An Introduction to BPMN 2.0 Symbology
A business process model and notation diagram, (BPMN diagram), 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. Let’s get started.
Basics of BPMN 2.0
The thing Business Process Modeling Notation brings is standardization and the ability to show who is doing what and when, plus the ability to make process flow paths easier to read by moving the details of a process into a more detailed level. Instead of having process taken up on a wall, you can create BPMN Process Models where you fit the primary business logic on a single page and then drill down to the next level if you want or need to see the details.
There is a universal symbology to the language that bridges the gap between those in technical development, business analysts and all the way up to the C-Suites execs who can all understand the various sequence of events, activity and information that flows along an array of automated tasks.
BPMN 2.0 uses four main elements in a diagram, they are:
- Flow objects
- Connecting objects
Think of these symbols as the pieces to a puzzle that will form the overall workflow. Activities, Events and Gateways make up the three main flow objects.
These symbols indicate a specific task to be performed by a system or person. Process designers can create many such activities ranging from those that occur once to those that occur multiple times or when a specific set of conditions are met.
- Task – This is the most common symbol used. It describes the precise action required in order to complete the task.
- Sub-process – Within this task, are additional sub-tasks categorized together.
- Transaction – This commonly refers to the function of payment processing but is much, much more. Transactions are best described as a set of activities that would need to be underdone if an error is detected in the process. In IT terminology it is known as a “roll-back”, i.e. you need to roll-back all the actions taken in the transaction to leave the information at the same state as when the Transaction process was started.
- Call – A Call Activity refers to Tasks and Sub-Processes that can be used in multiple or different areas of a process.
This symbol serves as a trigger. It can initiate a starting point, an intermediate step, or act as the end-point of a specific process. Commonly used events can be:
- Timer – This symbol can identify the start of a timer. For example, a free trial is offered for 30 days in which a customer has the option to cancel anytime within this window. It may also be used on a certain weekday, for instance, every Tuesday, a list is compiled indicating who has cancelled the trial or who are the new free trial registrants.
- Link – Indicates a process belonging to a bigger ecosystem and links off into the direction of different tasks that comprise a new but separate set.
- Message – As it is described, messages are being passed via some technology interface, like EDI (Electronic Data or Document Interchange).
- Escalation – in order to facilitate a specific action, a higher-up authority will need to make a decision on the task. For example, an application for insurance coverage that is borderline must be escalated to the senior manager for manual review.
- Error – An interruption to the workflow has occurred, due to an issue.
These diamond shaped symbols are used to map decision points along the workflow. They can indicate for example, forks in the road that require a decision in order to determine the next direction a process will need to take. Some examples:
- Exclusive – An example of an exclusive gateway could be when you approach a door that requires an entry code. The correct code allows entry while an incorrect code causes a different outcome.
- Inclusive – Inclusive gateways, allow processes to go down more than one path, as opposed to Exclusive gateways
- Event-based – This is the fork in the road scenario we mentioned above. A decision must be made to move ahead. Let’s say every Tuesday a list was generated of new users during the previous week. If on a particular week no new users signed up then no list would be generated on the following Tuesday.
- Parallel – These gateways can run concurrently and are not dependent on a certain condition.
We know flow objects are the puzzle pieces that form the workflow. Connecting objects show us how the puzzle pieces connect with one another in the workflow. Three types of connecting objects are used here: Message flows, Sequence flows and Associations.
These symbols indicate messages that are sent between participants in the workflow.
As the name itself illustrates, think of swimlanes as comprised of individual lanes in a pool set to time a 100m swim competition. The ‘pool’ is the department (sales, marketing, customer service) and can also represent work taken outside the organization or by service providers, tc. The lane itself contains the activity that is needed relative to each role in the process. One lane may be for sales engineers, one lane may be for customer service and another for distribution for example.
These symbols indicate a specific data type or information that is needed related to the current task underway. The movement of a workflow is not always impacted by data symbols.
Unlike coding languages that require an in-depth understanding of a new way to program, BPMN symbols are an easy to understand visual alphabet that can be used by all lines of an organization to understand workflows and visualize Business Process Management (BPM) activity.
With Interfacing’s Enterprise Process Center, process mapping and process modeling of your workflows with BPMN 2.0 has never been easier! Create your work processes quickly and clearly to improve the agility and transparency of your day-to-day business activities, making every step effortless.
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