BPMN stands for Business Process Modeling Notation. It is an international standard specification about notation and definition of Business Process. Between ‘BPMN 1.0’ (2004) and ‘BPMN 1.2’, it was a drawing method’s standard specification. Whereas, since ‘BPMN 2.0’, it became a wide range standard which includes data exchange specifications, etc.


1. Overview

BPMN is defined by the OMG (Object Management Group), an international standard-setting organization, and is used to represent Business Process. It allows to graphically illustrate the business procedures within an Organization such as, “What kind of processes are there?And, which teams? What should be done? Using which data? For which process?”.

Just as ‘a map’ is described with map symbols, or ‘a blueprint’ is described using architectural symbols, a ‘Process Diagram’ is drawn using symbols called “BPMN elements”.

While ‘BPMN 1.x’, BPMN stood for Business Process Modeling Notation, and were a standard for drawing methods for Business Process Diagram (Flow Diagram), basically, at first, 48 “BPMN Elements” were standardized, mainly for Events, Activities (Task and Sub-process), and Gateways (Conditional Split), then increased to 55 throughout the upgrade of the versions from 1.0, 1.1 to 1.2.

In ‘BPMN 2.0’, what BPMN stands for was changed to Business Process Model and Notation. It includes enhanced specifications that are necessary for Business Analysts and Business Infrastructure Developers, in addition to the aspects for Business Modeler. As of BPMN 2.0, 116 of “BPMN Elements” are part of the standard.

※ Formally Released by OMG

  • Jan. 2008: Version 1.1
  • Jan. 2009: Version 1.2
  • Jan. 2011: Version 2.0
    • Dec. 2013: Version 2.0.2


The Object Management Group (OMG) has developed a standard Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). The primary goal of BPMN is to provide a notation that is readily understandable by all business users, from the business analysts that create the initial drafts of the processes, to the technical developers responsible for implementing the
technology that will perform those processes, and finally, to the business people who will manage and monitor those processes. Thus, BPMN creates a standardized bridge for the gap between the business process design and process implementation.

Another goal, but no less important, is to ensure that XML languages designed for the execution of business processes, such as WSBPEL (Web Services Business Process Execution Language), can be visualized with a business-oriented notation.

This International Standard represents the amalgamation of best practices within the business modeling community to define the notation and semantics of Collaboration diagrams, Process diagrams, and Choreography diagrams. The intent of BPMN is to standardize a business process model and notation in the face of many different modeling notations and viewpoints. In doing so, BPMN will provide a simple means of communicating process information to other business users, process implementers, customers, and suppliers.

The membership of the OMG has brought forth expertise and experience with many existing notations and has sought to consolidate the best ideas from these divergent notations into a single standard notation. Examples of other notations or methodologies that were reviewed are UML Activity Diagram, UML EDOC Business Processes, IDEF, ebXML BPSS, Activity-Decision Flow (ADF) Diagram, RosettaNet, LOVeM, and Event-Process Chains (EPCs).


2. Uses of BPMN

The first goal of BPMN is to represent the Business Flow visually. That is, it can be also used for describe the Business Flow on paper.

Softwares that apply BPMN are classified into 1) Softwares to draw Business Processes within an enterprise, and 2) Softwares not only for drawing, but also for passing information of instances as a Workflow system.

In addition, BPMN DI (Diagram Interchange) has been added as a specification to exchange drawing information between software products in BPMN 2.0, so the method of outputting the minimal diagram data into XML file has been standardized.

Is a software that Business analyst can use to delineate the Business Process As-Is / the Business Process To-Be. It is also referred to as Flow Chart Diagramming software or Business Drawing software, and is capable of drawing ‘Process Diagram’ and ‘Collaboration Diagram’. (Choreography Modeling is not required.)

The software conformance with BPMN 2.0 is judged by the BPMN elements that it supports, and is classified into 1) Descriptive, 2) Analytic, 3) Common Executable, 4) Process Modeling. #1 to #3 are defined as subclass of #4.

e.g. Descriptive is required to support the following 24 BPMN Elements.

participant (pool), laneSet, sequenceFlow (unconditional), messageFlow, exclusiveGateway, parallelGateway, task (None), userTask, serviceTask, subProcess (expanded), subProcess (collapsed), CallActivity, DataObject, TextAnnotation, association/dataAssociation, dataStoreReference, startEvent (None), endEvent (None), messageStartEvent, messageEndEvent, timerStartEvent, terminateEndEvent, documentation, Group

Is a software in which each process owner can build an online Workflow environment (Business system). It is also referred to as ‘BPM Suite’ or ‘BPMS’ or simply ‘Workflow System’. The Workflow environment is built by drawing a “Process Diagram”. (Required programming knowledge level varies greatly depending on the product.)

In many cases, normal users access it with their web browser. In the workflow environment, Business data is to be passed automatically, and users would flow new instances, or flow instances that have been flowing further downstream.

The software conformance with BPMN 2.0 is judged by the BPMN elements that it supports. There are two types which are 1) Process Execution Conformance, and 2) BPEL Process Execution Conformance. In addition, “Collaboration Diagram” and “Conversation Diagram” is a material that supplements the “Process Diagram”, so they are not used in BPMS.


3. BPMN Elements

  • Pool, Swimlane: Represent the entities involved (participate) in business processing, such as people or systems.
  • Sequence Flow: Defining the order of execution of the Task (Step) and Sub-processes.
  • Gateway: Defining Selective split or Diversion.
  • Task(Step): Represents the Working Step (processing) in a series of Business Process.
  • Event: Represents an Event in a series of Business Process.


4. Challenges of BPMN

With BPMN 2.0 Specification, status of synchronization between Business Processes can be described in detail with ‘Conversation Diagram’ and ‘Choreography Diagram’ other than ‘Process Diagram’. Whereas, its learning cost has raised because of the number of BPMN Elements has doubled.

Moreover, a ‘Throw Event’ can also be described as ‘Send Task’, so the fact that there are two elements with the same behavior might be confusing. (In IBM BPM, they are the same function. Oracle BPM has different propriety of placement of boundary events. Questetra does not provide ‘Send Task’.)

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