BPMN: In Depth Uses of FlowCharts

February 28, 2012

When you think of processes, what are some things that come to mind? A process could be used in the production of a film, developing chemical compounds, the steps to making a sandwich. A process is the order in which steps are taken to reach an end result. When developing a process, all of us work differently to get to the end result. Some people work better with writing out steps and having them listed in chronological order. While others work better with charts and diagrams that give them a visual aid to work through the process. In the business world, a business process model notation is described as a graphical standard for creating flow chart-like diagrams that are readily understandable by all business stakeholders including business analysts, technical developers, and business managers. (1) By having this flow chart it allows everyone to become engaged with the process and how it operates. It’s important to model with a business process model notation for many reasons:

· BPMN is an internationally accepted process modeling standard.

· BPMN is independent of any process modeling methodology.

· BPMN creates a standardized bridge which reduces the gap between business processes and their implementation.

· BPMN enables you to model processes in a unified and standardized way so that everyone in an organization can understand each other. (2)

With these reasons, it’s clear why utilizing BPMN is an important function of an organization. BPNM models can break down into several different components. As an organization, you would want your graphical representation of your organizational processes to include these three basic types:

  • Private (internal) business processes

These are internal to a specific organization and are the types of processes that have been generally called workflow or BPM processes. If swim lanes are used then a private business process will be contained within a single Pool. The Sequence Flow of the Process is therefore contained within the Pool and cannot cross the boundaries of the Pool. Message Flow can cross the Pool boundary to show the interactions that exist between separate private business processes.

  • Abstract (public) processes

This represents the interactions between a private business process and another process or participant, only those activities are included in the abstract process. All other “internal” activities of the private business process are not shown in the abstract process. Thus, the abstract process shows to the outside world the sequence of messages that are required to interact with that business process. Abstract processes are contained within a Pool and can be modeled separately or within a larger BPMN Diagram to show the Message Flow between the abstract process activities and other entities.

  • Collaboration (global) processes

Depicts the interactions between two or more business entities. These interactions are defined as a sequence of activities that represent the message exchange patterns between the entities involved. Collaboration processes may be contained within a Pool and the different participant business interactions are shown as Lanes within the Pool. In this situation, each Lane would represent two participants and a direction of travel between them. They may also be shown as two or more Abstract Processes interacting through Message Flow.(3)

The three basic sub-models listed above can be simplified and shown in a BPMN flow chart. Communication across departments (message flow) is an abstract component of almost any business process because all processes can’t be completed in silos. This model shown below exemplifies the way a BPMN flow chart will run and what it will contain. A BPMN flow chart will consist of an event, an activity, a gateway, and a connection. All of this will culminate into a flow. If this event happens, then go to this; if not then go to that, and so on and so forth.

In this example for a credit card application, you can see how the starting event is recording the information, checking the information, going through the studies and then approving or denying the applicant a line of credit.

BPMN’s can be used in many events; to describe the process of the event and getting to the end result. They are very useful because everyone involved in the process will have a better understanding of how a particular process works. For those who don’t like to shift through the jargon and mayhem of words and are visual learners, BPMN is a great way to get the message or information across effectively.


1. http://www.altova.com/umodel/business-process-modeling.html

2. http://www.bizagi.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95&Itemid=107&lang=en

3. http://www.bpmi.org/downloads/BPMN-V1.0.pdf

Tamara Cunningham Johnson


One Response to “BPMN: In Depth Uses of FlowCharts”

  1. Cheryl Johnson said

    We’ve done a lot of flowcharts in this class and I can truly see the usefulness of them. BMPN tend to offer guidance and direction to the business processes so that everyone in the units knows how the each component and task are connected; and also how things are supposed to flow in the organization. BMPN makes communications easier and more transparent.

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