A quick tip before we start: BPMN diagrams have a lot of specific symbols. You may also want to change the structure of the chart when you are looking for details. You can draw a BPMN diagram anywhere, but using a BPMN diagramming tool like StackFlows will save you time and keep your pencil eraser intact. If you want, you can start a free trial before following this tutorial!
Step 1: Define the scope and purpose of your BPMN diagram
No matter what type of chart you are creating, it is important to understand what the chart is for and how the chart will be used. This will help strike a balance between including enough detail to be thorough and useful without overwhelming the viewer.
Step 2: Draw in pools and swimming lanes
After defining the scope of the diagram, ask yourself who is involved in the process. Basins are the broader part of the diagram and are usually the departments or even entire companies that perform the process. Swimlanes divide those pools into more specific teams or roles that perform tasks to keep the process moving.
Step 3: Add a start event and work forward
Every BPMN diagram has start and end event icons. These are simple, unfilled circles. If there are multiple pools in the diagram you are drawing, each pool will need start and end icons to show more specifically where the process is initiated in each organization. These event icons may simply be labeled “start” or they may have a more specific name, such as “request received.”
Step 4: Add activities to each swim lane
Activities are the tasks performed throughout the process. Ask yourself what people do to get from start to finish and add each of these steps to the corresponding swim lane from left to right. If you are using an online diagramming or BPMN tool, it may be helpful to start drawing arrows between these steps.
Step 5: Add gateways and events between activities
Wherever a process splits or can take multiple paths, you need to add a gateway. As a quick way to test your work when adding gateways, there should never be multiple pointers from a single activity.
Step 6: Add or edit connections
Once you’ve added activities, gates, and events, you may have started drawing some arrows. Make sure you complete the entire process by adding the remaining connectors and completing the event with the end icon.
Step 7: Edit and Comment
Don’t miss this one and ask a co-worker or friend for help! Walk them through the process as you drew it. Are they clear? Do they have questions or suggestions? Where should I add more information?
Based on their recommendations, some changes may need to be made. Add artifacts such as comments or groups to facilitate explanation. Having someone else check your work will ensure that the diagram has enough detail and clarity to be useful.
Step 8: Publish, share and repeat
If you used an online charting tool like StackFlows, save and download your final chart. As people ask questions or your business changes, you can revisit this diagram and edit your flow.