Business process modeling

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Business process modeling
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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


  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