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Business Process Modeling Notation

Submitted by AbhaPandey on Wed, 2011-10-12 12:43

The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a standard to represent or model business process flows and web services. Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI) introduced BPMN with the primary goal to provide a notation that is readily understandable by all business users including Business Analysts, Technical Developers and the Business people.


Another important objective behind developing BPMN was evolve a common notation that can visually express the XML languages (like BPEL4WS- Business Process Execution Language for Web Services and BPML- Business Process Modeling Language)  designed for the execution on the Business Processes.


Business Process Modeling Notation was first released in May, 2004 as BPMN 1.0 specification. Since then BPMN has been revised thrice: BPMN 1.1 (January 2008), BPMN1.2 (January 2009) and BPMN 2.0 (January 2011 the latest one).

 Read more about Business Process Modeling Notation Versions


BPMN Basics


BPMN specifies business processes in something called a Business Process Diagram (BPD) which is based on flowcharting technique used for creating graphical models of business process operations. Business Process Diagram consists of a set of graphical elements that utilizes distinguishable shapes like rectangle, diamond etc that are familiar to all users. The four basic categories of these elements are described below:


  1. Flow Objects
  2. Connecting Objects
  3. Swimlanes
  4. Artifacts


Looks familiar terms isn’t it! I am sure you all must have used these in past. Let’s take a quick recap of these terms:


Flow Objects

Flow Objects are shapes that represent the core elements of the Business Process Diagram, namely:


1. Events: Event as you all know is something that “happens” during the course of a business process. These events can  have a cause (also known as “Trigger”) or have impact (also known as “result”). There are three types of event based on their occurrence in the process:

  • Start event
  • Intermediate event
  • End event

IN BPMN, an event is represented as a Circle. (Refer to the figure below)


2. Activities: In simple terms activity is the work that is performed in the process and in BPMN is represented by a rounded-corner rectangle. This is further divided into three types:

  • Task: A task is single unit of work which cannot be broken down to a further level of business process detail.
  • Sub-process: These are additional levels of business process detail. This can be used to either hide (when collapsed a sub-process is indicated by a plus sign against the bottom line of the rectangle) or reveal (when expanded the rounded rectangle expands to show all flow objects, connecting objects, and artifacts.) additional details. Figure below will give you a clear view.

3. Gateways: A Gateway, represented by the familiar diamond shape, is used to control the divergence and convergence of Sequence Flow i.e. traditional decisions, as well as the forking, merging, and joining of paths. Internal Markers will indicate the type of behavior control.


Connecting Objects


The flow objects explained above needs to be connected with each other in some way to make it a process. This connectivity is created using Connecting Objects. This is again characterized into three:

Abha Pandey
Business Analyst, with experience in Requirement Gatherings and Business Process Consulting
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