BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) - Modern Flowcharting

Flowcharts have traditionally been created using symbols that were standardized in ISO 5807:1985. This now antiquated standard has remained unchanged since its introduction (it doesn't even address swimlanes). As the flowcharting needs of businesses changed, it was an international, open membership, not-for-profit organization called the Object Management Group® (OMG®) that standardized today's modern flowcharting symbols. This standard is "Business Process Model and Notation" (BPMN). And unlike the ISO standard, this standard is free. If you've never heard of BPMN, you're in for a treat!

The BPMN symbols are included in all of the most popular flowcharting software applications… and several other free flowcharting applications. While similar to the legacy ISO 5807 symbols, the BPMN symbols allow you to create MUCH more specific flowcharts communicating greater detail to the user(s).

For example, the legacy ISO 5807 “Decision” (Diamond) symbol limited users to only one input resulting in a selection of only one of 3 possible outputs! In contrast, BPMN allows for more sophisticated flowcharting (aka “modeling”) - such as using “AND”, “OR”, “AND/OR“, and “EVENT” gateways (with their own unique symbols) and much more.

Gateway Meaning
Exclusive “OR” gateway. The process will proceed when ONE of the specified conditions is met (e,g., Yes/No). This could be described as an “If/THEN” gateway.
Inclusive “AND/OR” gateway. The process will proceed when EITHER (or both) of the specified conditions are met.
“AND” (parallel) gateway. The process will not proceed until ALL conditions are met.
Event-Based gateway (e.g., Router/Traveler/Work Order is not released to production until all required material has been received).

And some common “Event” symbols are…

Event Meaning
Intermediate “Send” message (throw). The double circle indicates an “intermediate” event.
Intermediate “Receive” message (catch).
Intermediate “Condition”. The process flow STOPS until this condition is met.
Intermediate “Timer”. The process flow STOPS until the specified time has passed. For example, “Allow product to cure for 15 minutes”.
Escalate and END. The thick circle indicates that the process ends; while the upward arrowhead indicates “escalation”. For example, suppose a corrective action has exceeded its due date for resolution with no response or action by the process owner. The process should “Escalate issue to management”.

The “Task” symbol is virtually identical to the legacy symbol… except that additional detail can be added by including an icon within the Task box. For example, a “Hand” inside a Task box means that it is a manual task (WITHOUT using a computer). The “User” (Person silhouette) symbol means that a computer was used… such as typing a report or generating an online NCR.

Once you learn what the symbols mean, these are very easy to create. Check out the following examples…

ISO 9001:2015 Flowcharts

The BPMN diagrams shown below depict the generic ISO 9001:2015 requirements for 8.7 “Control of Nonconforming Outputs” & 10.2 “Nonconformity and Corrective Action”.

I created these diagrams using the free (open source) “Camunda Modeler” diagraming software, which is available from: https://camunda.com/download/modeler/. While there is no “standard” color for the symbols, Green is typically used to start a process, Red indicates the end of a process, and Blue calls attention to intermediate events.

ISO 9001:2015 Control of Nonconforming Outputs Diagram

ISO 9001:2015 “Control of Nonconforming Outputs“ Diagram. Created using “Camunda Modeler”

You'll also notice that the ”Contain the Nonconformity“ and ”Disposition the Nonconformity“ tasks include a small box containing a ”+“ symbol. This indicates that this task is a subprocess… containing other steps not specifically identified here (I usually describe those sub-processes using text in the associated procedure).

ISO 9001:2015 Nonconformity and Corrective Action Diagram

ISO 9001:2015 “Nonconformity and Corrective Action” Diagram. Created using “Camunda Modeler”

AS9100:2016 Flowcharts

And the BPMN diagrams shown below depict the generic AS9100:2016 requirements for 8.7 “Control of Nonconforming Outputs” & 10.2 “Nonconformity and Corrective Action”. These diagrams are slightly more complex than the ISO 9001 diagram because AS9100 includes additional requirements.

AS9100:2016 Control of Nonconforming Outputs Diagram

AS9100:2016 “Control of Nonconforming Outputs” Diagram. Created using “Camunda Modeler”

AS9100:2016 Nonconformity and Corrective Action Diagram

AS9100:2016 “Nonconformity and Corrective Action” Diagram. Created using “Camunda Modeler”

Free BPMN Software


While “Camunda Modeler” is very basic, Diagrams.net (Draw.io) offers a more comprehensive (with a much steeper learning curve) free BPMN diagramming program. "Bonita Studio" is a good compromise between “Camunda Modeler” & “Draw.io”. But ultimately, personal preferences may dictate which appeals most to each user.

Note that all of the programs default to the traditional (legacy) flow chart symbols. So you must select for them to use the BPMN symbols.

Web-Based BPMN

Video Tutorials

Check out these short videos (which actually focus on the web-based "Cawemo", but the desktop version (“Camunda”) works the exact same way):

BPMN Tutorial - Part 01: Simple BPMN Process in 3 min

BPMN Tutorial - Part 02: XOR Gateway in 4 min

BPMN Tutorial - Part 03: Parallel Gateway in 5 min

BPMN Tutorial - Part 04: Pools and Lanes in 2 min

BPMN Tutorial - Part 05: Message Events in 4 min

There are a TON of other BPMN tutorial videos from other people.

Free Books

The Ultimate Guide to BPMN2 https://www.bonitasoft.com/system/files/documentation_library/ultimate_guide_to_bpmn2_280116.pdf

The Ultimate Guide to BPMN2 (Updated) https://go.bonitasoft.com/ultimateguidebpmn-EN.pdf

While these are hardly the “ultimate” guide, they both offer a nice little introduction to BPMN and are very good in explaining what the symbols mean.

Also, a free symbol “reference” is here: https://camunda.com/bpmn/reference/

Other Resources