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Basics: How to use BPMN 2.0 for your business in 2021

EBS Integrator
Mar 26, 2021,

What is BPMN 2.0 standard, and how can you improve your digital efforts with it? Let’s find out and see.

There comes a point in every successful small enterprise where you can no longer afford to have all your workflow in your head. You’ve grown from 3-4 people fledgling star-up in your garage to a recognizable brand with a dedicated client base, 10-20 people in your team, and potted plants near every desk.

The dream is here and now – the sky’s the limit!

However, to get anywhere close to that limit you must upgrade!

And before spending a fortune on hardware, software, and dozens half-pound system administrative brains, you must understand where you’re standing.

Best way to do that…

Business Process Mapping and Notation 2.0 (BPMN 2.0) – a graphical illustration of every single procedure that happens in your business, from big to small.

All the ins and outs, customer interactions, support, database queries, automatic software procedures and much more! Only this way can you find the bottlenecks and remove them.

But all in good time. For starters, let us figure out BPMN and how to use it, then we’ll show an uncomplicated way of mapping a small business and in later articles we’ll go even deeper!

What is BPMN 2.0

Business Process Mapping and Notation 2.0 (Aka BPMN 2.0) is a method for visual depiction of business operations and processes down to the tiniest sequence, detail, or activity.

It’s a business standard used everywhere, learn once > apply everywhere.

Think of it as a graphical/strategic map of your enterprise; With every procedure defined, all the potential actions to take, in case of each and every possible instance, under every circumstance under the sun.

If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution Steve Jobs

However, before we map anything, let’s see what the core components are. Make note that these are just the basics that we can build upon later.

BPMN 2.0 building blocks

Here are the main core components, symbols, and elements. These you need to learn first.

BPMN main elements

These three are “flow objects” or the holly trifecta of BPM.

Following are the main components, this doesn’t mean these are the only ones, merely most common and the bare minimum you need to understand.

“Event Objects”

These are the beginning events, the catalysts of your processes; they break into three main groups:

 

BPMN Event and Activity types

Start events – are what begin your process, initiate a task, or start a new flow.

Intermediate events – from sending or receiving an email, to waiting a predefined amount of time and everything in between fall into these.

End events – is what we’re trying to achieve or the ultimate step. Consider these as your [exit] doors for your flow.

“Tasks and activity objects”

BPMN Tasks or Activities objects

The second group of blocks we’ll talk about.

Task – this the main action or process that we are trying to achieve. Usually defined as *verb* *subject* i.e – “write email” or “make ice-cream”

Sub-process – explains a complex task in more detail, used in case you’re trying to minimize the informational load on your stakeholders. Use these to explain a process to developers or specialized teams.

Transaction – a type of a sub-process involving payments and having a requirement to receive confirmation from all parties before this process is completed.

Call Activity – used to reference a predefined global event that works as a hyperlink within your diagram.

It’s important to note that you can define activities further by using icons to visually show diverse types in complex enough diagrams:

BPMN Activities and Tags

“Gateway Objects”

BPMN Gateway Object Types

Exclusive – this type of gateway decides the flow and, according to predefined conditions, splits it into two or more mutually exclusive flows.

Parallel – a gateway splitting the workflow in two or more concurrent ones.

Event Based – like exclusive gates, it splits flows into two or more mutually exclusive flows, but the main requirements are based on an “event” occurring.

Inclusive – splits the workflow in multiple paths based on conditions, not necessarily exclusive to one another.

Note that these do not make decisions, merely direct the flow.

“Connectivity Objects”

BPMN Connectivity or Flow Objects

This is the general workflow or process as it happens on the map. Much like a river a workflow tries to reach its sea, in our case the “End Event”.

Sequence Flow – the main order of activity, it’s your flow to your goal.

Message Flow –a line depicting messages across pools. These connect different tasks between swim-lanes.

Association Flow – shows the relationship between artifacts and flow objects.

“Pool and Swim-lanes”

BPMN Swimlanes and Pools

Pools represent the companies in a B2B interaction or different departments.

Whereas swim-lanes help us break it apart further to explain who oversees the workflow and who’s accountable.

“Artifacts”

Consider these non-essential and are here to “spice up” your map or provide added level of detail to your diagram. There are 3 types:

BPMN Artifacts

Data Symbol – unsurprisingly these are most or all data interactions like input, collection, output, and storage.

Annotation – mostly used to explain in further detail some elements and is a pure “quality of life” element.

Group – another QOL element helping you organize, prioritise, and signify your processes.

Now let’s KISS

And the first thing you want to do – “Keep it simple stupid”; When starting out its best to focus on the basics first and build from there. No matter how complex your operations are, start with a basic event>activity>end and build from there.

We’ll imagine a hypothetical burger truck and use the knowledge we’ve acquired to create a BPMN 2.0 map!

Welcome to AptCibus

Welcome to “AptCibus” the fabulous fastest fast-food fabricator… bus.

BPMN 2.0

Best burgers around the block this side of my brain!

And oh! Look we have a client! Let’s start with:

BPMN Simplest form

Right off the bat we can see that this is not nearly enough, but it’s a start! Let’s build onto it slightly! And because we’re a democratic food truck, we’ll even give the customer a choice to leave without ordering anything!

BPMN basic customer perspective

Now that’s more like it. We have a clear easy map about the intentions of our business from the perspective of our customer.
But it’s still extremely simplistic, so let’s go take a peek into the backyard of our small enterprise.

Complexity is the spice of life

We’ll explain how the transaction takes form in our business as well as the second part of our enterprise – the production. For this we’ll add a few swim-pools and define our participants better. Let’s see what we’ve got:

BPMN AptCibus Basic Map Example

Quite simple don’t you think? All-right, let’s explain it bit by bit.

BPMN Diagram step 1

We have a dedicated swim-pool and lane for our customer which follows a basic step-by-step logic:

  • Arrive to the food truck and look at what we offer as a product. This is a simple Task.
  • Because we promised to give the customer options, he can simply decide not to order anything and leave the premise. This is an End Event.
  • If he wants to order a burger, we go with the activity tagged “send message”. Which starts the following backyard process.

BPMN Explanation step 2

  • Here our chef, with his own pool, checks the availability of ingredients for a burger, and we’re using a data-base icon with an association line to account for ingredients.
  • A simple exclusion gateway gives us the options:
  1. Flow to the beginning of the process and later into leaving without ordering.
  2. Inform the customer that there are in fact ingredients available to continue with their order.

BPMN step 3

We confirm the availability and continue with the order on the customer side, and on the chef’s side.

BPMN step 4

Because our chef is a professional, he knows that it takes time to cook the patty, he begins the process of preparing our product whilst also starting the transaction process. Which we defined with a “parallel” gateway.

Because we’re a classy business, on the forefront of technological progress, we only accept credit cards. And so, the process is relatively uncomplicated.

We’ve used a group artifact to designate transaction processes for ease of reference.

Final steps to success in our BPMN

BPMN step 5

At the end, the client receives his card, and waits for the burger. After which he receives it and can either – go to the park and enjoy it there, or as a sub process he can enjoy it on the spot.

We haven’t gone into complex processes, but we have defined them here:

BPMN step 6

This simply means that the tasks can be expanded and have multiple internal sub-processes within. In case of the transaction, we can expand it to > send query to the bank and wait for confirmation.

And in the case of “Prepare Burger” we can break it upon into several sub-processes which are too complicated to go into right now. Just ask your local chef how to make a great burger!

Great BPMN tools

That about does it for the basics of the BPMN 2.0 standard. For our demonstration I was using Lucidcharts. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But there is a plethora of wonderfully made tools on the market such as:

  • Kissflow – Among the best on the market with a user-friendly dashboard, report templates and cross software integration with most productivity apps.
  • ProcessMaker – A popular choice in the industry with an advantage few possess, primarily their BPM tool comes in three formats: Opensource, On-premises and on the cloud.
  • NineTex – A robust suite built from ground-up to seamless work with Office 365, SharePoint, and Project Server. This is a worthy contender for our list.
  • Zoho Creator – Simple in architecture and code but with none of the downsides, this is a perfect solution for “do it yourself” businesses.

But that’s not it! Here’s a few more for you to consider:

draw.io; gliffy; Activiti; BPMN.io; Caradint; ActiveVOS; ADONIS; ARIS Express; BiZZdesign Architect; Bonita BPM; Borland Together; Camunda Modeler; Edraw Max; Enterprise Architect; IBM BlueWorks Live; UNICOM System Architect; jBPM; MagicDraw; Pegasystems; Microsoft Visio; Modelio; OmniGraffle; Software Ideas Modeler; SYDLE SEED Community; yEd ;Smartdraw; MID Innovator for Business Analysts; Yaoqiang; BPMN Editor…

I’m sure I missed a few, but hopefully you got all that.

Farewell

This article simplified an incredibly arduous process, and only scratched the surface! We haven’t gotten to the juicy stuff, for that I will be having a coffee or two with our professional BA team to get some business-hacks, this in a future article.

Explaining BPMN 2.0 meme

Hey but mapping your business is just the first step to #DigitalTransformation. What are the next steps you ask? Lucky for you we have a handy 7-step guide on how to digitalize your business!

What problems have you encountered when you had to map your first business? Tell us in the comment section!

My name is, was and always will be Alex and I hope you had fun in this quick tour into BPMN 2.0 standard.

Stay safe tech and business nerds!