What is BPMN ?

BPMN Definition

BPMN logo

Conceived and developed by the Business Process Management Institute (BPMI), Business Process Modeling Notation or BPMN for short is a graphical method of representing business processes within a business process model. The representation diagram is somewhat similar to a flowchart, though not exactly the same. Since 2005, when parent BPMI merged with the Object Management Group (OMG), the latter has been in-charge of maintaining the Modeling Notation.  BPMN is the most widely-accepted process documentation methodology in the world. BPMN allows both technical and business users to quickly and easily model business processes.


With BPMN, modeling processes simply involves modeling the event that triggers the process and then mapping all of the activities or events (represented by rectangles) that occur until an outcome is reached. Decisions and alternatives are mapped using gateways (represented by lozenges), and all of the process shapes are then linked. The resulting process map closely resembles a flowchart that can be intuitively understood by non-technical business users.


The graphical notations defined by BPMN achieve this objective by streamlining and simplifying divergent processes into compact, bite-sized bits of readily digestible information. In addition, the BPMN notations are standardized, which means developers, analysts, management executives and C-suite – all have the same frame of reference and the same level of understanding. For instance, BPMN can ensure that the otherwise complex documents coded in Extensible Markup Language (XML) can be visualized and understood with the help of a common notation that everyone understands.


How does BPMN Work?

Business Process Modeling Notation makes use of a limited range of basic structural elements, easy enough for both technical and non-technical people involved in the project. These elements belong to one of the four key categories.

Flow Objects

Used to represent specific activities, events or gateways within the process. Symbols for flow objects include geometric figures such as triangles, rectangles, circles and diamonds. It should be remembered that within BPMN, an ‘activity’ is any work performed as part of a process. It is divided into two types – a) tasks, and b) sub-processes.

Connecting Objects

Used to represent association, message flow or sequence flow, these elements connect to flow objects using solid, dotted or dashed lines. Arrows may be included between flow objects and connecting objects, to show the direction of process flow. An ‘association’ shows how different text, data and other elements relate to each other.


Used to organize multiple flow objects into categories sharing similar functionality, swimlanes are depicted using straight lines that run lengthwise inside a rectangle. They are named so because of their resemblance to Olympic swimming pools’ lane lines. The rectangles in which swimlanes are drawn are in fact, known as ‘pools’ in BPMN.


Used to represent annotations, groups and data objects, artifacts are the fourth major element category used in the creation of Business Process Diagrams or BPDs. A ‘BPD’ according to BPMN is a diagram made of a collection of graphical objects/elements that represents a business process.

Together, the four element categories are used to create a common business process language understandable by all. For example, business analysts who are responsible for creating business processes and refining them and developers who are responsible for creating codes to implement them can use the same language to interact, share and collaborate. And so can the business process managers, who do not have the technical knowledge of coders but are responsible for monitoring and managing the processes.

That makes it easy to see why your organization should invest in BPMN, doesn’t it? Business Process Modeling Notation improves process and production efficiency by allowing departments and individuals to better understand and communicate the different business processes within your organization. This leads to improved service delivery, higher customer satisfaction, more retention and ultimately, more profits.


Enterprise Process Center® uses BPMN to graphically depict the end-to-end flow of business activities.

Ranked Leader in the Gartner Enterprise Business Process Analysis (EBPA) MarketGuide, BPMS Platform Enterprise Process Center (EPC) supports the BPMN standard.  You can model your processes in BPMN and take them all the way to the automation/execution stage of the process lifecycle.  BPMN flows can be automated to streamline the end-to-end execution of human and system-centric processes.


Download a free trial version of the Enterprise Process Center