How does BPMN work?

Last updated on February 21, 2023

BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) utilizes graphical notations and flowcharts to define business processes. The notations are organized into four categories for diagramming:

  • Flow objects: These descriptive objects define a process, including start and end events, activities, and gateways. Sub-processes and intermediate events may be used in more complex processes, and different types of gateways can indicate how workflow moves through the diagram. For instance, an exclusive gateway offers only one option for movement, while an inclusive gateway provides options based on decisions made at the gateway. Parallel gateways represent two concurrent tasks in a workflow.
  • Connecting objects: Symbols such as message flows, sequence flows, and associations connect flow objects. These flows are represented by dashed or straight lines with arrows, while associations use a dotted line to demonstrate that specific documents or artifacts are associated with an event or gateway.
  • Swimlanes: Containers such as pools and lanes separate one set of activities from others. In BPMN diagrams, pools represent the primary participants in a process, and a different pool could represent a different company, department, or customer involved in the process. Lanes within a pool indicate the activities and flow for a specific role or participant, defining who is responsible for particular parts of a process.
  • Artifacts: Supplementary information about the process, such as data objects, groups, and annotations. A data object indicates what data is necessary for an activity, a group shows a logical grouping of activities, and an annotation provides details about what is occurring in a part of the diagram.