BPMN 2.0 Course. Part 1: Introduction, Start events.

Business Process

To understand what BPMN is, let’s first delve into the concept of business processes and explore how they become more intricate and grow alongside the company. Consider this scenario: you work at a small car cleaning company. A customer arrives, parks his car next to the garage door, and proceeds to the office. Here, he hands over the keys, opts for an exterior car cleaning and interior carpet vacuuming. Subsequently, he settles down on a chair while you take his car inside, clean both the exterior and interior as requested, and then drive it out of the building. The customer’s credit card is charged for the chosen services and he receives his car key back. This is a simple business process that begins when the customer enters your small car detailing station’s office and ends when he departs with his keys.

The process is straightforward and easy for everyone working there to understand. However, it doesn’t always have to be this simple. As your detailing company expands, you begin offering additional services such as cockpit cleaning and seat cleaning. The manner in which seats are cleaned can vary depending on the material they’re made from. You also provide a detailed cleaning service, for which the client needs to leave the car with you for an entire day.

Furthermore, you recommend and sell specific cleaning products and cosmetics tailored to the car. You wouldn’t want to sell an alloy rim cleaning product to a customer with steel wheels, for instance. Leather seats need special cleaning and moisturizing lotions, but certain types of expensive leather require unique, specialized products. It’s this complexity that turns your initially simple business process into something much more detailed and nuanced.

As your successful business begins to scale, growth starts to pick up momentum. Initially, this involves adding a few new cleaning stations and employees. However, before long, your expansion reaches other cities and towns. Onboarding new staff proves to be somewhat challenging, but with the support of more experienced employees, the new recruits begin to hit their stride. Managers from different locations meet weekly to discuss how to enhance customer service and drive further improvements.

Yet, as the years roll by and growth continues, things become progressively more complex. To manage this, you decide to implement a customized financial system, specifically tailored to your company’s unique needs. Furthermore, you’re planning to move online to offer an extended range of services. This includes selling car cosmetics and accessories that are compatible with specific car models, as well as providing customers the convenience of booking their car cleaning appointments online.

New software implementation

At this point, you engage two teams from distinct technology companies. One is tasked with adapting their financial system to suit your operations, and the other is commissioned to develop an online application. These teams are undoubtedly experts in their respective fields, but they have little knowledge of the nuances of car cleaning and detailing.

It’s at this juncture you realize that within your company, there’s no one who truly grasps the entirety of the business process. Complicating matters further, the processes employed across various branches significantly differ. Plus, modifications are necessary to incorporate the new functionality of online booking. You find yourself navigating a labyrinth of challenges that have emerged alongside your company’s growth and diversification.

Business process management is a prevalent challenge for growing companies. It complicates the process of restructuring the organization and presents even greater hurdles when implementing IT systems and automation.

Now, the significance of robust business process management comes to light:

  • By illuminating the inner workings of the company, it empowers informed decision-making.
  • It bolsters the quality of work by promoting efficient practices.
  • It streamlines the scaling of the company and onboarding of new employees, fostering effectiveness.
  • It paves the way for cost reduction by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies.
  • It underpins automation and digital transformation, propelling the company into the future.

When process management involves large companies, it necessitates some form of representation that can be stored, modified, and shared. This representation could be developed in any manner that proves beneficial to your organization. In this course, I’ll introduce the most commonly used type of graphical representation of business processes. Although the standard encompasses a broad range of components, it can prove incredibly useful even without mastering every detail.


A Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard is a notation and a way to express and understand business processes in graphical notation. The standard was developed by the Object Management Group (OMG), which is a not-for-profit technology standards consortium. OMG originally took over the stewardship of BPMN from the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI) in 2005 and has been responsible for its development since then, including the release of BPMN 2.0 in January 2011.

Maturity and Universality

As a mature standard, it assures you that you can portray any necessary scenario in an uncomplicated manner. It has been thoroughly developed and refined over time, thus ensuring its versatility.

Valuable Skillset

This standardization is widely adopted and recognized, making it a beneficial skill to learn. Its common usage can stimulate motivation amongst you or your employees to acquire this skill.

Broad Accessibility

The standardized approach is intuitively designed, making it easy for a large number of individuals to understand and modify. This includes potential employees or business partners, fostering wider comprehension and collaboration.

Availability of Affordable Tools

An abundance of cost-effective and efficient tools exist that support this standard. These tools often provide capabilities for import and export in universally accepted formats, promoting seamless interoperability.

Opting for a standardized approach not only streamlines communication but also offers a practical, universally accepted, and economically advantageous method for business process visualization.

First diagram

Let’s take a look at our first, and relatively simple, diagram that describes the car washing service process.

Even for someone who has never worked with BPMN before, the diagram is relatively easy to understand. A quick glance allows you to grasp how the process works. During this course, we will delve into the details of such elements elements of diagrams, and as we continue to expand our car washing service, we’ll create and explore new processes. Let’s begin with the initial event.

Start event

The Start Event is a crucial part of any process, as it defines the initial point that sets the entire process in motion. Each process level (including subprocesses, which we’ll discuss later) can contain only one Start Event. The Start Event is represented by a thin circle, which may contain a symbol depending on the type of event.

Message start event

A Message Start Event in BPMN represents the start of a process that is triggered by the receipt of a message. This implies that the process is initiated by some form of communication from an external participant. In our car wash scenario, it could involve receiving a phone call from a customer who wants to schedule a cleaning. Alternatively it could also be:

  • Received an order in an ecommerce platform.
  • Ticket created in a customer support system.
  • Invoice received in a financial department.
  • New employee onboarding form submitted in a recruitment company.

It is represented by a thin circle containing an envelope.

Timer start event

A Timer Start Event in BPMN represents the start of a process that is triggered by the passage of a specific amount of time or at a particular time. The Timer Start Event is depicted as a circle with a clock icon inside it.

If the car wash opens from monday to saturday day at 8 AM, it triggers several actions, such as turning on equipment and preparing materials. Another examples of start events:

  • End of month financial close in accounting process.
  • Daily system backup that happens in an IT system.
  • Annual performance review

Conditional start event

A conditional start event in BPMN represents the start of a process that is triggered by a specific condition becoming true. The event is represented by a symbol of a list inside a circle.

This could trigger certain actions when there are no cars waiting in the queue, such as cleaning the car wash or replenishing materials. Other examples of Conditional Start Events include:

  • Inventory below threshold that triggers the process of restocking the materials.
  • Overdue payment in financial process can trigger sending a reminder.
  • High traffic on website that triggers scaling up the servers in the cloud.
  • Performance below standard that requires performance improvement process.

Signal start event

A signal start event in BPMN process represents the start of a process triggered by a signal coming from a different process or business activity. The signal can be used in many places, hence can trigger multiple processes.

Examples of those signals:

  • New order paid – information that triggers shipment process.
  • Policy Update Signal: In a corporate process, a “Policy Update” signal could start processes to update internal documentation, training, and employee communication.
  • Quality issue reported by the shipping team can trigger a sequence of actions such as the preparation of a replacement product, initiation of a quality assurance investigation, and communication with the customer.

The event is represented by a thin circle with an upward triangle inside it.

In a car wash, if an employee reports that the vacuum cleaner is not functioning, this triggers actions such as calling a repair service and rescheduling affected customers.

Subprocess start events

The events we’ve described so far are ones that can be used in top-level processes. However, there are other types of start events specific to sub-processes. We’ll merely touch upon those at this stage:

Choosing the right type of event

Determining the type of start event can be challenging in many situations. Take the example of a ‘Damaged Vacuum Cleaner.’ This could fit both the Signal and Condition start event categories. In a scenario where an employee is likely the source of this information, it would typically be considered a signal. However, if there is a scheduled routine check procedure, you could opt for the Conditional Start event. It’s important to avoid ambiguity and swiftly decide on an option that aligns best with your business context. Remember, the purpose of selecting a type is to make the business process easier to understand. When creating your diagram, consider a viewer who is unfamiliar with the business – your goal should be to accurately and effectively communicate the process start to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *