How to get started with business process modeling

Business Process Management

Vendr | Elevate your procurement strategy with our advanced software tools and expert partnerships
Written by
Vendr Team
Published on
March 29, 2022
Read Time

Vendr | TwitterFacebook iconVendr | LinkedIn

Teams need a simple way to visualize and optimize their business workflows so they can achieve a top performance. Enter business process modeling. It’s one of the best ways for teams to keep a finger on their daily operations and the efficiency of their inputs and outputs. 

Without a comprehensive way to document and survey every part of their workflow, teams risk underperforming because of unresolved hidden bottlenecks and inefficiencies. To unlock the multiple benefits of business process modeling, it’s important to understand what it is and why it’s worth using. 

Here’s what this guide will cover:

Let’s dive in. 

What is business process modeling (BPM)?

Business process modeling is the act of creating a visual outline of a data-driven workflow or process. It’s a way to create in-depth flowcharts that give you a glimpse into:

  • The tasks that happen within a workflow
  • Who owns the decisions made within the workflow
  • Hidden bottlenecks and inefficiencies 
  • Resources (data, time, skills, manpower) used in a workflow
  • The overall efficiency of the process from beginning to end

Business process modeling tools can help you create a graphical representation of complex processes. What makes each process model accessible is the standardized approach to how they’re created. For example, to create a BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) process you’d use standardized symbols to represent specific tasks. 

Here’s a quick rundown of each symbol:

  • Arrow/line: Used to show the general flow of a sequence or workflow
  • Rectangle: Symbolize specific tasks within a workflow
  • Oval: Signify where models start and where they end
  • Swimlane: Vertical “lanes” in a process model that show who owns specific parts of a process
  • Diamond: Used to show decision-making points or gateways within a process

Introduced in the 1920s by Frank Gilbreth, business process modeling was used in the mechanical industry designed to help teams identify the best way to approach output. The general philosophy around the process, largely established by Gilbreth, is that you first need to audit your processes and document them. Only then are you able to optimize them efficiently. 

Gilbreth especially understood one thing: Just about every component of a process is affected by every other one. 

This means if you change one component, you have to account for the ripple effect it has on the rest of them. Efficiently implementing changes within a workflow without completely re-engineering your process flow is only one of the advantages of process modeling. 

Why use business process modeling?

The list of benefits of business process modeling is long. The following  are just a few reasons why BPM is an approach worth using for effective business management:

Uncover inefficiencies

Business process models make it easy to point out the inefficiencies within a workflow. That’s good news. It means you can improve and optimize your approach to completing a work objective as much as possible. 

Uncovering inefficiencies ensures every stakeholder within a process can count on a system that’s reliable, predictable, and repeatable. It’s one of the best ways to standardize a process and eliminate confusion within existing processes.

Document processes:

Documenting business processes keeps your team engaged and on the same page. It helps team members set and pursue clear business objectives as a singular source of truth. 

Audit resource usage

Responsibly managing resources is one of the best ways to optimize operations and reduce waste. Business process modeling eliminates redundancies, which means resources like data, time, money, or manpower can be distributed in a way that bears higher returns. 

Set achievable expectations

Right along with communication and documentation, setting achievable expectations for your team with a process model eases the collaborative process. 

Rather than having your team work from a disjointed approach to a workflow, a business process model helps establish order as systems are streamlined and optimized for peak efficiency. 

Increase communication

Process maps ensure teams work from one source of truth. This leads to less confusion, miscommunication, and missed deadlines. Business process modeling also helps you communicate with incoming team members that need to get up to speed on established workflows. 

Top business process modeling techniques

Unified Modeling Language (UML)

UML diagrams are useful within the context of software development because they’re an object-oriented chart that showcases the relationship between the elements in a system. There are a number of different UML process diagrams that serve a variety of purposes. It’s best used to depict object-oriented processes. Though it can be used in the context of business modeling, this modeling technique can be more challenging to interpret. 

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

Enterprises and organizations that manage complex processes use the BPMN system along with its standardized symbols to define and describe business processes. 


BPMN diagrams help analysts and consultants visualize and plan a business process from beginning to end to either:


  • Gain a competitive edge
  • Add new steps to a process
  • Add specific details to business tasks
  • Communicate with technical developers

Data flow diagrams 

Much like the name implies, data flow diagrams showcase the flow of data within a system. Data diagrams are helpful for teams that need to visualize where data enters a process, leaves a process, where it’s stored, and the direction it generally flows.

Data flow diagrams are useful because they standardize the visualization of a process well enough that different departments within an organization can work from it as a reference point. It eases communication between teams and accelerates the collaboration process. 

Petri Nets

Petri Nets are colorful representations of synchronized processes. It’s a great way to simulate and tweak systems with high interdependency. As a process model, it has its origins in mathematics and uses equations to test processes out and improve them. Petri Nets are useful because they’re able to depict sub-processes that happen at the same time. 

Swimlane diagrams

Swimlane diagrams shine a light on what parts of a diagram each department within an organization is responsible for. One of the perks of using a swimlane diagram is that it enforces accountability. 

Even as tasks are handed off to the next department within a lane, the swimlane diagram helps you look into any resources you might be wasting or inefficiencies you might not catch with other diagrams. Swimlanes also make it easy to integrate workflows between teams with fewer inefficiencies. 

Process flowcharts

You might have heard of flowcharts before. And that’s because they’re a pretty common way to document processes that are useful in many different settings. Process flowcharts are simple. So they aren’t the best visual representation to work with if you’re working with a complex process. For instance, a process flowchart can give you a glimpse into the lifecycle of an employee onboarding system in HR. 

Gantt charts

Breaking down complex tasks within a workflow into sub-tasks can help teams visualize a process that works on a timeline. Agencies that manage projects with deadlines can benefit from using Gantt charts to ensure their production system is running on schedule. 

Additionally, Gantt charts help with managing dependencies. Any time you want to make a change to a task, it’s great for seeing how it affects the rest of the process. If you’re needing to optimize how you manage resources, Gantt charts can come in handy. 

Reduce your time managing your SaaS business processes with Vendr

Business process management and SaaS procurement are made easy with process modeling that streamlines your productivity. When you combine SaaS management tools with people-powered outsourced procurement, you get a dream team combination that helps you establish new processes, visualize sequence flow, and work from templates. 

Learn more about perfecting your SaaS purchasing process for maximum efficiency. 

Vendr Team
Vendr's team of SaaS and negotiation experts provide their curated insights into the latest trends in software, tool capabilities, and modern procurement strategies.

Similar posts

Learn more about finding, buying and managing your SaaS stack with resources from our experts.

What is business process automation? Five examples of BPA.

Vendr Team

Business Process Management
What is business process automation? Five examples of BPA.

Discover five powerful examples of business process automation and use them to fuel efficiencies and drive compliance in your organization.

Read post
Invoice automation: How it works and why it's essential

Vendr Team

Business Process Management
Invoice automation: How it works and why it's essential

Explore the benefits of invoice automation in this comprehensive guide. Learn how technologies like optical character recognition, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing invoice processing.

Read post
Supercharge your financial planning with these FP&A software tools

Vendr Team

Business Process Management
Supercharge your financial planning with these FP&A software tools

Looking for the best FP&A software to streamline your financial processes and drive business growth? Discover the top-tier tools here.

Read post