Select Page

An Introduction to BPMN 2.0 Symbology


Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) 2.0 is a powerful standard for business process modeling, providing a graphical notation for specifying business processes in a Business Process Diagram (BPD).

This standard, maintained by the Object Management Group (OMG), aims to bridge the gap between business process design and process implementation. Here’s a detailed look into the BPMN 2.0 symbology, which is essential for creating effective business process models.


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 
  • Swimlanes 
  • Data 

Flow objects

Think of these symbols as the pieces to a puzzle that will form the overall workflow. ActivitiesEvents 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. 

Connecting objects 

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. 


Message flows

These symbols indicate messages that are sent between participants in the workflow. 

Sequence flows

Objects that are mapped sequentially. 


Shows the relationships between various data and objects.


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 providerstc. 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.  

Data Symbols 

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. 

Usage & Benefits

BPMN 2.0 symbology is crucial for:

  • Standardization: Ensuring consistency and clarity across business process models.
  • Communication: Facilitating clear communication between business analysts, technical developers, and stakeholders.
  • Analysis: Providing a visual representation that aids in identifying process inefficiencies and areas for improvement.
  • Implementation: Serving as a blueprint for automating business processes in BPM software.

By mastering BPMN 2.0 symbology, organizations can streamline their processes, improve collaboration, and enhance overall operational efficiency. Whether you are a business analyst, process designer, or software developer, a deep understanding of BPMN 2.0 is essential for effective business process management.

Complete our BPMN 2.0 certification today!

Why Interfacing?

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.

If you would like to see more or discuss how Interfacing can help your organization, be sure to click below.

Contact us more for information.

RAPID Decision Making

What is RASCI / RACI

RASCI matrices are needed on complex projects. They are extremely helpful as they create a highly efficient mechanism for task distribution while significantly coming very close to eliminating any ambiguity within the project hierarchy of tasks. 

low code rapid application development

BPMN 2.0 Free Training!

Our course offers comprehensive BPM training in two levels (BPMN fundamental & BPMN expert), and extends BPMN 2.0 by providing in-class exercises along with business analysis, mapping communication, GRC, performance management guidance, and more!

low code rapid application development

Gain Transparency with the Enterprise Process Center®

Interfacing’s Digital Twin Organization software provides the transparency and Governance to improve Quality, Efficiency and ensure Regulatory Compliance.

low code rapid application development

Read Our Blogs 

Take a moment to read blogs about GXP, Regulatory Compliance, today’s trends, and much much more!

Discover how your organization benefits from an Interfacing solution.

A key differentiator of Interfacing to other digital and business transformation consulting firms is that Interfacing offers its own innovative technology solution in support of transformation programs. Interfacing’s software solutions deliver the transparency required to reduce complexity, improve execution and facilitates agility and change.

Interfacing’s integrated management system is a one-stop-shop for managing transformation programs. We know it’s a very competitive environment out there. It is for that reason our strength is in our commitment to maintain flexibility throughout the project lifecycle whether it is in our innovative products or in our team of experts.