What Is a BPMN or Business Process Model and Notation?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When documenting a company's work procedures and processes, you can use a digital document to write out specific steps to take. A practical alternative is to use a visual flowchart or a business process model and notation. Learning about the business process model can help you create more efficient workflows and identify areas of duplication in work processes. In this article, we discuss the definition and benefits of a business process model and notation, highlight the professionals who commonly use the model, identify the essential components, and offer several tips for using the BPMN.

What is a BPMN?

A BPMN, or business process model and notation, is a system of outlining business processes that uses a flowchart or process diagram. The model incorporates common shapes and symbols that allow you to identify various process components. It enables you to create a visual representation of a complex business process, showing the association between activities, important decision points, and the people responsible for various parts of the procedure.

Benefits of using a business process and notation model

There are several benefits of using a business process model within an organization, including:

Wide support

Many industries and organizations use the business process model and notation. As a result, the creation, usage, and understanding of the model are easy to implement throughout an organization. In addition, many software programs and applications support the model process, allowing for digital versions that a company can quickly share over a network. Many people use the model as it's easy to understand and, for people new to the concept, it's easy to learn.

Simplifies processes

Creating and implementing a business process model is simple to make and use across all industries and positions. Using common shapes and symbols, the process model simplifies complicated processes into a visual flow chart or diagram. Team members using the model can quickly see the next step in the process, including decision points, specific activities, and individuals responsible.

Evaluates systems

The business process model and notation system provides a framework for users to evaluate existing processes. By identifying the various steps within a procedure, users can assign specific process ownership to departments, teams, or individuals. It can also help to determine gaps within a process or identify unnecessary redundancies.

Related: What Is Process Improvement and How Can You Utilize It?

Professionals that use the business process model

Many professions use the business process model because it's easy to create, learn, and understand. Several positions may use it more frequently than others, such as:

Business analysts

Business analysts are professionals who develop and analyze an organization's processes, systems, and operations. They look for ways to help companies operate more efficiently by identifying areas of opportunity. A business analyst also assists company management in adjusting workflows and processes to increase productivity and profitability.

These professionals can use the business process model to document their findings in a consistent and straightforward form. They can also use the flowchart diagram to share their results with company executives and management. Using the model, the business analyst can visually represent current processes and areas that require improvement.

Related: What Is An Internal Analysis and How to Conduct One

Software developers

Software developers design, create, develop, and update programs and applications for companies to complete their work effectively. In addition, these professionals often collaborate with various stakeholders during their development phase to better understand existing operational processes. This is essential for them to create and code programs that meet the functional requirements of the software program or application.

Using the business process model, software developers can visualize how specific business procedures work to ensure their programs match the workflow. It also helps define how the program responds when a user performs a particular task. For example, the business process model may show that if a user clicks to exit a screen within the program, the system prompts the user to save their work.

Related: Top 9 Workflow Management Software (With Benefits)

Managers

Department managers, supervisors, and project managers all use business process models in their positions. They may create them manually, or if their companies have process modelling software, they can develop them digitally. Using these flowcharts, managers can identify areas of improvement within their business segment, including gaps and duplications. Managers may create business process models to review existing procedures, develop new processes, and define new team roles.

Working with other departments and teams can be beneficial in creating a model to ensure that all parties involved have a say in the process that affects them. For example, project managers use the model to represent visually all the activities involved in a specific project, decision points, and people responsible for particular actions.

Essential components of a business process modelling notation

When creating a business process modelling notation, there are four primary elements that each depict a different business operation:

Flow objects

Flow objects are the events, activities, and decision points, also known as gateways, that represent the behaviours of a business process. The flow objects join to create the workflow for specific business processes. When creating a model, you use geometric shapes, such as rectangles, circles, and squares to represent each object. For example, when using the standard geometric shapes, below are their meanings:

  • A circle represents an event

  • A diamond represents a decision point or gateway

  • A rectangle represents an activity

An event is the start or end of a process in the workflow. It can also represent a change in the flow. A gateway or decision point is a place within the process where someone is required to make a decision that affects the direction of the work process. Finally, an activity is a specific task that someone completes before moving to the following action.

Related: Integrating a Process Mapping Template (9 Key Maps to Know)

Connecting objects

Connecting objects join the flow objects to create a workflow. For example, when designing a business process model, you typically use lines and arrows to denote the sequence of events in the flowchart or represent relationships between objects. There are three types of connecting objects, including sequence flows, message flows, and associations.

Pools and swim lanes

When creating a business model, you use a pool to represent everything involved in the process. You create a pool by using a large vertical or horizontal rectangle. Swim lanes represent the individuals or teams responsible for the activities, events, and gateways in the row or column. For example, on the left side of the rectangular lane, you list all names of the people that perform the tasks in that lane.

The remaining rectangle outlines the specific flow objects delegated to those individuals. Using pools and swim lanes is beneficial when evaluating workload and dependencies between flow objects. For example, if many flow objects are in one swim lane, you can reassign some responsibilities to other teams or individuals.

Artifacts

Artifacts represent the information the team requires when executing the business process model. You can use rectangles with dotted lines or brackets next to the information when identifying artifacts. The artifacts encompass all data objects, groups, records, or annotations vital to the workflow, but don't prompt an action. Data objects include information that the team or process requires for the workflow to continue.

For example, data objects can include quality control documents, checklists, database links, or digital documentation folders. Groups are logical collections of activities that have no direct impact on the workflow. Finally, annotations are notes and details about specific elements within the workflow process. When using the standard shapes for artifacts, here are their meanings:

  • A rectangular paper shape with the upper right-hand corner folded represents data objects

  • A rectangle or box with a dotted line border represents a group

  • A text bracket next to information represents an annotation

Tips for using a BPMN

When using a business process model in your position, here are several tips for its effective use:

Create a clear beginning and end

When developing a process model, create a clear beginning and end for the process. It's easy for a flowchart to become overwhelming by including strategies you can break into smaller systems. Instead, define the starting point of the process and the last step of the procedure. This ensures users of the workflow can identify these essential elements.

Develop a draft

Develop a draft of the model and review it several times before implementing the process. You can gather feedback from various departments and teams who you expect to use the workflow. Consider activities you've overlooked and analyze the process for redundancies. Once you're comfortable with the flowchart draft, you can create the official version.

Keep it to one page

Keeping the workflow to one page helps visualize the entire process from start to finish. You can use software programs to help you create the workflow and then minimize it to print on one large piece of paper. This is helpful when explaining the basic workflow to others involved in the process. When reviewing details, such as annotations, you can zoom into the area of the software program to gather further information.

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