Advanced Information Systems Engineering

Volume 5074 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 465-479

How Much Language Is Enough? Theoretical and Practical Use of the Business Process Modeling Notation

  • Michael zur MuehlenAffiliated withHowe School of Technology Management, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • , Jan ReckerAffiliated withFaculty of Information Technology, Queensland University of Technology

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The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is an increasingly important industry standard for the graphical representation of business processes. BPMN offers a wide range of modeling constructs, significantly more than other popular languages. However, not all of these constructs are equally important in practice as business analysts frequently use arbitrary subsets of BPMN. In this paper we investigate what these subsets are, and how they differ between academic, consulting, and general use of the language. We analyzed 120 BPMN diagrams using mathematical and statistical techniques. Our findings indicate that BPMN is used in groups of several, well-defined construct clusters, but less than 20% of its vocabulary is regularly used and some constructs did not occur in any of the models we analyzed. While the average model contains just 9 different BPMN constructs, models of this complexity have typically just 4-5 constructs in common, which means that only a small agreed subset of BPMN has emerged. Our findings have implications for the entire ecosystems of analysts and modelers in that they provide guidance on how to reduce language complexity, which should increase the ease and speed of process modeling.


BPMN Language Analysis Process Modeling