BPM (Business Process Management) is a set of related activities, such as process modeling and design, process execution, process monitoring, and process optimization. This Refcard provides an overview of the BPM lifecycle together with the roles and results of business process modeling. It gives an overview of the BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) and presents the most important BPM patterns.
A business process lifecycle covers the following phases (Figure 1):
Figure 1: BPM process lifecycle
KPIs are financial and non-financial metrics used to help an organization define and measure process efficiency. Examples of a KPI are “Average revenue per customer”, “Average time for response to a customer call”, “ Average order amount”, etc.
Business activity monitoring (BAM) is real-time observation of key performance indicators.
Why do we Model Business Processes?
|Design new business processes||Focus on business goals, KPIs, customer needs, and business partner expectations.|
|Model existing business processes||Assure the right flow of activities.
Identify normal flows and possible exceptional flows.
Identify inputs and outputs of activities.
Identify key documents and sources.
Identify business rules.
|Restructure existing business processes||Focus on the activities and their added value. Focus on lines of business and their relations. Model responsibilities and roles.|
|Development of endto-end IT support for business processes||Detailed modeling of process flow.
Detailed modeling of data, documents, business objects, and
Detailed exception handling.
Who should take part in process modeling?
The team should include different profiles and encourage looking at the process from different angles. This is particularly important for optimizations. Four to six people is usually an optimal team size. The following table lists the various profiles that should comprise the team:
|Line of Business Expert||Good, in-depth knowledge of the process.|
|Process Owner||Responsible for|
|Moderator||Responsible for the meeting, for asking questions for leading the discussion into the right direction.|
|Modeling Expert||Responsible for design the process model (during and after the meeting).|
|QA Owner||Responsible for the alignment of processes in aspect of total quality management.|
How do we model?
|Top-down||We start with the process architecture. First we identify the major process activities and their flow. Then we model each activity into more detail.||
|Bottom-up||We start with the identification of activities. We model sub processes and business transactions and merge them into processes.||
|Inside-out||We start with core processes. We expand them with adding support processes around core processes.||
The Inside-out approach is usually the most pragmatic approach to prcess modeling. Provide a brief explanation of why it is the most pragmatic approach.
|As-Is model||We model the process as it is currently executed. Knowing the current as-is state is necessary for any future optimizations. We need to clarify whether we will model the process as it should be performed, or as it is performed in reality. Often there are significant differences between the two. When we model the as-is process we should not make on-the-fly modifications - not even those which seem obvious. We should however make notes of all possible modifications for the to-be process model.|
|To-Be model||We model the optimized model, where we should consider:
How to approach designing a process model:
We should model the process to understand the detailed structure of it. We should identify at least the following:
Below is the most conventional approach for designing a process model, in order of occurrence:
Figure 2: Process model for each individual process
Figure 3: Results of Business Process Modeling
BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) is a graphical notation for business process modeling. The objective of BPMN is to support business process modeling for business and technical users. It provides a notation that is intuitive yet able to represent complex process semantics. BPMN is maintained by the Object Management Group.
Flow objects are the main BPMN constructs that define the behavior of a business process. There are three categories of flow objects:
Figure 4: Activity types and markers
Figure 5: Types of gateways
Figure 6: Events, event triggers and results
Connecting objects are used to connect flow objects to each other and to other information. There are three categories of connecting objects: Sequence flow ( see Figure 7), Message flow ( see Figure 9), Association ( see Figure 11).
|Defines the order of execution of flow objects.|
|Sequence flow with a condition (conditional flow).|
|Default flow, which is chosen if none of the conditions are satisfied.|
Figure 7: Sequence Flow
Figure 8: Construct that can be connected via sequence flow (blue shaded field represent a legal connection)
|Shows the flow of messages between two entities.|
Figure 9: Message Flow
Figure 10: Construct that can be connected via message flow (blue shaded field represent a legal connection)
Figure 11: Association
Figure 13: Swimlanes and pools
Figure 14: Artifacts
|In order to model an exception flow, we use intermediate events attached to the boundary
of an activity. If such event is triggered during the activity execution, the flow is redirected
through the intermediate event.
|Example: The activity
Check With Supplier
of the example
process has an
event attached to
its boundary. If the
supplier does not
provide a response
within a certain
remove the item from
|Workflow Pattern Description:
An activity starts after completion of another activity.
Activities are connected by a sequence flow directed towards the subsequent activity.
checking if the
supplier can provide
the necessary items
in the Check With
Supplier task, we
notify the customer
about their order in
the Notify Customer
|Workflow Pattern Description: A path diverges into two or more parallel subsequent paths. The subsequent paths execute concurrently.|
|BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in several ways:
|Example 1: After receiving payment for the order we prepare the ordered items for shipment and issue the receipt concurrently.|
|Solution 1: Parallel split
with outgoing sequence
|Solution 2: Parallel split using
a parallel gateway
|Solution 3: Parallel split using
an expanded sub-process
|Example 2: If the order items are in stock we send the confirmation of the order to the
customer and reserve the ordered items in the inventory. These tasks are performed in
parallel. Otherwise we check if the supplier can deliver the items
|Solution 1: Parallel split using an inclusive gateway
||Solution 2: Parallel split using a parallel gateway
|Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into one subsequent path. The
subsequent path is enabled when all the preceding paths complete (and-join).
|BPMN: The Pattern can be implemented in two ways:
|Example 1: After preparing the ordered items for shipment and issuing the receipt, we ship
the package to the customer.
|Solution 1: Synchronization using a parallel gateway.
||Solution 2: Synchronization using an expanded sub-process.
|Workflow Pattern Description: A path diverges into two or more subsequent paths. When
the incoming path is enabled exactly one of the subsequent paths is selected and enabled.
|BPMN: We use an exclusive gateway.|
|After analyzing the order
we check whether the
customer has provided
a promotional code.
If a promotional code
is provided we collect
discount information and
use it to calculate final
price. Otherwise, we
calculate final price for the
order without discounts.
|Example 1: Exclusive choice with data-based exclusive gateway
|After we notify the
customer about the
earliest possible delivery
of the ordered items, the
customer may change the
ordered items, confirm the
proposed date or cancel
the order. If the customer
does not respond in a
certain timeframe an
intermediate timer event is
|Example 2: Exclusive choice with event-based exclusive gateway
|Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more alternative paths converge into a single
|BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in two ways:
Note: The behavior is the same in both cases provided that the incoming sequence flows are alternative.
|Example: The two alternative paths used to calculate the final price of the ordered items are merged using the exclusive merge or by sequence flows leading to the “Check Inventory” task.|
|Solution 1: Simple merge with exclusive merge gateway
||Solution 2: Simple merge with sequence
flows to a flow object
|Workflow Pattern Description: A path is diverged into two or more subsequent paths. One or
more subsequent paths may be executed.
|BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in several ways:
|Example 1: Based on requirements the customer specified in the order, we confirm the order
via e-mail, by regular mail or both. Example solutions 1 nd 2 represent equivalent behavior.
|Solution 1: Multi-Choice with an inclusive gateway
||Solution 2: Multi-Choice with conditional sequence flows
|Example 2: An order from the received order
list may concern one or more departments.
Depending on this, one, two or all three
subsequent branches can be executed.
|Structured Synchronizing Merge (Synchronizing join)|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into a single subsequent path. Several incoming paths may be enabled, in which case they are synchronized before the subsequent path is activated. In different process instances different number of incoming paths may be taken.|
|BPMN: We use an inclusive gateway.|
|Example: Based on requirements the
customer specified in the order, we confirm
the order via e-mail, by regular mail or both.
If both activities are required to be executed,
paths have to be synchronized before the
process can continue.
|Multi-Merge (Multiple Merge)|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Two or more paths converge into a single subsequent path. Each Incoming path activates the subsequent path.|
|BPMN: We use sequential flow for every ending of a converging path directed towards the flow object of the beginning of the subsequent path.|
|Example: We confirm the order via e-mail, by
regular mail or both. if either of the activities
takes place, the order information file needs
to be updated.
|Arbitrary Cycles (Unstructured Loop)|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Loops that have more than one entry or exit points.|
|BPMN: Sequence flow connected to an upstream activity.|
|Workflow Pattern Description: A task or a subprocess is repeated while or until some condition is true.|
|BPMN: We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
|Example: After receiving a list of orders the
Process Order subprocess is performed
for every order until the end of orders is
reached in the list.
|Multiple Instances without Synchronization|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. They run concurrently and are not synchronized on completion.|
|BPMN: We set the values of activity attributes as follows:
|Example: For every order in the order list an
instance of the Process Order subprocess
is invoked. The subprocess instances are
executed concurrently. Every instance
generates a token that continues after the
instance is completed.
|Multiple Instances with a Priori Design-Time Knowledge|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances is known at design time. They run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.|
We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
|Example: If a request for a loan exceeds
1000 USD the loan needs to be checked for
approval by 3 eligible employees.
|Multiple Instances with a Priori Run-Time KnowledgeWorkflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances depends on various run-time factors. Instances run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.|
|Workflow Pattern Description: Multiple instances of a task or a subprocess are created. The number of instances depends on various run-time factors. Instances run concurrently and are synchronized at completion before the process continues.|
|BPMN: We set the attributes of the activity as follows:
|Example: The process receives a list of all
orders. The expression of the MI_Condition
attribute depends on the number of orders
in the list, which can be different for every
process instance. For every order in the
order list an instance of the Process Order
subprocess is created. The subprocess
instances are executed concurrently. After all
the subprocess instances are completed, the
|Workflow Pattern Description: A process or a subprocess instance terminates when there is nothing else to be done and it is not deadlocked. The instance has completed successfully.|
|BPMN: The pattern can be implemented in one of the following ways:
|Example: In the example process there are two alternative paths that the process instance
can take. If the order cannot be fulfilled, the customer is notified. After this the end event is
reached and the process completes. If the order can be fulfilled several activities take place
and ordered items are shipped. After this the process reaches an end event and completes.
|Workflow Pattern Description: Aprocess or subprocess terminates and the remaining work is cancelled.|
|BPMN: We use a terminate end event.|
|Example: In the example, the process splits into two parallel paths after order analysis.
If additional documentation is required, the customer is notified. Even though order
preprocessing activities already take place, if the customer does not send the required
documentation in time, the process terminates explicitly and all the remaining activities are
BPM is essential for continuous improvement of business process efficiency and effectiveness with the overall goal to produce business results faster, cheaper, better. This Refcard has provided the overview of the BPM lifecycle, presented the BPMN notation and demonstrated the most important patterns.
M.B. Juric, R. Loganathan, P. Sarang, F. Jennings: SOA Approach to Integration, November 2007. OMG: Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), Version 1.2, January 2009.
M.B. Juric, P. Sarang, B. Mathew: Business Process Execution Language for Web Services 2nd Edition, January 2006. H. Gaur, M. Zirn, et al.: BPEL Cookbook: Best Practices for SOAbased integration and composite applications development, July 2006.
Wil van der Aalst, Arthur ter Hofstede, et al.: Workflow Patterns, http://www.workflowpatterns.com/.