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BPMN stands for Business Process Modeling Notation and is a notation to draw a graphical representation of "workflow." "BPMN1.0 specification" is defined by an international standardizing organization in 2004, and it is used all over the world after that.


BPMN Overview

BPMN is a notation for a graphical representation (modeling) of "workflow." A diagram drawn by following BPMN notation are called business flow diagram (business process diagram (BPD), workflow diagram). It can also be called consciously "BPMN diagram" for the sake of concreteness.

Example of BPMN Diagram
Example of BPMN Diagram

By following BPMN notation, concerned parties can intuitively understand and share the "workflow." In "BPM (Business Process Management)," BPMN is effective to grasp, evaluate, analyze, and improve business process. Since SOX and J-SOX Act are enacted, it is frequently utilized to draw "workflow diagrams" for "internal control activities" and "internal control reporting activities" that listed and pre-listed companies are required to do.

In addition, BPMN is not an acronym of "BPM (Business Process Management) Notation," but an acronym of "Business Process Modeling Notation." Moreover, since BPMN2.0, BPMS stands for "Business Process Modeling and Notation."


Organizing standardization
  • 05/2004:, which is an international standardizing organization, (currently a part of OMG) published "BPMN1.0" specification.
  • 01/2008: OMG, an international standardizing organization, published "BPMN1.1" specification.
Specifications Published by Standardizing Organizations
Specifications Published by Standardizing Organizations

Graphical Elements

Flow object


As shown below, eleven graphical elements (modeling elements) for graphical representations are defined, and they are classified into four categories. They are called Core Elements (BPD Core element Set).

  1. Flow Objects
    1. Event 2. Activity 3. Gateway
  2. Connecting Objects
    1. Sequence Flow 2. Message Flow 3. Association
  3. Swimlanes
    1. Pool 2. Lane
  4. Artifacts
    1. Data Object 2. Group 3. Annotation
Connection object


Each core element has a couple of or dozens of extended notations. They are called Extended Elements (BPD Extended Element Set).

  1. Event
    a. Start Event b. Intermediate Event c. End Event
    i) Catching Event(*1) ii) Throwing Event(*1)
    1. Message 2. Timer 3. Error 4. Cancel 5. Compensation 6. Condition(*2) 7. Link 8. Signal(*1) 9. Terminate 10. Multiple(*3)
  2. Activity
    a. Task b. Sub-Process (bx. Embedded Sub-Process by. Reference Sub-Process bz. Reusable Sub-Process(*4))
    1. Loop 2. Multi-Instance(*3) 3. Ad-Hoc 4. Compensation
  3. Gateway
    a. Exclusive Gateways / [XOR-Split, XOR-Join] (ax. Data-Based Exclusive ay. Event-Based Exclusive)
    b. Inclusive Gateways / [OR-Split, OR-Join] c. Complex Gateways d. Parallel Gateways / [AND-Split, AND-Join]
  4. Sequence Flow
    a. (Unconditional) Sequence Flow b. Conditional Sequence Flow c. Default Sequence Flow
  5. Association
    a. (Undirectional) Association b. Directional Association
*1) They were added in BPMN1.1 specification
*2) The name was changed from "Rule Event" to "Conditional Event" in BPMN1.1 specification (English).
*3) The shape was changed in BPMN1.1 specification.
*4) The name was changed from "Independent Sub-Process" to "Reusable Sub-Process" in BPMN1.1 specification.

Features of BPMN

Various Notations of XOR-Split and XOR-Join
Various Notations of XOR-Split and XOR-Join
Specialized in visualization of "flow"
BPMN notation is designed to model "workflow" (business process) and can not be used to define the data flowing in business process and the structure of the company organization. (This feature is significantly changed after BPMN2.0.)
End-user friendly
Although there are various notations for modeling used by information system administrators and software engineers, such as UML, it is difficult for end users to understand and use them. On the other hand, BPMN notation can be intuitively understood by managers and general employees.
Difficult to be processed by computers
BPMN models "workflow" (business process) by means of "graphics." In other words, BPM diagrams are actually "images," are inferior to "modeling languages that model business process by using 'text,' such as XML (BPEL and XPDL)" in terms of processability by computers. (BPMN diagrams are "not in an executable state.") (This feature is significantly changed after BPMN2.0.)
Inconsistent representation
When business process with splits is modeled, there can be a number of representations.

Trend of BPMN

The direction of BPMN2.0 is presented in "BPMN2.0 RFP Draft" published in 2007. It is expected that BPMN2.0 is able to define not only "flow information" related to business process but also other various attribute information. (Integration of BPMN1.1 specification and BPDM1.0 specification)

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Workflow Sample:Hints on Defining Workflows for Business Analysts and Managers.

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