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Microsoft Visio 2010 : Creating and Validating Process Diagrams - Understanding BPMN, Creating and Validating BPMN Diagrams

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Understanding BPMN

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) was created to represent work processes in diagrams that are readily understandable by business people, yet are rich enough in detail to allow IT departments to translate process maps into technical specifications. The goal for BPMN is to enhance communication about processes across an organization. For automated processes, BPMN diagrams can serve as a bridge between process participants and the IT staff that build systems to support their work.

At one level, a BPMN diagram is like a flowchart or swimlane diagram. However, the symbol set is significantly larger than the one used for a conventional flowchart or swimlane diagram. This one fact leads both to strong advocacy for and strong resistance to BPMN.

Advocates assert that it is the combination of visual richness and underlying data attributes that allows BPMN diagrams to convey complex system and human interactions. Critics complain that the sheer number of symbols and symbol variants is off-putting to many people; they feel it makes diagrams more complex and less understandable to the business people who are half of the intended audience for BPMN.

The creators of BPMN have worked hard to make BPMN usable by a larger number of people. One result is that BPMN 2.0 defines a smaller working set of shapes and symbols that will be familiar to anyone who has created traditional flowcharts. However, Visio Premium 2010 implements BPMN 1.2 and does not, therefore, include the smaller working set. Having more shapes available in BPMN 1.2 is not inherently a bad thing, but the number of shape variations can be confusing.

The first thing to know about creating BPMN 1.2 diagrams from the Visio Premium 2010 template is that there are four core shape types: Events, Activities, Gateways, and Connecting Objects, with multiple variations of each.

The BPMN 1.2 symbol set includes the following:

  • Three types of Events, classified as Start, Intermediate, and End, and represented by different kinds of circles.

    Understanding BPMN

    There are five subtypes of Start events, eight Intermediate events, and seven End events; each subtype is represented by a symbol inside one of the circle variants.

  • Two Activity types, tasks and subprocesses, each of which has multiple variations.

  • Six Gateway types.

  • Three Connector types, representing sequence flows, message flows, and associations between shapes, with several condition attributes for sequence flows and direction attributes for associations.

If you create process documentation in any form today, or expect to in the future, it is worth learning more about BPMN.


Creating and Validating BPMN Diagrams

Important

The Visio BPMN template supports version 1.2 of the BPMN standard.

Microsoft provides five stencils with the Visio 2010 BPMN template. The key masters in the first stencil, BPMN Basic Shapes, include the primary Event types described in the previous section, a generic Gateway, and a basic Activity type called a task (see the graphic on the left). The other four templates present all of the variations of one shape category. In the center and right graphic, you see the Gateways and Connecting Objects, respectively.

Important
Important
Important

Although the five templates provide every possible BPMN map variant as a separate master in a stencil, it’s important to know that all of the BPMN shapes are chameleon-like shapes. For example, you can right-click any Activity shape to transform it into any other Activity type. The same is true for Events, Gateways, and Connectors.

In this exercise, you will start with a partially completed BPMN diagram of a theater box office ticketing process. You will set a trigger for the start event that launches the process, add a task and a gateway to offer the purchaser alternatives if the requested seats are unavailable, and set BPMN subtypes for various shapes.

Set Up

Tip

In the document you just opened, the masters in the stencils have colored backgrounds, unlike those in the previous graphics. This is because the diagram for this exercise includes a theme.

  1. Right-click the Start shape.

    The right-click menu includes two BPMN entries at the top that provide the “chameleon” features referred to the introduction to this section. The Event Type entry lets you change the current shape to any other event type. The Trigger/Result entry lets you select a subtype for the Start event.

    Set Up
    Set Up

    Each type of BPMN shape has its own set of right-click menus.

  2. With the right-click menu open, point to Trigger/Result, and then click Message. The start shape displays a white envelope, indicating that a message triggers the launch of this process.

  3. Drag a Task shape from the BPMN Basic Shapes stencil, position it above the Seats available? shape, and drop it on the connector labeled No. The Visio 2010 AutoAdd feature splits the connector and inserts the new shape.

  4. With the new task still selected, type Offer alternate seats, and then press Esc.

  5. Drag a Gateway shape from the BPMN Basic Shapes stencil, position it above the Print tickets shape, and drop it on the unlabeled connector.

  6. With the new gateway still selected, type Accept alternate seats? and then press Esc.

  7. Use the AutoConnect arrow under the Accept alternate seats? shape to draw a connector to the top of the Print tickets shape.

  8. With the new connector still selected, type Yes.

  9. Click once on the connector from the Accept alternate seats? shape to the End shape, type No, and then press Esc.

    See Also

    To finish this exercise, you will mark each task with a BPMN symbol to designate the task type.

  10. Right-click the Check seat inventory shape, point to Task Type, and click User.

  11. Right-click Offer alternate seats, move to Task Type, and click User.

  12. With the Offer alternate seats shape still selected, point to Loop, and click Standard.

    A loop symbol appears in the task shape, indicating that this task will be repeated until certain conditions are met. You will describe those conditions with a text callout in the next step.

  13. Drag a Text Annotation shape from the BPMN Basic Shapes stencil, attach it to the Offer alternate seats shape, and type Continue until customer accepts or rejects alternate seats.

  14. Right-click the Print tickets shape, point to Task Type, and click Service to indicate that this activity is performed by a system.

  15. Right-click the Send or hold tickets shape, point to Task Type, and click User.

    See Also

    There is also a set of rules provided for validating BPMN diagrams. Many of the same connectivity rules are included in the BPMN rule set; however, because BPMN diagrams can be more complex, there are many additional rules.

    In the final step of this exercise, you will validate your BPMN drawing.

    image with no caption

    Check Diagram

  16. On the Process tab, in the Diagram Validation group, click the Check Diagram button.

    Visio displays a dialog box reporting “Diagram validation is complete. No issues were found in the current document.”

Clean Up

Save your changes to the Theater Ticketing Process drawing but leave it open if you are continuing with the next exercise.

The ticketing process used in this exercise is deliberately very simplistic. You could easily argue that more of the steps are automated in most theater box offices and that there should be other tasks involved. All of that is true, but the purpose of this exercise is to learn a bit about BPMN and not to create the ultimate theater ticketing process.

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