent, then there’s no reason for them NOT to be done in parallel…?” I’m trying to make sure I understood what you were saying. Thanks. Also, “For example, when making a choice of what to each, the process will split depending on the final meal choice,” That should be “what to eat”?

Hey Vernon,

Thanks for that — ‘not’ is right, good catch. I’ve updated the article, and the ‘each’ mistake!

Also, for Inclusive Gateways, would the third option have to cover all possibilities not met by the first two options, so Not Satisfied A or B -> Send voucher. ?

This is literally one of the best articles I’ve read on BPMN tutorials. very straight forward and easy to understand. Thank you so much Ben!

So glad to hear! Thanks, Jessica! 🙂

Great article, but what tool/app was used to make the graphics in the article?

Hey Rebecca,

Thanks for commenting!

All of the nice looking ones were created by our designer using Adobe Illustrator, not an actual BPMN tool.

The only exception is this diagram which was created with

Have a great day 🙂

Thanks for the article, I enjoyed reading this. I’m decently familiar with BPMN myself but still got plenty to learn so I’m always keeping an eye out for articles which might help me look at things from another perspective. And I enjoyed reading this.

Now, at the risk of coming across as a spammer (definitely not my intention!) but I hope you don’t mind me mentioning ‘Visual Paradigm’ as yet another tool which allows you to do BPMN modeling. I mention this because you already listed several tools and well… I’ve been using VP for over 8 years now, I’m quite a fan, so obviously I couldn’t resist 😉

Thanks again for the article, definitely going to skim around and check some of your other work.

Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. Visual Paradigm isn’t a tool I was familiar with, it’s interesting to find out about.

Hi, came here via your article on B2C. Since you have mentioned some tools I’ll pitch our tool Creately as well. It’s web based, support all BPMN icons and has real-time collaboration to work with teams and peers. The personal plan starts at $5/month so it’s affordable too.

I using your tutorial to introduce students in my Systems Analysis, Design and Implementation class. I also plan to use it in my Project Management class.

Hi Lennie — that’s awesome to hear, thank you! Quite the endorsement. Hope it is all going well

I have also used your tutorial to introduce BPMN to my students Thank you so much for this useful intro

Hi everybody !

You forgot GenMyModel cloud tool. BPMN2 diagram modeling was implemented in 2015. There is thousands of public diagrams, that everyone can clone 🙂

I am actually carrying out this role now after having completed into the organization as a BA. The points raised here are spot on and have really resonated with me. One thing I have found difficult is giving the time to the user stories and AC that I would like. This could be more to do with the effort required to get the team up and sprinting. The team gave raised it at the retro so changes are afoot!

Your example with the ticket is completely wrong! Sequence Flows cannot cross pool boundaries (see ISO 19510:2013, Glossary for example). Also, after the Exclusive Gateway from the Support Department you need an activity called “Close Ticket” and only then an End Event called “Ticket closed”. Otherwise there is no ticket closing activity. Even if it is software automated, you have to specify it as an activity (a Script Task) if you want to make a BPMN compliant diagram…

Also, you cannot connect a Gateway and a Message Flow. If you want to see how I think your diagram should look like in order to be correct, contact me. Best regards.

why not mention ‘s free tool? It seems quite good, no?

thanks for the information

Hi there, thanks for the information, appreciate it a lot. In the video you say that a common mistake is that sequence flows are not allowed to cross pool borders. In the section “An example of BPMN concepts in action” a sequence flow does cross pool borders. Did you mean that it is not allowed to have sequence flows between activities in different pools (as in the example there are events that are linked)? Can you please specify? Thanks already for your support.

I am starting on BPMN and find this article informative. Appreciate your effort in putting together a complex subject in a simple way. Thanks !!

I am trying to do a BPMN project and I am a little confused about terminology. I would like to know what the difference is betweem=n a process client and a actual process. My boss ask me to “create a pool for the process client and for the actual process” and I am not sure if I need one or two pools. Thanks for helping me out.

I was looking for a good tutorial on BPMN but just reading this article does the trick. Also your real world examples are awesome. Thank You

I’m glad we could help!

Hello I am currently working on the bic cloud tool and I was wondering if there is a way to create an abbreviations for specific processes in Bic tool. Like I have 3-4 words for each activity which already has an abbreviation but I am not sure if I can create an abbreviation table inside BIC so when I export the process into a word I would want to see a table with all the abbreviations. Could anyone please help me here. Thank you.

This guideline is so informative, thanks for your efforts.

Glad to hear you enjoyed it Mohammed

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Business process modeling notation (BPMN): Everything you need to know

business model process notation

Businesses are complicated. Even entrepreneurs and micro-business owners have to wear several hats to stay on top of everything they need to get done in a day.

Without an effective way to organize business processes, things can get forgotten or duplicated, or become overly complicated.

For entrepreneurs, staying organized may involve a simple to-do list or task management system. But, as businesses grow, processes become more complex as they cross departmental boundaries and authority owners.

Business process modeling allows companies to visualize these processes so that they can take steps to streamline them.

Let’s look at exactly what business process modeling is, what benefits it creates, and how using business process modeling notation (BPMN) diagrams can help you get clear on your business processes.

Try Miro’s BPMN Template

What is business process modeling.

Business process modeling is a method of identifying, modeling, designing, and implementing business processes. Its scope is broader than task management and focuses on a complete end-to-end process.

You might be wondering what the purpose of business process modeling is compared to other forms of process management. Let’s look at the distinction.

Business process modeling focuses on the design of new processes. It differs from business process mapping, which is focused on optimizing current business processes.

Both business process modeling and business process mapping fall under the umbrella of business process management .

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) has become the go-to way of visualizing business process workflows. It’s an intuitive tool, and stakeholders across the business should be able to understand it easily.

What is a BPMN diagram?

A BPMN diagram is a business process diagram that specifically uses the BPMN modeling language. Other modeling languages — such as the Unified Modeling Language (UML) — also use business process diagrams to depict processes visually.

Why use business process modeling?

There are several benefits to using business process modeling when creating new organizational workflows.

Business process modeling:

  • Offers businesses a method to define and understand their organizational processes visually using business process diagrams. This can make it easier to identify functional boundaries and see how new processes connect with existing processes.
  • Provides an industry-standard notation that should feel familiar to both internal and external stakeholders. It’s simple to learn yet powerful enough to capture complex processes fully. This means getting everyone on the same page should be quicker, as a lengthy onboarding process isn’t required.
  • Bridges the communication gap that frequently occurs between business process design and implementation. It can be challenging to describe a business process in words effectively, and business process diagrams prevent things from getting lost in translation.
  • Allows businesses to maintain a record of how a process is mapped out. This means, should the business environment change in the future, it’s easy to identify any potential impact on the process and make changes quickly to optimize it.

Pros and cons of using BPMN diagrams

Like most tools, using BPMN diagrams has both advantages and disadvantages. We’ve highlighted the key benefits of business process modeling above, and these feed into the two main advantages of using the diagrams. There are also a few disadvantages to walk through.

business model process notation

Pros of using BPMN diagrams:

  • BPMN diagrams are a simple concept, but the BPMN modeling language allows for over 100 different graphical elements. The comprehensive amount of notations make the diagrams flexible, with the ability to map even the most complex business process.
  • BPMN is standardized by the ISO (International Standards Organization), which means it’s transferable between businesses and industries. This makes it easy for BPMN diagrams to be well-understood by most stakeholders.

And, through having a common language, collaboration between teams becomes more straightforward and effective.

Cons of using BPMN diagrams:

  • The comprehensive nature can initially make it difficult to grasp the BPMN modeling language fully. This means if you have team members new to BPMN diagrams, there can be quite a steep learning curve, which can cost you time.
  • Despite the modeling language standards clearly defining how people should use the BPMN diagram elements, different BPMN vendors may implement the execution of these diagrams differently.

This can lead to poor interoperability between BPMN tools, and modelers may be restricted to certain vendors or products depending on how they interpret the execution of BPMN diagrams.

Core features of BPMN diagrams

Now you’re clear on the benefits that BPMN diagrams can bring to your business, it’s worth taking a look at the key features of BPMN diagrams and how to go about building one.

There are four main elements that make up a BPMN diagram:

business model process notation

1. Pools and swim lanes

Pools are the largest component of a BPMN diagram. They represent the entirety of a business process from the perspective of one group of participants (e.g., a department or a single role, like an assistant manager).

Like an actual swimming pool, pools can be broken down into swimlanes, which can run vertically or horizontally across the diagram. These swimlanes represent specific groups or individuals that are completing tasks within the larger pool.

Every BPMN diagram must contain at least one pool and one swimlane.

Let’s use a business process mapping example to bring this to life. Consider you’re a store signing a customer up for a store credit card. Your pool contains the actions you take to complete that process, which might include:

  • Recording the loan application information
  • Checking the application information (via credit assessment)
  • Completing a loan assessment
  • Informing the customer of the outcome
  • Making the loan available to the customer’s account

business model process notation

The store assistant has only two actions in their swimlane, which is to take loan application information from the customer, and to send that information off to be processed.

As there’s just one participant in this process, it’s a simple BPMN diagram example. However, the actions taken by the store assistant trigger other processes, which would be shown in subsequent swimlanes.

Indicated by the outgoing and incoming arrows, there are other departments that have a significant impact on the successful completion of this process.

business model process notation

Here’s a more complete BPMN diagram that shows how the store assistant swimlane interacts with two other swimlanes — the credit department and finance.

The touchpoints between the processes are shown by incoming and outgoing arrows, representing the flow of information or activity.

Before you get started building BPMN diagrams, you may want to gather key stakeholders and complete a simple mind mapping exercise to pool the information you have about a particular process.

Mind mapping is a way to organize information that helps you visualize connections between ideas. This may help you identify the different participants in a process and where there are touchpoints with other processes that you need to consider.

business model process notation

2. Flow elements

Flow elements are the geometric shapes you can see in the above business process model example. They include rectangles, circles, and diamonds. These flow elements represent specific events and activities that occur within the process.

Rectangular shapes are usually used to indicate activities within the process. Activities can be two main types — sub-processes and tasks.

As people use BPMN diagrams to describe a process in simple terms that a range of stakeholders can easily understand, it’s important they aren’t too complex. Using sub-processes helps to retain simplicity.

Sub-processes are a collection of tasks that need to be completed for the process to be successful but that you don’t want to focus on while mapping this particular process.

For example, a simple sub-process in our above example could be how the store assistant collects the customer’s loan application information.

Perhaps there are several options, including filling out a form on the website, completing a hard-copy application in store, or entering information electronically onto a tablet at Customer Services.

Those are all possible options but, to keep the process easy to visualize you don’t want to actually focus on that level of detail in this particular diagram.

A task is a basic building block of the process that cannot be broken down into a lower level of detail.

Circles usually represent events . Events are something that takes place that can impact the process, and they can be internal or external.

There are three types of events: Start Events, Intermediate Events, and End Events. Some diagrams specify the trigger that causes an event to happen.

Diamonds represent gateways . Gateways are responsible for controlling the outcome of the process by directing activity to either happen or not.

Let’s look at our example again to see how this works in practice. When the credit department completes the loan assessment, they have to decide how likely it is that the customer will be able to repay the loan.

If the risk is too high, the company rejects the application. This directs the store assistant to inform the customer that their application has been unsuccessful. This triggers a Stop Event.

business model process notation

3. Connecting objects

Connecting objects, unsurprisingly, connect different flow objects.

Sequence flows connect flow objects within the same pool, though they can be in different swimlanes. They are shown as a solid line with an arrowhead.

They show the order of the different activities, which should be completed in the direction the arrow is pointing.

If you want to connect flow objects between different pools, you’ll need to use a message flow . Message flows are shown as a dotted line with an arrowhead.

The final connecting object is associations . Associations show the relationships between flow objects and artifacts .

Artifacts allow business process modelers to augment the basic BPMN diagram with additional information. There are three types of artifacts.

  • Annotations offer more detail about particular flow objects. For example, in our diagram above, the activity ‘Pay for Food’ could have a text annotation stating that this could be with cash or by debit or credit card.
  • Groups allow modelers to organize activities, tasks, or sub-processes that are significant to the overall process into groups.
  • Data objects represent data as an input or output of the process, or data that needs to be collected or stored.

Let’s look at that final one in a little more detail.

It’s important to identify the flow of data throughout the process.

As mentioned above, there are several ways that data can interact with the process, and the Business Process Modeling Notation has specific symbols to annotate these interactions.

business model process notation

In our example above, data might include the application information being received by the credit assessment system and the loan assessment result being received by the Finance department.

If you’re trying to get your head around your data flow and how it interacts with your business processes, why not give our Data Flow Diagram a go?

business model process notation

Like all our templates, it’s fully customizable, and it’s simple to add images and files to personalize your modeling and really get a sense of how data flows through your business.

Need help figuring it out? Simply give your team access and invite them to comment, ask questions, or make corrections.

How does BPMN compare to UML Activity Diagrams?

As mentioned above, there is a second common modeling notation language called UML.

It’s possible to use UML for modeling processes, but it’s much more widely used in modeling software systems. UML is described as object-focused compared to the more process-focused BPMN.

Typical users of UML would be people looking to model and build software systems like web applications. They can use the standardized notation to describe a design that can then be implemented in one of several programming languages.

BPMN is used in both business process modeling and business process mapping to design ‘As-is’ and ‘To-be’ systems. Typical users are business analysts, but it’s accessible to a range of businesspeople.

If you realize you’re more in Team UML than Team BPMN, don’t worry. We’ve got a template for UML diagrams too.

business model process notation

Whichever team you side with, we have you covered. Our interactive online whiteboard makes it simple to visualize your business processes.

With our Smart Diagramming feature, it’s quick and easy to create business process diagrams using advanced shape packs that align perfectly with the BPMN methodology.

Once your process is mapped out, it’s easy to get feedback from your team and other stakeholders. Simply give them direct access to your whiteboard so that they can go in and make changes, add files or images, or jot down annotations.

And, our all-in-one diagram maker means you don’t waste time switching between your diagramming and other collaboration tools. So your focus can stay where it needs to be — on creating the most efficient processes for your business.

After you finalize your diagram, it’s time to start making changes. Our project management tools can help you organize the work you need to complete, plus we have integrations with leading task management solutions like Jira and Asana.

BPMN drives efficiency in your business

As we said, businesses can be complicated. Designing and implementing new processes can be challenging, especially if they require collaboration between departments or functions.

Business process modeling and BPMN diagrams allow teams to visualize new processes before implementation to make sure they maximize efficiency.

Our online collaborative whiteboard helps stakeholders come together to design, discuss, and iterate complex processes.

Miro makes it easy to map end-to-end workflows, imagine new solutions, and make changes in real-time.

Create the conditions for creative solutions

Explore our bpmn diagram template, miro is your team's visual platform to connect, collaborate, and create — together..

Join millions of users that collaborate from all over the planet using Miro.

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BPMN Business Process Model and Notation

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN): A Beginner’s Guide

  • Process Mining

Eric J.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standard for creating visual models of business processes. It is a graphical representation of business processes that can be used to create process documentation that is easy to understand and follow.  

BPMN diagrams are made up of a set of standard symbols and notation elements that are used to create a graphical representation of a business process.

In this post, we will take a closer look at what BPMN is and how it can be used to improve business processes.

What is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)?

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standard for creating visual models of business processes. 

BPMN is: 

  • Graphical representation of business processes that can be used to create process documentation that is easy to understand and follow 
  • Used to document and communicate the steps involved in a process, as well as the different roles and responsibilities of those involved
  • Powerful tool that can be used to improve process efficiency and effectiveness
  • Widely used in many industries , including banking, insurance, healthcare, and manufacturing. 

By creating a BPMN diagram, you can quickly and easily communicate the steps involved in a process, as well as identify potential areas for improvement. In addition, by creating a visual model of a process, it is easier to identify potential bottlenecks and optimize performance

What is BPMN 2.0? 

BPMN 2.0 is the latest version of the Business Process Modeling Notation standard. It was 

In short, 

  • It was released in January of 2013 and is the most recent version of the BPMN specification
  • Builds on the successes of the earlier versions of the standard and provides significant enhancements and improvements
  • Designed to be more readily understandable by both business users and technical developers
  • Introduces new concepts and metaphors that are intended to make the notation more intuitive and easier to use

BPMN 2.0 Diagram Elements and Symbols

BPMN consists of a set of graphical elements that can be used to create a visual representation of a business process. 

These elements include: 

  • Connecting Objects
  • Pools and Swimlanes

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN): A Beginner's Guide

Let’s have a closer look at them

Flow Objects

In BPMN, flow objects are the basic building blocks of a process. Flow objects are important because they help to define the order of operations and to identify what needs to happen at each stage of the process

1. Events 

  • Start : Used to signal the beginning of a process, this is where the process starts. They can be triggered manually or automatically. 
  • Intermediate : Intermediate events are used to indicate that something has happened during the process. It is used to insert a task into a process. 
  • Timer : Symbols that mark the start of a timer, for example, to wait some time or for a certain day of the week
  • End : Used to end a process and indicating that the process has finished

BPMN Events

2. Activities  

  • Task :  The most basic type of activity in BPMN and is used to represent work that needs to be done. It can be anything from simple manual tasks to complex automated processes. Tasks are often very specific. 
  • Subprocess : A type of task that contains its own internal logic and activity. Sub-processes are often used to model complex workflows and group tasks together. 
  • Call Activity : A common process used in other areas of the workflow. It allows you to create a reusable process definition that can be reused in multiple other process definitions

BPMN Activities

3. Gateways

Gateways within a BPMN diagram are diamond-shaped symbols that map decision points. They determine the direction a process shall take next. 

  • Exclusive gateway : Exclusive gateway (or XOR Gateway) is used to model decisions where only one path can be taken. For example, an exclusive gateway could be used to decide if a process should continue if a condition is met.
  • Parallel gateway : Is used to drive the process into multiple parallel paths and is used to visualize the concurrent execution of activities
  • Inclusive gateway : Used to model decisions where more than one path can be taken. They could all be taken, or only one of them. 
  • Event-based gateway : Event-based Gateways are used to control the process based on events
  • Exclusive event-based gateway : Alternative paths are determined by events (for example various messages or signals) rather than by conditional flows

BPMN Gateways

Connecting Objects 

Connecting objects is one of the key features of BPMN, as it allows you to model the flow of information and data between different parts of a business process. 

There are three different types of connecting objects 

1. Sequence Flows 

Shows the order of activities to be performed. It is shown as a straight line with an arrow. 

2. Message Flows 

Defines how a message is passed between two or more BPMN objects. The message flow can be used to trigger a process or to send a message between two or more objects. 

The message flow path is a dashed line that connects the message flow objects.. 

3. Associations 

Illustrated with a dotted line and is used to associate an artifact or text to an event, activity or gateway. For example, if we want to write a comment or additional information to an activity, we can connect that textbox with the association line. 

BPMN Connecting Objects

Pools and swimlanes are a common layout for process-based diagrams. 

  • Pools : In a pool, all the lanes are contained within one big rectangle, and the swimlanes are used to divide up the space inside the pool.
  • Swimlanes : Help to identify and track the roles and responsibilities of individuals within a process, as well as how tasks are related to one another. Swimlanes also make it easier to see potential bottlenecks and issues within a process.

BPMN Pools and Swimlanes

When you map out a process using pools and swimlanes , you can identify areas where there is unnecessary waste or duplication of effort.

When using pools and swimlanes, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Make sure that all the lanes are clearly labeled and that it’s easy to see which lane each process belongs in 
  • Try to keep the number of lanes to a minimum – too many lanes can make the diagram more confusing than helpful 
  • Make sure the swimlanes are wide enough to accommodate all the processes in each lane

Artifacts can be used to include additional information about a process. Artifacts allow you to visually represent objects outside of the actual process. They can be used to manage tasks or processes, or they can be used to represent data or notes that explain the process.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) Examples

BPMN diagrams can be used to model a variety of different business processes, such as:

  • Order processing
  • Human resources
  • Sales and marketing
  • Customer service
  • Manufacturing

These are just a few examples – the possibilities are really limitless. BPMN can be used to model any business process , no matter how simple or complex.

Benefits of using BPMN

There are many benefits to using BPMN, including:

  • Improved communication : BPMN can be used to create models that are easy to understand and communicate to others. This can help to improve communication between different parties involved in a business process.
  • Standard Notation : BPMN can help to speed up the development of new business processes by providing a standard notation that can be used by developers.
  • Easier integration : Valuable for companies that want to integrate their processes with other systems. By using BPMN, you can make the processes more interoperable and easier to integrate.
  • Identify Inefficiencies : BPMN is a powerful tool that can be used to improve process efficiency and effectiveness

Source: BPM Glossary

BPMN and Process Mining 

Process mining is a technique that can be used to automatically discover , map , monitor, and improve business processes. It is based on event logs , which are a record of all the activities that have taken place in a system.

BPMN and process mining are two powerful tools that can be used to improve the efficiency of business processes. When used together, they can provide a complete picture of a process and help to identify areas of improvement .

If you are curios to learn more about process mining, we recommend our  Introduction to process mining , or check out  all of our posts related to process mining

BPM and Business Intelligence 

BPMN is often used in conjunction with Business Intelligence (BI) tools. BI tools are used to collect, analyze, and report on data. BPMN can be used to create process models that can be used to generate reports and dashboards in BI tools. 

The combination of BPMN and BI can be used to create a complete picture of a business’s processes and performance.

If you want to read more about business intelligence (BI), we recommend our post Introduction to business intelligence (BI) , or check out  all of our posts related to business intelligence

Conclusion: Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standard for creating visual models of business processes. It is a graphical representation of business processes that can be used to create process documentation that is easy to understand and follow.

The BPMN diagram elements and symbols include: 

What is BPMN 2.0?

BPMN 2.0 is the latest version of the Business Process Modeling Notation standard.

It was released in January of 2013 and is the most recent version of the BPMN specification. Builds on the successes of the earlier versions of the standard and provides significant enhancements and improvements.

What are BPMN Diagram Elements and Symbols?

BPMN diagrams are made up of a set of standard symbols and notation elements. These symbols and elements are used to create a graphical representation of a business process. 

By understanding the meaning of these symbols and elements, you can effectively communicate your business process to others.

Why is BPMN used?

There are many reasons why businesses use BPMN. First, it is a widely-recognized standard, so businesses can be confident that their diagrams will be understood by anyone who needs to see them. 

Second, BPMN is flexible and can be used to model any kind of process, no matter how simple or complex. And finally, BPMN diagrams can be used to create process simulations, which can help businesses to test and optimize their processes.

Eric J.

Meet Eric, the data "guru" behind Datarundown. When he's not crunching numbers, you can find him running marathons, playing video games, and trying to win the Fantasy Premier League using his predictions model (not going so well).

Eric passionate about helping businesses make sense of their data and turning it into actionable insights. Follow along on Datarundown for all the latest insights and analysis from the data world.

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Process Mapping

Process Mapping: The Complete Guide

What is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)?

Learn how Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) helps align teams, empowers more creative problem solving, and speeds up development.

The (not so) secret power of BPMN

Communication isn’t always easy to pull off, especially with modern fusion teams. But a recent study of 755 IT professionals showed that 95% are investing in technologies that have standards-based modeling for collaboration between business and IT users.

Enabling clear and effective communication is especially important for organizations undertaking these initiatives. Because end-to-end business processes are complex, they often span various departments, people, and external systems. The complexity of the process and the diversity of technology running in the background can make it difficult to show exactly what’s happening.

What is BPMN?

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN 2.0) was developed as a graphical notation to represent complex processes and address these challenges. It is maintained by the non-profit The Object Management Group (OMG) and employed by numerous organizations globally. The visual nature of BPMN enables greater collaboration between different teams, which isn’t surprising given that studies have shown that the human brain can process visuals 15.4 times faster than text.

With an open standard like BPMN, you’re able to:

visual process models

Get everyone on the same page with process models

Creating visual process models helps everyone better understand, discuss, and remember processes. Because BPMN represents a process graphically, humans of different backgrounds and expertise can read the model.

Visually representing a complex process helps to break down barriers between what’s needed from the business and what’s technically feasible. It allows teams to agree on a chosen design before writing any code. From this foundation, teams can iteratively improve a process using data from the process itself.

Bring visibility to complex processes

Most employees have a limited understanding of the processes and workflows that keep their organization running. Their view typically covers their specific area of expertise, resulting in a fragmented picture of a process that can hinder collaboration and innovation .

BPMN tools should offer various ways to work on and share a process model to better enable cross-team collaboration. With the rise of distributed teams, having ways to design a model remotely (and asynchronously!) can greatly impact productivity and creativity. 

Other examples include embedding a model directly on an internal webpage so everyone can understand how workflows run or sharing a process health dashboard. Providing an artifact also ensures that knowledge isn’t lost if the person who created the processes moves to a different team or business unit.

Turn expertise into innovation

Having a diverse set of people working together on the same problem produces more innovative results . Combining technical and non-technical teams to work through a challenge helps uncover gaps in knowledge and create a more holistic and innovative solution. 

Developers typically are less interested in the monetary side of the business equation. They’d rather solve complex problems by writing code. But successful collaboration between both parties can be challenging without a simple way to map out and diagram a process. 

BPMN can also help teams take a more agile approach to solve problems. You can quickly create a minimum viable product (MVP) solution that addresses the issue you’re trying to fix. From there, you can make data-backed improvements iteratively and deploy the newest version during the next development cycle.

This is where BPMN can help align different groups to better understand and represent a process design. Combining the visual nature of BPMN with a user-friendly way to model processes speeds up the creation of innovative solutions.

Streamline development efforts

Because BPMN can be made executable, a process can be fully designed before any development time is spent. Developers don’t have to waste time writing code that will be revised during a second iteration because everyone aligns on the scope and solution upfront. 

Other benefits for developers include:

Less time needed agreeing on the scope of the process solution

Greater focus on implementing the business logic itself instead of routing and orchestration

Enhanced efficiency for process execution

Streamlined development efforts via reusable boilerplate code and Connectors

Out-of-the-box scheduler and durable state using a workflow engine with BPMN

Easier solutions to common engineering problems, such as applying the saga pattern

Reduced coding overhead with advanced symbols like timers, compensation, and gateways

Common workflow patterns BPMN helps solve

Business processes often have similar challenges regardless of the industry or use. As a result, there are several workflow patterns have been created which can solve these problems. ​​

These patterns handle complex business process logic across multiple endpoints, such as executing process flows in parallel, message correlation, escalating events, or dealing with a fatal error.

BPMN diagram example

This is a frequently-cited BPMN example developed by OMG to show collaboration between various participants in a process. Because we want to explicitly model the interaction between the customer ordering a pizza, and the vendor who’s producing it, we instead classify them as participants and give each a dedicated pool.

BPMN pizza example

BPMN pizza example

Advanced workflow pattern examples

Dynamic parallel execution

BPMN makes it easy to diagram and coordinate many concurrent tasks. 

A simplified example: A customer of an e-commerce vendor purchases multiple items in the online store. During the order process we need to iterate over the list of placed items to make sure they are still available in the vendor’s warehouse.

These steps would also likely inform other systems in the business such as ERPs in finance, customer relationship software, or supply chain and logistics systems.

BPMN simplifies the difficult task of connecting unique identifiers and canceling process instances.

A simplified example : After attempting to cancel an order using their account portal, a customer calls the contact center for help. Unfortunately, the agent lacks details of what the customer already attempted, and doesn’t have a unique ID to reference and help resolve their issue. 

Interrupting a workflow with hundreds of tasks spread across multiple distributed systems can be difficult to accomplish at scale without using BPMN and a workflow engine.

BPMN helps escalate a process if it’s not completed within an agreed window of time.

A simplified example : A professional services firm issues an invoice to a customer, and the invoice is not paid on time. An accounting software system prompts the customer to pay the invoice with an automated email coming from the service provider’s business email address. 

In this case, the process is coordinated across both the firm’s business email and accounting system.

Three BPMN Myths Debunked

Folks who aren’t familiar with BPMN can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the volume of options. The nature of BPMN is that it can communicate complex workflows in a visual way, but to do so, requires a set of symbols.

The most common myths we hear about BPMN are that it’s:

The notation was designed to visually describe complex business processes that span various endpoints such as people, systems, and devices.

To accomplish this, it needs to handle just about any scenario. The result is a “visual language” that helps address process complexity and endpoint diversity through a library of human-readable symbols. 

The visual nature makes the notation more accessible because anyone with a little time can pick up the symbols and understand how a process flows.

You can also learn iteratively without needing to recognize every symbol. This lets you start modeling processes with a basic symbol set before revising your models with more advanced complexity.

Difficult To Learn

Any new skill can feel difficult when you’re just starting. 

Take your first programming language as an example. There were all these foreign commands, syntax, and specific rules you needed to follow but didn’t yet fully understand.

BPMN is often described as a visual programming language for similar reasons. It has a set of symbols and grammar that you’ll use to describe a complex process.

When learning anything new, it’s a balance of theory and practice that helps you get up to speed fast.

Because it is an open standard, there are plenty of educational BPMN resources available to help.

BPMN has a long history of use to automate business processes. 

While some argue that the age of the notation shows that it’s obsolete, the reality is that it is a reliable and effective way to map complex business processes so they’re easier to understand and transform. 

A 2022 study showcased how BPMN enhances the efficiency and efficacy of healthcare organizations, and improves patient outcomes while restraining costs.

Because it’s an open standard, BPMN knowledge can easily transfer to other organizations or technology solutions. 

Additionally, other standards like DMN (Decision Model and Notation) boost BPMN’s functionality and is still under development. DMN is used to automate decisions helps to fully embrace the potential of your processes.

7 tips to quickly learn BPMN

Adding new skills to your toolkit is a continuous process for developers. There’s always a new technology or language that you can learn to improve your work experience. Because BPMN is an open standard, adding it to your skillset can bring new career opportunities you’d want to explore.

Below are some tips and best practices to learn BPMN and start quickly.

1. It starts (and ends) with an event

There are over 100 unique elements that make up BPMN. For some, that can be overwhelming to start with. 

Fortunately, you can begin by looking at just two groups of symbols; flow objects and connecting objects. From there, you can keep expanding your understanding by putting BPMN into practice by modeling processes with greater complexity and more advanced BPMN symbols.

Events Describes a trigger that either starts, modifies, or completes a process .

Activities Represents an action (a task) that is taken, whether by technology or humans .

Gateways These describe a decision point in a workflow, such as parallel (AND), exclusive (XOR), and Inclusive (OR) gateways .

Flows Connecting objects like associations, sequences, and message flows show how elements relate.

Want to gain a full view of everything related to BPMN?

Download the first 40 pages of the best-selling BPMN book, Real-Life BPMN.

2. Use swimlanes to show responsibilities across processes

BPMN 2.0 defines two different types of swimlanes to partition responsibility for different parts of an end-to-end process: pools and lanes . 

Pools act as a container to assign a set of tasks in a process and visually differentiate two or more independent processes. Pools contain lanes, which assign responsibility for subprocesses and tasks to show who is executing the tasks. BPMN calls this type of visualization a collaboration diagram. 

Pools should be clearly named with the name of the end-to-end process, for example, Customer Onboarding . You can designate as many lanes as you’d like, but they always exist within a pool.

To get started quickly, you can eliminate pools and only use lanes by modeling the sequence as normal tasks. However, avoiding pools in your diagrams limits your ability to produce diagrams that can represent real-world complexity.

In practice, lanes are often used to assign:

  • Positions in the organization, e.g., accounting clerk or logistics manager
  • Roles in the secondary organization, e.g. data protection officer
  • General roles, e.g. customer or end user
  • Departments, e.g. sales
  • IT applications, e.g. CRM system or legacy system

business model process notation

3. Watch how experts design complex business processes

Since BPMN has a long history, several experts are producing educational content to share their knowledge. Our Developer Relations team here has produced many videos and other content to help explain the power behind BPMN. 

Plus, we have several champions in our community that also produce independent content on the subject. Given BPMN’s proven stability and history, there’s no shortage of experts to learn more.

4. Start with modeling a familiar process

The fastest path to learning something new is pairing theory with hands-on practice. It’s often easiest to start with a process that you’re already familiar with and that’s relatively simple. Another tip is to model a process that you may want to transform through automation to get a tangible benefit from your learning. The key here is to start with a pilot project to keep your education focused and practical.

There are several free BPMN modeling tools are available to you, with some of the most popular ones being created here at Camunda.

5. Understand process flows with token simulation

Complex models are hard to understand. You can follow the flows by hand, but it’s easier to use token simulation. You can turn gateways on and off to see how they interact with the workflow.

Not every BPMN modeling tool offers token simulation. Fortunately, we have it available in our Web and Desktop Modeler applications.

6. Get inspired with pre-designed templates

Every business has uniquely tailored processes. Even the same process, such as a customer onboarding process, will completely differ in implementation and customer experience from one company to the next. This level of customization for common workflow patterns makes BPMN special. 

Camunda Web Modeler offers a variety of quickstart templates that can help inspire your process and help you learn BPMN in Camunda. It offers a starting place that you can customize to your specific needs.

business model process notation

7. Learn BPMN online or in person

Because BPMN has a popular global following, there are several ways you can continue growing your expertise. Below are a few of our ( semi-biased ) favorites you can take advantage of.

Camunda Academy provides anyone with free, unlimited on-demand training on subjects like BPMN, DMN, and Camunda.

Join the Academy

Find a local Camunda Chapter, register for events, and join the conversations happening in our forums.

Join the Community

CamundaCon 2023

Whether you’re a Camunda newbie, long-standing community member, or process automation pro, you’re welcome to join the event and level up your Camunda knowledge, share experiences and ask questions.

Learn about CamundaCon

“With BPMN, I can show a flow to my business partner, and the business team can easily understand what’s going on. The technical team can understand what the implementation is, and we can model different errors and the process for recovering from these errors.”

Gustavo Arjones, CTO Itau Unibanco

Get started with BPMN using Camunda

BPMN Diagram Symbols & Notation

What are your requirements regarding bpmn diagrams, bpmn event types, bpmn event symbols, bpmn activity symbols, bpmn gateway symbols, connecting objects in a bpmn diagram, swimlanes in a bpmn diagram, artifacts in a bpmn diagram.

Like flowcharts, BPMN diagrams use a set of standard symbols. Each shape has a specific meaning and business context where it’s most appropriate. If you become overwhelmed while drawing your BPMN chart, simply check this guide.

6 minute read

Would you like to create a BPMN diagram? Test Lucidchart - fast, easy, free.

Common BPMN symbols

A business process model and notation diagram, or BPMN diagram for short, is used to build easy-to-read business process model flowcharts, which can be shared across organizations and industries. BPMN diagram symbols are categorized into four main groups: flow objects, connecting objects, swimlanes, and artifacts. Read this comprehensive guide of BPMN diagram shapes and their meanings below.

Events represent an event in a business process.

Activities describe the kind of work being done in a particular process instance. There are four BPMN activity types : tasks, sub-processes, transactions, and call activities.

Diagramming is quick and easy with Lucidchart. Start a free trial today to start creating and collaborating.

In a BPMN diagram, gateway symbols that separate and recombine flows. There are several types of gateways:

Connecting objects are lines that connect BPMN flow objects. There are three different types: sequence flows, message flows, and associations.

Swimlanes are used to organize aspects of a process in a BPMN diagram. Swimlanes visually group objects into lanes, with each aspect of the process added to a separate lane. These elements can be arranged either horizontally or vertically. Swimlanes not only organize activities into separate categories, they can reveal delays, inefficiencies, and the workers responsible for each step in a process.

Swimlanes in a BPMN Diagram

Artifacts represent information relevant to the model but not to individual elements within the process. The three artifact types are annotations, groups, and data objects that can be used in a BPMN diagram. All three are used to augment and describe a BPMN process.

Annotations allow the modeler to describe additional flow parts of the model or notation.

Groups organize tasks or processes that have significance in the overall process.

Data objects represent data placed into the process, data resulting from the process, data that needs to be collected, or data that must be stored.

Artifacts in a BPMN Diagram

Additional Resources

  • Visio BPMN Stencil and Templates
  • All About Business Process Mapping, Flow Charts and Diagrams
  • BPMN Event Types
  • BPMN Activity Types
  • BPMN Gateway Types
  • BPMN & BPMN 2.0 Tutorial
  • What is Business Process Modeling Notation

Lucidchart offers every standard BPMN shape, so you can quickly and easily represent business flows. Communicate among your team members or across industries with Lucidchart’s professional-grade tools.

Business Process Modeling: Definition, Benefits, and Examples

You are Here : Process Software >> Business Process Modeling

In today's complex business world, CIOs use technology as a key tool to improve how a company works. One important tool they use is Business Process Modeling.

Even though Business Process Modeling isn't a new idea, it's still a game-changer. As CIOs push for new IT initiatives that match wider business goals, they know that the key to better productivity is seeing, studying, and improving the detailed processes that make their organizations run.

So, what is Business Process Modeling, and why do you need it? This guide will look at Business Process Modeling from a CIO's perspective. We'll explain what it is, how it works, and how it can transform business productivity and efficiency. Just like a CIO uses technology to achieve strategic success, business process modeling acts as a roadmap, leading businesses towards a future of efficient processes, improved teamwork, and excellent performance.

Table of Content

  • What is Business Process Modeling?

Why Use Business Process Modeling?

Business process modeling techniques.

  • What Do I Need in a Process Modeling Software

What is Business Process Modeling (BPM)?

Business process modeling   (or) process modeling, is the analytical representation or put simply an illustration of an organization’s business processes. Modeling processes is a critical component for effective  business process management .

Process modeling software gives an analytical representation of 'as-is' processes in an organization and contrasts it with 'to-be' processes for making them more efficient.

Many business process modeling tools end up producing something like this:


Get rid of redundancies through effortless process design.

Your first step in modeling is actually pen and paper. However, to actually run a   business process , you will need to digitize that process in a way that a workflow engine can understand.

Business process modeling software   allow you to represent your process in a digital way that can then be transferred to a live automated process.

There are many benefits to business process modeling:

  • Gives everyone a clear understanding of how the process works
  • Provides consistency and controls the process
  • Identifies and eliminates redundancies and inefficiencies
  • Sets a clear starting and ending to the process

Business process modeling   can also help you group similar processes together and anticipate how they should operate. The primary objective of business process modeling tools is to analyze how things are right now and simulate how should they be carried out to achieve better results.

Kissflow, our   BPM Software , Streamline your business with superpowered processes.

Business process modeling can be expressed through flowcharts, programs, hypertext, or scripts. There isn’t just one way to implement business process modeling; in fact, you can choose from   as many as 12 techniques.

Here are some of the most common business process modeling techniques:

1. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

BPMN 2.0 has become something of a standard syntax used by process analysts and those who create business modeling tools. It is a relatively simple usage of lines, arrows, and geometric shapes that all communicate the flow and nuances of the process. A process consultant can look at a BPMN 2.0 model and know exactly how it should function.

“Eventually, when [those] companies get their products shipping and crank up their marketing machines,  BPMN  will be the unquestioned standard for process modeling and execution. But right now, we are still between the news and the reality.” - Bruce Silver, Process Consultant and Author of the book BPMN Method and Style

However, BPMN 2.0 is still a learned language, and although relatively simple, isn’t immediately intuitive for the regular business user. It is a great tool for process consultants, but not helpful for those looking to create their own applications.

2. Universal Process Notation

Instead of having a new language to learn, a more intuitive system is   Universal Process Notation   or UPN.

UPN provides a simple box for each task to be completed. The box shows what happens, who is assigned to it, and when it happens in the sequence. It is extremely useful for IT to design and analyze processes, for management to comply to business norms, and - more importantly - for end business users to understand processes as intended. Kissflow uses UPN in its modeler.

3. Flowchart Technique

Flowcharts explain complex process flows in a simple yet effective way. They illustrates process steps in their sequential order, going from inputs to actual process to outputs. In fact, flowcharts provide the basic framework for BPMN to display advanced process flows.

Kissflow, our   process tracking software , can help your business stay constantly aware of every last business process.

4. Gantt Charts

Rather than showing the steps sequentially, Gantt charts are able to show the entire process using ‘time taken’ as one of the main axes. It does a better job of showing the overall time taken to complete a project than other options.

5. Petri-Nets

Traditionally a modeling technique in mathematics, petri-nets are also useful for modeling business processes. Petri-nets classify or color-code complex workflow steps, users, and routes in different colors.

What Do I Need in a Process Modeling Software?

Most   BPM Suites   include business process modeling tools in them. However, some have the modeler as a separate application.

The modeler is one of the most important elements in a BPMS , and you should spend a lot of time learning it before committing to buy a suite.

Great business modeling tools should:

  • Be easy to learn for the business departments
  • Be simple for IT teams to communicate with other departments
  • Be inexpensive and industry compliant
  • Have an integrated workflow editor tool with graphic interface
  • Be able to simulate workflow before implementing

Learn more about process modelers .

Check out why these   6 BPM Software   are at the top of the competition!

The Challenge:

RENU Contracting and Restoration grappled with unreliable manual processes, difficulty managing complex tasks, and inefficient tracking of process issues. They needed a solution to transform their operations, increase productivity, and ensure accountability.

The Solution:

Michael Casamento, Director of Process and Procedure at RENU, discovered Kissflow during a web search. Impressed by its features, ease of use, and value for money, he implemented it. RENU began building workflows for check requests and merchandise returns. The success of these implementations led to the automation of other operations, such as claims processing, debit memo processing, and maintenance requests.

The Outcome:

Kissflow has become essential for managing many of RENU's critical processes. The company has experienced enhanced productivity, time-saving in process creation, increased accountability, minimal development time, and improved end-to-end trackability of processes. Michael praises Kissflow for its well-designed user interface and responsiveness to community input. Integrations with other apps via Zapier have further improved operations. Now, RENU looks forward to building an on/off-boarding process using Kissflow.

Utilizing a platform like Kissflow for business process modeling can be a game-changer for businesses. It allows organizations to visualize, analyze, and optimize their workflows in a user-friendly interface. 

This not only enhances productivity but also fosters improved collaboration and operational excellence. With its comprehensive and intuitive tools, Kissflow empowers CIOs and other business leaders to seamlessly align IT initiatives with broader business objectives, paving the way for strategic success in the ever-evolving landscape of technology and business.

You may also like:

  • BPM Definition [A complete BPM Guide]
  • What is BPMS? How Can It Help Your Organization?
  • Business Process Management Software
  • 10 Steps to a Successful Business Process Documentation
  • BPM Systems – The Best one MUST (will) have these 10 features
  • How To Make Simple & Effective Business Process.

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Business Process Modeling Techniques with Examples

Business Process Modeling Techniques with Examples

Updated on: 5 January 2023

In one of our previous articles about BPM we briefly touched upon various business process modeling techniques. And as promised here’s a more detailed look at various BPM techniques and how to make use of them effectively.

Business process modeling is mainly used to map a workflow so you can understand, analyse and make positive changes to that workflow or process. Usage of diagram helps you to visualize this process and make better decisions.

Use the below table to quickly navigate to different techniques.

  • Business process modeling notation (BPMN)
  • UML diagrams
  • Flowchart technique
  • Data flow diagrams
  • Role activity diagrams
  • Role interaction diagrams
  • Gantt charts
  • Integrated definition for function modeling
  • Colored petri-nets
  • Object oriented methods
  • Workflow technique
  • Simulation model

Lest start with the latest techniques.

1. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

Simply put BPMN is a graphical representation of your business process using standard objects. If you want to get more technical It can also be defined as a set of graphical objects and rules defining available connections between the objects.

BPMN consists of the following basic building blocks;

  • Flow objects: events (circles), activities (rectangles with rounded corners), and gateways (diamonds)
  • Connecting objects: mainly comprising arrows, these indicate sequence flow (filled arrows), message flow (dashed arrows), and associations
  • Swim lanes: pools (graphic container) and lanes (sub-partition of the pool)
  • Artifacts: data objects, groups, and annotations

BPMN is one of the latest business process modeling techniques used by many professionals

A business process modeled using BPMN

Creately has a separate library with the latest BPMN 2.0 object included in the library. Plus you get intelligent grouping elements, professionally designed BPMN templates and much more. Check out how Creately makes it easier to model using BPMN .

The biggest advantage of BPMN is that it’s a standard with well-defined syntax. So many business analysts are familiar with it which makes collaboration much easier. Also, most modeling tools support BPMN which makes it much easier to share and edit if even using different software. All these together makes BPMN the most popular business process modeling technique at the moment. Click here to start creating any complex BPMN diagram .

BPMN diagram with swim lanes

A process modeled using BPMN that has swimlanes

Find more BPMN Examples to use for free to draw business process modeling notation diagrams.

2. UML Diagrams

UML is a modeling language mainly used for specification, visualization, development and documenting of software systems. But business professionals have adapted it as a powerful business process modeling technique.

With 14 different UML diagram types , it offers a flexible and powerful way to visualize almost any business process. They are typically used for modeling the detailed logic of a business process. In many ways, UML diagrams are the object-oriented equivalent of flow charts.

As mentioned above one of its main advantages is its flexibility. But with 14 different diagram types, some might find it difficult to understand the diagrams. Add to that the same process can be modeled using different UML diagrams. So probably not the most popular choice among analysts.

A UML activity diagram with swimlanes

It’s flexibility makes UML a popular business process modeling technique

Our UML software supports drawing of all UML diagram types. We have templates, separate libraries for various UML diagrams and knowledge article to guide you through the process. Click here to start drawing UML with Creately >>

Business process modeling goes back a long time and BPMN and UML evolved from some techniques used a while back. However, some of these earlier techniques are still been used in business process modeling. Listed below are some of those techniques that are still used today.

3. Flowchart Technique

Flowcharts are probably the most popular diagram type in the world. Because it has few standard symbols it can be easily understood by many. Simplicity makes it powerful and an effective tool.In fact, BPMN can be considered as an advanced version of the basic flowchart technique. Also, most drawing software support creation of flowcharts  it is used by a much wider audience as well.

Flowchart uses a sequential flow of actions and does not support a breakdown of the activities. The Flow Chart model is possibly the first process notation. It has frequently been used over many years although there is no exact date for its origin.

It's simplicity makes flowcharts a frequently used modeling technique

A simple flowchart with processes, decision blocks etc.

You can use our flowchart software to easily come up with a professional flowchart.

4. Data Flow Diagrams – Yourdon’s Technique

Data flow diagrams (DFD) show the flow of data or information from one place to another . DFDs describe the processes showing how these processes link together through data stores and how the processes relate to the users and the outside world.

They are used to record the processes analysed as a part of the design documentation. A DFD can be seen as a method of organizing data from its raw state. DFDs are the backbone of structured analysis that was developed in the early sixties by Yourdon.

Data Flow Diagram Example

A DFD diagram used in modeling done by Data Flow Diagram Tool

5. Role Activity Diagrams – RAD

Roles are abstract notations of behavior describing a desired behavior within the organization. They are often organizational functions. They also include software systems, customers and suppliers. RADs provide a different perspective of the process and are particularly useful in supporting communication . They are intuitive to read, easy to understand and presents a detailed view of the process and permitting activities in parallel .

Role Activity Diagram ( RAD )

Role activity diagram used in business process modeling created by our Activity Diagram Tool

6. Role Interaction Diagrams – RID

Activities are connected to roles in a type of matrix. Activities are shown vertically on the left axis and the roles are shown horizontally at the top. Text and symbols are used together in order to represent the process.

Although slightly more complex than flow diagrams, RIDs are fairly intuitive to understand and easy to read but they tend to be messy, with many arrows pointing left and right and are therefore quite hard to build.

Inputs to and outputs from the activities are not modeled.  Therefore, important information is lost. RIDs are not as flexible as flowcharts, for example. They have quite rigid notation. But compared with other modeling techniques, RIDs are nevertheless flexible. They can be drawn using an Activity Diagram Tool

Role Interaction Diagram ( RID )

Role interaction diagrams offer flexibility but somewhat harder to draw

7. Gantt Charts

Gantt charts relate a list of activities to a time scale. Although it can be used to represent a process graphically it’s strength lies in the ability to monitor the current situation, project timeline, and resource allocation. Although things like dependencies can be highlighted in it the modeling part is severely lacking. Probably the reason why it isn’t popular anymore. If you’re using to monitor timelines then you’ll be pleased to know Creately supports drawing Gantt charts .

A Gantt chart is a matrix that lists on the vertical axis all the tasks or activities to be performed in a process. Each row contains a single activity identification, which usually consists of a number and a name. The horizontal axis is headed by columns indicating estimated activity duration, skill level needed to perform the activity, and the name of the person assigned to the activity, followed by one column for each period in the project’s duration. Each period may be expressed in hours, days, weeks, months, and other time units. In some cases, it may be necessary to label the period columns as period 1, period 2, and so on.

An example of a Gantt chart with timelines

Gantt charts are used for time lines in processes

8. Integrated Definition for Function Modeling  (IDEF)

IDEF is a family of methods that support a paradigm capable of addressing the modeling needs of an enterprise and its business areas (IDEF, 2003). The IDEF family is used according to different applications. The most important parts are: IDEF0, IDEF1, IDEF1X, IDEF2, IDEF3, IDEF4 and IDEF5. However, for business process modeling, the most useful versions are IDEF0 and IDEF3.

The IDEF model

The IDEF model

9. Colored Petri Nets ( CPN )

Colored Petri nets are a graphical oriented language for design, specification, simulation and verification of systems. It is particularly well suited for systems that consist of a number of processes, which communicate and synchronize .

Colored nets are extended Petri nets in which symbols are differentiated by ‘COLORS’. A CPN model consists of a set of modules which each contain a network of places, transitions and arcs. The graphical representation makes it easy to see the basic structure of a complex CPN model, i.e. to understand how the individual processes interact with each other. CP-nets have a formal, mathematical representation with a well-defined syntax and semantics. This representation is the foundation for the definition of the different behavioral properties and the analysis methods.

Colored Petri-Net diagram

A diagram modeled using Colored Petri-Net

10. Object Oriented Methods

This method is based on three concepts: objects that represent a real-world entity. An object has a state, i.e. one of the possible conditions in which the object may exist represented by the values of the properties (attributes). State changes are reflected by the behavior, i.e. how an object acts and reacts determined by the set of operations the object can perform on itself, and also knowing its interface, functions and methods. A set of similar objects is called class. For example, the attributes for the class animal are having four legs and a tail. Its behaviors are sleeping and eating. Then possible instances or objects of the class animal are cat, elephant, and horse.

Finally, messages are requests for the receiver objects to carry out the indicated method or behavior and return the result of that action to the sender objects. States change through behavior when the object receives a message. There are many different techniques based on OO. Unified Modelling Language (UML) is considered the standard OO modeling language. Coad and Yourdon’s method precedes UML.

11. Workflow Technique

  Workflow is a flow of tasks between computer applications or people in an organization. Two or more members of a workgroup to reach a common goal can define a workflow as well as any task performed in series or in parallel. The work flow is more than a technique to model a process. It is a method to analyze and improve a process, including its modeling.

The workflow development process uses work flow models to capture the relevant information of the processes. This process comprises four stages: Information Gathering, Business Process Modelling, Work flow Modelling, Implementation and Verification & Execution. You can get started easily using our workflow diagram templates.

A diagram showing the workflow technique

Work flow concept

12. Simulation

Simulation model comes in handy when you want to study a complex real-world system. You want to learn more about the system to make an informed decision but the complexity of the system prevents you from doing that directly.

Therefore you proceed indirectly by creating and studying another entity (the simulation model), which is sufficiently similar to the real-world system. Simulation can have many forms (for example, discrete-event simulation, continuous simulation, system dynamics, Monte-Carlo simulation, qualitative simulation, etc.).

Final Thoughts on Business Process Modeling Techniques

Most of the legacy systems are outdated or used sparingly. However, it must be noted that some of them are used far more effectively in other industries and for different purposes.

For example, Gantt charts are not very effective as a business process modeling technique but they are extremely useful to monitor timelines in complex projects. Similarly, flowcharts  are great to quickly describe uncomplicated processes. One might argue BPM helped popularize those techniques.

Hope now you have a good understanding of the BPM techniques. We’ll be discussing the importance of the BPM methodology  through our next article.

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business model process notation

More Related Articles


how do Use a process flow technique to explain each of the CERTs working model.

Very helpful, would anyone know how to get Business process modeling notation (BPMN) certification, And if there is an online study/ certification option

how to make role activity diagram using any software for business processes.

Thanks for the article. What kind of modelling methodologies are used for Smart Process Automation (SPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Where are the references? Most the above mentioned information was written from “Aguilar-Saven, R.S., 2004. Business process modelling: Review and framework. International Journal of production economics, 90(2), pp.129-149.”

it is good material, it has improved my understanding of BPM

Thanks for the examples. I wonder if that UML diagram is usually true for companies? What if there’s a need for CSR? What if there are defects on the product? I understand that it’s a basic sample, it’s almost an accurate model but I quickly remembered my Mass Comm lessons before I changed my course.

I am a CS B.E student and i am looking for mathematical model for bussines process mapping web application.Will u please help….

Thanks. Good article. Supported me to improve my knowledge om BPMT

I’m CS student,

And I found that creately is very helpful in developing UML Diagram.

please a need help in designing an ER schema

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What is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)

Blog: flokzu, what is business process modeling and notation.

If processes had an official language, that language would be BPMN. Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN) is an open standard graphical representation of a business’s processes and workflows. It is a flowchart that depicts the participants, options, and direction of said processes using standardized graphics and images. The BPMN is a standard propagated and published by the OMG .

The graphics used in Business Process Model and Notation are created to be intricate but simple to read. So simple that you wouldn’t need IT knowledge to understand it. Its simplicity makes it possible for executives, analysts, and tech implementation employees to use the same graphic to promote optimization and digitalization. Gone are the days when business processes needed thousands of documents and files. 

Summarily, business process modeling and notation (BPMN) describes the steps involved in a business process, the participants of those processes, the business rules, and the documents involved. 

If you would like to read only a summary of BPMN, click here . 

When to Use BPMN

Regardless of how valuable a tool might be, knowing precisely when you should use it is far more essential.

When describing a business process, you can decide to do so through various methods. Usually, the most helpful is a pictorial diagram, this means using pictures to describe the different elements of the process. Although there are different pictorial diagram options, the business process model and notation (BPMN) standard is the most recommended.  

As with flowcharts, you can use a BPM tool in numerous stages in a project’s lifecycle. For example, it might be employed at the beginning of your project to comprehend your current or “As-Is” state. Furthermore, as the project advances and begins to take shape, a “To-Be” model can be developed. Business Process Modeling and Notation is utilized when it’s crucial to visualize the steps involved in completing a particular project, the order in which they must be executed, and who is in charge of carrying out each task.

Here are some scenarios when you can use BPMN:

  • Formally modeling the business process to make it easier to describe and understand for others (be it other professionals in the same organization or any other analyst). The person in charge of their business process knows all the steps and people involved. Still, it can be hard to communicate that information to others. BPMN helps to extract their information and translate it into a diagram.
  • Executing those processes is a vital feature of the BPMN standard. You can use a BPMN engine to take the modeling and execute it without needing to code.
  • Share, discover and improve your business processes. When you document how the process works, you can later share that information and discuss it with other team members. A vital functionality in many tools is allowing you to share the diagram easily. There is no doubt that a business model is indeed abstract. Still, this abstraction is ultimately needed to discuss and improve business processes.

After asking the question “What is BPMN?”, one might also be tempted to ask follow-up questions regarding what it’s for. So here we’ll present three primary goals of this tool.

  • The primary goal of BPMN is to provide a set of artifacts that you can use to properly and fully describe a business process. Any business user can use it. It does not need computer developers’ help, coding, or any IT knowledge. Teammates from HR, Customer Success, and any department can use this technology.
  • The second relevant goal in BPMN is how complete it is. What do we mean by this? It means that business users can model every business process, no matter how complex. They have a complete set of artifacts that allow you to describe their business process’s behavior.
  • Lastly, being a worldwide standard. Most people who work with processes around the world know this standard.  Most people who work with processes around the world know and use this standard. 

BPMN Perspectives

As far as modeling languages go, none are as significant as BPMN. It has been widely adopted worldwide as the formal standard since before it was propagated by the Object Management Group (OMG). The introduction of BPMN changed the game regarding how business processes were modeled. It produced a more thorough standard for business process modeling by adopting a more extensive collection of symbols and notations for Business Process diagrams. 

We can expect that BPMN will continue growing and being adopted worldwide. Whether we like it or not, we are entering a hyper-automated era. More and more organizations will use this notation to improve their competitiveness. In this hyper-automation environment, modeling business process is just the first step. Organizations need it to add intelligence to their processes, be it AI, chatbot, etc. First, you model every business, and then you can replace steps with intelligent artifacts.

How BPMN Works

As we’ve already stated, a BPMN diagram is a graphic diagram that allows business users to model and automate their business processes using different artifacts. While some artifacts are extremely easy to use, others can be more sophisticated and complex. The latter may require extensive training and an understanding of its intricacies and capabilities to utilize them more efficiently. 

However, the wide accessibility of BPMN has made it so that you can create an efficient and detailed business process model, even without fully understanding the more complex artifacts. All that is required is that you know the fundamental basics of how BPMN works, and after this article, you’ll be an expert. 

business model process notation

A generic business process model diagram.

business model process notation

A business process model made using simple artifacts and notations. This model showcases a Business Process Proposal process.

The BPMN language is based on flowcharts and graphical notations. The notations can be separated into four categories for diagramming:

  • Flow Objects: Descriptive items used to describe a process, such as events, activities, and gateways. Processes are typically initiated by a start event, followed by activities/tasks and gateways (decision points), and terminated by an end event. Complex processes also incorporate sub-processes and intermediate events, as well as several sorts of gateways to demonstrate how the workflow proceeds through the diagram. For example, an exclusive gateway has only one movement choice. However, an inclusive gateway provides possibilities based on the selection made at the gateway.
  • Connecting Objects: Symbols used to link flow objects such as message flows, sequence flows, and associations. The flows are illustrated by dashed or straight lines with arrows, whereas associations are represented by a dotted line to indicate that specific documents or artifacts are associated with a specific event or gateway.
  • Swimlanes: These are containers that separate one set of activities from another, such as pools and lanes. Pools are the key actors in a process illustrated through a BPMN diagram. A distinct pool could represent a different organization, department, or consumer involved in the process. Lanes inside the pool depict the activities and flow for a certain job role or participant, identifying who is responsible for various steps of a process.
  • Artifacts: Additional information about the workflow, such as data objects, groups, and annotations. A data object represents the data required for an activity, a group represents a logical grouping of activities, and an annotation describes what is happening in a specific area of the diagram. This is the information required or generated to carry out a business process. It includes data inputs, data outputs, data objects, and data repositories.

On the other hand, you can use all the artifacts to model very complex and advanced set behaviors of your processes. To execute this, BPMN provides several artifacts which can enable you to model very complex situations. As stated earlier, these artifacts are more complex to understand and use, but mastery of these artifacts can yield increased flexibility and versatility of your business process models.

Types Of BPMN Diagrams

BPMN diagrams can be either simple or complex diagrams that can depict the intricacies involved in either or both internal and external processes. They are generally classified into three categories. Which are:

  • Collaboration Diagram: Shows interactions between two or more processes using more than one pool. The collaboration diagram focuses on the work done by each pool, and they can send messages to one another.
  • Choreography Diagram: This shows interactions between two or more participants. The choreography diagram can be included in collaboration by adding tasks and sequences that define how the participants interact more thoroughly. Moreover, this diagram can be expanded with sub-choreographies.
  • Conversation Diagram: A conversation diagram is a simplified version of a collaboration diagram, showing a group of related message exchanges in a business process. Furthermore, the conversation diagram can be further expanded with sub-conversations.

Aside from this formal means of classifying BPMN diagrams, other forms of classification are more business user-friendly. In this form, two categories are used to classify the BPMN diagrams. They are:

  • Simple Diagrams: These diagrams are generally easy to comprehend because they use the basic artifact set. These artifacts include: the user task, the gateway, and the timer used to set up due dates or timed events, etc. With simple diagrams, even if the process model created is a large diagram, it still tends to be easy to comprehend.

business model process notation

A simple BPMN diagram using only a few sets of artifacts.

Complex Diagrams: On the other hand, complex diagrams use the complete set of artifacts that the BPMN standard provides. The advantage of using the artifacts that the BPMN standard provides is that it allows users to describe every business situation. They can depict virtually any business process of a company or organization, but it does so by sacrificing easy understandability. In this case, to understand the defined business process, the user must already have extensive knowledge of how all the artifacts work and interact with each other.

business model process notation

A complex BPMN diagram using a large variety of artifacts.

At Flokzu, we use simple diagrams and carefully select the most common subset of BPMN artifacts used and depicted in most business scenarios. This way, you can create and model a diagram for most administrative processes using just a few artifacts of the BPMN standard. By doing this, we’ve created an all-inclusive atmosphere for all business users to appreciate, discuss and improve their processes.

As we’ve mentioned, the possible downside could be that specific business processes that are too complex could be challenging to model. Regardless, we’ve made this decision because we are substantially accelerating the adoption and automation of business processes for everyone, not just IT professionals.

The Value Of BPMN

Due to its wide accessibility, the usefulness and impact of BPMN can be felt in almost every industry. As a result, the BPMN standard has become a universal language used to represent many business processes. 

The value of BPMN can be seen in its helping organizations do the following:

  • Reach faster conclusions on current and future processes through unambiguous models.
  • Facilitate thorough analysis and improvement of operations all over the company.
  • Provide a library of process flows, case definitions, and business rules to aid in the training of new employees.

From Marketing to the Finance and Sales department, the value of BPMN cannot be overstated. Take an onboarding process in the Human Resources department as an example.

Summarily, onboarding a new hire is usually a typical process. It can include introducing them to their role in a company, sharing material they need to read, see or sign, or any other specific task. Of course, several steps are involved when bringing someone on board to join a company, but using a BPMN, you can efficiently model a diagram depicting each step along the way to ensure it’s as successful as possible, making it an improvement for both the employer and the employee.

business model process notation

Business process model diagram depicting Onboarding process in Human Resources Department.

The value of BPMN can also be observed in the processes of a manufacturing company. Take the process of creating a new product as an example. This complex process involves numerous steps such as the design, funding, and marketing for said product, sourcing legal documentation, distribution of the product, etc. Moreover, some of these tasks need to be carried out simultaneously.

Using a BPMN diagram, you will have this complex process aligned to make all the steps involved streamlined and easier to perform. In addition, automating this process will help the organization identify any operation bottlenecks so that sound measures are made to fix them. All this can result in increased business operation and organization effectiveness and efficiency. 

Furthermore, BPMN diagrams assist teams in creating the XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents required to conduct various processes, such as contract approvals or monthly financial report reminders.

BPMN Elements And Symbols

Throughout this article, we have explained that BPMN is a complete standard comprising a full set of artifacts. Here’s a complete list of the artifacts:


An Event is something that “happens” during a Process or Choreography. These Events affect the model’s flow and usually have a cause (trigger) or an impact (result). Events are circles with open centers that allow internal markers to distinguish between distinct triggers or outcomes. They are classified into three sorts based on when they influence the flow: start, intermediate, and end.

business model process notation

An Activity is a broad term for a corporation’s activity as part of a Process. It can either be atomic or non-atomic (compound). A Process Model contains two types of Activities: Sub-Process and Task. Both ordinary Processes and Choreographies make use of Activities.

business model process notation

A Gateway is used in a Process and a Choreography to govern the divergence and convergence of Sequence Flows. As a result, it will determine path branching, forking, merging, and joining. In addition, internal indicators will indicate the type of behavior control.

business model process notation

A Sequence Flow is used to depict the sequence in which Activities in a Process and Choreography are done.

business model process notation

Message Flow

A Message Flow depicts the flow of messages between two Participants who are both ready to transmit and receive them.

business model process notation


An Association connects information and artifacts to graphical elements in BPMN. An arrowhead on the Association indicates a flow direction (e.g., data) when appropriate.

business model process notation

A Pool is the graphical representation of a Participant in a Collaboration.

business model process notation

A Lane is a sub-partition within a Process and can extend the entire length of the Process, either vertically or horizontally. Activities are organized and classified using lanes.

business model process notation

Data Object

Data Objects contain information about the activities that must be completed. Data Objects can represent either a single object or a group of objects.

business model process notation

A Message represents the content of a communication between two Participants.

business model process notation

Group (a box around a group of objects within the same category)

A Group is a collection of graphical elements that belong to the same Category. This grouping does not affect the Sequence Flows within the Group.

business model process notation

Text Annotation (attached with an Association)

Text Annotations allow a modeler to supply additional text information to a BPMN Diagram reader.

business model process notation

Flow Dimension (e.g. Start, Intermediate, End)


A Start event indicates where a particular Process or Choreography starts.

An intermediate event occurs between a Start event and an End event.

An End event indicates where a Process or Choreography ends.

business model process notation

Task (Atomic)

A Task is an atomic Activity that is part of a Process. A Task is utilized when the work in the Process is not broken down to a finer level of Process detail.

business model process notation

Process/Sub-Process (non-atomic)

The Sub-Process boundary is extended, and the details (a Process) are viewable within it.

See next image

Normal Flow

Normal flow refers to Sequence Flow lines that do not begin with an Intermediate Event tied to an Activity’s boundary.

business model process notation

Uncontrolled Flow

Uncontrolled flow is defined as flow that is not influenced by any circumstances and does not pass through a Gateway.

Conditional Flow

A Sequence Flow can have a condition Expression that is tested at runtime to determine whether the Sequence Flow will be used. If the conditional flow is exiting from an Activity, the Sequence Flow will have a mini-diamond at the start of the connection (see figure to the right). If the conditional flow is coming from a Gateway, the line will be devoid of a mini-diamond (see figure in the row above).

business model process notation

Default flow

The Default condition flow is one form of flow for Data-Based Exclusive Gateways or Inclusive Gateways. This flow will only be used if all the other outgoing conditional flows are not true at runtime. A diagonal slash will be inserted to the beginning of the connector in these Sequence Flows (see the figure to the right).

business model process notation

A Message Flow depicts the flow of messages between two Participants who are both ready to send and receive them.

business model process notation

The term “fork” in BPMN refers to the division of a path into two or more parallel paths (also known as an AND-Split). It is a location in the Process where operations can be carried out concurrently rather than sequentially.

There are two options:

  • Multiple Outgoing Sequence Flows can be employed (see figure top-right). This illustrates “uncontrolled” flow, which is the preferred option in most instances.
  • A Parallel Gateway can be employed (see figure bottom-right). This is rarely used, usually in conjunction with other Gateways.

business model process notation

The term “join” in BPMN refers to the joining of two or more parallel paths into one path.

A Parallel Gateway is used to demonstrate the connection of multiple Sequence Flows.

business model process notation

Decision, Branching Point

Decisions are Gateways within a Process or a Choreography where the flow of control can take one or more alternative paths.


This Decision illustrates a branching point in the Process or Choreography where Alternatives are based on an Event that occurs at that time. The specific Event, usually the receipt of a Message, defines which of the pathways will be taken. Other sorts of Events, such as Timer, can be used.

There are two options for receiving Messages:

  • Tasks of Type Receive can be used (see figure top-right).

business model process notation

  • Intermediate Events of Type Message can be used (see figure bottom-right).

business model process notation

Within a Process, BPMN provides two techniques for looping.

Activity Looping

The properties of Tasks and Sub-Processes determine whether they are repeated or executed only once. Loops are classified into two types: standard and multi-instance. At the bottom-center of the activity, a little looping indicator will be presented.

business model process notation

Sequence Flow Looping

Loops can be built by connecting a Sequence Flow to an “upstream” object. Upstream objects have an outgoing Sequence Flow that leads to a number of subsequent Sequence Flows, the final of which is an incoming Sequence Flow for the original object.

business model process notation


A transaction is a Sub-Process that is backed by a particular protocol that ensures that all parties involved agree on whether the activity should be performed or terminated. The attributes of the activity will decide whether the activity constitutes a transaction. A double-lined boundary indicates that the Sub-Process is a Transaction.

business model process notation

Off-Page Connector

This object, which is typically used for printing, shows where a Sequence Flow exits one page and then resumes on the next. A Link Intermediate Event can be used as an Off-Page Connector.

business model process notation

Given the flexibility and diverse options that BPMN provides through the inclusion of numerous artifacts, managing and comprehending such a diagram in which all the elements are used becomes extremely difficult. These artifacts all have different uses, properties, and behaviors. As such, you would need to know how every artifact functions and interacts with each other to grasp and utilize the diagram fully. Only a few (trained professionals) would be able to understand a diagram that uses all the elements previously mentioned.

Although BPMN engines are pretty versatile in modeling a process, most of them cannot run and execute all the BPMN artifacts. In Flokzu, we mitigate this steep curve by carefully selecting and choosing a subset of these most useful artifacts to model and automate an administrative workflow. We believe simplicity is the key when trying to model and automate a process. 

BPMN Examples

Due to its versatility and efficacy, BPMN has permeated into the core of almost every industry. A few sectors which have made the BPMN model a priority in their process management include: Human Resources , Health , Education , and Finance . Standard real-world applications of BPMN for each sector is shown below:

HUMAN RESOURCES – Leave of Absence Application

The vacation request process is one of the most commonly used in HR departments worldwide. However, this doesn’t make it less important or easier to execute. On the contrary, not having this process well automated can mean a lot of time and resources wasted in unnecessary steps. Automating this process with Flokzu helps the organization better plan for absences. And employees have a user-friendly tool to request, track and know the resolution of their request, adapting the process to the company’s needs. Make Flokzu your number one choice for creating a more efficient business process.

business model process notation

HUMAN RESOURCES – Request for Per diems or advances

This is one of the most common processes in any organization, specifying the request for advances or per diems. Automating this process will mean much less paperwork in various departments, leaving time to work on more relevant and complex tasks and leaving this process on autopilot.

business model process notation

HEALTH – Request for supplies

Automating the supply request process gives team members a formal way to request different items. As a result, the request is remembered in someone’s inbox when it is too late. In addition, a formal workflow allows you to identify which stage or task is being performed. This will increase efficiency and leave more time for complex and essential tasks.

business model process notation

HEALTH – Medical Technology Imports

In healthcare institutions, it is crucial to keep up to date with cutting-edge technology. Therefore, on several occasions, we have had to launch the medical technology acquisition process. Having this process well automated allows the company to operate with a high degree of agility. It also ensures that the request goes through the necessary stages, depending on the needs of the company or even the commercial department.

business model process notation

EDUCATION – Notice of unexpected absence

Having an easy way to record an unexpected absence gives you more time to organize who will cover for the absentee or any other coordination needed. This will allow the organization to function with a high degree of agility.

business model process notation

EDUCATION – Special activities coordination

Often, in educational institutions, special activities and events must be organized and coordinated across numerous departments. This process involves enormous communication and synergy between multiple sectors and people involved.

Automating this process with a collaborative tool allows this exchange of information and resources to be as smooth and efficient as possible. In a single process, all the data can be collected in the custom-made form, and then all the attachments needed to perform each task can be added.

business model process notation

FINANCE – Branch office inspection

The process will be triggered automatically and periodically, for example, once a week. In addition, you can include a checklist that the inspector will fill out each time he inspects a branch. For instance, you could check different items on a single checklist, such as hygiene, communications, marketing material, or building maintenance. Also, the inspector could include photos of the location in that digital checklist. The form will automatically save the location of when it was completed for a better audit process. You can accomplish all of this with the same BPM tool. Flokzu allows this and much more, since we present a simplified version of the process. Try Flokzu today.

business model process notation

FINANCE – Credit or Loan request

This typical financial institution process can be automated and used from any branch office. It allows all stakeholders access to up-to-date information, thus providing better customer service. This process gathers all necessary elements, such as approvals, authorizations, and comments. When the process is completed, you will have a complete audit trail that will provide accurate information to improve process performance.

business model process notation

These are four of the leading industries that have found the most value when modeling their processes with BPMN and automating said processes using a BPMN Engine .

Who does business process modeling?

The primary purpose of BPMN is to serve business users universally and not be a tool exclusively for IT staff or programmers. This is key because, unlike programmers, business users possess deep and extensive knowledge about the business and its numerous processes that keep the company running smoothly. No one understands the business processes as much as the business user, so it makes sense that they should be in charge of modeling their processes. Hiring or consulting an IT specialist or programmer whenever a model needs to be created will slow down the process and potentially introduce more errors. 

On the other hand, if the business user has the knowledge to create the BPMN diagram independently, this will result in a faster, streamlined process that will save time and money. Moreover, the business user can easily update the model in the future because they were the ones who solely created the model in the first instance. BPM modeling aims to create a life cycle of continuous improvement. As such, if a business user understands the BPMN method, they can continue this life cycle while saving time and costs and increasing their company’s efficiency and competitiveness in that particular market. 

To achieve this continuous improvement, it is essential to keep the BPMN diagram simple, and that is precisely our perspective at Flokzu. We carefully selected a subset of artifacts from the overall set offered by BPMN to make business process modeling easier to understand. 

By using this standard offered by Flokzu, you can learn and begin to create your version of the process model in just a few hours. Most importantly, you can automate this model into a BPMN engine. This way, whenever you get a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and identify an improvement opportunity, you will be able to independently improve and introduce the changes into the process to make it better. All without the consultation of an IT specialist or programmer. Try Flokzu today.

Purpose and Benefits

Workflows in numerous companies and sectors worldwide that have used the BPMN standard have shown this to be a very beneficial tool. Here are the main benefits you can obtain:

One of the main benefits of BPMN is that it creates an avenue for you as a business user to properly manage your company’s knowledge. BPMN allows you to create a formal, diagrammatic representation of the processes involved in running your organization. Furthermore, it helps you to give otherwise intangible concepts a more solid and interactable format, giving the BPMN meaning. Now these processes can easily be shared and discussed between your company members.

Another huge benefit offered by BPMN is that it allows you to automate any and every administrative workflow using a standard that anyone can understand. By using the subset that we at Flokzu carefully select alongside our BPMN engine, you can be sure to create and automate your BPMN workflow as quickly as possible. This allows you to complete the cycle of modeling and automation in just a few hours.

Aside from just representing your business processes in a simple diagram, you can also run and update this diagram as time progresses, giving more life and depth to the diagram. When you model your process and create a BPMN diagram using Flokzu, you have a living, breathing process in which you can introduce updates and modifications seamlessly, leading to increased knowledge management within the company. 

By offering adequate precision and clarity in the order of business activities, BPMN bridges the gap between business intention and implementation. Diagrams are often more straightforward to understand than text. BPMN makes it easier to communicate and work together to achieve the objective of an effective process to yield high-quality results. As a result, you have a well-organized workflow between everyone involved in the hierarchy of that organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is BPMN?

The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a diagrammatic representation of the steps involved in a business process. BPMN represents the complete cycle of a business process. BPMN was created primarily to manage the sequence of processes and the communication flow between different process participants in a linked set of activities.

Is BPMN a flowchart?

Yes and No. BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) is a flow chart method for modeling the steps of an intended business process from beginning to end. In this light, one may think BPMN and flowcharts are the same, but that would only partially be true. Flow charts have yet to evolve in terms of notation. In contrast, BPMN is a notation created to advance business process modeling. Using a standard like BPMN, you have a system of rules that serve as the foundation for modeling business processes that are understandable to a broader audience. Unlike regular flow charts that lack an agreed-upon set of modeling principles. As such, BPMN is a type of flowchart.

How is BPMN different from UML?

The Unified Modeling Language (UML) is used to model software systems. In contrast, the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) models entire business processes. Summarily, the fundamental difference between UML and BPMN is one of perspective: UML is object-oriented, whereas BPMN is process-oriented. As a result, BPMN is generally applicable to both IT and business. In contrast, UML is better suited to building IT systems and less suitable for process improvement.

Is BPMN easy to learn?

The learning curve for BPMN generally depends on the particular approach you take. For example, trying to learn BPMN by using all the symbols and artifacts available will certainly be a difficult task. On the other hand, at Flokzu, we only select a subset of the most important symbols to make business process modeling as straightforward as possible, while still creating efficient and thorough models.

What are the main categories of BPMN?

The four main categories of BPMN are Flow Objects (e.g., activities, events, gateways), Connecting Objects (e.g., sequence flow, message flow), Swimlanes (e.g., pools), and Artifacts (e.g., annotation, group)

How to create a BPMN diagram?

Creating a BPMN diagram can be a tricky process. Follow this step-by-step guide to create your very own BPMN diagram.

Step 1: Define the Scope and Purpose of Your BPMN Diagram

Regardless of the style of the diagram you create, it is critical to understand who it’s for and how they will utilize it. This will assist you in striking a balance between including enough detail to be thorough and helpful without overwhelming your audience.

Step 2: Draw in Pools and Swimlanes

After you’ve defined the scope of your diagram, consider who will be involved in the process. Pools are the larger sections of your design and often represent departments or even entire organizations that carry out an operation. Swimlanes divide those pools into smaller groups or roles that accomplish tasks to keep the process moving.

Step 3: Add the Start Event and Work Forward

Every BPMN diagram contains Start and End event symbols. These are plain, unfilled circles. If your diagram has numerous pools, you’ll need a Start and End icon in each one.

Step 4: Add Activities to Each Swimlane

The tasks that occur throughout the process are referred to as activities. For example, consider what people do to get from point A to point B in a particular operation and add each step to its corresponding swimlane, from left to right.

Step 5: Add Gateways and Events Between Activities

You should add gateways at points where the process splits or can take numerous paths. As a simple way to assess your work while adding gateways, there should never be several arrows flowing from one activity.

Step 6: Add or Edit Connectors

You may have sketched arrows as you added activities, gateways, and events. Draw in any outstanding connectors and finish with an end event icon to ensure you’ve completed the entire process.

Step 7: Proofread and Annotate

This step involves going over the diagram you have created. In this step, it would be best to get extra help to review the diagram for potential errors. In addition, you can show your diagram to others at this step to see if it is understandable. The feedback gotten from your audience will aid you in planning your next course of action.

Step 8: Publish, Share, and Iterate

Save and download your completed diagram if you used an online diagramming tool such as Gliffy. As people raise concerns or your business changes, you can return to this diagram to update the flow.

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You can also schedule a work session  here  to model a real-life process in your organization together

The post What is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) appeared first on Flokzu .

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Business Process Modeling Notation – A Comprehensive Look

Business Process Modeling Notation – A Comprehensive Look

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Business Process Modeling Notation – A Comprehensive Look

Business process modeling and notation, or BPMN, is a process modeling technique producing easy to understand diagrams.

Business process modeling as a whole is an incredible, yet perhaps still an underutilized tool in any organization’s arsenal. There are multiple techniques available to help you lay out your internal processes, get a bigger picture of how things work and relate to each other, understand where you may be lacking, and most importantly, improve for long-term success.

One modeling technique in particular that I’d like to focus on in this post is BPMN which makes use of a set of symbols and its own methodology to describe a process. Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?

What is BPMN?

BPMN stands for Business Process Modeling and Notation. Essentially, it’s a visual modeling language – an artificial language used to convey information within a certain system or arrangement, which finds applications in business analysis and process workflows. It’s quite widely used due to its intuitiveness and clarity, which resonate with all the business stakeholders involved.

BPMN origins date back to 2004, and it’s currently being managed by OMG (Object Management Group), an international consortium of technology standards. The version 2.0 of this process modeling technique was released in 2013.

Advantages of BPMN

With all the bpm ( business process modeling ) techniques available, you may be wondering why use BPMN and whether it’s actually the right choice for your organization. As is the case with any graphical representation of a business process, BPMN 2.0 introduces clarity and consistency to it, while making sure relevant business users are involved.

Among the main benefits of BPMN are its extensive notations that are easy to grasp for technical and non-technical individuals alike.

Overall, BPMN modeling provides organizations with the opportunity to clearly define and better understand their internal activities. The notations included help in closing the communication gap which may appear between process design and implementation.

BPMN aims to clearly define the roles within the business process management and have:

  • business analysts create and improve the processes
  • tech experts implement the processes
  • managers monitor and control the processes

What are BPMN diagrams comprised of?

When aiming to improve processes within a business, you have to first get a bigger picture of how the organization operates. BPMN delivers visual representation of a business process flow which can be easily read by different stakeholders,

A process diagram developed using BPMN shows steps, also called process activities, which take place in a sequence or simultaneously, in accordance with certain business rules. Have a look at the example below.

business process modeling tools

BPMN set of symbols and notations

The process mapping technique discussed here is used to create a business process diagram involving additional graphical notations. Such a presentation format is supposed to facilitate the understanding of the logic for all process participants. BPMN is useful for describing simple and complex processes alike using standardized graphic elements falling into several categories.

Each of them represents a specific aspect of a business process. It’s worthy of noting that pretty much any symbols can be used in your diagrams, however, by referring to the already standardized ones you’re able to collaborate with outside analysts more easily, and it saves you time since you don’t have to invent your own visual language first.

With all that being said, BPMN symbols can be assigned to one of the following categories:

This group of elements represents actors and activities involved in the process and is further divided into:

  • Pools – Which represent major participants or roles in a project. For instance, a pool can be another company or a department. This element will contain other flow objects specifying the work that the pool has to do within a business process. Importantly, there’s a special type of pool called the blackbox pool which often refers to an entity external to the particular process. With that in mind, its internal flow doesn’t affect the process at hand so it can be omitted. One example of a blackbox pool can be a customer, whose personal actions have no impact on how a product is made.
  • Lanes – Representing activities within a pool performed by certain participants. This aids process execution, as it helps define who’s responsible for which parts of the process. Lanes can be embedded within other lanes, should the need be. However, keep in mind that BPMN2 serves mainly to model processes, so you shouldn’t apply nested lanes to try and map the structure of your organization.

Flow elements

As the name suggests, these are objects that connect with one another to create a business workflow. They’re basic elements shaping up a process. The three subcategories here are:

  • Events – Triggers which initiate, change, or conclude a process. Basically, these are occurrences which may have an impact on your system, and they can have internal or external sources. If it affects what you’re doing, you should model it. Different event triggers include message, timer, error, compensation, signal, cancel, escalation, link and others. Circles containing other symbols, depending on the event type, are used to depict them. Any business process should have a starting event to indicate where it began. Similarly, an end event indicates completion and an intermediate event drives the business flow based on the event it specifies.
  • Activities – Specific tasks or activities performed by an individual or a system. Rectangles with rounded corners, containing names that describe specific tasks are used to represent these. More details can be conveyed with sub-processes, loops, compensations and multiple instances. How deep you want to go with sub-processes depends on how much you need to know about the work being done.
  • Gateways – Turning points that affect the path of a process, based on certain conditions or events. This type of element is diamond-shaped and includes event-based gateways, exclusive gateways, inclusive gateways, and parallel gateways. Essentially, these elements are where conditions are evaluated and a decision is made on how to proceed.

Connecting elements

The type of elements just discussed aren’t isolated islands, but relate to each other to create a flow. What links them are connecting objects such as:

  • Sequence flows – They show the order of actions to be performed and take the form of a straight line with an arrow. They connect flow elements but only within the same pool. The flow can be conditional or default.
  • Message flows – Show messages, or communication, flowing in between pools. These objects shouldn’t link events or activities within a single pool though. Their graphical representation is a dashed line with a circle at the start and an arrow at the other end.
  • Associations – Dotted lines joining artifacts or text with an event, activity, or gateway.

These are any additional pieces of information that a modeler can use to introduce an extra layer of detail to a diagram. Artifacts are comprised of:

  • Data objects – Which show what data is required for or produced by a specific activity. Types of data objects include data inputs, data outputs and data stores.
  • Groups – Which show logical groupings of same-type activities but don’t affect the overall flow of a diagram.
  • Annotations – Which provide additional explanation to any of the process components without affecting the flow.

In conclusion

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time. Thus, understanding their internal business procedures is crucial for organizations to thrive. One way to go about this is through process analysis which allows you to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and assess where you need to improve.

BPMN provides an excellent standard for process modeling you can immediately apply to the procedures you have currently in place.

To wrap things up, let me remind you that in this overview of business process modeling notation you’ve learned about the origins and advantages of the technique, as well as acquainted in detail with all the visual elements making up BPMN-generated diagrams.

The ball is now in your court. Put the information you obtained in this post into practice to learn more about your internal operations and eventually make them more efficient.

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business model process notation


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