Business Process Modeling Basics

March 1, 2012

Business Process Modeling (BPM) in system engineering is the activity of representing an enterprise’s processes in a method that analyzes and improves the current process. Also, another more simple definition for BPM is a method for improving organizational efficiency and quality. BPM is implemented by business analysts and managers who are pursuing improvement to process efficiency and quality. Information Technology (IT) may be required for the process improvements identified by BPM, although IT is a common driver for the need to model a business process, by creating a process master. In order to establish the improved business processes, change management programs are typically started. In addition, advances in technology assist with the vision of BPM models becoming fully executable are coming closer to reality (Wikipedia).

Now that a formal definition of BPM has been given, here is some history about business process models. ‘Business’ in Business Process Modeling is interchangeable with organization. Business Process Modeling began in the late 1700s during the ‘division of labor’ when manufacturing moved from the cottage industry into factories, and BPM has also evolved through different stages and names (Businessballs). The following techniques came into existence in the 20th century to model business processes: flow chart, functional flow block diagram, control flow diagram, Gantt chart, PERT diagram, and IDEF. The Gantt charts were the first to emerge about 1899 and flow charts in the 1920s. The modern methods to model business processes are the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). UML is a modeling language in the field of object oriented software engineering. UML was created by the Object Management Group (OMG) in 1997. UML is the industry standard for modeling software – intensive systems. BPMN is a graphical representation for specifying business processes. BPMN supports business process management for technical and business users, it provides a notation that is simple and can be used in complex semantics. BPMN was created by Business Process Management Initiative in 2004 and is maintained by OMG since 2005. BPMN is a standard for business process modeling. All of these modeling tools use graphical representations and notations to model business processes. These methods only represent a small list used to document business processes throughout the years.

Here are a few examples of business process models:

1. Gantt chart

2. Flow chart

3. UML


S. Williams, who was in the field of systems engineering, introduced the term “business process modeling” in 1967 in the article “Business Process Modeling Improves Administrative Control”.The techniques for understanding physical control systems can be used to understand business processes. The term became popular in the 1990s. The presentation of the first visually oriented tools for business process modeling and implementation came in about the year 1995. BPM tools offer business users the ability to model business processes, and implement and execute the models as well as refine the models based on the data entered (Wikipedia).

The business model, business process, and the workflow are some topics that are involved in BPM. The business model is an outline for creating economic, social, and other systems of value. A business model represents parts of a business which include the following: purpose, offerings, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structures, trading practices, and operational processes and policies. In other words, the approach a company takes to do business in order to sustain itself is another way of describing a business model. A business process is related, structured activities that produce a specific service or product for customers (Wikipedia).

The three main types of business processes are the following:

1. Management processes (govern operation of a system – Corporate Governance and Strategic Management)

2. Operational processes (constitute core business and create primary value stream – Purchasing, Manufacturing, Marketing, and Sales)

3. Supporting processes (support core processes – Accounting, Recruitment, and Technical support)

Workflow is the representation of a sequence of operations that is declared as work of a person, simple or complex mechanism, group of persons, organization of staff, or machines (Wikipedia).

The purpose of BPM is to have a final output that is an improvement in the way that the business process works. The two main types of business process models are the ‘as is’ or baseline model which is the current situation and the ‘to be’ model which is the intended new situation. These two types are used to analyze, test, implement and improve the process. When modeling, the aim is to illustrate a complete process, enabling managers and staff to improve the flow and restructure the process. Value for the customer and reducing cost for the company is the essential outcome for a BPM project, which also leads to increased profits for the company. Some secondary consequences rising from successful BPM can be increased competitive advantage, market growth, and better staff morale and retention. BPM is an effective tool, but remember the tool does not produce results. In the end, what matters is how the tool is used (Businessballs).

By: Reginald Fowler


1. Wikipedia

2. Businessballs

3. YouTube

What is BPM?

Business Process Modeling

Business Modeling Process Risk


2 Responses to “Business Process Modeling Basics”

  1. Robert Hanson said

    Thanks Reggie…good use of technology and way to convey the definition

  2. Sean Maher said

    Who doesn’t love BPM diagrams?! I actually didn’t know that Gantt charts were that old. Great information Reggie!

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