Business process modeling

From CEOpedia | Management online

Business process modeling is used to abstract business processes by representing them graphically in a model. These models map a relevant section of the real world and attempt to represent the business process in a simplified way. In a business process model there are several activities that represent business functions and states within a company. These activities are organized in a meaningful sequence by a control flow, so that dependencies of the processes can be derived from the model.

There are numerous modeling techniques for business processes. Depending on the purpose of the analysis, appropriate models should be used[1].

Goals of business process modeling

Business process modeling is used to understand which business processes exist and how they run. It is an as-is analysis that requires the documentation of processes and may be necessary, for example, for the introduction of standard business software.

In addition, business process modeling serves to optimize corporate processes, as it enables weak points to be eliminated. Possible weak points include a lack of data integration, a lack of process integration, excessively long transport, waiting and processing times, or redundant activities[2].

Modeling Languages

Dufresne and Martin (2003) discuss the following modeling languages, which are composed of different models used for different purposes in business process modeling[3]:

  • IDEF is a group of modeling languages. From IDEF0 to IDEF5, there are five different modeling techniques specialized for different application areas. IDEF0, for example, models activities performed by an organization. The focus of the model is on inputs and outputs.
  • The Unified Modeling Language (UML) evolved from several incompatible representations for describing object-oriented software systems. The Object Modeling Group (OMG) ensured that a unified model was created from the many different models. The language consists of a number of different, loosely coupled model types, each serving a different purpose. These include class diagrams, use case diagrams, sequence diagrams, and package diagrams.
  • Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a graphical specification language for describing business processes and workflows. BPMN is an essential element of business process management and provides a detailed representation of the sequence of business activities as well as the information flows required for the successful implementation of a process. The main diagram elements of this language are activities, events and decision points.

Types of models

Dufresne and Martin (2003) address the following types of models used for business process modeling[4]:

  • Flowcharts have their origin in the field of programming. In this field, this modeling technique enabled the visualization of the logic and execution sequence of a program. In the flowchart, symbols are used to represent components of business processes, such as operations and data. The model illustrates the processes through flow directions that are used graphically in the model. Models of this type make it possible to define, analyze and solve problems. However, the model relies on a sequential flow that does not support breakdowns of activities.
  • Data flow diagrams focus on the data in an information system and show the sequence of processing steps through which the data passes. Each step documents an action that is performed to transform the data. Besides, they describe the flow of data between different locations or actors. In addition to process flows, they also depict interactions with data stores, showing how processes relate to users and the outside world.
  • Control flow diagrams are typically used to represent event-driven applications.
  • Functional flow block diagrams are used to represent the execution sequence of system functions. This modeling technique enables the representation of sequential and parallel operations in a process.
  • Gantt charts are used as a modeling tool in project management. These diagrams represent each task as a horizontal bar whose length was determined by the expected duration of the task. In addition to logic, these diagrams can also depict the sequence of tasks. Each row of the Gantt chart contains an ID composed of a number and a label. The chart provides information about the duration of the activities, the name of the person responsible and information about the project duration.
  • PERT diagrams are also used in project management and have the same purpose as Gantt diagrams. The difference is that PERT diagrams are better at representing sequences.

Author: Max Bachmann

Examples of Business process modeling

  • Process automation: Process automation is the use of technology to automate business processes. This type of modeling is used to define, analyze, improve and document the processes within an organization. Process automation can be used to automate manual processes, such as data entry, into automated processes. It can also be used to improve existing processes and make them more efficient.
  • Business Process Reengineering (BPR): BPR is a methodology used to improve organizational efficiency and performance by redesigning and restructuring existing business processes. BPR is used to identify problems and opportunities for improvement within an organization and to develop new ways of working that are more efficient, effective, and cost-effective.
  • Workflow Automation: Workflow automation is the use of technology to automate and manage the flow of work within an organization. It is used to define, analyze, improve, and document business processes. Workflow automation can be used to automate manual processes such as data entry, document routing, and approval processes.
  • Business Process Management (BPM): BPM is a method of managing and improving business processes. It is used to optimize and automate the processes within an organization. BPM is used to identify problems, develop new ways of working, and improve the performance and efficiency of existing processes.

Advantages of Business process modeling

Business process modeling has a number of advantages, including:

  • Increased visibility: By visually representing the processes, it becomes easier to understand the flow of tasks and activities in the business. This allows for better decision making and improved communication between departments.
  • Optimization: By modeling the processes, inefficiencies and redundancies can be identified and removed. This can lead to cost savings and improved efficiency.
  • Improved customer experience: By understanding the processes better, it is possible to improve the customer experience and ensure that customers are getting the best possible service.
  • Increased process control: Modeling the processes allows for better control of the processes and helps to ensure that the processes are followed correctly.

Limitations of Business process modeling

Business process modeling is a useful tool for abstracting business processes, but it has a few limitations to be aware of:

  • First, the models may not accurately reflect the real-world business processes, as they are simplified to make them easier to understand. This means that certain details may be overlooked or misrepresented, resulting in a less-than-accurate representation of the business process.
  • Secondly, the models can be difficult to maintain and update. As the business processes change, the models must be updated to reflect the new process. This can be time-consuming and may not be feasible for all businesses.
  • Finally, business process models are often complex and require specialized skills to create and interpret. This may make them inaccessible to those who are unfamiliar with the process and may not be able to understand the models.

Other approaches related to Business process modeling

Apart from Business process modeling, there are other approaches related to Business process management such as:

  • Business Process Reengineering (BPR): BPR is a process of redesigning the business processes in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs. It involves understanding the current processes, analyzing the gaps in existing processes, and redesigning them to achieve better results.
  • Process Automation: Process automation is the technology-enabled automation of activities that would traditionally be done manually. It helps streamline business processes, improve operational efficiency, and reduce costs.
  • Business Activity Monitoring: Business activity monitoring (BAM) is the process of measuring and tracking the performance of business processes. It helps organizations stay on top of their business processes and identify areas of improvement.
  • Business Process Improvement: Business process improvement is a process of continuously optimizing business processes to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This involves identifying areas of improvement, measuring performance and implementing changes to improve the process.

In summary, Business process modeling is the graphical representation of business processes. Other approaches related to Business process management include Business Process Reengineering, Process Automation, Business Activity Monitoring, and Business Process Improvement.


  1. Aguilar-Savén, 2004, p. 129
  2. Bušinska and Kirikova, 2016, p. 31
  3. Dufresne and Martin, 2003, pp. 8-10
  4. Dufresne and Martin, 2003, pp. 5-8

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