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BPM and BPMN: A Concise Explanation

Dec 10, 2015 | BPM

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you noticed the title and thought, “At last, a concise explanation of BPM and BPMN.  This is going to be great!”  It is not likely (however possible) that we may both be sorry by the end of our time together.  Consuming my reader’s digest explanation of BPM and BPMN may be as challenging as distilling the subject into short form!

Am I crazy?  Absolutely.  Are you crazy?  That all depends on whether you just answered that question aloud for others in the office to hear.  Regardless, fear not; this former public educator has your back.  Also, if you happen to be researching BPM and BPMN for the first time, consider this post a primer for further exploration.  To delve deeper, feel free to drop your questions and comments below.  I would be happy to reply.

What is BPM?

Business process mapping exists as a way of visually representing the processes of an enterprise for analysis.  Such analysis can reveal patterns of inefficiency that cost corporations a fortune in lost time and opportunity.  BPM is a codified method for improving business processes leading to greater efficacy and profit.

The bottom line: business process mapping pictorially delineates how work is accomplished in an organization.  

What is BPMN? 

Business process modeling notation (which when complete can appear as anything from a benign diagram to a Tim Burton impression of Charlotte’s Web) is the pictographic language utilized to achieve the aforementioned BPM task.  Although a process map may delineate a highly-sophisticated business procedure, it can also be used to reflect simple processes.  This requires that BPMN be a flexible method of notating business processes.  The end result is a language that is relatively limited in scope and easy to apprehend.  The following may be considered the four (4) basic “words” of the BPMN language.







It is worth stating that these four (4) “words” can have different meanings and functions depending on their context.  You may have noticed in the video that some Activities represent human tasks (these are shaded green on process maps) while another represents an automated task (these are shaded blue on process maps).  Gateway types are manifold; however Gateways (despite the different situations in which they can be applied) always represent pre-planned deviations or confluences in the process map flow.  Events (such as start and end Events) act as anchor points in the process map flow.  In future posts, I will explicate these elements further.

Understanding the basic function of BPM is seminal to determining the strong points in an organization’s business process.  It is equally important for determining areas which may need improvement.  Now that you have a snapshot overview of BPM and BPMN, feel free to reflect on the following questions:

  • What are BPM and BPMN in your own words?
  • How can BPM and BPMN be utilized to improve an organization’s efficacy and profit margin?
  • Why might you want to introduce BPM and BPMN to your organizational leadership? 

For a demonstration of BPMN in action, watch the short demonstration video below.