Quick guide

BPMN Glossary and Terminology



Work that a user or organization does during a business process. In a Process Model there are three types of activities: Process, Sub-Process and Task.


A visual object giving detailed information on the Process or its elements which doesn't influence how the Process flows.


An object joining information and Artifacts with Flow Objects. It’s depicted as a dotted graphical line with an arrow marking the direction of the flow.

Atomic Activity

An atomic activity in the hierarchy of the Process activities, represented as a task in BPMN.


Business Analyst

A person who analyzes an organization needs and documents, its business, processes, or systems, consulting with its stakeholders. Assessing the business model or its integration with technology, the Business Analyst defines, manages, and monitors the requirements into business processes

Business Process

A detailed set of tasks performed in an organization to achieve a business objective.The Business Process receives, uses and transfers information and resources to produce an output.

Business Process Management

A discipline including any possible mix of modeling, automation, execution, control, measurement and optimization of business processes supporting the organization’s goals and involving internal and external stakeholders (employees, customers and partners) and systems.

BPM System

A software and all technological tools supporting Business Process Management (BPM)


Call Activity

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


An exchange of messages between any two participants in a BPMN model.

Collapsed Sub-Process

A sub-Process hiding the details of the flow. It uses a small square with a plus sign inside of it to differentiate it from a Task.

Compound Activity

A detailed activity defined as a flow of other activities. It’s a branch in the hierarchy of Process Activities. In BPMN it is visualized as Process or Sub-Process.

Controlled Flow

A flow going from one Flow Object to another, through a Sequence Flow link, but is depending on either conditions or dependencies from other flows as determined by a Gateway. It is usually visualized as a Sequence Flow between two activities with a mini-diamond (conditional indicator) or a Sequence Flow connected in a Gateway.



A gateway in a business process where the Sequence Flow can follow different alternative paths.


End Event

An Event showing the end of the process. The End Event cannot have any outgoing Sequence Flow since it is the last part of the Process flow. The End Event can have a Result showing as a marker at the center of the End Event shape. This Result may be: Message, Error and Signal.The shape of the end event is a circle with a thick single line.

Event Context

A group of activities which may be suspended by an Intermediate Event (an activity or a group of activities in an expanded Sub-Process).


An Event happening during the Process enabling a change in the Normal Process Flow. Intermediate Events, such as time, error, or message, can generate an exception

Exception Flow

A Sequence Flow path coming from an Intermediate Event placed on the boundary of an activity. The process never starts the Exception Flow unless the boundary Intermediate Event is activated.

Expanded Sup-Processes

A Sub-Process showing how it’s structured within its Parent Process. Depicted as a rounded rectangle large enough to contain/show the Flow Objects.



A one-direction connection between the different elements present in a Process, Collaboration or Choreography. A Flow generally represents the progression of a Process or a Process Segment.

Flow Object

Any object linked to or from a Sequence Flow: Events, Activities and Gateways in a Process, Events, Choreography Activities.


A specific part of the process when the Sequence Flow path divides in two or more paths that can run in parallel, so different activities can be performed at the same time rather than separately. Also known as ‘AND-Split’, a Fork is the result of multiple outgoing Sequence Flows from Activities or Events or a Parallel Gateway.


Intermediate event

An event happening after a Process has been started. An Intermediate Event changes the process flow by displaying where messages and delays can be expected. The Normal Flow is redistributed showing how the exception behaves or how an extra flow is created. Nonetheless, an Intermediate Event cannot start or end a Process. It’s displayed as a circle with a thin double line.



Also known as “AND-Join”, it’s a spot in the Process where two or more parallel Sequence Flows join into one Sequence Flow path. BPMN utilizes a Parallel Gateway to run a Join.



A part of the Pool used to coordinate and classify activities within the Pool itself. The Lane goes through the whole length of the Pool horizontally. Lanes usually represent either an internal role (Manager, Director, etc), or of a system (an enterprise application, etec), or of an internal department (Operations, Accounting, etc).



Also known as “OR-Join”, it’s a specific part of the Process where two or more alternative Sequence Flows join in one single Sequence Flow. Since no activity runs in parallel at the join point, there’s no need for synchronization. BPMN uses multiple incoming Sequence Flows for an Activity or an Exclusive Gateway to perform a Merge.


An Object displaying the details of a communication happening between two Participants. The message is broadcast via a Message Flow. It has its own identity that can be also utilized for an alternative branch of the Process via an Event-Base Exclusive Gateway.

Message Flow

A Connecting Object showing how messages between participants flow. A dashed line depicts the Message Flow.


Normal Flow

A flow coming from a Start Event which proceeds through activities on alternative and parallel paths till it gets to the End Event.


Parent Process

A Process with a Sub-Process within its boundaries


A business body (a company or its division or a customer) or a business role (a buyer or a seller) controlling or in charge of a business process. When using Pools, a Participant is associated with one Pool. In a Collaboration, Participants are informally known as “Pools”.


A container, showing a Participant in a Collaboration, which separates a Process from other Pools/Participants. A Pool can also be a “black box”, since it is not required to contain a Process.

Private Business Process

A Process internal to an individual organization, usually named workflow or BPM Process.



The effect of reaching an End Event. Results may be Message, Error and Signal.


Sequence Flow

A linking object showing how and when activities are performed in a Process, graphically depicted with a solid line. Each Flow has only one source and only one target. A Sequence Flow can intersect the boundaries between Lanes of a Pool but cannot cut across the boundaries of a Pool.

Start Event

An Event showing where a specific Process begins. The Start Event starts the flow of the Process and cannot feature any incoming Sequence Flow, but can include a Trigger. It’s depicted by a circle with a single thin line.


A Process contained in another Process. Sub-Processes may be collapsed in a view hiding their details or expanded in a view showing their details within the same view of the Processes they are included in.


A graphical container for dividing a set of activities from other activities. See “Pool” and “Lane” for the different types of Swimlanes.



An atomic activity included within a Process. It’s utilized when the work in the Process is not expanded to a lower level of Process Model detail. An application or an end-user (or both) usually execute a Task. A rectangle with rounded corners depicts the Task.


A token is a theoretical concept used to help describe how a Process behaves while being performed. How the elements of the Process behave can be outlined by depicting their interaction with a Token when it passes through the structure of the Process.


A Trigger is a mechanism that identifies a specific circumstance and can generate additional actions in response (for example the start of a business Process). A Trigger is linked to Start and Intermediate Events and may be one of the following: Message, Timer, Conditional and Signal.


Uncontrolled Flow

The Uncontrolled Flow progresses without any dependency or any conditional expression. It usually is a Sequence Flow between two Activities without a conditional indicator or an intervening Gateway.

Business Process Management the Cardanit way

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