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Business process modeling notation, or BPMN, is the language and diagramming standard used to create flowcharts of business processes and workflows. It’s an important element and standardized tool of business process management, also known as BPM.
A BPMN flowchart is the visual representation of a process or workflow. By following the rules outlined by BPMN, you can create consistent, easy-to-understand flowcharts that include all the detail your team needs.
With BPMN flowcharts, business leaders and analysts can map out the flow of transactions and procedures in order to better locate potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies or to introduce new processes to their employees. The notation system follows a set standard so that everyone using BPMN can understand it easily — that's why it's one of the most common advanced types of flowcharts in use today.
Development of this notation standard started in the year 2000 when a group of e-businesses came together around a common problem: business processes had grown increasingly complex and documenting them had become more and more of a challenge. Thus, the Business Process Management Initiative came into being. Their resulting standard, BPMN 1.0, was published in 2004. It solved a common problem across many industries and quickly outgrew its humble beginnings, becoming the full-fledged system that's in use around the globe today.
The original creators of BPMN 1.0 merged with the Object Management Group (OMG) in 2005. OMG has continuously worked to refine the standard and released BPMN 2.0 in 2011. They also changed the name to business process modeling and notation, but continue to use the BPMN acronym.
In January of 2011, BPMN 2.0 received approval for release with the latest specifications of the BPMN standard. Its improvements included:
Today, a wide range of well-known organizations rely on BPMN, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, T-Systems Multimedia Solutions, Energie Südbayern and 1&1 Internet Inc. BPMN maps out processes to help meet a number of strategic goals. Here are a few real-world examples:
BPMN uses basic symbols and terminology to map out simple and complex processes alike. First, you create a pool to hold all of the information. For more details explanations, see our blog post, How to Read Business Process Model and Notation Diagrams.
This is the "big picture" that allows you to outline the participants in a process. For example, for a Human Resources department, participants might include HR, facilities, hiring manager, payroll and the employee. Each participant gets their own swim lane or row on the chart. This concept is used outside the standard with more general swimlane diagrams.
Represented by circles that can be placed anywhere, events show when an event takes place, rather than when you perform an activity.
These are simply the things you do within the process, represented by rectangles with rounded corners. You can also have an activity with a plus sign, which means it is a sub-process with additional tasks below the main process.
Represented by diamond symbols, gateways track the flow of information. They are similar to a railroad switch that moves trains from one track to another depending on the destination. You define the criteria that directs information in certain directions.
These notations help readers understand what they are reading on the map. Dotted lines represent artifacts, and solid lines represent the flow of information. Artifacts just provide information and background; they don't affect the process itself.
Represented by arrows, your data sources can include documents, invoices, spreadsheets, forms and all kinds of business information.
As you can see, organizations use this structure at every level to improve procedures and processes. As one of the leading diagramming tools for businesses, Gliffy makes it easy to build any kind of process modeling system, from the most elementary layouts to complex and sophisticated models.
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