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Business process model and notation (BPMN)

Yaroslav Zhmikhov
Yaroslav Zhmikhov
248 November, 28, 2021 10 min read
248 November, 28, 2021 10 min read


UX DESIGN PROCESS: 6 OUT OF 21

BPMN is a system of symbols for modeling business processes, which allows you to illustrate the business for a team or client and validate your understanding of the business.

A process is a sequence that must be performed to achieve a certain result.
A business process is a logical sequence of actions of a person or a group of people in a company or commercial structure.
BPMN is a process modeling standard that is based on a sequence of events and actions that have a beginning and an end.

There are 3 main approaches to business modeling:

  • Functional modeling. Everything is considered solely through the prism of functions, which means in this model there is no time sequence, but only an entry point (e.g. customer interface) and exit (desired result, such as buying a product if it is an online store). That is, in this model, we know the point of entry and exit, but the sequence of actions is the object of development itself.
  • Process modeling. From a BPMN point of view, it is a process that is based on a sequence of actions (the beginning and end of an event, such as ordering McDonald’s products using a special mobile application).
  • Mental modeling on the example of a mental map. This is more of a map display in any form that will help structure your knowledge in a way that you can easily understand. Also, you can implement the solutions reflected in the scheme in functional or process modeling.

To see complete documentation omg.org v.2.0.2

An example of a business process model and notation 2.0 (BPMN) for an online e-learning platform

The purpose of BPMN

Is to model ways of increasing efficiency as well as take into account new circumstances, and thus gain maximum competitive advantage.

Value for the team

Is to help to solve 2 main problems: to give a full understanding of the business (to understand some work peculiarities of the company, as well as identify weaknesses) and provide a schematic representation of the company’s activity that can be easily read.

Value for the business

BPMN will help to transmit the information as efficiently as possible (because everything is standardized), increase the speed of development (as it contains all the necessary tools, etc. in a ready-to-use form), therefore reducing the number of possible errors (because everything complies with clear rules).

Duration:

  • Preparation: up to 8 hours
  • Main activity: from 2 to 4 hours for 1 model (it depends on lots of factors)

More about the method:

Base object #1: Events

Business process model and notation: Events

This is the event that occurred in the described process. In other words, events symbolize what is happening in the business process. They come in 3 types, let’s look at a call to a service center, for example:

  • Start event. This is the first step in the process. For example, an incoming call from a customer with a problem.
  • Intermediate event. This is all that happens between the first and the last event. For example, a call from a service employee with clarifying questions.
  • End event. It’s a final step, e.g. a call to a client with a final solution to his problem.

BPMN Event Symbols. Each of these characters can be customized according to the needs of a particular process, here is a list of the most common characters:

Business process model and notation: BPMN activity symbols
  • Message symbol provokes, completes the process, or facilitates the intermediate process.
  • Timer symbol. It is implied that the time or date provokes the beginning or the end of the process or intermediate operation.
  • Escalation symbol. This means that a more qualified specialist in a higher position is involved in the process.
  • Conditional symbol. This process begins and continues if a business condition or rule is followed.
  • Link symbol. This is a subprocess that is a part of a larger process.
  • Error symbol. This is an error that is detected at the beginning, middle, or end of the process. The main process is always interrupted by the subprocess which exists within it.
  • Cancel symbol. In the end event, this symbol indicates a provoked process cancellation.
  • Compensation symbol. This is a refund due to a partial non-execution of the transaction.
  • Signal symbol. It is a signal that is transmitted through several processes and can both start and end a process or facilitate its execution.
  • Multiple symbols. These symbols are triggers that push the process.
  • Parallel multiple symbols. This is an instance of a process that would not begin, continue, or end until all possible events have occurred.
  • Terminate symbol. This is the immediate completion of a step in the process. All related instances of the step will also be aborted at the same time.

Base object #2: Activity

This is a specific action or task that must be performed at a specific stage of the business process, and are divided into:

1. BPMN tasks. Each task is a simple action that cannot be further detailed, which means it is the very base component, which is not divided into smaller components. For example, the “Create design concept” process may include the “Create adaptive design” task:

Business process model and notation: BPMN tasks
  • Normal task. This is a one-time action that occurs in a business process, such as sending a design concept to a customer.
  • Loop task. This is a task that is repeated the required number of times in a sequence, such as editing a design concept.
  • Multiple instance task. This is a task that is done several times, and these cases can be parallel or sequential. For example, you’ve sent a design concept to a stakeholder and received a simultaneous response from two of them with adjustments.
  • Compensation task. This is a special version of the task, which arises only in cases where there was another specific task set previously. Usually, it is used to show the timelines of payment for work already done in the process. For example, before sending the final version of the design concept, the customer sends to the contractor the payment for the work done.
  • Compensation loop task. It makes compensation a recurring event. For example, stakeholders pay for an additional design page each time you create one.

2. BPMN Sub-processes (subtypes of BPMN tasks). This is the same action (big one) that requires further detailing during modeling and is divided into:

Business process model and notation: BPMN Sub-processes
  • Loop. This subprocess is repeated sequentially.
  • Multi-instance. This subprocess can be performed simultaneously with other similar subprocesses.
  • Compensation. This subprocess of compensation is for a group of tasks that describes some methods of compensation, such as debt.
  • Ad hoc. This is a set of tasks that exists exclusively for one purpose - to work on a particular case and complete part of the process.

3. Event sub-process. Used to describe events that occur within a subprocess and are not part of the normal flow, as they are self-contained and occur within the subprocess context. In other words, it is a group of tasks that are very closely related. They are displayed in two ways:

Business process model and notation: Event sub-process
  • In a minimized form with a ‘+’ sign, which allows you to expand the full list.
  • In an expanded form, which contains all the tasks in full, describing this subprocess.

Also, they are divided into 2 main types of subprocesses:

  • Interrupting. It interrupts the regular business flow.
  • Non-interrupting. It differs in that it does not interrupt the regular business flow.

For example, if the design concept is almost ready, but the stakeholders terminate the contract with you, then, further cooperation is interrupted, however, if the stakeholders add new requirements to cover more problems users are stuck with, the process does not interrupt but continues.

4. Transactions. This is a specific sub-process that represents payment processes, that is where payment is involved. Transactions must confirm that all participants have completed their transactions before the payment can be completed.

Business process model and notation: Transactions

5. Call activity. It is a global process that is used every time a certain process needs to be implemented.

Business process model and notation: Call activity

6. BPMN task types. I will not dwell on them in detail, as they are rarely used, but you can get acquainted with them using additional materials.

Base object #3: Gateway

These are decision points that can regulate the path of the whole flow depending on some necessary conditions and are divided into:

Business process model and notation: Gateway
  • Exclusive gateway. It allows you to display alternative paths in the business process. For example, if you send a design concept to stakeholders, they may either approve it, make some changes, or terminate your collaboration.
  • Event-based gateway. This is a branching depending on the event and is similar to the Exclusive gateway as two of them lead to the choice of a particular direction in the flow, but the direction is dictated by the event being occurred, not the condition met. For example, before sending a ready design concept to stakeholders, you decide to get final approval from the Lead Designer, and in case he is absent or unavailable at that moment, you won’t be able to send an email.
  • Parallel gateway. It does not depend on conditions and other events but is designed to display parallel tasks in the business process. For example, the design department both work on the tasks assigned to them simultaneously and look for new designers to join the team.
  • Inclusive gateway. This gateway is created to display alternative, but at the same time parallel paths in the process, in other words, it divides the flow of the process into one or more directions. For example, you have made three examples of the design concept, and if the stakeholders choose the 1st one - it will provoke one process, if the 2nd - another process will take effect, and if they choose the 3rd one and are not satisfied with the work done, then, they will terminate your contract.
  • Exclusive event-based gateway. It is created to reflect a decision made by a person who is not involved in the process. For example, there is a request for approval of the design concept, and a certain stakeholder decides either to approve and make a payment or not to approve and request changes.
  • Complex gateway. It is created to display some of the most complex flows in the business process. For instance, a student needs to pass an exam to get a driver’s license. In case a student scores 90-100 points, he will successfully pass the exam and get the license, if 80-90 points, the student will get one more opportunity to pass in a week, if he gets 0-80, he will not pass the exam, and will be allowed to try again only after 6 months.
  • Parallel event-based gateway. It allows you to run multiple processes at once, but the processes must depend on certain events. For example, in the process of buying new hardware for an employee, everyone who is responsible for it must confirm the purchase.

Base object #4: BPMN Connectors

These are lines leading from one object of BPMN-flow to another and are divided into 3 types:

Business process model and notation: BPMN Connectors
  • Sequence flow, which shows the order of actions to be performed. That is, it combines flow objects in strictly sequential order.
  • Message flow, which displays messages from one participant in the process to another. For example, through departments, between 2 participants.
  • Association. It demonstrates the relationship between artifacts and flow objects. For example, a markup with explanations.

Base object #5: Pool and swimlane

In addition to helping to organize various aspects within the BPMN process, they group actions into categories, which in turn can identify delays and areas of low efficiency, as well as clearly show who is responsible for each stage of the process. Paths can be placed both horizontally and vertically.

Business process model and notation: Pool and swimlane

Base object #6: Artifact

During business processes modeling, artifacts allow you to visually represent some objects that exist outside the real process, and can also represent data or notes that will describe the process. There are three main types of artifacts:

Business process model and notation: Data objects

1. Data objects. This is information that is placed in the process. This data can be obtained as a result of the process itself, or data that needs to be collected and stored. These objects are divided into 4 groups:

  • Data input. It is the need for some specific information, which directly affects the task in the business process.
  • Data output. This is information that was collected as a result of the business process.
  • Data collection. This is information that was collected during the business process.
  • Data storage. It is the ability to store information or access the data that is related to the business process.

2. Annotations. It allows you to describe the business process and additional sections of the model flow in more detail. In short, the moderator adds an annotation to make BPMN more readable and to improve the understanding of the process as a whole.

Business process model and notation: Annotations

3. Groups. They help to combine tasks or processes that are important in the overall context of the process.

Business process model and notation: Groups

Recommendation: BPMN can be created in Lucidchart, Bpmn.io, Diagrams.net, or Cawemo.

Example: Business process model and notation 2.0+ (BPMN)


Relevant links:

Thank you very much to all the authors! This article would not exist without you