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Quick guide

BPMN Glossary



Work that a person or an organization performs in a process. Activities fall into three categories: Task, Subprocess and Call Activity. They can be atomic or non-atomic.


A visual element that provides information on the process or elements in the process. An Artifact doesn’t affect the process flow.


A graphical element that connects an Artifact to a Flow Element such as a Text Annotation.

Atomic Activity

An Activity that can’t be broken down into a finer level of detail. Tasks are atomic activities.


Boundary Event

Represents an Event that can be triggered when an activity is running. Used for error and exception handling.

BPMN Model

A graphical representation of a business process that is also machine-readable (XML format).

BPM System

The software and tools used in Business Process Management (BPM).

Business Analyst

A person who analyzes and documents an organization’s business, products, services and systems to improve current business processes.

Business Process

A series of linked tasks performed by people and systems in a specific sequence that produces a service or product, or achieves a business goal. It receives, processes and transfers information and resources to produce an output.

Business Process Management

A discipline where an organization analyzes Business Processes globally and individually to improve efficiency and reliability. It involves the modeling, automation, execution and optimization of business processes from start to end with the aim of achieving specific business goals.


Call Activity

A reference to a predefined process in another diagram of a process that can be used multiple times to maximize reusability within the model.


An exchange of Messages between any two Participants in a BPMN model.

Collapsed Subprocess

A Subprocess that hides the process it contains.

Connecting Element

Lines that connect Flow Elements in a process to form a Flow. There are four types of connecting elements: Sequence Flows, Message Flows, Associations and Data Associations.

Controlled Flow

The path a process can take based on different conditions. The path is represented by a Sequence Flow and Gateways or Sequence Flows can represent the conditions that fork the Flow of the process.


Data Association

A graphical element used to show the flow of information between Data Elements and Activities. It defines the order of the flow of data in a process.

Data Elements

Represent the data produced, stored or collected in a business process. There are four types of data element: Data Input, Data Output, Data Object and Data Store.

Data Input

The data required to perform a process or Activity.

Data Object

Represents physical or digital information used in a process.

Data Object Reference

Graphical representation of a Data Object.

Data Output

The result produced by a process.

Data Store

Represents an IT system, application, folder or archive used in a process.

Data Store Reference

Provides a mechanism to reuse Data Stores in the same diagram.


The canvas where business processes are mapped.



The building blocks for creating processes. They can be Flow Elements, Connecting Elements, Data Elements, Artifacts and Swimlanes.

End Event

Indicates the end of a process. An End Event can have a Message, Error or Signal result.


Represents a critical problem in the processing of an Activity or when the execution of an Activity or process has failed.


Something that occurs during a process. It affects the Flow of the process and usually has a trigger and/or a result. There are four types of Event: Start, Intermediate, End and Boundary.

Event-Based Gateway

Represents a point in the process where alternative paths are triggered by an Event.


An Event in the process that alters the Normal Flow of the process. Time, Error and Message Events can generate exceptions.

Exception Flow

A Flow that occurs outside the Normal Flow of the process. An Exception Flow routes the process Flow on an exception path that’s determined by the conditions of an Intermediate Event.

Exclusive Gateway

Represents a point in the process where multiple alternative paths are possible but the process can only take one path. The decision for which path is based on a condition.

Expanded Subprocess

A Subprocess that shows the process it contains.



A sequential representation of a process that shows single direction connections between different elements in a process or Collaboration.

Flow Elements

The graphical elements that define the behavior of a Business Process: Activities, Events and Gateways.


When a path diverges into two or more parallel paths. Also known as “AND-Split”.



An element that controls the path that a process can take. A gateway can consolidate or split paths, or provide additional paths based on a condition or Event. There are four types of Gateways: Exclusive, Parallel and Event-Based.


Intermediate event

Evaluates conditions and situations that cause events and can initiate alternative paths.



When two or more parallel Sequence Flows converge into one path using a Parallel Gateway. Also known as “AND-Join”.



Sub-partitions within a Pool. They’re used to allocate activities to roles, systems or departments.



When two or more parallel Sequence Flow paths converge into one path using multiple incoming Sequence Flows or an Exclusive Gateway. Also known as “OR-Join”.


Represents the content of a communication between two Participants. The message is broadcast via a Message Flow.

Message Flow

Shows the flow of Messages that are sent and received by Participants.


Non-atomic Activity

An Activity that can be broken down into a finer level of detail. A Subprocess is non-atomic. Also known as a “compound” Activity.

Normal Flow

Represents the flow of a process that begins with a Start Event, proceeds through Activities and ends in an End Event.


Parallel Gateway

Represents a point in the process where a Flow splits or merges into multiple parallel paths.

Parent Process

A process that contains a Subprocess.


A business entity such as an organization, department, unit or role.


Represents a Participant in a process.

Private Business Process

An internal process within an organization that doesn’t show interactions with external Participants. Also known as “Workflow” or “BPM Process”.


Sequence Flow

Defines the order and behavior of the Flow Elements in a process.


An Event that is broadcast to everyone involved in a process.

Start Event

Indicates where a process starts.


A self-contained, Compound Activity embedded in the process that can be broken down into smaller units of work.


Pools and Lanes. Swimlanes visually separate processes according to the Participants that perform them.



An action performed by a person, an application or both.

Text Annotation

Provides additional information about the elements in a diagram.


An abstract concept in BPMN that represents the status of a process instance within the sequence of actions and events that occur during a process. It begins at a Start Event, flows through Activities and terminates at an End Event. It helps to describe the behavior of a process as it is being performed.


A mechanism that identifies a specific condition or circumstance in a Start Event or Intermediate Event and generates a response.


Uncontrolled Flow

A Flow that doesn’t have any conditions and doesn’t pass through a Gateway.

Business Process Management the Cardanit way

A business is only as efficient as its processes. What are you waiting to improve yours?