BPMN Related Terms

We live in so-called “exponential times”, where companies and their businesses are evolving at an ever-increasing speed. A method for these companies to stay competitive is the continuous investigation of new approaches, technologies, and materials that enable the introduction of new products or services.

However, these new products and services usually tend to be complex in themselves, and in regard to their particular functions. Thus, mastering processes for new products or service developments, and how they must be adapted for end-users and successful management, have become key elements in achieving competitiveness in a modern enterprise.

The above statements are just some of the many reasons why business process management (commonly abbreviated as BPM) is becoming so important. BPM represents a disciplined approach to “working” with automated and non-automated business processes in order to achieve consistent and targeted results that are aligned with an organization’s strategic goals.

Working with processes means “taking care” of processes, which commonly consists of following activities: identifying, designing, executing, automating, documenting, monitoring, controlling, and measuring business processes – commonly known as a Plan-Do-Check-Act process improvement cycle. By involving these activities, the BPM approach allows organizations to become more efficient, more effective, and more capable of change when compared to the traditional functionally-focused and hierarchical management approaches.

Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)

BPM’s success depends on having transparent, constantly improving business processes, which mostly results from business process modeling. Business process modeling is abbreviated by some as BPM, which interferes with business process management abbreviation. In order to avoid such misconception, it can be abbreviated as BPMo. BPMo is concerned with the representation of organizational processes, so that current processes may be analyzed and improved in the future. BPMo is not just a requirement for many ISO 9000 quality programs, but also plays an important role in the implementation of work-flow management and enterprise resource planning systems.

In order to be understood by teams and become interoperable between IT tools, BPMo must be based on standardized notations or languages that are usually symbol-based or graphical. Besides a diversity of vendor-based and non-standardized notations, two standardized graphical notations for business process modeling exist: Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

The main difference between the two is that UML is object-oriented, where BPMN takes a process-oriented approach, which is more suitable within a business process domain. This is why BPMN is becoming the global leader and de-facto standard for BPMo and BPM.

If we model using  BPMN, we are graphically representing a business process in the form of a business process diagram (BPD). BPDs are commonly used to represent, analyze and implement the current (“as is”) and improved (“to be”) processes. So, it is of great importance that BPDs reflect the real-world processes accurately and precisely. BPDs are commonly equated with business process models, however, a model is a more generic term. A business process model can also be a non-visual model (e.g. a program code or XML file) suited for being deployed on a business process engine.

It can be argued that a well-designed BPD, which is based on a standardized notation, such as BPMN, can positively affect most BPM activities and improve both, intra- and inter-organizational communication, not mention collaboration. The result is well-established and flexible BPM, which is continuously improved and adaptable to business requirements – a precondition for staying competitive in the turbulent external environment of today.

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Gregor received his PhD in 2008 in the fields of software engineering and information systems and has nearly a decade of experience in BPMN, starting to investigate and actively use BPMN since its introduction in 2004. In addition, he has participated in the development of one of the first BPMN modeling utilities - a package of plugins for Visio, which were introduced early in 2005 and is the main author of the first BPMN poster (bpmn.itposter.net), which has been translated into several languages and already exceeded 50.000 downloads.