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Malyssa Caharian

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

BPMN Tutorial

What is Business Process Modeling Notation?

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a graphical notation that displays the steps in a business process. It shows the sequential processes and messages that flow between the different individuals involved in the activities of the business process from beginning to end. 
Why do Businesses Use BPMN?

BPMN serves as a common language for all individuals within a business in order to help clarify complex work flows. According to the website, BusinessBalls.com, BPMN is not utilized to assist a company in the production of results.The primary goal of BPMN is to eliminate any grey areas within a business process, in other words, create transparency, through the use of commonly and easily understood visual elements. With this, BPMN assists in creating more efficient and effective efforts within a process.
The benefits of BPMN truly depend on how a business implements and executes it. For example, it is important that all participants involved in the process invest the time and effort in understanding BPMN. Participants must take recognition of the fact that BPMN is a tool, if used properly, can actually be quite helpful, in most cases making an individual's job much easier. Otherwise, if participants express resistance to understanding BPMN, it most likely will result in the continued inefficiency of the business process.
In addition to improved work performance, BPMN helps strengthen means of communications on both an interdepartmental and cross-departmental level, as individuals will develop a better understanding of their own, as well as others, tasks and responsibilities. 
For example, BPMN can help bridge the gap between collaborating departments. To put things into a more clear perspective, let's say the hiring managers of the Finance department at Company ABC are struggling with the recruiting process, a work flow in which they collaborate with the Human Resources department. Through the use of BPMN, the individuals who take part in the recruiting process from both the Finance department and Human Resources will have a much clearer idea of what steps need to be taken, in what sequence, who they need to work with to accomplish a task, what documentation is required, and so forth. Appropriate use of BPMN will eliminate any ambiguities in a business process, allowing these two departments to improve the way in which they work with another.
BPMN Elements Explained
BPMN consists of several symbols, which includes flow objects, connecting objects, swimlanes, and artifacts. The picture below is an example from WikiPedia of BPMN in a normal work flow.
The following is an explanation of all the symbols used in BPMN. The website BPMN.org provides a visual key for all these key components. 
  • Events*: An event is represented as a small circle and symbolizes something that happens during the process and affects the activity flow. Examples of an event include the start or completion of something, or may also note a point in time. 
  • Activities*: Activities are represented as a square with rounded ends and show a step in the business process. 
  • Gateways*: Gateways are represented as a diamond and are used to show the branching out of the business process. 
Connecting Objects
  • Sequence flow*: A sequence flow is represented as a solid arrow and shows the order in which a work step will be performed.
  • Message flow*: A message flow is represented as a broken line arrow and is used to show how a message flows between designated parts of the business process. 
  • Association: An association is represented as a dotted arrow and identifies additional information related to an object within the process
  • Pool: A pool is represented as a large, horizontally stretched, square and is used to group specific activities.
  • Lanes: A lane is represented as a large square with multiple rows. Lanes are similar to pool; however, it contains an additional row(s) in which activities are categorized. 
  • Data Object*: A data object is represented as a square with a folded corner and symbolizes a piece of information such as documentation, that is associated with a particular part of the business process.
  • Annotation: An annotation is represented as a bracket and connecting dotted line and includes descriptive information about a particular part of business process. 
  • Group: A group is represented as a square with broken lines and dots. It is used to gather certain activities, more for analytical use as it does not actually affect the business process.
How is BPMN Used?
There are two main types of models in which BPMN can be used:

Collaborative (Public) Business to Business Processes
This represents the activities executed between two or more businesses. The use of BPMN in this scenario serves as a display of the interactions between participants.

Internal (Private) Business Processes
This is intended more for the use of a single business organization. The mentioned earlier, of Company ABC's Finance and Human Resources department, models the use of BPMN in an internal business process.

BPMN Maintenance

The Object Management Group (OMG)  maintains the logistics of BPMN. OMG leads any revisions made in BPMN and also provides users with the latest specifications. 

BPMN Tools
There are many open source and closed source tools in which users can utilize BPMN. Examples of open source tools include Microsoft Access, Instalio - BPMS, and BPMN Modeler. Closed source tools include Enterprise Architect: BPMN plugin, MagicDraw, UModel: Enterprise Edition, and Business Process Modeler, just to name a few.