3 (and only 3) Reasons to Use BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation)

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a standardized notation for creating visual models of business or organizational processes.

Those new to BPMN understandably find it overwhelming. There are flow objects, connecting objects, swim lanes, and artifacts. And that’s just the categories within the notation. Overall, there are over 40 different elements, each with rules about when it can and cannot be used.

(In contrast, our quick list of workflow diagramming elements in the Business Process Analysis course contains the 5 elements that are used by the majority of practicing business analysts.)

If you are new to business analysis, looking at the skill set for models completed in alignment with the BPMN standard might stop you in your tracks.

As it should.

For all of us, new to business analysis or not.

(Before I forget, be sure to download our free business process template.)

When to Use BPMN

In my experience, there are only 3 good reasons for using BPMN notation.

  1. You find yourself stuck using the handful of most commonly used workflow diagram elements to represent a concept. In this scenario, it makes sense to selectively draw from BPMN to model the process.
  2. Your organization requires you to use it. If this is the case, the application of BPMN should be tied to a larger organizational objective. It also typically means you are completing more formal modeling that is implementable in business process management tools.
  3. You are applying for a job you are otherwise qualified for that requires knowledge of or experience with BPMN notation. By all means, learn the techniques and create a few work samples using the notation.

Unless one of these 3 reasons applies, using BPMN for the sake of doing BPMN can do more harm than good.

Risks of Using BPMN

And there are many risks to using BPMN, when it’s not expressly needed.

  • The models we create are more difficult for our stakeholders to understand, potentially leading to business processes that include incorrect information.
  • It’s more complex for us to create models, meaning we need more analysis time to deliver the same amount of value, unless the use of the notation is specifically tied to other business objectives.
  • We’re more likely to make modeling mistakes, which decrease rather than increase the clarity of our process flows.

Like any analysis tool in your business analyst tool belt, choose BPMN with care. And if you are just starting out as a business analyst, it’s probably going to make more sense for you to pursue business analysis jobs requiring workflow diagrams and process models rather than those requiring BPMN techniques. BPMN is an advanced technique and you can learn it once you’ve mastered the more fundamental skills of a business analyst.

>>Download Your Free Business Process Template

Get started analyzing a business process today, with our complimentary business process template.

  • Help business users from multiple departments clarify their actual step-by-step workflow;
  • Avoid wasting money on software solutions that don’t solve the right business problems;
  • And even helping new business analysts figure out what questions to ask when starting on a new project or domain.

Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project.

Click here to download your free business process template today

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Laura Brandenburg

Quick Start to Success
as a Business Analyst

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