Technology | Workflows

Workflows and BPMN

Words by Alex Matheson
Workflows and BPMN

Are you still confused by what a workflow is or how BPMN works? Do you find yourself asking how these concepts fit together? We’re here to answer those questions.

What is BPMN used for?

Business process model and notation (BPMN) is a toolbox that any business can use to map their business processes. The notations refer to a graphical specification that uses specific iconography that represent things such as tasks, activities, gateways, and connections. Pieced together, they’re a way of providing a simple, graphical representation of the processes within a business.

By codifying these elements and giving them a visual and universal language, you can apply BPMN to any business. While each element will be specific to a business and process within that business, each element can also be reused and retitled to define an infinite number of elements within other parts of a business or other businesses entirely.

What does workflow mean?

A workflow is the logical progression from one step to the next in a business process. BPMN is just one way that workflows can be annotated and represents the different elements in the process, and workflow is the journey of that process from element to element.

It’s entirely possible that a workflow could be a straight line. Start with activity x then move on to activity y and finish off with activity z. Businesses tend to be complex creatures though and the processes within them reflect that. So a business flow needs to take into account points where processes repeat themselves, or branch off, or the duties within a process get split between different people or departments.

How do I implement a BPMN workflow?

Ask yourself the five w’s – Why, who, what, when, where.

  • Why – Why is this business process important?
  • Who – Who is involved, which departments, which suppliers, etc?
  • What – What needs to be done to achieve both an end result and progress within the process?
  • When – When do things need to happen and when is a result expected?
  • Where – Where does everything take place (onsite, offsite, between locations)?

With these elements clear, begin assigning your BPMN elements. Tasks are given task icons, connections are used to connect elements, relevant branches in a process are marked with gateways.

You’ll need to note everything up so that anyone looking at your mapped process can tell what everything is and why it’s in there.

Then you execute the process. In pure BPM, this is simply carrying out the business process, referring back to your map as necessary.

A process that’s mapped and followable is what we’d call an MVP, or a minimum viable process. Inspired by the lean concept of a minimum viable product.

How does Atlas extend the BPMN workflow?

Software such as Atlas Play uses an advanced standard of BPMN, known as BPMN2.0, to help business analysts and continuous improvement engineers map their businesses’ processes, but sometimes businesses need more than BPMN2.0 has to offer.

Atlas Play Role Management

Role management within Atlas Play is a powerful tool that helps you make the most out of BPMN. By assigning user roles rather than just users, you can create workflows that are more flexible and offer more engagement with more people within your business. Users can embody a number of different roles and tasks are shared between diverse users with compatible skills.

Atlas Play/Boost Data Management

Atlas Play is enhanced by data and Atlas Boost allows you to enhance that data! With Atlas Boost, you can take true control of your data, creating custom dashboards and AI bots that can be used to make your processes more powerful, automated and impactful.

Atlas Optimise Resource Management

Not knowing what’s going on with your resources is a source of unsustainability in business. Atlas Optimise enables resource management in an accessible and scalable way. Everything that your business uses, produces, or is involved with can be tracked, traced and understood.

Atlas Edge and IoT Management

Cloud computing is the most powerful and scalable technological advancement to hit businesses in the last century. With Atlas Edge you can make the cloud work like it’s on premise. Ultra low latency connection to the cloud through edge data centres and onsite containers combined with totally integrated IoT management makes 4IR dreams a reality.

How do I improve a BPMN workflow?

Here’s where things get exciting, because the world is really your oyster when it comes to improving your business processes. Within Atlas Play you can improve your business processes based on the data they collect. You can spot areas for improvement or where waste might be occurring. You can be sure the right people are doing the right things at the right time.

Beyond that you can begin to automate. Try integrating other systems your business uses into your mapped processes and having them spin up as part of the process themselves. Automation in business processes is your ticket to ultimate efficiency.

To be more sustainable you can integrate your supply chain systems into your processes. Processes can be run and repeated based on stock levels, supply availability and end product demand. You can minimise waste and maximise efficiency in your logistics.

At the end of the day, BPMN and workflows are tools that you can use to understand your business better. With the right software and a good understanding of these fundamentals, you can do great things. Atlas is here to provide the software and the know how, so jump on board!