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Business Process Modeling Notation: BPMN

Business Process Model Notation, the BPMN standard, 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.


BPMNMessage Flow
Business Process DiagramAssociation
Business Process ModelSwim Lanes
Flow ObjectsPools
GatewayData Object
Connecting ObjectsGroup
Sequence FlowAnnotations

What is BPMN?

Business Process Modeling Notation was developed by the Business Process Management Institute to provide a process modeling notation that is understood by all process modelers, users, analysts, etc.

What is a Business Process Diagram (BPD)?

A Business Process Diagram is a simple diagram made up of a set of graphical elements that depicts a business process. There are four primary elements of BPD:
- Flow Objects
- Connecting Objects
- Swimlanes
- Artifacts

What is a Business Process Model?

BPMN defines a Business Process Model as a network of graphical objects, which are activities, and the flow controls that define their order of performance.

What are Flow Objects?

Flow Objects are shapes that represent the core elements of the Business Process Diagram (BPD), including:
- Events
- Activities
- Gateways

What are Events?

Events are anything that "happens" during the course of a business process. Events can have a cause, referred to as a Trigger, and/or an impact, referred to as a Result. An Event is represented by a circle in a Business Process Model. There are three types of Events based on when they occur in the flow of a process:
- Start
- Intermediate
- Emd

What are Activities?

An activity is any work that is being performed in a process. An Activity is represented by a rounded-corner rectangle in a Business Process Model. There are two types of Activities:
- Tasks
- Sub-processes

What is a Gateway?

A Gateway is used to control the flow of a process. Gateways handle the forking, merging and joining of paths within a process. Gateways are represented by a diamond shape in a Business Process Model.

What are Connecting Objects?

Flow Objects are connected together using Connecting Objects. There are three types of Connecting Objects:
- Sequence Flow
- Message Flow
- Association

What is Sequence Flow?

Sequence Flow is used to show the order in which activities of a process will be performed. A Sequence Flow connection is represented with a solid line and a solid arrowhead in a Business Process Model.

What is Message Flow?

Message Flow is used to show the flow of messages between process participants during a process. A Message Flow connection is represented with a dashed line and an open arrowhead in a Business Process Model.

What is an Association?

An Association is used to show relationships between data, text and other Artifacts and flow objects in a process. An Association is represented by a dotted line with a lined arrowhead in a Business Process Model.

What are Swimlanes?

Swimlanes serve as a mechanism to organize activities and responsibilities on a process diagram. There are two objects used in this organization, Pools and Lanes.

What are Pools?

A Pool represents a participant in a process. Pools are used when a process has multiple participants or business entities. The activities in a Pool are a self-contained process. Sequence Flow cannot cross Pool lines.

What are Lanes?

A Lane is a sub-partition within a Pool. Sequence Flow can cross the lines of a Lane. However, it is not accepted to have Message Flow crossing between objects in Lanes of the same pool.

What are Artifacts?

Artifacts allow process designers to extend the basic BPMN notation to include additional information about the process in the process diagram. There are three types of Artifacts:
- Data Object
- Group
- Annotation

What is a Data Object?

Data Objects are used to show how data is required or produced by activities in a process. Data Objects are represented by a picture of a piece of paper folded at the corner in a Business Process Model.

What is a Group?

A Group is used to document the grouping of any type of process objects. Groupings can cross lanes as needed. Groupings are represented by a rounded rectangle with a dashed line in a Business Process Model.

What are Annotations?

Annotations can be used to add textual comments within a process diagram.

BPM Glossary
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Check out the BPM Glossary to gain a better understanding of the terminology.

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Provided By
The BPM Glossary is generously provided by BPTrends. Definitions marked by a yellow arrow were supplied by Appian Corporation. If you don't find the term you're looking for, send an email to expert@bpmbasics.com for help with the definition.
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BPMKitThe BPM Kit is a compilation of articles on the evolution, usage, and benefits of business process management (BPM).

Topics covered include:
red dot  What is BPM?            red dot  Do You Need BPM?
red dot  Does BPM Create      red dot  Are Perfect Processes
    Value?                           Possible?
red dot  Is BPM Enough?

Download the BPM Kit