Ten Years of BPMN 2.0: A Diagram is Worth More Than a 1000 Words.

BPMN 2.0 has been around for ten years, and today’s digitization would be unthinkable without this modeling standard[i]. BPMN 2.0 has established itself as the lingua franca for the modeling of business processes and is now utilized in most industries. There is hardly a new customer opening process at a bank or insurance company that is not mapped with BPMN.


BPMN stands for business process model and notation.

This de facto visualization standard for business process diagrams is widely utilized by users who plan, manage, and implement business processes. The standard is sufficiently precise to allow BPMN diagrams to be translated into software process components.  With BPMN, business processes can be understood and communicated through graphical representations. BPMN represents all steps of a business process. It is specifically designed to coordinate the sequence of processes and the messages that flow between different process participants in an interrelated set of activities. BPMN is laid out at a high level for business users and at a lower level for process implementers. Business users should be able to read and understand a BPMN business process diagram. The process implementer should be able to add further details to a business process diagram to represent the process in a physical implementation[i].


Better collaboration between business departments and IT

The BPMN standard in its original version exists since 2001 when it was introduced by Stephen White. According to the motto "a picture is worth more than a thousand words", the advantages of the graphical visualization of process flows were to be used for the communication and optimization of business processes. At that time, however, self-developed workflow engines or standards like BPEL (business process execution language) were employed. Therefore, subject-oriented BPMN models were translated into technically executable BPEL models.
That was complicated.
The BPEL process model resulting from the translation often looked completely different and also complex, and it was no longer comprehensible for the particular department meant to implement it.  An iterative collaboration between business department and IT was therefore difficult to achieve.

BPMN version 2.0 fixed this problem so that processes could be executed directly, i.e. without additional translations to BPEL. Another significant improvement: Formats to store process models were specified to enable editing with different modeling tools from different vendors making them compatible.


Each element in a diagram is clearly defined

The actual execution of a BPMN process model can be imagined as a rolling ball moving from start to finish through a process diagram, following a path and its turnoffs and either automatically completing the various tasks for each step or assigning tasks to a human. At the beginning, this seemed somewhat unfamiliar, especially for business users, because suddenly every BPMN element in the diagram had a clearly defined meaning[ii].

Possible applications of BPMN 2.0 have already been scientifically examined. All requirements for process automation, so-called workflow patterns, can be mapped with BPMN 2.0. Every scenario can be implemented with BPMN 2.0. Since the same BPMN 2.0 process representation is used throughout the entire lifecycle, from the collection of process requirements, through implementation, to the practical application of processes, all participants can communicate with each other, contribute ideas and thus continuously improve the process.


More efficiency, quality and transparency

BPMN 2.0 not only generates great increases in efficiency and quality, but also in transparency, which allows users to see where a process stands at any time. An evaluation of historical processes and data-based process improvements is also possible. For the execution of BPMN processes a workflow engine required. This engine performs four elementary tasks: The control of the sequence flow, the orchestration of system calls (the so-called service tasks) and the orchestration of human interactions (the so-called user tasks), as well as the reaction to events.

To develop such basic functions from scratch is demanding and expensive. Therefore it is advisable to use one of the already existing commercial or open source BPMN 2.0 workflow engines.

UMB also employs BPMN 2.0 within the company - among other things for our innovation process, our internal control system, the opening and mutation of customer data, and the automatic reconciliation of master data in our core systems.

Modeling and automating business processes brings many advantages. There is a whole range of good modeling tools available for this purpose. One of them is the open source Camunda Modeler[iii].

To learn more about process automation or BPMN 2.0 please contact us.


[i] http://www.bpmn.org/

[ii] https://camunda.com/bpmn/reference/

[iii] https://camunda.com/de/products/camunda-bpm/modeler/