BPMN Basics – A Quick Start

This blog is a basic getting started for people that need to quickly produce BPMN process diagrams with a minimum for fuss and time commitment.

Introducing BPMN

BPMN – Business Process Modelling Notation is a notation that is maintained by the Object Management Group. I would recommend checking out their website and fully implementing BPMN.

For those that do not have time this blog is my quick start that I can give to people in order to have processes modelled in BPMN with as short a learn time as is possible.

Take a look at the diagram below it has everything we need to get started:

Fig 1 – An example BPMN Diagram

BPMN Elements

Below are the elements we need to get started with BPMN:

Events

Events are things that happen. In the Example “Once Per Week” is an event – Events trigger the start of the process but also the end of the process. Any event can start a process.

Fig 2 – Events

These are the circles. The green circle is a start event. BPMN doesn’t specify the color of the elements, but green is a default scheme with the tool I use and the color is an easy differentiator. Example events include

  • User requires software
  • Once Per day
  • An Email Requesting A Service

The Red circle is an end event. Note the red circle has a thicker line. End events define the conclusion. Examples might include:

  • Software is delivered
  • Process Completed Successfully

There are other types of events within the specification but normally having start and end events is enough for most modelling I ask people to do at a basic level.

You can have several events both going into a process or out of it. For Example if we have a approval process we might want to have one end event for Acceptance, one for Rejecting.

Gateways

On the Example BPMN model there are two gateways.

Fig 3 – Gateways

Again, there are more elements in the actual language, but with these two you can represent most things. Normally with a gateway we put a question in there, and label the decisions choices on the relationship. You can see an example of this in figure 4.

Figure 4 – Gateways, Tasks, And Sub Processes

Parallel gateways are demonstrated in figure 1. I like to use them because it makes it visually easy to see when process tasks both split and merge.

Tasks & Sub Processes

In Figure 4 you can see examples of tasks and sub processes. A Task (in the example “Approve the Purchase”) is exactly what you would expect.

A sub process is normally a complete process within our process – used to reduce complexity. in the example above “Order Process” would lead to a whole BPMN diagram which describes that process.

Tying It Together

Relationship wise all the arrows I use in Basic BPMN are Sequence Flow arrows. Remember these diagrams are showing flow, from a start event towards an end event. If we need to flow backwards we need to be careful to make sure the flow does not get caught in a loop. This is done by making the flow arrow flow backwards conditionally using a gateway.

Back in Figure 1 I showed a full BPMN diagram. The last thing to talk about are the swim lanes, which represent the roles of the people that are either making decisions or executing tasks or processes. In Figure 1 we had two roles in the swim lanes – Author and Target Audience. Any thing in the respective swim lane is executed by those roles.

The colors used in the example are the default ones used with BiZZdesign’s Enterprise Studio. I do not change them because I think they demonstrate clearly the different element types.

Summing it Up

This article really showed the bare minimums, and I will use it to quickly introduce people to BPMN when I need things done fast and do not have training time.

BPMN is an easy modelling language to get started and communicate with. Take a look at Risk Analysis BPMN models where I take the next steps with BPMN.