A Complete Guide to Business Development Process Flow


Despite your best efforts, you need more leads to hit your revenue goals. Your bottom line takes a hit and so does the growth rate. What's slowing the needle for your business? The lack of a well-structured business development (BD) strategy and team.

A dedicated BD team generates high-value leads that support your business growth over the long term. 

With a well-thought-out business development process flow, you can reach more prospects, qualify leads at scale, create compelling offers and maintain long-term relationships.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the process of business development and give you a step-by-step guide to creating a well-rounded business development strategy. Let’s get to it!

What is business development?

Business development creates growth and expansion opportunities for a business by developing strategic partnerships. Think of it as the spark plug that ignites the combustion engine running your company. 

A business development function designs and implements revenue-generating strategies in collaboration with the sales and marketing teams to boost a company’s bottom line.

Put simply, business development primarily involves:

  • Finding opportunities in a specific market.
  • Creating long-term value for the business.
  • Maintaining lucrative stakeholder relationships.

That said, it's important to note that the role of business development looks different in every organization. It can easily merge with the sales and marketing functions within a company. So, let's look at how business development stack up against sales and marketing.  

Business development vs. sales 

The business development process flow includes lead nurturing , but it doesn't involve closing deals—a sales team function. A BD representative prospects and qualifies a lead, whereas a sales executive converts the lead. BDRs also take care of the post-sale experience, building long-term customer relationships.

Business development vs. marketing

While business development involves transactional activities, marketing focuses on nudging the target buyers down the sales funnel. A marketing team warms prospective buyers to create a need for your product or service. Business development consultants convert this need into deals, bringing new sales through the right channels. 

A look into the ideal business development process flow

The business development process flow is a strategic step-by-step process starting from market research and prospecting to closing the deal and finalizing the paperwork. Let's break down each of these steps. 

business development process flow chart - starting with prospecting, lead qualification, creating an offer, lead nurturing, paperwork

Step 1: Prospecting to find new leads 

In simple terms, prospecting refers to finding new business opportunities. But at a granular level, it includes:

  • Knowing the product/service.
  • Conducting market research.
  • Identifying your competitive advantage.
  • Conducting a cost analysis from the buyers’ perspective.
  • Analyzing the target market size and its potential.

This step also includes a collaborative effort between the business development and marketing teams to expand your brand’s visibility. 

Once the marketing team has set the ground, business development ideas—like networking, sales demos and market segment analysis—come into practice.

Step 2: Qualifying leads to identify the ideal prospects

Prospecting will help you get leads in huge numbers. But there’s no way of knowing if these leads will convert. 

Lead qualification is when reps decide whether a prospective lead meets the characteristics of your ideal customer profile—in terms of pain points, budgets, time and other factors. 

To qualify these leads for the next steps of the buying process, you should:

  • Study their profile.
  • Discuss their decision-making process.
  • Compare your offering versus your competitors.
  • Assess their needs against the solutions you’re offering.

business development model diagram

Qualifying leads minimizes the time BD reps might waste on chasing prospects that don’t have the financial authority or functional needs for your product/service. It’s simply about separating the wheat from the chaff. 

Step 3: Create an offer

The essence of a strong business development strategy lies in creating a high-converting offer your leads can’t refuse. This is where you need to highlight the main value propositions every lead can resonate with.

Here are a few tried-and-true tips for creating an irresistible offer:

  • Carefully analyze all the information you’ve collected about a prospect.
  • Fully understand their needs and pain points that you can solve.
  • Create a solid proposal with the right words. 

Remember not to oversell your product/service in this offer. Be completely transparent to start a potential relationship on the right note. 

Step 4: Lead nurturing

All of your leads might not convert right after seeing an offer. About 96 percent of your website visitors may not be ready to make a purchase yet. 

Enter—lead nurturing.

It’s the process of nudging leads to the next step in the buying process by building healthy relationships before the deal goes through. Nurturing leads is about winning their trust without hard selling. Here’s how:

  • Provide free advice and consultations.
  • Align your sales and marketing functions.
  • Automate business processes to identify, categorize and target buyers.

You'd be surprised it takes around eight touches on average to convert a lead. So, include multiple approaches and touch points in your business development process flow to convert leads consistently. 

Step 5: Paperwork 

Once you close the deal, the final step is finishing the paperwork. Create a comprehensive sales close plan entailing all the clauses (and more) to ensure you and your clients are on the same page. It can include:

  • Cover page.
  • Contact details.
  • Package inclusions.
  • Payment terms.

Training BDRs for your business development process

Training and documentation is the most critical link in the chain if you're building a dream team for the BD function within your company. You need end-to-end process documentation to help BDRs and team leads create repeatable success. 

This is where Scribe can do the heavy lifting on your behalf. 

The documentation tool is designed for busy BD teams looking to create SOPs , stepwise guides and other resources quickly and conveniently. It's the perfect tool to keep all crucial information in one place—for example, this guide on using LinkedIn Sales Navigator . 

How to create your business development strategy: a 6-step guide

Without a detailed business development process, your reps will be left to take their own route with every lead. 

Create a full-fledged business development strategy to set your BD team up for long-term success and align their efforts with the sales and marketing teams. Here's a 6-step guide to follow:

1. Be crystal clear about your audience

Start with defining your target audience. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But there’s a lot more to it. Narrow down and create a framework that includes the types of buyers, age, gender, income and preferences, among other factors. 

Be as specific as possible because clearly defining your target audience will give you a better understanding of how you can reach them.

2. Understand the market & competition

Once you’re clear about your target audience, conducting a deep market analysis is the next step. Evaluate the market to determine where you stand. How, you may wonder?

Try to learn about your target customers’ needs and how you can fulfill them better than your competitors. 

Here’s how Google did it. In 2002, when AOL (America Online) was almost synonymous with the internet, Google closed the deal and won the competitive gain. How did they do it?

The tech giant built a relationship with AOL and beat its biggest competitor – Overture. This gave Google a competitive advantage for years to come.

3. Set goals & metrics to guide the team

Set clear, specific goals to ensure your team is always on the right track. Make these results measurable, time-bound and attainable so you can continuously monitor your team's progress. Goals are the key to unlocking business process optimization that reduces errors and enhances efficiency.

4. Create a realistic budget for the strategy

No matter how strong your strategy is, it can fall flat without a budget. Create a realistic budget to get all the resources required to hit all targets. That said, don’t keep yourself from pushing the budget a little. If your plan works out, you’ll be able to recover all of it.

5. Build systematic workflows for efficiency 

The business development process is a rather complicated one—a BDR would know that best. With so many moving parts in the process, it’s best to create a systematic workflow to implement your business development strategy. 

This workflow will also let your BD, sales and marketing teams function collaboratively throughout the implementation process.

business development process flow chart

Here are a few handy tools to build an airtight business development process:

  • Kissflow Process : It’s a no-code tool that helps organizations automate repetitive business processes and create workflows in tandem with stakeholders.
  • Zoho Creator : A non-technical person’s playhouse , Zoho Creator is a low-code app development platform for designing, developing and running business software.
  • Scribe : Every BDR’s haven, Scribe is a process documentation tool that lets you record a process and convert it into a step-by-step guide in a few seconds. ‍

6. Document your strategy & processes 

Creating an action plan is just the first step. You also need to document the entire plan to monitor the progress of your business development strategy and keep a close track of your team’s performance.

While documentation might seem like an unnecessary extra step to some, a documentation tool like Scribe can make it look effortless . It’s 15x faster than manual documentation , super convenient to use and easily accessible across devices—it can’t get any better than this!

Boost your bottom line with a strong business development program

The role of business development starts with identifying and reaching out to potential leads and ( never ) ends with building a lasting relationship with customers. 

A strong business development program is a non-negotiable aspect of running a business successfully. Use this start-to-finish to create a solid BD strategy and train your team to boost revenue while nurturing strong relationships with your prospects.

While at it, remember to optimize the business development process flow using tools like Scribe to ensure you achieve your goals as efficiently as possible!

Ready to try Scribe?

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What Is a Business Model?

Understanding business models, evaluating successful business models, how to create a business model.

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The Bottom Line

Learn to understand a company's profit-making plan

business development model diagram

Katrina Ávila Munichiello is an experienced editor, writer, fact-checker, and proofreader with more than fourteen years of experience working with print and online publications.

business development model diagram

Investopedia / Laura Porter

The term business model refers to a company's plan for making a profit . It identifies the products or services the business plans to sell, its identified target market , and any anticipated expenses . Business models are important for both new and established businesses. They help new, developing companies attract investment, recruit talent, and motivate management and staff.

Established businesses should regularly update their business model or they'll fail to anticipate trends and challenges ahead. Business models also help investors evaluate companies that interest them and employees understand the future of a company they may aspire to join.

Key Takeaways

  • A business model is a company's core strategy for profitably doing business.
  • Models generally include information like products or services the business plans to sell, target markets, and any anticipated expenses.
  • There are dozens of types of business models including retailers, manufacturers, fee-for-service, or freemium providers.
  • The two levers of a business model are pricing and costs.
  • When evaluating a business model as an investor, consider whether the product being offer matches a true need in the market.

A business model is a high-level plan for profitably operating a business in a specific marketplace. A primary component of the business model is the value proposition . This is a description of the goods or services that a company offers and why they are desirable to customers or clients, ideally stated in a way that differentiates the product or service from its competitors.

A new enterprise's business model should also cover projected startup costs and financing sources, the target customer base for the business, marketing strategy , a review of the competition, and projections of revenues and expenses. The plan may also define opportunities in which the business can partner with other established companies. For example, the business model for an advertising business may identify benefits from an arrangement for referrals to and from a printing company.

Successful businesses have business models that allow them to fulfill client needs at a competitive price and a sustainable cost. Over time, many businesses revise their business models from time to time to reflect changing business environments and market demands .

When evaluating a company as a possible investment, the investor should find out exactly how it makes its money. This means looking through the company's business model. Admittedly, the business model may not tell you everything about a company's prospects. But the investor who understands the business model can make better sense of the financial data.

A common mistake many companies make when they create their business models is to underestimate the costs of funding the business until it becomes profitable. Counting costs to the introduction of a product is not enough. A company has to keep the business running until its revenues exceed its expenses.

One way analysts and investors evaluate the success of a business model is by looking at the company's gross profit . Gross profit is a company's total revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). Comparing a company's gross profit to that of its main competitor or its industry sheds light on the efficiency and effectiveness of its business model. Gross profit alone can be misleading, however. Analysts also want to see cash flow or net income . That is gross profit minus operating expenses and is an indication of just how much real profit the business is generating.

The two primary levers of a company's business model are pricing and costs. A company can raise prices, and it can find inventory at reduced costs. Both actions increase gross profit. Many analysts consider gross profit to be more important in evaluating a business plan. A good gross profit suggests a sound business plan. If expenses are out of control, the management team could be at fault, and the problems are correctable. As this suggests, many analysts believe that companies that run on the best business models can run themselves.

When evaluating a company as a possible investment, find out exactly how it makes its money (not just what it sells but how it sells it). That's the company's business model.

Types of Business Models

There are as many types of business models as there are types of business. For instance, direct sales, franchising , advertising-based, and brick-and-mortar stores are all examples of traditional business models. There are hybrid models as well, such as businesses that combine internet retail with brick-and-mortar stores or with sporting organizations like the NBA .

Below are some common types of business models; note that the examples given may fall into multiple categories.

One of the more common business models most people interact with regularly is the retailer model. A retailer is the last entity along a supply chain. They often buy finished goods from manufacturers or distributors and interface directly with customers.

Example: Costco Wholesale


A manufacturer is responsible for sourcing raw materials and producing finished products by leveraging internal labor, machinery, and equipment. A manufacturer may make custom goods or highly replicated, mass produced products. A manufacturer can also sell goods to distributors, retailers, or directly to customers.

Example: Ford Motor Company


Instead of selling products, fee-for-service business models are centered around labor and providing services. A fee-for-service business model may charge by an hourly rate or a fixed cost for a specific agreement. Fee-for-service companies are often specialized, offering insight that may not be common knowledge or may require specific training.

Example: DLA Piper LLP


Subscription-based business models strive to attract clients in the hopes of luring them into long-time, loyal patrons. This is done by offering a product that requires ongoing payment, usually in return for a fixed duration of benefit. Though largely offered by digital companies for access to software, subscription business models are also popular for physical goods such as monthly reoccurring agriculture/produce subscription box deliveries.

Example: Spotify

Freemium business models attract customers by introducing them to basic, limited-scope products. Then, with the client using their service, the company attempts to convert them to a more premium, advance product that requires payment. Although a customer may theoretically stay on freemium forever, a company tries to show the benefit of what becoming an upgraded member can hold.

Example: LinkedIn/LinkedIn Premium

Some companies can reside within multiple business model types at the same time for the same product. For example, Spotify (a subscription-based model) also offers free version and a premium version.

If a company is concerned about the cost of attracting a single customer, it may attempt to bundle products to sell multiple goods to a single client. Bundling capitalizes on existing customers by attempting to sell them different products. This can be incentivized by offering pricing discounts for buying multiple products.

Example: AT&T


Marketplaces are somewhat straight-forward: in exchange for hosting a platform for business to be conducted, the marketplace receives compensation. Although transactions could occur without a marketplace, this business model attempts to make transacting easier, safer, and faster.

Example: eBay

Affiliate business models are based on marketing and the broad reach of a specific entity or person's platform. Companies pay an entity to promote a good, and that entity often receives compensation in exchange for their promotion. That compensation may be a fixed payment, a percentage of sales derived from their promotion, or both.

Example: social media influencers such as Lele Pons, Zach King, or Chiara Ferragni.

Razor Blade

Aptly named after the product that invented the model, this business model aims to sell a durable product below cost to then generate high-margin sales of a disposable component of that product. Also referred to as the "razor and blade model", razor blade companies may give away expensive blade handles with the premise that consumers need to continually buy razor blades in the long run.

Example: HP (printers and ink)

"Tying" is an illegal razor blade model strategy that requires the purchase of an unrelated good prior to being able to buy a different (and often required) good. For example, imagine Gillette released a line of lotion and required all customers to buy three bottles before they were allowed to purchase disposable razor blades.

Reverse Razor Blade

Instead of relying on high-margin companion products, a reverse razor blade business model tries to sell a high-margin product upfront. Then, to use the product, low or free companion products are provided. This model aims to promote that upfront sale, as further use of the product is not highly profitable.

Example: Apple (iPhones + applications)

The franchise business model leverages existing business plans to expand and reproduce a company at a different location. Often food, hardware, or fitness companies, franchisers work with incoming franchisees to finance the business, promote the new location, and oversee operations. In return, the franchisor receives a percentage of earnings from the franchisee.

Example: Domino's Pizza


Instead of charging a fixed fee, some companies may implement a pay-as-you-go business model where the amount charged depends on how much of the product or service was used. The company may charge a fixed fee for offering the service in addition to an amount that changes each month based on what was consumed.

Example: Utility companies

A brokerage business model connects buyers and sellers without directly selling a good themselves. Brokerage companies often receive a percentage of the amount paid when a deal is finalized. Most common in real estate, brokers are also prominent in construction/development or freight.

Example: ReMax

There is no "one size fits all" when making a business model. Different professionals may suggest taking different steps when creating a business and planning your business model. Here are some broad steps one can take to create their plan:

  • Identify your audience. Most business model plans will start with either defining the problem or identifying your audience and target market . A strong business model will understand who you are trying to target so you can craft your product, messaging, and approach to connecting with that audience.
  • Define the problem. In addition to understanding your audience, you must know what problem you are trying to solve. A hardware company sells products for home repairs. A restaurant feeds the community. Without a problem or a need, your business may struggle to find its footing if there isn't a demand for your services or products.
  • Understand your offerings. With your audience and problem in mind, consider what you are able to offer. What products are you interested in selling, and how does your expertise match that product? In this stage of the business model, the product is tweaked to adapt to what the market needs and what you're able to provide.
  • Document your needs. With your product selected, consider the hurdles your company will face. This includes product-specific challenges as well as operational difficulties. Make sure to document each of these needs to assess whether you are ready to launch in the future.
  • Find key partners. Most businesses will leverage other partners in driving company success. For example, a wedding planner may forge relationships with venues, caterers, florists, and tailors to enhance their offering. For manufacturers, consider who will provide your materials and how critical your relationship with that provider will be.
  • Set monetization solutions. Until now, we haven't talked about how your company will make money. A business model isn't complete until it identifies how it will make money. This includes selecting the strategy or strategies above in determining your business model type. This might have been a type you had in mind but after reviewing your clients needs, a different type might now make more sense.
  • Test your model. When your full plan is in place, perform test surveys or soft launches. Ask how people would feel paying your prices for your services. Offer discounts to new customers in exchange for reviews and feedback. You can always adjust your business model, but you should always consider leveraging direct feedback from the market when doing so.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, consider what competing companies are doing and how you can position yourself in the market. You may be able to easily spot gaps in the business model of others.

Criticism of Business Models

Joan Magretta, the former editor of the Harvard Business Review, suggests there are two critical factors in sizing up business models. When business models don't work, she states, it's because the story doesn't make sense and/or the numbers just don't add up to profits. The airline industry is a good place to look to find a business model that stopped making sense. It includes companies that have suffered heavy losses and even bankruptcy .

For years, major carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, and Continental built their businesses around a hub-and-spoke structure , in which all flights were routed through a handful of major airports. By ensuring that most seats were filled most of the time, the business model produced big profits.

However, a competing business model arose that made the strength of the major carriers a burden. Carriers like Southwest and JetBlue shuttled planes between smaller airports at a lower cost. They avoided some of the operational inefficiencies of the hub-and-spoke model while forcing labor costs down. That allowed them to cut prices, increasing demand for short flights between cities.

As these newer competitors drew more customers away, the old carriers were left to support their large, extended networks with fewer passengers. The problem became even worse when traffic fell sharply following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 . To fill seats, these airlines had to offer more discounts at even deeper levels. The hub-and-spoke business model no longer made sense.

Example of Business Models

Consider the vast portfolio of Microsoft. Over the past several decades, the company has expanded its product line across digital services, software, gaming, and more. Various business models, all within Microsoft, include but are not limited to:

  • Productivity and Business Processes: Microsoft offers subscriptions to Office products and LinkedIn. These subscriptions may be based off product usage (i.e. the amount of data being uploaded to SharePoint).
  • Intelligent Cloud: Microsoft offers server products and cloud services for a subscription. This also provide services and consulting.
  • More Personal Computing: Microsoft sells physically manufactured products such as Surface, PC components, and Xbox hardware. Residual Xbox sales include content, services, subscriptions, royalties, and advertising revenue.

A business model is a strategic plan of how a company will make money. The model describes the way a business will take its product, offer it to the market, and drive sales. A business model determines what products make sense for a company to sell, how it wants to promote its products, what type of people it should try to cater to, and what revenue streams it may expect.

What Is an Example of a Business Model?

Best Buy, Target, and Walmart are some of the largest examples of retail companies. These companies acquire goods from manufacturers or distributors to sell directly to the public. Retailers interface with their clients and sell goods, though retails may or may not make the actual goods they sell.

What Are the Main Types of Business Models?

Retailers and manufacturers are among the primary types of business models. Manufacturers product their own goods and may or may not sell them directly to the public. Meanwhile, retails buy goods to later resell to the public.

How Do I Build a Business Model?

There are many steps to building a business model, and there is no single consistent process among business experts. In general, a business model should identify your customers, understand the problem you are trying to solve, select a business model type to determine how your clients will buy your product, and determine the ways your company will make money. It is also important to periodically review your business model; once you've launched, feel free to evaluate your plan and adjust your target audience, product line, or pricing as needed.

A company isn't just an entity that sells goods. It's an ecosystem that must have a plan in plan on who to sell to, what to sell, what to charge, and what value it is creating. A business model describes what an organization does to systematically create long-term value for its customers. After building a business model, a company should have stronger direction on how it wants to operate and what its financial future appears to be.

Harvard Business Review. " Why Business Models Matter ."

Bureau of Transportation Statistics. " Airline Travel Since 9/11 ."

Microsoft. " Annual Report 2021 ."

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Beginners Guide to Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN)

By Kate Eby | November 28, 2016

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Although many big organizations still use the written word to describe their processes and requirements, a significant amount of evidence suggests that pictures are a better way to communicate. This is where modeling languages come in. Modeling languages allow companies to show their processes pictorially to minimize error and miscommunication. They can also be used to delineate responsibilities, find areas for improvement, and plan for future changes.

In this article, we look at business process modeling and notation (BPMN) as a standard of modeling languages for enterprises. We’ll discuss what it is, what it was, and how it should be used. We’ll review BPMN elements and extended elements in detail, as well as provide guidelines for modeling and tips for using the notation. We present examples of BPMN models, and finally, we’ll offer a method for choosing a BPMN tool.

What Is Modeling Notation and BPMN? An Overview

Process modeling notation is a language that’s readable to humans and that describes the structure and elements of a business sequence. The vocabulary is defined, and the language is organized such that we understand how it should flow and how the information is presented. As a data science, process modeling notation includes about 40 different elements, delineated with rules about their use.

This language tells stories about our work. By creating a model similar to a flowchart with this language, a business can capture, analyze, understand, automate, and even optimize their processes. As with any language, it’s important to learn the terms and rules of grammar. Since the 1960s, countless notations and their varying structures have come and gone. When it comes to a modeling notation, experts recommend that you choose a standard that is based upon your purpose, that it is supported by a wide number of tools, and that comes with training and references.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a standardized graphical notation that is used globally for business process modeling . It is open source, which means that the original code is available for anyone to change and use. The specification defines its symbols and shapes precisely.

BPMN starts and ends with the business process flow diagram. This is a technical map of an organization’s flow and practices, presented in a standardized language, and available for users to improve, share, and follow.

The Object Management Group (OMG) , a nonprofit technology standards consortium, governs and maintains BPMN. OMG offers several certification programs, including the OCEB Certification (OMG Certified Expert in BPMTM) for BPMN. The field of business process management (BPM) approves of standardization and often uses software (BPMS) that includes the BPMN language. Some are low-code platforms, meaning that the business can configure its BPMS to work with its incumbent software and needs.

The BPMN language is not owned by a commercial enterprise, though Trisotech is a commercial software and consulting company that helped develop BPMN by building on its standards internationally. It has also been involved in developing and setting BPM standards, XPDL, BPSim, and CMMN, and is considered a leader in BPMN consultation.

At its core, BPMN is intuitive. Even when staff members do not understand the exact symbols, they can figure out the meaning of the workflow. However, for more advanced users, the nuances are apparent. For example, in the simple process below, Lane 1 starts a task. This could be your company, which is the pool. Your department is Lane 1, which starts the process and completes the first task. The work is then sent to another department (in Lane 2), which sends it back for Task 3 and completion. This seems more complex with the standardized language, but if you add names, it is very clear. You can model this simplicity throughout your processes, even those that appear very complex.

Basic BPMNc Diagram

A simple BPMN process map

OCEB 2 Program

The OCEB 2 Program has five examinations, each offering a certification. After the Fundamental level, there is a track for business and another for technical. In the BPM world, these certifications assure employers that you understand not just the principles, but also the practice of BPM. The OCEB 2 Certification was designed by 25 BPM professionals from the commercial industry, with the intent of providing this assurance to their peers and prospective BPM employers. The certification gives BPM practitioners an edge over their uncertified competitors.

When to Use BPMN

Different users of BPMN describe it as simultaneously complex, simple, prohibitive, and helpful. There are certainly times when you will prefer to use this standardized language. Three reasons you would want to use BPMN versus another notation include:

Its use is tied to organizational objectives . In this scenario, your business would require a specific modeling notation language in order to stay consistent, especially if they have international business interests. Out of necessity, this modeling is generally more formal than most.

You commonly use the same handful of elements in a specific concept . In this scenario, you are able to draw selectively from BPMN as needed, and there is less concern about other users misunderstanding.

You want to show your breadth of BPM knowledge . Nothing says you are a BPM expert like understanding the modeling language designed specifically for it. When you apply for positions that require BPM expertise, this knowledge and experience could set you apart.

OMG merged with the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), the inventors of BPMN, in 2005. Since its inception, five releases of BPMN have followed. BPMN 2.0 arrived in early 2011. The five versions and their dates of release are below. Each version is linked to its official specifications.

BPMN 1.0, released May 3, 2004

BPMN 1.1 , released January 17, 2008

BPMN 1.2 , released January 3, 2009

BPMN 2.0 , released January 3, 2011

BPMN 2.0.2 , released January 3, 2014

BPMN was originally a modeling notation that was meant to give all stakeholders, from high-level decision makers to technical staff, a standardized language for diagrams. But with the release of version 2.0, BPMN became about models and notation. The difference is that instead of standardized models alone, BPMN offers a standardized XML (Extensible Markup Language) schema that can map between software tools. At this time, more than 80 tools support BPMN.

OMG originally developed the Business Process Definition Metamodel (BPDM) as a bridge between BPMN and software. BPDM describes the rules, constraints, and theories of BPMN so that software programs can map and use it with an XML syntax (such as the Business Process Execution Language, or BPEL). The originators thought users should be able to move process models from one modeling tool to another without losing information. According to OMG , “By providing a common, syntax-independent vocabulary for business process concepts, BPDM standardizes the way BPMN diagrams are stored and exchanged.” However, according to experts, the advent of BPMN 2.0 negates the need for BPDM. Further, experts say that BPEL does not fully support BPMN.

BPMN 2.0 also improves the following:

Semantics : The execution semantics (meanings) for all BPMN elements were formalized.

Notation : New diagram types were added with new contexts for use. These include choreography and conversation diagrams. Choreography diagrams center on the flow of messages and between-process interactions. These diagrams chiefly focus on the interaction between the pools. There is no central control, responsible entity, or observer. Conversation diagrams focus on conversations between the participants, showing a bird’s-eye view of the information exchange between participants. BPMN 2.0 also made improvements to events, adding non-interrupting events and event subprocesses. We discuss the event improvements in the “Extended BPMN Modeling Elements” section of this guide. With sub-processes, BPMN 2.0 added more than 50 new elements. Elements are the symbols that represent different parts of the process.

Technical : The formal meta-model was defined.

Choreography Diagram

Example of choreography diagram. The choreography diagram in the center represents the communication between the pools.

Conversation Diagram

Example of conversation diagram. Conversations diagrams show a different view and incorporate two new elements: the hexagon and the double line.  

According to some experts, not everything in BPMN 1.0 has a partner in BPMN 2.0. However, software packages are available that provide migration pathways to update older models.

OMG states that there will not be another version of BPMN for at least two to three more years. Since many users want a stable long-term platform, OMG is not in a hurry to get to BPMN 3.0. In 2014, OMG did release a complement to BPMN called the Decision Model and Notation (DMN), which provides a separation in the decision and the process. DMN was designed to work to connect with BPMN as a schema model in XML format via the identified processes and tasks, as well as through the decision knowledge base data type. In other words, BPMN shows the processes, while DMN models show how decisions are made in the processes.

BPMN’s main goal is to be a notation that all users can understand. This includes not only the businesspeople who manage all of the processes, but the business analysts and the technical developers. Other goals of BPMN include:

Provide a consistent structure.

Be highly readable throughout all levels of the process.

Ensure that the model is complete without any additional documentation required.

Be able to be shared with IT as an executable process.

Your BPMN diagram should represent not only business process activities, but can and should show the following:

Any information that is exchanged during process implementation.

Control checkpoints that show the sequence of data exchange and activity implementation.

Personnel roles and any needed additional personnel.

What information systems support the process.

How the process in regulated in the business rules and legal framework.

The implementation.

business development model diagram

BPMN Diagram Perspectives

Many organizations strive for interoperability, where different software applications and IT systems are able to communicate, exchange data, and use the information and knowledge from the exchanged data. You can consider interoperability from three perspectives: private business processes, public business processes, and collaboration business processes. For IT, these perspectives are important for the ability to exchange data.

Private business processes detail:

Internal activities

Departments responsible for each task


Rules that regulate the processes

Information systems

Public business processes:

Concentrate on the interaction between internal processes and those of other organizations

Do not review organizational structure, information systems, or rules

Collaboration business processes:

Show all interactions for every organization in the process (two or more businesses)

Do not provide internal processes for any organization

Help identify the software that supports the processes

Contain two or more pools

This makes sense in BPMN, because part of the purpose of BPMN 2.0 is to exchange BPMN models between different software systems. There are noted limitations on this interchange; these are intentional on the part of the designers of BPMN 2.0 because they wanted to ensure maximum flexibility. Visually, these include colors of shapes and text, shape decorations such as shadows, gradients, backgrounds, text wrapping, and thickness and style of lines. Semantically, these include proprietary extensions such as the script of a script task, user task implementation, and global user task implementation.

BPMN Constraints

For all of BPMN’s capabilities, it is specifically constrained to business processes. Some organizations and analysts assume that BPMN is a magic bullet for all of their process modeling needs. However, the following processes are not meant to be supported by BPMN:

Organizational structures and resources

Functional breakdowns

Data and information models

Business rules

These types of processes can be addressed in other UML models or additional documentation. It must be noted that BPMN models are not data flow diagrams (DFDs), which show the flow specifically of data information from one place to another. These diagrams provide only one view of a process through the data.

Target Audience for Business Process Modeling Notation

BPMN was designed so that all users can understand it: businesspeople, business analysts, and IT staff. Although the BPMN originators had these groups in mind during development, they were also concerned with how they could link BPMN to other OMG standards. Further, although the standard supports all of these professionals, not all professionals design to the same level.

Bruce Silver discusses three levels of BPMN users in the trainings that he conducts. Level 1 is your typical user who employs only a handful of symbols. Their diagrams are simple and conform to a very traditional standard. Some journals estimate that almost 90 percent of users are at this level of design. (This figure is referenced by many blogs and periodicals, but there is no specific study that supports it.) Level 2 users provide the layer that IT professionals can then add to. It is essentially a more advanced business process layout using less common

BPMN Elements

BPMN keeps elements of a business process model to a minimum so that the look and feel of the diagram stays as consistent as possible. You can always add more detail after the basic categories are complete.

There are two types of elements: descriptive and analytic. Within this framework, you’ll find over 40 different elements, each with rules about when they can and cannot be used. Business analysts developed descriptive elements to model processes as documentation, and technical staff developed analytic elements to model executable processes within the software.

The five basic categories of elements are:

1. Flow Objects . These define the behavior of business processes.

Events: What happens during a process. There are three main types: Start, Intermediate, and End. An event is also what happens during a process. For example, an event could be that “a message is sent,” “an error occurred,” or “cycle is completed.”

Activities: Work performed in a process; also known as tasks .

Gateways: These determine the sequence flow path in a process. Gateways have internal markers that give additional detail to show how the flow is controlled. These are decision points in a process. For example, if a condition is true, then processing continues one way; if false, then another.

2. Data : These elements call out information about the activities. Data is either provided or stored for the activity.

Data objects

Data inputs

Data outputs

Data stores, where processes can either read or write information. A data store continues beyond the life of the process.

3. Connecting Objects : These connect the flow objects to each other or to other information.

Sequence flows: This element shows the order in which activities are performed.

Message flows: This displays the messages and the order of flow between participants.

Associations: This element is used to link information and artifacts (see below).

Data associations: These have an arrowhead to indicate direction of flow in an association.

4. Swimlanes : In BPMN, a swimlane is an element that shows where the responsibility for the process resides, and a pool represents the participant. Lanes break apart the pool as a partition of responsibility, showing the location of activities. Lanes can also delineate phases (first phase, second phase, etc.). In other words, a pool is a container for a single process, and a lane classifies the activity within it.

Lanes do not have semantics in BPMN; they are merely a partitioning concept. You can arrange swimlanes either vertically or horizontally. Lanes are optional and may be nested. Some issues with swimlanes:

Flow elements are connected differently depending on whether they are in a pool or between pools.

Only message flows can be used when communicating between pools. Message flows designate the exchange of messages.

A pool cannot contain more than one process.

Sequence flows should not be used between pools. Lanes are more appropriate where sequence flows are necessary, not pools.

5. Artifacts : These are used to give extra detail about the process. The two standardized artifacts are:

Groups: This is a hatched box around a group of elements to designate visually that they are related. This does not affect sequence flows.

Text Annotations: Extra text, attached with an association, that gives additional information. Also known as a comment.

6. Message : This element is shown in the tables in the specification guide for BPMN, but not put into a specific category. It is used in extended notation as well. A message represents communication between participants.


The five basic categories of BPMN elements.  

Extended BPMN Modeling Elements

Extended modeling elements take the basic elements, add notation, and change their meaning while still showing consistency. The following sections are a foray into extended elements. The elements shown are not meant to be exhaustive, but provide the most commonly used elements in BPMN.

An example of an extended element is the use of a Start Event. A message element is then added, and the meaning changes from plain “Start” to a “Start triggered by a message.” The extended modeling element in this scenario allows users to specify how the event begins, not simply that it has begun, adding to the detail in a process.

BPMN start event

Events Extended

We know there are three type of events: start, intermediate, and end. These events can also be broken down into catching events, throwing events, and interrupting or non-interrupting events. A trigger defines catching events. Once the trigger is activated, the event starts. Throwing events are assumed by BPMN to trigger themselves. They do not react to triggers; instead, the process triggers them. Whether an event is interrupting or non-interrupting is related to the action. When an interrupting event is fired, the action is blocked. When a non-interrupting event is fired, the action continues.

BPMN event sub processes

Extended Event Sub-Processes

Activity Tasks, Sub-Processes, Transactions, and Call Activities Extended

You can add to tasks as well, with extra notation to show more specificity. The following image shows the notation and the meaning of each.

Receive waits for a message from an external participant.

Script is a task executed by the engine.

Manual is a task the operates without the aid of engines or applications.

Receive (Instantiated) is a task that is designed to wait for a message to arrive from an external participant. It then instantiates a process.

Service is a task that uses a web service or automated application.

User is a human task scheduled through a manager.

Send is a task that is designed to send a message to an external participant.

Business Rule is a task that confirms with the business rules engine the input prior to executing.

BPMN business rules

Three types of markers are specified for a task as well. These include loop, multiple instance, and compensation.

Loop will continue as long as the condition is true; a numeric cap may be specified.

Multiple instance may execute in parallel or sequentially. An expression or a data-driven setup can be used to determine the number of instances.

Compensation tasks specify some type of recompense or payment, either into or out of the process.

BPMN loop tasks

Loop tasks, sequential multiple instances tasks, and compensation tasks, respectively.

Sub-processes show lower levels or more detailed levels in a process event task. A collapsed sub-process is shown below:

BPMN sub process

Additionally, you can combine four types of markers with the sub-process marker. These include loop, multi-instance, ad-hoc, and compensation.

BPMN compensation

Source: OMG

Transaction Sub-Process

A transaction sub-process is embedded. You can use it to group multiple activities and show that they either fail or succeed collectively. These groupings of processes are surrounded by a double border to show they are a transaction.

Transaction image

In the above example, the flow moves to a Cancel End Event in the case of an error due to unavailable bookings. This activates the process rollback, and any completed reservation activity will be undone. The tasks in this example are undone in the reverse order that they were completed.

Gateways Extended

Notation may be added to gateways to represent different kind of control behavior, such as making decisions, branching, merging, forking, and joining. The types of possible gateways are exclusive, event-based, inclusive, complex, and parallel.

Exclusive gateways are the main type. They may have the X in the middle, or they may be empty. They model alternative paths and are where the diversion takes place.

Event-based gateways are used to model the alternative paths, but are based on events that occur, not the expression of flow.

Inclusive gateways can be used to model alternative and parallel paths. They evaluate all condition expressions and take paths with a positive result.

Complex gateways model complex synchronization behavior.

Parallel gateways create and join parallel flows. They check no conditions.

BPMN parallel

Data Objects Extended

Data objects are available in processes and sub-processes. Aside from the main type of data object, you can add notation to indicate data input, data output, collection data item, collection data input, and collection data output. Data inputs and outputs relate to the entire process. Collection data relate to the actual collection of some type of information during the process.

BPMN object

From left to right: Data input, data output, data object collection, data input collection, and data output collection.

Connecting Objects Extended

The addition of extra notation to connecting objects can extend their usage in BPMN. These include conditional flows, default flows, exception flows, and compensation associations.

Conditional flows are used in merging and branching in place of a gateway. A conditional expression is defined at its origin.

Default flows are only selected if no other sequence flows available. Conditions on a default sequence flow are always ignored. There may be only one default flow per object.

Exception flows occur outside of the normal flow of the process and are based on an intermediate event on the boundary.

Compensation associations are used when an activity is canceled, and the process must be set to its original state.

BPMN arrows

Conditional flows and default flows.

BPMN exception flows

Exception flows and compensation flows.

BPMN Critique

Critics have written widely about BPMN and why it is not appropriate for widespread use. The majority of the criticism centers on BPMN’s complexity. With more than 100 unique elements (resulting from the five main elements and their additional notation), it is too much to learn, too easy to make errors, and too granular for business processes alone, according to critics. Further, doing BPMN for the sake of doing BPMN causes more harm than good.

Other risks of BPMN include:

Mistakes in the Modeling Elements : This would decrease the clarity of process flows, rather than increase the communication.

Increased Complexity in Modeling : With more time required for analysis, the value of the product decreases.

Lack of Stakeholder Understanding : If stakeholders need everything explained, it could introduce errors and incorrect information.

Bruce Silver , who helped draft BPMN 2.0, says, “Business analysts should learn the semantics and rules, and that for most effective use the method and style of BPMN should also be learned.” Most professionals and organizations stick to a handful of symbols, so there is not much to learn. This in fact makes the notation simple. Diagrams can be extended for more granularities as needed, such as with an IT implementation. Further, BPMN is designed to model both human-centric and IT processes with equal accuracy. It also has the power and precision to display a clear vision of how your business works, saves time by showing unnecessary tasks, and reduces your employees’ rates of overlooked, forgotten, or poorly executed work.

BPMN diagrams have certain capabilities that other modeling languages do not. According to Silver, “Restricting BPMN to the part that is familiar from traditional process mapping is to miss its essence, which is the expressiveness required to describe not only the process’s normal or ‘happy path,’ but the various exception paths as well, and to do so with the semantic precision needed by IT to translate any proposed improvement into a working implementation.”

Essentially, Silver is saying that while it is well and good to model the few simple elements, the real value of BPMN lies in its capacity for the unusual circumstances (the exception paths) and to have those translated for automation. (Note: A happy path is the default scenario that features no exceptions or error conditions — the sequence of events where everything goes as expected.)

Even with the criticisms leveled at BPMN, it is still one of the most widespread and desired standards for process modeling available today. According to “ The State of Business Process Management 2016 Report” from BPTrends, 64 percent of businesses surveyed are interested in adopting BPMN.

Guidelines of Process Modeling

Process modeling guidelines are the same for any language or notation. In a 2009 paper on process modeling, authors Mendling, Reijers, and van der Aalst explain the main guidelines of modeling, regardless of the language used. They outline guidelines that may be considered best practices:

Use as few elements as possible in the model. This aids readability and decreases errors.

Minimize the routing paths per element. BPMN regulates routing paths via gateways.

Use one start event and one end event. BPMN requires this, and depending on the software it does not allow more than one. BPMN does give intermediate events where required.

Model as structured as possible. This means that the diagrams are balanced. In BPMN, gateways should not be used to join and split at the same time; they should be balanced and joined equivalently. Further, the same type of gateway should be used to split and join the flow.

Avoid or routing elements. This means that elements in models should not be an either/or question, but modeled such that the decision is an and or an xor . An xor gives mutually exclusive answers. In BPMN, gateways are not capable of being and .

Use verb-object activity labels in your naming convention. This decreases ambiguity.

Draw your models left to right (not top to bottom) unless the bulk of your stakeholders write ideographic languages (such as Japanese, Chinese, etc.) for easier understanding.

Decompose the model if it has more than 50 elements. That is, break a system into its component subsystems, processes, and subprocesses. This is related to guideline number one, in that having the least amount of elements keeps the errors low. BPMN has sub-processes that can decompose a model.

How to Select a BPMN Modeling Tool

To take full advantage of the BPMN modeling language, use a tool. Although you can draw BPMN with a pencil and paper, doing so does not take advantage of the majority of its benefits. Software programs that specialize in BPMN allow users to model faster and easier, and it enforces the majority of the BPMN rules automatically. Software tools also decrease errors in the diagram, allow for easier reading on the human eye, and give the all-important capacity to capture the associated XML.

What are the recommended criteria in choosing a BPMN tool? At last count by BPMtips.com , there were anywhere from 70-100 tools that could fully support BPMN modeling. These include free, open source, and proprietary tools, as well as tools whose sole function is not BPMN, but support it anyway. To further complicate the selection process, a number of plugins to existing programs support BPMN modeling. The choice you make is critical because much time and money will be invested in not only learning BPMN, but in the production of the models.

Experts agree that if your business needs the standardization of BPMN, then the tool should first be able to claim BPMN compliance. For BPMN 2.0, compliance is defined within the ISO/IEC 19510:2013 standard. This ISO standard represents the best practices in business modeling. If the language is meant to be consistent in its meaning, it must first be standardized. In this, the tool must have four types of conformance:

Process Modeling Conformance supports the elements and attributes of three subclasses: the descriptive, analytical, and common executable. The descriptive and analytical subclasses provide the information necessary to visually represent the diagrams. The common executable is the description of the data for the XML and meta-model.

Process Execution Conformance tools must fully support the import of process diagrams. This is the support and interpretation of the meta-model via the semantics and activity lifecycle.

BPEL Process Execution Conformance supports full mapping, from BPMN models to BPEL.

Choreography Modeling Conformance tools provide elements, appearance, semantics, and interchange, as well as BPMN choreography types.

Aside from actual BPMN conformance, one method to choosing a modeling tool is as follows:

Define your business objectives and requirements. Know ahead of time what functional and nonfunctional requirements your business will have for BPMN.

Define the selection criteria and the weight of each. Do your users need syntax checks? Do they need pop-up menus? Do they need help in documentation? Develop a chart that delineates your business’s required criteria, so you can pick a program that meets your needs.

Identify some candidate tools. With as many tools available to date, it is impossible to test-drive all of them. Once you delineate and weight your selection criteria, some of the potential tools will not be feasible. From there, if demos are available, order them. Evaluate how easy it is to install, identify any operability problems, and explore the support in the BPMN tool.

Test-drive one model. Once you discover the best candidates, use a consistent model that represents your company to test across the remaining applications.

Select your winner. Once you have multiple examples of the same model, you will have notes on each program, how easy the model was to develop, and the end look and feel. This should lead to your choice of BPMN tool.

How to Implement a BPMN Process Map

It is clear that BPMN is a relatively simple, straightforward language that professionals use to standardize their process maps. If you have existing process maps, you could start by standardizing them with BPMN symbology. If you haven’t mapped processes before, start by creating the maps:

Mapping processes

Download Mapping Processes Checklist

Optimizing a proces checklist

Download Optimizing a Process  Checklist

Quintessential Tips for Working with Business Process Modeling Notification

There is little doubt that learning BPMN is complicated, but it appears to be a worthwhile venture. Some BPMN experts have formal education, and some do not. Reading the current specification manual from OMG is not considered the best way to learn to model BPMN. Most, if not all, experts agree that learning through doing is best, putting the elements into understandable context.

Model with a top-down approach. According to Stephen White in an interview on the Leonardo Blog , “The top-down approach will ensure that the depth of modeling is consistent throughout the effort of process modeling in your organization. I'm not saying that every single process model needs to be the same amount of granularity. It depends on the purpose.”

Every BPMN symbol should have a label.   

Events should be labeled object + past participle . For example, “Process started.”

  • Start events should have how the process is activated.
  • End events should have the process “end state.”

The pool should always be labeled with the process name and role (for lanes).

Tasks should be labeled as verb + object . For example, “Eat lunch.”

Gateways should be labeled with a question. For example, “Packaging complete?”

Outgoing sequence flows should be labeled with answers to the gateway questions. For example, “yes” or “no.”

Avoid crossing flows as much as possible. A good process layout with few crossing lines is easier to read.

Symmetric structures are easier for the human brain to understand.

Draw equal task sizes. However, the size of the task element does not indicate the size of the task in BPMN.

Show exception handling explicitly.

Use message flows consistently. Attach the message flows to the boundary of the process pool at all levels of the diagram to add to your business context.

Consider using sub-processes to define scope. Sub-processes can be wrapped around part of your sequence when exceptions occur without penalty.

Limit the number of concepts in the model. Since most BPMN users are describing business processes, users should keep it simple and only use the required elements for maximum readability.

Set standards for your organization. Clear, regularly used conventions, such as elements, naming, methodology, and layout should be developed per business so that there is additional consistency for stakeholders.

Consider using a legend that explains the symbols for stakeholders who are not often exposed to BPMN.

Try not to simply send diagrams out to stakeholders, but take the time to explain the processes to those not trained in BPMN.

Consider making two models of the same process if you have a large number of stakeholders without BPMN experience: one model for business users (with less elements), and one executable model.

BPMN Diagram Samples

The following models are from OMG, and they represent most of the elements described in this guide. This should give you an understanding of how a BPMN diagram looks.

Pizza Model

The Pizza Collaboration

Hardware Model

Shipment process of a hardware retailer

Other Business Process Modeling Languages

No discussion of BPMN would be complete without reviewing other modeling languages, such as BPEL, YAWL, and UML. These languages have been used in the evolution of BPMN, to make it more applicable and garner wider use in the industry.

Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and BPMN

BPEL (officially known as web services - business process execution language, WS-BPEL) is an XML-based orchestration language that allows companies to seamlessly work together by using web services to share data. It was created to standardize how processes are executed. Generally, it is meant for completely automated processes, especially when companies want to turn processes into XML for automation, even robotic process automation (RPA).

BPEL is based on web services in that each of the business processes involved are considered to be a web service. BPEL specifies the order in which web services should be invoked. An orchestration language identifies the executable process of message exchanges with other systems. BPEL supports two types of business processes: executable and abstract processes. BPEL is mainly meant to be employed by IT users, primarily because there is no graphical notation associated with it. BPEL is not meant to be accessed by business analysts or end users.

BPEL was often used in conjunction with earlier versions of BPMN. Users wrote BPMN notation, and BPEL was the execution language. Although there was and currently is a very high degree of correlation between BPMN and BPEL, there is no perfect system for one-to-one mapping between them. Some business processes may map in a way that is not executable. With the release of BPMN 2.0, BPEL was no longer necessary as the core XML language. BPMN 2.0 came with its own XML specification language.

Current trends in the industry suggest that more businesses are leaning toward using BPMN 2.0, and BPEL adoption has decreased considerably since 2007. According to “ The State of Business Process Management 2016 Report ,” only 8 percent of businesses are interested in adopting BPEL.

There are arguments within the industry that revolve around when to use BPEL vs. BPMN, especially since there is overlap between the two, and many problems could be solved using either BPMN or BPEL. Most large enterprises do not consider using only BPMN or BPEL; instead, they use both, depending on the scenario. Experts recommend that if your organization needs both, keep the BPEL worker processes in separate composites from the BPMN business processes. The following is a chart, culled from countless sources around the web, that details different scenarios where either BPMN or BPEL are recommended.


Yet Another Modeling Language (YAWL)

YAWL (yet another modeling language) may be considered an alternative language to BPEL. YAWL is based on Petri nets, which are part of a mathematical modeling and reasoning language. It is also open source, which means that the original source code is available to anyone to change and use. YAWL is considered easier in communicating to stakeholders than BPEL because of the intuitive user interface. YAWL and BPMN have some concepts in common — namely, tasks, gateways (as a decorator in YAWL), and flow.

Unified Modeling Language (UML)

Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a general-purpose modeling language also managed by OMG and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an approved language standard. UML is similar to BPMN in that it is an open source modeling language. Whereas the whole of BPMN is devoted to business process modeling, only UML’s activity diagram is suitable for business process modeling. Overall, UML is object-oriented, while BPMN is process-oriented.

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The 9-Step Business Model Canvas Explained (2023 Update)

business development model diagram

Written by Raquel Alberdi

Business | entrepreneurship, 16 comments(s).

Business Model Canvas

Blog » The 9-Step Business Model Canvas Explained (2023 Update)

business development model diagram

“A major mistake made by many start-ups around the world is focusing on the technology, the software, the product, and the design, but neglecting to ever figure out the business . And by “business” we simply mean how the company makes money by acquiring and serving its customers”.

-Reid Hoffman

After meeting with hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners over the years I believe the LinkedIn co-founder and Blitzscaling author Reid Hoffman’s got it spot on.

People tend to focus on specific parts of their business, such as which software packages are being used, which is the cheapest supplier, how to optimize internal processes…?

They get so bogged down in the details of the day-to-day running that they lose the overall vision of their business.

Without this vision they are unable to scale, they make marginal profits, miss opportunities, struggle to innovate, and end up running “just another” business.

Another handy metaphor in understanding this common mistake is the soldier in the trenches .

Every meter of ground gained comes at a heavy cost, mistakes are made, and progress is hard-fought and slow…a day-to-day experience for 99% of entrepreneurs and businessmen.

But when you do have that 360 vision you see the entire battlefield. Decisions are much clearer, fewer mistakes are made, and progress is fast and methodical.

Fortunately, a business model framework exists that gives you both vision and clarity .

The Business Model Canvas provides entrepreneurs, business owners, and strategists with a tool to analyze, structure, and evolve a business while always keeping the bigger picture front of mind.

So let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Table of Content

What is the Business Model Canvas?

Created by Swiss entrepreneur and Strategyzer co-founder, Alexander Osterwalder, the Business Model Canvas is a visual representation of the 9 key building blocks that form the foundations of every successful business. It’s a blueprint to help entrepreneurs invent, design, and build models with a more systematic approach.

Why is it so popular within the business community?

Its simplicity. The business model canvas allows us to carry out a high-level analysis without drilling down and getting lost in the details. You just draw out the 9 building blocks on a blank canvas, fill them in as each concept relates to your business, and hang it somewhere everybody can see.

It’s a visual overview of your entire business on a single canvas.

While the Business Model Canvas is an extremely fluid concept and hyper-specific to individual companies, each canvas is still broken down into these 9 key building blocks:

Customer Segments

Value propositions, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners.

When laid out on the canvas the model will look something like this:

 Scheme of business model in which 9 important fields are developed for its execution.

While you’ve probably come across each of the 9 building blocks before, the attractiveness of the Business Model Canvas is that it confines them to a single page , not a traditional 42-page document.

This makes it a lot easier to digest, as well as assess existing business models or map out new ideas.

How do I fill out the Business Model Canvas?

To start your Business Model Canvas you will need to breakdown and analyze each of the 9 building blocks.

A good way to approach this is to gather the heads from marketing, sales, operations, finance, and manufacturing (if product-based) and pencil-in a morning where you can all meet together.

Then, after drawing a mock canvas onto a whiteboard, proceed to dissect and discuss each of the 9 building blocks as they relate to your business. You can use sticky notes to better organize your thoughts around the canvas.

If you are an entrepreneur or new business owner working alone and don’t have a team to bounce your ideas off, not to worry. You can still carry out your analysis before sharing it with a like-minded entrepreneurial community or forum, like those found on ThePowerMBA , to get useful, insightful feedback.

Whichever way you decide to approach it, I recommend you complete each block in the following order:

  • Cost structure

For continuity, I’m going to use the fashion retail giant Zara when analyzing each of the 9 key building blocks.

If you’d like to skip to another case study similar to your own business, navigate to the table of contents at the top of the page and select one of the other business model canvas examples.

Customer segment business model canvas for Zara company

The first block of the Business Canvas Model is about understanding who is the most important customer(s) you’re delivering value to. Or, in other words, who are they? What do they do? And why would they buy your product or service?

Not a single company exists without its clients, making customer segments the best block to start with while drawing out your business model canvas.

A great exercise to define your customer segments is to brainstorm and create your company’s buyer persona (s) .

Buyer personas are fictional depictions of an ideal or hypothetical client. Typically when brainstorming a buyer persona you’d want to define certain characteristics (age, demographic, gender, income, industry, pain points, goals, etc.)

However, remember at this stage we want a snapshot of our customer segment. There’s no need to jump into great detail just yet.

In the case of Zara, there are three distinct customer segments to whom they offer different products.

The products created for each of these customer segments (clothing, shoes, and accessories) are not trans-consumable. That is to say, a woman’s dress is highly unlikely to be worn by a 7-year-old child.

Once we know exactly who it is we are targeting, it’s time to look at what we as a company have to offer.

Zara Customer Segments business model canvas template showing the development of the 9 fields

The second phase is about figuring out your company’s value propositions , and importantly, your UVP (unique value proposition). The “what” that makes customers turn to you, over your competitors? Which of their problems are you best at solving?

Each value proposition consists of a bundle of products or services that fulfill the needs of a buyer persona from your customer segment. It’s the intersection between what your company offers, and the reason or impulse customers have for purchasing.

Some popular questions to ask while determining your UVP are:

  • Which specific customer pain point are you trying to solve?
  • What job are you helping customers get done?
  • How does your UVP eliminate customer pain points?
  • What products or services do you provide that answer this specific pain point?

So let’s try and apply this to Zara. Why do people choose to purchase from them, over their competitors?

Zara’s principal value propositions are fairly clear. They offer various ranges of stylish men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and accessories at an affordable price.

But there’s more to it than that.

If we dive a little deeper we see Zara’s value propositions are more complex, which are behind the success of the brand:

Fast fashion

Zara adds new clothes and designs to its collections every 2-3 weeks, both in its stores and online. It keeps the brand updated, fresh, and modern while maintaining its all-important medium price point

Great eCommerce experience

Once you enter Zara’s online store you’re presented with a clean, easy-to-navigate, and high-end feel. The customer segments are visible on the left navigation bar with a search tab to further aid customers with their online experience.

Zara's Canvas business model where you can see the innovative presentation of its image

Localized stores

You can find a store in nearly all major retail locations (shopping malls, retail outlets, airports, etc.) meaning accessibility is not an issue for the majority of consumers.

Flagship stores

Zara demonstrates its aesthetic evolution to customers through its flagship stores. The recent opening of their Hudson Yards , New York City flagship is a great example of this. Customers shop around its vivid, minimalist layout offering them an experience aligned with the brand’s deeper, eco-friendly values.

Zara's Canvas business model where you can see the innovative presentation of the image of its stores

Zara Hudson Yards, New York

Business Model Canvas Template Zara - Value Propositions

The next step is to ask yourself how you are reaching your customers, and through which channels ?

This includes both the channels that customers want to communicate with you as well as how they’ll receive your products or services.

Is it going to be a physical channel? (store, field sales representatives, etc.) Or is it a digital channel? (mobile, web, cloud, etc.).

Zara has 3 primary channels in which they communicate and deliver products to its customers:

  • Direct sales through their stores
  • Online (both app and website)
  • Social media

Customers can go to a traditional “bricks and mortar” store to browse, model, and purchase different items of clothing at one of their retail stores.

Alternatively, they can shop online or through their mobile application and have the product delivered straight to their door or nearest store. The choice is completely up to them!

So that covers Zara’s commercial channels, but what about how they communicate with customers?

While they do communicate through their mobile app, their predominant channel is social media.

What’s more, they’re really, really good at it.

For example, did you know that Zara invests less than 0.3% of its sales revenue into advertising?

This is only possible due to an A-rated social media presence . Customer queries are not only dealt with quickly, but recommended re-works are sent back to HQ, forwarded onto in-house designers who then apply the feedback to future collections.

This customer-first approach through fluid communication channels has saved them thousands of dollars in marketing, strengthened their brand, and created a loyal customer base.

You should only step away from this building block once you’ve decided how each of your customer segments want to be reached.

Zara Channels business model canvas template where its components are developed

Once you have acquired customers, you will need to think about how you can build , nurture, and grow those relationships.

Now, this can be automated and transactional like large eCommerce brands Amazon or Alibaba. Or, it could be at the complete opposite end of the scale and require a more personal relationship you’d typically have with a bank or your local bike shop.

Zara’s relationship with its customers is threefold, and lies somewhere in the middle of transactional and personal:

  • Salesperson at store
  • Brand through social media
  • Sentimental attachment to a product

Yes, you have the initial transactional touchpoint at the store or online, something relatively impersonal and for many the only interaction they’ll have with the brand.

However, customers (especially in the fashion industry) are encouraged to continue to interact with a brand through social media platforms.

As we mentioned before when discussing channels, Zara has a very effective communication system in place. Not only can people instantly get in touch with the brand, but also engage with new posts, images, and collections uploaded to social media.

This personal approach to customer relationship building can, in some cases, lead to the natural growth of brand ambassadors and communities .

An attachment can also develop between customers and particular garments or accessories from one of their collections. The sentimental attachment to these products also creates another potential form of brand loyalty.

The relations with Zara's clients to give a Business Model Canvas where the 9 points to be developed are seen

Now that you’ve described how you are going to create real value for your customers, it’s time to look at how you plan to capture that value.

What are your revenue streams? Is it going to be a transactional, direct sales strategy ? Are you going to consider a freemium mode l, where you give a portion of your product or service away for free with the idea of converting later on down the line?

If you’re a SaaS company such as SalesForce or Strava , then it’s likely that a licensing or subscription revenue model will be more appropriate.

At Zara, it’s extremely simple. They make their money by selling clothes and accessories either at a store or online.

Zara business model canvas template for the development of Revenue streams within the 9 points to work

As you can see, we’ve filled in the entire right-hand side of our business model canvas. We touched upon:

Customer segments

  • Value propositions
  • Revenue streams
  • Distribution channels

Now it’s time to move over to the left side of the business canvas model and look at what we need, internally , to deliver our value propositions.

Key resources of the Zara Business Model Canvas

To start with, let’s take a look at key resources.

The key resources are all things you need to have, or the assets required to create that value for customers.

This could be anything from intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc.) to physical holdings (factories, offices, delivery vans, etc.) right down to finances (the initial cash flow perhaps needed to start your brand).

Another key resource every company needs to consider is its human capital . Are you going to need highly specialized software engineers? Or field-based sales teams?

They are relatively capital-heavy resources that need to be factored into your business model.

In the case of Zara, they are going to need a number of key resources if they hope to deliver their propositions:

  • Stock management
  • A large, interconnected network of physical stores
  • A strong brand
  • Logistics and supply chain infrastructure

Stock is vital for both online and offline customers.

If they are unable to supply their range of products and meet customer demands, satisfaction levels fall and they have a serious problem on their hands.

A large distribution network of brick and mortar stores combined with a strong brand name help mitigate these factors, as well as reinforce any ongoing marketing activities and communication efforts.

Finally, an efficient logistics process within Zara is critical, especially when you consider the complexities involved with such a large-scale operation.

They will require the necessary technology to analyze data on inventory, storage, materials, production, and packaging, with the staff to execute each of these stages and manage the delivery of the final products.

Zara business model canvas template where the Key Resources are developed

The next step is to define the key activities – the areas you need to be good at to create value for your customers.

To mix it up a little let’s take a look at a slightly different business in Uber .

Their key activities can be broken down into:

  • Web and mobile app development
  • Driver recruitment
  • Marketing: customer acquisition
  • Customer service activities : drivers’ ratings, incidents, etc.

They need a fast, clean UX for their customers using the app, drivers to carry out their service, and the ability to both market the product and deal with any customer queries.

Zara’s key activities will differ to those of Uber. Some of the things they need to consider would be:

  • Manufacturing
  • Retail process (point of sale and 3rd party management)
  • Distribution channel / logistics

Design is a key activity as Zara’s value proposition is to provide stylish garments at an affordable price. Their collections need to be constantly updated to follow the latest fashion trends at the time.

To produce their collections Zara will also require manufacturing capabilities. Now Zara doesn’t own their own factories (we will get to that in the Key Partners section) but they still need to be involved in the garment manufacturing process.

Everything from fabric selection to pattern making, to detailing and dyeing affects the outcome of the final product which of course they have to then go on and sell.

The effective management of the retail and distribution channels (online, offline, shipping, and communication with providers) is also key. A breakdown in either of these activities, such as a poor relationship with an important provider will have serious consequences for the business.

Zara business model canvas template showing the key activities for its development

Most modern business models now require brands to build out and work with various key partners to fully leverage their business model.

This includes partnerships such as joint ventures and non-equity strategic alliances as well as typical relationships with buyers, suppliers, and producers.

A great example of a strategic partnership would be between ThePowerMBA and Forbes . In exchange for exposure of our brand to the magazine’s global audience, we provide expertise and content on high-level business education programs.

As we touched upon when discussing key activities , Zara requires strategic partnerships with many different providers if they are to design and produce their collections.

Another key partner is their major holding company, Inditex .

Inditex has several subsidiaries including Massimo Dutti , Pull & Bear , and Oysho . Being a subsidiary of Inditex means they share a consolidated balance sheet, stakeholders, management and control, and various legal responsibilities.

While as a subsidiary Zara is afforded certain freedoms when it comes to design, delivery, and the general running of the company, the overall strategy will need to be aligned with Inditex and its other subsidiaries.

Zara Key Partners business model canvas template where the eighth point is developed

The final step of the Business Model Canvas is to ask yourself, how much is it going to cost to run this model?

This includes some of the more obvious needs such as manufacturing costs, physical space, rent, payroll, but also areas such as marketing activities.

If you are unsure of exactly what to include in your cost structure take a look at a Profit and Loss statement ( P&L ) from a competitor or company in a similar industry to yours. You’ll find many items overlap such as research and development ( R&D ), cost of goods sold, admin expenses, operating costs, etc.

Once that’s done you should prioritize your key activities and resources and find out if they are fixed or variable costs .

As Zara is such a large, corporate business they are going to have both fixed costs (rent, payroll, point of sales personnel) and variables, such as costs associated with the fluctuating sale of goods, purchase of materials and, manufacturing costs.

Once you’ve completed these 9 steps, your Business Canvas Model should look something like this:

Business Model Canvas Examples

Hopefully, you were able to get a good feel for the effectiveness of the business model canvas with our run-through of Zara.

However, if you found it difficult to follow due to the stark difference between your industries, I’m going to quickly go through 3 more companies to demonstrate the tool’s flexibility:

  • Netflix (Media service/production)
  • Vintae (Vineyard)

Even if these business model canvas examples don’t align exactly with your industry, I honestly believe that studying different models gives you a competitive advantage in your professional career regardless.

If you’re currently employed by a company, you’ll better understand how your specific role helps the company achieve some of its “long-term” goals.

Alternatively, if you are a business owner yourself (or perhaps thinking of starting your own business) you’ll have a better understanding of your business and where potential opportunities lay.

I’m sure you’re familiar with our next business model canvas example candidate, Netflix .

The global media company offers an online streaming service of various movies, documentaries, and TV programs produced in-house or licensed 3rd-party content. Their success sparked a revolution in the online media world with the likes of Amazon, Apple, Disney, HBO, and Hulu all rushing to launch their own online video streaming platforms.

Netflix started life as an online DVD rental company, basically a web version of the more popular (at least at that time) “bricks and mortar” Blockbuster.

Co-founder Reed Hastings predicted as far back as 1999 that the future of media was in online streaming, saying “postage rates were going to keep going up and the internet was going to get twice as fast at half the price every 18 months.”

It wouldn’t be until 2007 that Hasting’s prediction would become true when Netflix, as we now know it, was born.

So let’s take a current look at their business model canvas:

Netflix business model in which the 9 topics are taken into consideration

As you probably know, there are very few people out there who haven’t subscribed, watched, or at least heard of Netflix. There is content for everybody: wildlife documentaries, sci-fi movies, rom coms, action-thrillers, you name it – it’s there.

That’s why their customer segment can be classified as a “ mass market ” as the base is just so diverse.

All people require is a computer, TV, internet, and/or smartphone and they’re good to go. For most developed markets, that covers just about everybody.

Value Proposition

Whether on the train to work, sitting in the car (if you’re not driving!), or relaxing at home in front of the TV, you can consume their online, on-demand video streaming service.

They also have a huge library of content for consumers to choose from, ensuring that people keep coming back, as well as increasing their mass-market appeal.

They also produce high-quality, original content to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Most people access Netflix either through their website or mobile/TV App . Another popular channel that you may have picked up on is their affiliate partners .

You’ve perhaps signed up for a mobile, TV, and internet package where the provider offers Netflix as an extra to sweeten the deal, so to speak.

That would be an example of an affiliate partnership between Netflix and mobile service providers.

I doubt many consumers have had direct contact with Netflix unless it’s to resolve a subscription issue or general query. It’s very much a self-automated service – you download the app, select the program you wish to watch, and hit play.

Very simple, very effective.

Again, this doesn’t need much embellishment. Netflix generates money from the different tiers and packages put together in their subscription services.

This varies depending on the region to account for local markets, but on the whole, it’s sold at a low price point.

Originally, Netflix’s Key Resources would have been their unrivaled DVD collection combined with a cost-effective mail-order system.

Nowadays it’s undoubtedly the rights to stream online video content. Netflix has brokered deals with some of the biggest production studios worldwide.

Combined with their huge library of in-house productions , it’s more than enough to encourage customers to renew their subscriptions.

To help sustain interest in their product, Netflix understands they need to serve-up relevant content for each sub-sector of their mass audience. Therefore their machine learning algorithm selects content for consumers based on streaming habits (what they watched, at what time, etc,.) to personalize the customer experience.

This explains why over 80% of all content streamed on Netflix was cherry-picked by this algorithm, making it a Key Resource for their business model.

Also, Netflix accounts for a whopping 12.6% of global bandwidth usage . The literal capacity to stream their services must be met meaning bandwidth must also be included here.

Content procurement is arguably their biggest Key Activity. They need to find people to produce and deliver their original content, including actors, studios, writers, etc. as well as secure the licensing and streaming rights from 3rd party producers such as Sony, Warner Bros, and Disney.

Finally, they need a fast, easy-to-use application to host their online streaming service. This needs to be available for both TV and mobile devices if they are to deliver their “on-demand” value proposition.

K ey Partners

Seeing as Netflix’s entire business model is largely based around streaming 3rd party content, key partnerships need to be built with production studios . No content, no Netflix!

Also, as we touched upon earlier Netflix is one of the largest consumers of bandwidth worldwide. If the speed and delivery of their streaming service are to be continued then deals will also need to be made with internet service providers (ISPs).

Netflix’s biggest expenditures come from both their in-house content procurement and 3rd party licensing agreements . The high-quality standard of video streamed on Netflix is only possible due to the speed and performance of its online platform and application , which has additional costs of staff, software, etc.

To show you just how flexible the business model canvas can be, I wanted to throw in a slightly leftfield example. Vintae is a Spanish wine producer who, after a detailed analysis of the business model canvas, was able to innovate and disrupt one of the world’s most competitive industries.

As some of you may know, the wine industry is extremely competitive. It’s also steeped in history and tradition , making it very challenging for newcomers to grab market share, let alone think about year-on-year growth and revenue.

However, CEO “Richi” Arambarri looked at the traditional “ bodega ” business model and saw a chink in its armor.

A “small” innovation in the business canvas model helped them to become one of the region’s most important winery groups, with over 10 installations and a presence across all regional denominations (Rioja, Priorat, Rias Baixas, etc.) with year on year growth of 30% – practically unheard of in such a competitive industry.

So how did Vintae analyze the business model canvas to find a niche in their market?

To answer that question, we must first look at the traditional winery business model .

Traditional Winery Business Model with its 9 developed points

As you can see, the wine industry has historically been patrimonial. Vineyards and estates are passed down through generations with the winery responsible for all phases of production, clarification, and distribution.

The traditional winery business canvas model suggests you must be the owner of the winery/vineyard where the wine is “manufactured”, meaning physical assets are a key resource of the business model.

So, if you wanted to start producing a Rioja, for example, you’d have to set up your vineyard in the region.

This is monumentally expensive as you need to:

  • Purchase the land
  • Plant a vineyard
  • Absorb set-up and installation costs
  • Deal with maintenance costs

It’s here where Vintae saw their opportunity.

What if we move vineyard ownership across the business model canvas from key resources to key partners ?

By leasing the equipment and space of large wineries (of which there was plenty), they could still produce their wine but reduce the cost and exposure associated with land purchase, crushing equipment, huge storage tanks, vineyard maintenance, and their bottling line.

This enabled them to focus on their sales, marketing, and distribution channels to create a better brand experience for their customers.

Also, it afforded them more flexibility when creating new wines as they were no longer confined to the limitations of grapes grown on their vineyard.

The lightness of this new business model eliminates maintenance overheads, channels energy into personalizing the customer experience, and allows for unprecedented levels of growth in one of the world’s most competitive industries.

Vinate business model

Business Model Canvas Software

Although I did mention starting with a large whiteboard, sticky notes, and a pack of colorful sharpies there are several options in which you can digitize the business canvas model production process.

While I still believe the aforementioned process is extremely valuable (it gets your entire team’s input in a single hour-long session) you may decide it more viable for each member of management to pool their ideas digitally before sharing with the rest of the group.

If that’s the case, then take a look at some of the following software tools for creating your business model canvas.


Created by the founders of the business model canvas Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur , Strategyzer offers a range of business model canvas templates for you to get started with.

If you opt for the paid model (there is a 30-day free trial period) they offer a series of various classes that teach you how to build and test different value propositions and business models.

A real-time built-in cost estimator analyzes the financial viability of some of your business ideas, identifying alternative areas you may wish to explore with your model.

All-in-all, it’s a great resource to play around with and test some of your business ideas, with the option to dive into further detail if you see fit.

Canvanizer is a free, easy-to-use web tool that allows you to share links between team members who are brainstorming ideas for a business model canvas, but working remotely.

Like Strategyzer, there are several business model canvas templates provided to help you get started with your analysis. The strength of this platform is its accessibility. Much like a Google Doc., several people can brainstorm on the same canvas simultaneously with changes being synchronized automatically.

Business Model Canvas Tool

A ThePowerMBA alumni, impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of the tool, went ahead and created the free application Business Model Canvas Tool .

It’s an incredibly intuitive, and easy-to-use tool that allows you to create templates simply by clicking the + button in each building block.

Each business model canvas created can be downloaded and shared as a pdf. with the rest of the team.

Would You Like to Learn More about Business Models?

If, after going through our 9-step guide on how to use the Business Model Canvas you’d like to learn more about different business model analysis tools , take a look at our alternative MBA business program .

As you’ll see, the course gives students a 360-degree view of business and management practices – such as engines of growth, segmentation and targeting, and value propositions.

I highly recommend you go check it out.

Regardless, I’d love to hear what you thought about this guide. Was it helpful? Would you like to see additional business cases analyzed from your industry?

Let us know in the comments below.


What’s it like to take one of our programs.

The best thing is to try it yourself with these classes that are totally FREE! Sign up and experience being part of the business school that has challenged the traditional educational model.

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Ayeah Goodlove

Perfect thought

kourosh abdollahzadeh

I am a DBA student. I have used your site a lot. Thank you for the information

KJ Hwang

Well defined steps, Thanks for good contents.

Reza Ebadi

Dear Sir many thanks for you guideline. it was very effective for me. Thanks a Million

Debashis Rout

Well explained with practical business case


Wow, this article was incredibly helpful! I’ve heard about the Business Model Canvas before, but I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked or how to use it for my own business.


I need a sample of business model canvas for a beauty palour

Opoku Samuel

you’ve done a great job. keep it up

Claudia Roca

This is a very insightful content with a step-by-step practical approach of how to write a BMC and what exactly it should contain.

My team and I literally used your guide to write a BMC for a project we were working on, and in just about an hour we were done.

Thank you so much for this content, it was really helpful.


Thank you very much Collins and we are glad you are using this tool.


Insightful! Gave me the clarity I needed for my upcoming business. Thank you so much.


Thank you very much for the business model example of ZARA. It was very very informative


This is a great explanation, the best i’ve seen. Thanks

Thank you very much for reading and sharing your comments

Tatyasaheb Phadtare

Really great tool for business and whom want to enter,. Thanks


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Blog Beginner Guides

How to Diagram a Business Process [Process Diagramming Templates]

By Midori Nediger , Oct 21, 2021

We all know that visuals like diagrams and flowcharts are the best way to simplify and communicate complex information like decision flows.

But what should you consider when mapping a business process?

What types of diagrams are best suited to what types of processes?

How do you design a process diagram that’s both easy to understand and engaging?

That’s what we’ll work through today.

In this guide, I’ll try to cut through some of the mumbo-jumbo around process diagramming techniques. We’ll hone in on the fundamentals of designing beautiful visuals that communicate your processes effectively.

With Venngage’s Flow Chart Maker , you can create better process diagrams for departments across your business. No design experience required.

Click to jump ahead:

What is business process mapping.

  • What are process diagrams for?

Types of business processes (+ process diagram examples and templates)

How to map a business process: process diagram symbols, how to map a business process: best practices and design tips, how to create a business process diagram with venngage.

Business process mapping refers to the exercise of analyzing and documenting a process that is performed within your organization.

Mapping could focus on a high-level view of major moving parts, or describe the nitty-gritty details of a specific workflow.

The result of a process mapping activity is a process diagram.

In the healthcare flowchart below, readers are guided through possible outcomes and given instructions based on different results. A flowchart like this can help users quickly access the services they need.

COVID-19 Testing Flow Chart Template

A business process diagram uses visuals to represent a series of steps that are meaningful to your business, as this guide to assessing potential job candidates:

Business process diagrams are traditionally flowcharts, but the type of business process diagram you produce should be chosen based on:

  • The information that you need to map (which might include the steps, people, systems, data, inputs, outputs, decisions, or actions that are involved in the process)
  • The purpose of the diagram
  • The audience you’re communicating with

Types of business process diagrams include:

  • Flowcharts (variations include swimlane diagrams, SIPOC diagrams, and high-level flowcharts)
  • Process infographics
  • Workflow diagrams
  • Customer journey maps
  • Use case diagrams

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why do businesses create process diagrams?

Return to Table of Contents

What are business process diagrams for?

Businesses are built around people with different backgrounds, roles, and responsibilities working together on common processes. Process diagramming can help in building a shared understanding of these essential processes.

Process diagrams can help ensure a task is performed the same way over time and across a team. They can promote transparency and help to strengthen alignment across an organization.

Process diagrams can be high-level guides, like this Smart marketing strategy mind map used to build alignment between a marketing team and a product team:

Collaboration Strategies Mind Map Template

With Venngage’s Smart process flow diagrams, you can easily customize flow charts for a variety of business needs.

Add or delete branches from a flow chart or mind map. Connect existing shapes to new ones, and resize elements with just a few clicks.

The Smart diagram automatically adjusts around your content. And you can add your chosen formatting to different shapes using the formatting feature in the menu.

Or a flow process chart can act as a step-by-step blueprint that helps an employee perform a specific task, like this Smart diagram guide to troubleshooting billing problems:

Workflow chart template

Process diagramming can play a role in optimizing and communicating about any internal process, especially for complex processes, that change often, or that involve several people. Some examples include:

  • Aligning an organization on new strategic directions
  • Training employees on complex processes to ensure compliance and accuracy
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Planning workflows for new projects
  • Optimizing existing workflows and reducing redundancy

Process diagrams also have a place in improving external communication. They can be used to provide an overview of your services to potential clients, help guide customers through a complex system, and make the technical information more accessible to non-technical audiences.

This business process flow diagram outlines the steps that need to be followed during employee counseling.

5 Steps Employee Counseling Infographic Template

Simply put: businesses use process diagramming to maintain and improve the quality and efficiency of work–to analyze, optimize, and communicate about processes at work.

Let’s take a look at some types of business processes that should be considered for optimization and documentation.

Business processes are categorized into 3 types:

  • Operational processes: these processes directly provide value to customers and are core to the business offering (examples: product development, procurement)
  • Supporting processes: these processes don’t directly generate income but support the operational processes (examples: hiring, payroll)
  • Management processes: these processes are focused on monitoring and improving efficiency in the operational and supporting processes (examples: strategy planning, employee performance evaluation )

These processes can be further broken down by role. Here’s a quick list (read on for examples and templates):

  • Human Resources: employee onboarding process , hiring process, employee disciplinary process, resume screening guidelines, the interview process
  • Finance: planning, budgeting, forecasting, reporting (For templates just like these, get started with  Venngage for Finance . All the visual assets you need and a simple editor to customize your designs).
  • Management: strategic planning, performance evaluation, corporate governance
  • Sales: sales prospecting, lead qualifying, lead nurturing, closing
  • Customer Service & Support: customer self-service processes , troubleshooting, community management
  • Production & Operations: acquisition and supply management

For example, this Smart site map template will make it easier for website developers to organize a webpage.

Proposal Process Flowchart

You can easily edit a Smart diagram, like the one above, in Venngage by clicking on the ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ button beside a shape or text box.

You can also choose which branches you want your items to connect to.

HR process management flow charts

Process documentation is integral to the HR profession. For responsibilities like compliance, hiring, and dismissals, processes must be followed.

Process documentation can help HR professionals:

  • Communicate company policies and processes across the organization
  • Onboard employees quickly and efficiently
  • Ensure a fair and consistent hiring process
  • Reinforce learning for employee training and skill development

A mind map like the one below, for example, can be an easy way to clarify and communicate company policies and processes across multiple departments.

Workplace Violence Policy and Program Flow Chart Template

Flow charts can also help during the hiring process to make sure hiring is fair and consistent.

An HR professional might document separate processes for before, during, and after the candidate interview, or provide everything in a single summary, like this hiring process infographic:

Hiring Process Infographic Template

Similarly, standardizing (and communicating) your performance review process will help set employee expectations, so there are no surprises when it comes time for annual reviews.


When onboarding new employees, having a set of documented processes to follow can help keep trainees on track and motivated when getting up to speed on organizational processes.

Consider tracking the completion of each onboarding step with an onboarding process checklist:


Breaking down each major process that an employee needs to learn into concrete steps in summary infographics (like the one below) will also reduce strain on other staff, who will have more time to handle the things that require a hands-on approach.

Workflow diagram infographic

These training documents can also be used as a reference by existing employees who need to refresh their skills, too.

In the sales pipeline flowchart below, readers are guided through possible outcomes and given instructions based on different results. A flowchart like this can help users quickly access the services they need.

Sales Prioritization Pipeline Flow Chart Template

Learn more: Venngage for Training and Development Teams

Healthcare process flow charts and patient journey maps

Just like human resources professionals, healthcare providers rely heavily on processes to keep organizations running smoothly. Process diagramming can help healthcare professionals with:

  • Patient communication: helping patients understand their options and make informed decisions
  • Employee compliance: helping practitioners stick to best practices
  • Quality improvement: analyzing the flow of people, services, and information through a healthcare center

Flowcharts can be an easy, reliable way to allow patients to make informed decisions about their health, without requiring hands-on help.

Flowcharts and process infographics can be just as helpful for healthcare providers as they are for patients.

Healthcare Revenue Cycle Flowchart Template

Learn more: Venngage for Healthcare Organizations

The process infographic from the American Tinnitus Association below, for example, outlines the intake steps required for patients with tinnitus.


This type of process infographic helps make sure patients get access to the services they need, without putting too much burden on the healthcare provider.

Patient journey mapping for quality improvement

Process mapping also plays a central role in many healthcare quality improvement initiatives, which involve analyzing and optimizing internal processes to raise the quality of care for patients.

Mapping out the flow of people, information, and services across the patient’s journey, for example, can highlight areas for improvement, as shown in the healthcare flowchart below.


It might expose that a check-in procedure takes too long, or that patient information needs to pass through multiple systems to get where it needs to go.

You can start building out your patient journey map from a simple flow chart like the one below:

Customer Journey Infographic Template

Management process flow examples

A big part of leadership and management involves overseeing and monitoring processes, and course-correcting employees who are out of alignment.

Execs and managers can use mind maps, like the one below, to plan and then communicate a strategy for how an organization aims to meet long-term goals.

Preparing a Business Negotiation Mind Map Template

The Venngage Smart Mind Map Maker  helps you create better diagrams faster.

Add or remove shapes with the click of a button. Use the Tidy function to realign new shapes to the rest of the diagram.

And you can add styling to one shape or all of them use the formatting options in the menu.

While a manager might present their strategy in an all-hands meeting, handing over a process diagram or timeline like the one below (with more detail than can be covered in a brief meeting) can help keep employees on track long afterward.

Nonprofit Fundraising Timeline Template

Then, when it comes time to review company and employee performance, this process documentation makes it easy to compare the steps that were taken with those that were initially planned. If there are discrepancies, solutions can be worked into the strategy for the following year.

Management flow charts

A manager who is delegating some of the decision-making to their direct reports might worry about the quality of the decision-making declining.

Providing employees with decision tree diagrams can alleviate this worry while making employees feel confident in their work.

Teal Escalation Process Flowchart Template

Flowcharts can also help managers plan out new processes before implementing them in their organization. Process mapping can help managers understand and prepare for the dependencies of such a change.

Start planning out your processes with a simple flow chart or decision tree diagram template like this one:

Project Development Decision Tree Template

Workflow diagram example

Workflow diagrams, which are like flowcharts but show the actions of a single person, are perfect for mapping out user flows.

This workflow diagram, for example, shows the path of a customer processing a payment on a website.

Red Customer Ordering Process Flowchart Template

Diagrams like this can help customer support teams understand how to assist customers who run into problems in the flow, helping to ensure that customers are having their issues resolved quickly and efficiently.

You can also use a workflow diagram to build a website map that a marketing and design team can easily follow. This Smart mind map is clean and precise and includes smart nodes that can be customized with a click of a button.

Light Colorful SAAS Site Map Template

Workflow diagrams also help project managers keep track of project milestones and deliverables to make sure the project is delivered on time. Project schedules are another option.

BID Workflow Diagram Template

Learn more: 20+ Flow Chart Templates, Design Tips, and Examples

There are several different notation standards that you could use which specify the meanings for symbols used to diagram processes, including:

  • Unified Modeling Language (UML): a set of symbols used in software development to visualize the design of a system
  • Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) : a set of symbols designed for visualizing business processes
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) flowchart: a set of symbols for flowcharts, with conventions for specific types of flowcharts, including data, system, and program flowcharts

The problem with these systems is that they rely on your audience to understand these specific standards.

Since the goal of diagramming is usually to aid communication between groups of people with different knowledge bases, it’s often better to stick to just a few of the most common shapes that will be easy for most audiences to understand.

Here are the most common shapes used in the most common and useful type of process diagram, the flowchart:

  • Rectangle (activity): used to represent a step, task, or activity performed by a person
  • Diamond (decision): used to represent a decision point, where the flow will branch into two or more paths
  • Arrow (flow): used to indicate the order of events
  • Pill (start/end): used to represent a trigger that starts or ends a process

process map symbols

Let’s take a look at how you can use these four symbols to visualize complex processes for any audience.

Gather information and choose a type of process diagram

Before you jump into designing the final document that you expect to present to your team, your client, or your customer, spend some time thinking about what you want to show, and why.

Consider what information you want to communicate:

  • Do you want to specify the roles or personnel that are responsible for specific tasks?
  • Do you want to provide a high-level overview of a process to serve as a jumping-off point for a new employee?
  • Do you want to communicate how long each part of the process should take?
  • Do you want to highlight critical points in the process, or what the inputs and outputs are?
  • Do you want to help an employee complete a specific task?

A mind map, like the one below, might be best for communicating high-level strategy:


Timelines could show similar information, but would shift the focus to be on periods or dates:

Nonprofit Capital Campaign Timeline Infographic Template

Flowcharts are the most flexible option, and often the most usable as they’re widely understood.

They’re the gold standard when it comes to communicating processes with multiple paths, and are easily customized to fit the level of detail you need for any process.

It’s easy to add additional layers of information like the people responsible for a given subset of tasks, or the time a set of tasks might take.

Simple Error Flow Chart Template

Use consistent styles, sizes, and shapes for a clean and professional look

Process diagrams can quickly get messy and hard to follow, especially those with many steps and decision points.

You can keep your workflow diagram looking clean by:

  • Keeping the shapes consistent in size and aligned with each other
  • Using connectors that start and end at the same place on the shape for each step
  • Using consistent spacing (unless you want to indicate groupings, like the example below)
  • Arrange flows from decision points consistently (i.e. no on the left, yes on the right)
  • Reducing the number of bends and corners in connector lines

Bidding Process Workflow Diagram

If you follow these guidelines, even a complex process diagram can look professional and be easy to follow.

Use colors and icons to emphasize key information

One of the most important visual communication principles is to use color and visuals to serve a purpose, not just as decoration.

This is especially important for a process diagram that will be referenced regularly and needs to be understood at a glance.

Consider using contrasting colors like red and green or orange and blue to differentiate between positive and negative flows (and showing regular steps in a neutral color), as shown in the decision diagram below:

Financial Disciplinary Process Flowchart Template

You can also add icons to clarify or draw attention to key steps, or to make the design more engaging, like in this process infographic example :

Boosting Client Investment Profit Infographic Template

Use borders, shapes, and timelines to increase information density

A basic flowchart template can provide a great jumping-off point for your final design, but it might not include elements for everything that you need to communicate.

You can use elements like borders, shapes, and timelines to transform any basic flowchart into diagrams that visualize more complex information.

For example, by adding borders or backing shapes to a flowchart, you can create a swimlane diagram, like the example below, which clarifies the responsibilities of different groups within the same process.


Similarly, by adding something like a timeline (which you can pull from a timeline template ) to a flowchart, you can increase the usefulness of your diagram, and save yourself the trouble of creating and sharing a separate document.

Campaign Advertising Planning Business Process Diagram

Include labels or a legend in your process diagram

If you’re using any symbols that aren’t standard or self-explanatory, don’t forget to add labels or include a legend for your readers.

While your readers can surely infer based on the content, your flowchart will be more usable (and quicker to grasp) if you are explicit whenever you can be.

That means labeling any flows out of decision points, if you have them, like the “high” and “low” labels in this flowchart:

Troubleshooting Process Diagram Template

Or adding a legend to clarify the meanings of any colors or shapes, like in this marketing process diagram:

Growth Marketing Experiment Process Diagram

Venngage is an online visual communication tool that offers a huge variety of process diagramming templates. These aren’t just your average flowcharts.

To make a business process diagram in Venngage, start by creating a free Venngage account . This will give you access to our templates and our editor.


Browse our Templates page for a process diagramming template that meets your needs. We have thousands of templates to choose from, so start by checking out our top process diagramming categories:

  • Flowchart templates
  • Mind map templates
  • Process infographic templates
  • Diagram templates
  • Timeline templates

Look for the green ‘Smart Template’ banner on the templates to choose a smart workflow diagram. Here’s what the banner looks like in the Venngage library:

Smart business process diagrams

Find a template that matches up with the structure of your process and what you want to communicate.

Then, in the editor, swap in your text and add visuals to make key ideas pop.

Our icon replace function makes it easy to experiment with different images and icons. Click any icon in your design and click “Replace” to swap it out. You can search our library or professional icons by keyword to find icons that work for you.

You can also find shapes, lines, and borders under “Icons” in the left panel. Don’t forget to use these to add extra layers of information to your design, like using borders to indicate groupings, or using shapes and lines to add a timeline.


If you have brand guidelines to work within, use My Brand Kit to quickly apply your brand colors. Simply click to apply and shuffle until you’re happy with it! Remember, try to use brighter colors to draw attention to more important information.

Finally, share your diagram with your team! Venngage makes it simple to store and share your diagrams with the people that matter.

Once you’re done editing, copy the link to share it directly with a coworker or client. Upgrade to a Business account to download your flow chart or activate team features, like team sharing and real-time collaboration .

Use process and workflow diagrams to create better business structures

Whether you’re facing issues with team alignment, want to improve workplace efficiency, or you’re prepping to bring on new employees, business process mapping can help.

Start building out your library of process documentation with process diagrams like flowcharts, mind maps, and process infographics that will help keep you and your team on the same page (no matter how big or small your business is).

With Venngage, getting started couldn’t be easier. Start improving your processes today!

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MindManager Blog

Business diagrams: what they are, and why you should use them

June 10, 2021 by MindManager Blog

By: Emily Finlay

People are visual creatures . Understanding operational processes or applying data to decisions becomes easier when you can see a simplified form of the information you’re working with.  This is especially true of business process diagramming. 

These data visualizations break your operations into smaller, more easily understood pieces of information. You can then use these charts and graphs to explore the strengths and weaknesses of your processes. You can also work more effectively with your team to find solutions when everyone is on the same page.

But which business diagram should you use for the best results? 

In this guide, we will introduce you to the types of business diagrams, how you can use them, and the benefits they offer.

What are business diagrams?

Business diagrams represent your business processes in a visual way. Also called business process mapping, these tools show the steps involved in your procedures. Used for anything from production processes to employee onboarding, business diagrams clearly map out everything involved in your operations.

Because each industry and company has its own way of doing things, there are many options for creating a business diagram. In the next section, we’ll go through each of the visuals you can use to map your processes.

Types of business model diagrams

Flowcharts are used to visualize processes or systems. These diagrams use a variety of shapes, such as ovals, rectangles, and diamonds, to depict various steps or pieces of these processes. By using arrows to show how each stage flows into the next one , you can better understand and analyze the sequence of your systems.

Simple Flowchart Sample - MindManager Blog

Mind maps help you organize data around a central idea. If you wanted to map your quality assurance process, for example, you could use a mind map to outline the different actions you take to ensure quality throughout the production process.

Building a mind map starts with a large shape in the center to represent the main topic. You can then use lines or arrows to move users to the steps or ideas that are included in this central idea. You can also add additional levels or images and text to further explain these steps.

Mind Maps | MindManager Blog

Organization charts

Organization charts display the structure of your organization or team. A large box at the top shows the leader, either the boss or team manager. Lines then lead down into boxes that show the next level of leadership, repeating until the organization is fully mapped out. These diagrams help viewers understand the structure of the staff. They can also be used to illustrate your chain of command and decision-making hierarchy.

Org Chart Sample - MindManager Blog

Process maps

For diagrams that need large amounts of text, a process map is a great choice. These graphics use a combination of text and visuals to guide readers through a process. If you wanted to diagram a customer’s journey through your company, you could use an infographic with a flowchart design. Including blocks of text to explain each stage and guide the user along offers more information than a standard flowchart, also relying on visuals to make the concepts clear.

Process Mapping Sample 1 | MindManager Blog

Swimlane diagrams

When processes cross multiple departments, swimlane diagrams clearly display these processes for easier understanding. Placed within horizontal or vertical rows (each representing the different departments), shapes and arrows outline the stages involved in your procedures. Swimlane diagrams show how your processes move through each area and what steps are the responsibility of each department. These charts can improve both communication and collaboration.

Swimlane Diagrams | MindManager Blog

Workflow diagrams

Workflow diagrams are similar to flowcharts, but they focus exclusively on a specific task or process used by one person. Using a variety of shapes and arrows, you can use this graphic to outline the steps involved. Workflow diagrams are a great way to show new hires how to perform tasks. They can also be used to find weaknesses within your processes.

Workflow Diagram | MindManager Blog

How can I use business diagramming?

Business diagrams are designed to help you and your team improve and understand your processes. Though you may think your procedures are optimized and efficient, these visuals uncover areas that may need improvement. They also give you the insights you need to realign your processes with your main goals.

Outlining your procedures equips your team to be more efficient and effective in everything they do. Rather than keeping the status quo, you can find ways to save on costs and time as you optimize every process. 

Business process flow diagram use case examples

There are many situations where business diagrams are valuable assets. In this section, we’ll walk you through some of the ways you can use data visualization to grow your business and exceed customer expectations.

Internal audits

There are many reasons to conduct an audit within your business. Perhaps you received a complaint about your product or want to assess your compliance with industry regulations. No matter the reason, diagramming your processes should be the first step.

When you lay out the steps involved, you can clearly see areas that may be slowing production or affecting quality. You can also use your diagram to make sure employees are following the proper procedures. Armed with your guide, you won’t miss any issues that might exist.

Onboarding new employees

Offering a diagram that outlines the steps needed for a task to your new employees empowers their work and saves your time. You won’t need to walk them through your process or direct them to the appropriate collaborators. Instead, they can quickly understand and adjust to the work involved.

Preparing for a launch

Whether you’re launching a new product or opening a new location, your business process flow diagram will keep everything moving smoothly. Your team will be prepared in advance and ready to handle their responsibilities. If something goes wrong, you can use your chart to find the best way forward. You can focus on wowing your customers, confident in the plan you’re following.

The benefits of using a business analysis diagram

When a business uses a process diagram, they can access their data in a new way. From meetings to improving sales, there are endless ways to benefit from these visuals. To help you understand how business diagramming can support your business, discover the benefits it offers below.

1. Improve communication

Unclear communication processes are one of the easiest ways to create chaos within a team and organization. If your employees don’t know who to go to, none of your projects will run smoothly. Instead, multiple people will receive the same information and it may never get to the people who need it most.

Outlining your processes shows how you expect employees to communicate data. You won’t run the risk of missing out on key information and your team can move forward more quickly. It also solidifies your procedures for future projects. Your team can do more in less time when they work together more effectively .

2. Optimize processes

Analyzing your processes on a regular basis keeps your team working better as time passes. When you first create the procedure, diagramming helps you find the best ways to get things done. As time goes on, you can use your diagrams to identify new ways to improve.

This also strengthens your responses to changes. No matter the shift, you can identify the ideal pivots to make to maintain and grow your business.

3. Maintain consistency

People like patterns. Laying out the steps to your procedures creates a reliable rhythm and routine to the work you do. Like a well-run machine, you can establish processes that encourage productivity. Consistency also ensures that your team can deliver the same level of quality with everything they do. Everyone will know exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to succeed, keeping your results dependable and exceptional.

4. Stay compliant

When companies violate regulations, it’s often due to deviations from policy that aren’t caught by management. A business process diagram minimizes this risk by clearly showing what each task requires to stay in compliance. Even when new staff joins your team, you can ensure that they follow your exact steps to keep your business operating within regulations.

5. Beat the competition

A business that runs well internally will also perform better in its industry. You won’t be losing money to inefficiencies, giving you more resources to expand. Uniting your team through excellent communication strategies and clear roles will empower them to perform at their best. Your business will operate as it’s designed to from top to bottom, allowing you to offer industry-best results to your customers.

Most importantly, improvement will be baked into every area of your business processes. Your organization will always focus on doing better and doing more, helping your customers succeed at the same time. As you continually work to make your processes that much better , you will show the market that you are the best choice available.

Ready to take the next step?

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business development model diagram

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What Is a Business Model?

  • Andrea Ovans

business development model diagram

A history, from Drucker to Christensen.

A look through HBR’s archives shows that business thinkers use the concept of a “business model” in many different ways, potentially skewing the definition. Many people believe Peter Drucker defined the term in a 1994 article as “assumptions about what a company gets paid for,” but that article never mentions the term business model. Instead, Drucker’s theory of the business was a set of assumptions about what a business will and won’t do, closer to Michael Porter’s definition of strategy. Businesses make assumptions about who their customers and competitors are, as well as about technology and their own strengths and weaknesses. Joan Magretta carries the idea of assumptions into her focus on business modeling, which encompasses the activities associated with both making and selling something. Alex Osterwalder also builds on Drucker’s concept of assumptions in his “business model canvas,” a way of organizing assumptions so that you can compare business models. Introducing a better business model into an existing market is the definition of a disruptive innovation, as written about by Clay Christensen. Rita McGrath offers that your business model is failing when innovations yield smaller and smaller improvements. You can innovate a new model by altering the mix of products and services, postponing decisions, changing the people who make the decisions, or changing incentives in the value chain. Finally, Mark Johnson provides a list of 19 types of business models and the organizations that use them.

In The New, New Thing , Michael Lewis refers to the phrase business model as “a term of art.” And like art itself, it’s one of those things many people feel they can recognize when they see it (especially a particularly clever or terrible one) but can’t quite define.

business development model diagram

  • AO Andrea Ovans is a former senior editor at Harvard Business Review.

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What is Business Process Modeling Notation

What are your requirements regarding bpmn diagrams.

Professionals in sales, project management, and other areas use business process modeling software to map out their approach to any specific process. Learn the essentials of BPMN and BPMN 2.0, along with the history, purpose, benefits, symbols, diagram types, and key tips for business process modeling.

7 minute read

Would you like to create a BPMN diagram? Test Lucidchart - fast, easy, free.

What is BPMN?

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a flow chart method that models the steps of a planned business process from end to end. A key to Business Process Management, it visually depicts a detailed sequence of business activities and information flows needed to complete a process.

Very recent history

Purpose and benefits.

At a high level, BPMN is targeted at participants and other stakeholders in a business process to gain understanding through an easy-to-understand visual representation of the steps. At a more involved level, it’s targeted at the people who will implement the process, giving sufficient detail to enable precise implementation. It provides a standard, common language for all stakeholders, whether technical or non-technical: business analysts, process participants, managers and technical developers, as well as external teams and consultants. Ideally, it bridges the gap between process intention and implementation by providing sufficient detail and clarity into the sequence of business activities.

The diagramming can be far easier to understand than narrative text would be. It allows for easier communication and collaboration to reach the goal of an efficient process that produces a high-quality result. It also helps with communication leading to XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents needed to execute various processes. One main XML standard is called BPEL or BEPEL4WS, standing for Business Process Execution Language for Web Services.

BPMN 2.0 diagram elements and symbols

BPMN depicts these four element types for business process diagrams:

  • Flow objects:  events , activities , gateways
  • Connecting objects: sequence flow, message flow, association
  • Swimlanes: pool or lane
  • Artifacts: data object, group, annotation

These are the individual elements and how they are used to define a business process:

A trigger that starts, modifies or completes a process. Event types include message, timer, error, compensation, signal, cancel, escalation, link and others. They are shown by circles containing other symbols based on event type. They are classified as either “throwing” or “catching,” depending on their function.

A particular activity or task performed by a person or system. It’s shown by a rectangle with rounded corners. They can become more detailed with sub-processes , loops, compensations and multiple instances.

Decision point that can adjust the path based on conditions or events. They are shown as diamonds. They can be exclusive or inclusive, parallel, complex, or based on data or events.

Sequence flow

Shows the order of activities to be performed. It is shown as a straight line with an arrow. It might show a conditional flow, or a default flow.

Message flow

Depicts messages that flow across “pools,” or organization boundaries such as departments. It shouldn’t connect events or activities within a pool. It is represented by a dashed line with a circle at the start and an arrow at the end.


Shown with a dotted line, it associates an artifact or text to an event, activity or gateway.

Pool and swimlane

A pool represents major participants in a process. A different pool may be in a different company or department but still involved in the process. Swimlanes within a pool show the activities and flow for a certain role or participant, defining who is accountable for what parts of the process.

Additional information that developers add to bring a necessary level of detail to the diagram. There are three types of artifacts : data object, group or annotation. A data object shows what data is necessary for an activity. A group shows a logical grouping of activities but doesn’t change the diagram’s flow. An annotation provides further explanation to a part of the diagram.

Who does business process modeling?

Business Process Modeling can range from simple, hand-drawn diagrams to more involved ones with expandable elements to provide sufficient implementation detail. At its most sophisticated, BPMN is conducted by credentialed analysts. The Object Management Group (OMG) provides OCEB 2 , which stands for OMG-Certified Expert in BPM 2.0. One track is business-oriented, and the other is technical. OMG intends for BPMN 2.0 to standardize business process modeling in the same way that Unified Modeling Language (UML) standardized software modeling.

BPMN requires a commitment of time and energy, but the payoff in understanding and improvement can be huge. Version 2.0 builds on previous versions by providing a richer standard set of symbols and notations, allowing more detail for those who need it.

The idea behind Business Process Management is to create a life cycle of continuous improvement. The steps are model, implement, execute, monitor and optimize. BPMN diagrams play a key role in that.

Sub-models within a BPMN diagram

The diagrams are used to communicate with diverse audiences, both non-technical and technical. Sub-models allow the diverse viewers to easily differentiate between sections of the diagram, finding what’s most applicable to them. The types of sub-models are:

  • Private business processes. These are internal to a specific organization and don’t cross pools, or organizational boundaries.
  • Abstract business processes. These occur between a private/internal process and another participant or process. The abstract process shows the outside world the sequence of messages needed to interact with the private process. It doesn’t show the private/internal process itself.
  • Collaboration business processes. These show the interactions between two or more business entities.

Other diagram types

In BPMN 2, there are these other diagram types: conversation, choreography and collaboration.

  • Choreography diagram: Shows interactions between two or more participants. It also may be expanded with sub-choreographies.
  • Collaboration diagram: Shows interactions between two or more processes, using more than one pool. All combinations of pools, processes and choreography may be used in a collaboration diagram.
  • Conversation diagram: In general, this is a simplified version of a collaboration diagram. It shows a group of related message exchanges in a business process. It may be expanded with sub-conversations.

Key tips for business process modeling

  • Clearly define the scope of the process with a beginning and end.
  • You might first map the current business process to highlight inefficiencies before modeling a better way with BPMN.
  • Aim for BPMN diagrams that fit on one page, even if the page is poster-sized, as some are.
  • Lay out sequence flows horizontally. Show associations and data flows vertically.
  • You can create different versions of the diagram for different stakeholders, depending on the level of detail needed for their role.
  • BPMN is not appropriate for modeling organizational structures, functional breakdowns, or data flow models. Although BPMN depicts some information flows in business processes, it’s not a Data Flow Diagram (DFD.)

How to do business process modeling with Lucidchart

It's easy to make business process models with Lucidchart. After signing up, simply log in, then create a blank document or start with a template. Be sure to open the BPMN shapes library, then drag and drop shapes onto the canvas as needed.

You can also stylize lines, format text, and reposition elements to get the look you need. Afterwards, share, download, or export your diagram however you like.

Helpful Resources

  • Visio BPMN Stencil and Templates
  • BPMN Event Types
  • BPMN Diagram Symbols & Notation
  • BPMN Activity Types
  • BPMN Gateway Types
  • BPMN & BPMN 2.0 Tutorial
  • All About Business Process Mapping, Flow Charts and Diagrams

Lucidchart's complete BPMN shape library along with its easy-to-use interface make it the ideal tool for modeling your business process. Try it today!

Your Guide to Business Process Diagrams

You are Here : Process Software >> Business Process Diagram

Creating business process diagrams is the best way to optimize processes for enterprises.

As a CIO, whether you are planning to revamp internal processes or looking for areas of improvement, detailed process diagrams can help document everything in one place and make better data-driven decisions.

To leverage the many benefits of business process diagrams, it's crucial to understand how they work and the steps to create one.

What is a business process diagram?

A business process diagram refers to a visual representation of the flow of activities involved in achieving specific business goals. They are used to document and analyze business processes and can be helpful for identifying bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and opportunities for improvement.

Why should you diagram a business process?

Nearly everyone has an answer to the question, “How should this process run?”. But if your explanation is only verbal or text-based, you are missing out on a lot.

By creating a visual business process flow diagram, you unlock your mind to actually see the invisible road that your data is travelling.

Business Process Diagram Example – Notice this difference between typing out this process:

>Complete a PTO request form >Get approval from manager >Send to HR for recordkeeping >Send to Payroll for documentation >Add days off to shared calendar

And seeing this visual:

Business Process Diagram

Your business process diagram can quickly show the sequence of tasks, if they are conditional, if they are done simultaneously, if they are a system task, or assigned to a human.

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4 Steps to Create a Business Process Flow Diagram

1. make a rough draft on paper.

It’s often helpful to start with an easily editable visual of what you think the business process diagram should look like.

2. Get input from stakeholders

Everyone involved in the process will have a different insight to share.

3. Digitize the process

Enter the information into a  BPM tool to show the relationship between tasks.

4. Assign roles and conditions

Who should do each task? Should it be a person or a system? Do the tasks need to happen every time?

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Example of business process diagrams: invoice approval.

The invoice approval process in an organization can require many steps before the payment is actually processed and released to the vendor. By breaking down the entire process with a process diagram, it can become easier to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies. 


Invoice received: The company receives the invoice from the vendor or supplier. Review for accuracy: The invoice is then reviewed automatically to ensure all the billed items, invoice format, and account details are correct. If there are any discrepancies, the invoices can be rejected and returned. Assign to approver: After the initial check, the invoice is assigned to the approver, who then manually reviews the invoice.  Forward to finance: When the approver reviews and approves the invoice, it is directly forwarded to the finance team. Review by finance: The finance team reviews the invoice for compliance and approval. Payment processing: The finance team processes the payment Process ends: Once the payment is cleared, the process ends.

Use Kissflow for Your Business Process Diagrams

Kissflow is a low-code platform that can digitize and streamline business processes with minimal coding. Its intuitive drag-and-drop form builder allows you to build complex processes that align with your business process diagrams in just a few clicks.  The powerful analytics and reporting tools by Kissflow allow you to monitor processes in real-time, identify potential problems, and make data-driven decisions.

Related resources

  • 4 Trends that are revolutionizing Business Process Management in 2023
  • Business Process Management Overview
  • 5 Best Business Process Management Tools for 2023

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Nine business roadmap examples for scaling your organization

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Business roadmaps can take on countless forms—depending on the business function the roadmapper is in charge of.

To help narrow the scope for any business planning its own growth, we’ve outlined 9 business roadmap examples below that are aimed at organizations looking to scale. ( Btw, all of these roadmaps are available in our roadmap template library, which you can check out here! )

We’ll also be offering examples of each type of business roadmap that fall under two general formats: timeline roadmaps (roadmaps planned with specific dates in mind) and swimlane roadmaps .

Timeline-view roadmaps are, as the name suggests, roadmaps that lay out a specific timeline for a plan or strategy. These roadmaps usually highlight time-based elements per each initiative on the roadmap (like milestones, key dates, and dependencies). Swimlane-view roadmaps, on the other hand, offer fuzzier “buckets” of time for initiatives on the roadmap like backlog / in progress / completed.

Searching for the right tool for your roadmapping needs? Let our roadmap tool guide help you.

1. business roadmap.

For a company that needs a flexible document that effectively presents key business goals, dates, and plans of action relevant to all stakeholders.

What’s a business roadmap?

A business roadmap is a visualization of your company’s major objectives and strategies. Stakeholders use business roadmaps to illustrate initiatives and deadlines happening in different departments.

Like a business plan, a roadmap gives the long view of where your organization is going and how it will get there. For businesses to succeed, stakeholders need a shared understanding of the big picture. Business roadmaps knock down silos between teams and provide a clear vision of the future.

For a more detailed breakdown of what a business roadmap is and isn’t, check out our guide: What’s a Business Roadmap?

Business roadmap examples


This view also lets teams see how their work is contributing to efforts to grow the business, which in turn can help businesses see and squash any silos between departments and stakeholders.


For businesses that aren’t ready to allocate specific timeframes to every single initiative on their roadmap, that’s where a swimlane-view works really well. By showing each department’s individual projects and strategies, you can have swimlanes dedicated to each team and then organize items by any timeframe.

Think of this type of roadmap as a snapshot of each team’s primary objectives for certain periods of time. Someone should be able to look at this roadmap and quickly understand what each team is trying to achieve in each timeframe.

Align all your stakeholders around the business goals that matter using our business roadmap template .

2. Strategic roadmap

For companies with a strong vision that need a visual blueprint to stay on top of the goals that matter the most to the business.

What is a strategic roadmap?

Simply put, a strategic roadmap communicates your business’ vision. Outlining the steps to achieve your mission, a business roadmap hinges on long-term objectives and deadlines. The keyword here is long-term. That means it doesn’t include product features and short-term wins; this roadmap is reserved for overarching goals like fundraising rounds and MRR targets.

Generally owned by senior-level stakeholders, this roadmap should be accessible to every employee (not to edit per se, but to view). By granting this access, you align your individual departments on your plans to grow the business and you encourage teams to develop projects that contribute directly to said growth.

Strategic roadmap examples

For organizations planning their business growth strategy over the next few months, quarters, or years, a timeline-view of the strategic roadmap works really well. Businesses can use this time-based view of a business roadmap to track key initiatives and milestones that each of your departments will undertake to contribute to the overall mission.

A swimlane-view of the roadmap is perfect for businesses that are less strict about the “when” of their strategic planning. This roadmap assigns each team an individual swimlane and organizes their respective strategic initiatives by status. This way, any stakeholder can quickly glance and know what strategic project is upcoming, in progress, or completed.

Plan to achieve your big vision with our ready-to-use strategic roadmap template .

3. Startup roadmap

For early-stage companies that need a way to communicate and align on what to build first, in what order, and how to deliver it.

What’s a startup roadmap?

While a business roadmap can be adapted for any size organization, the common roadmap template might not be as applicable if you don't have many teams or resources. That’s why we suggest a startup roadmap for businesses still finding their footing.

A startup roadmap helps smaller businesses plan how they’ll hit the ground running and then scale to a much larger size. Because starting your own business is very much a roller coaster of an experience, a startup roadmap helps bring some clarity to the messy and experimental process.

Startups tend not to be heavily process-oriented. As a result, startup roadmaps lean more on the high-level and flexible side, so as to adapt quickly to the often chaotic startup environment. The roadmap is a small business’ way of zooming in on its end goal (hint: business growth) and mapping out a feasible plan to achieve said goal.

Startup roadmap examples

The truth is, as a startup, you’re probably not too strict about timelines. So, that’s where a swimlane-view of the startup roadmap is most useful. For startups that just aren’t as confident (or trusting) of their timelines, apply a Swimlane View for your business where the focus is on the status of the project, not when it’s getting pushed out.

Startups, we got you. Chart your growth with our customizable startup roadmap template .

4. Business development roadmap

For companies that need a way to organize teams around a market-share growth plan.

What’s a business development roadmap?

For super-speedy businesses barreling towards major growth by the end of the year, a business development roadmap is an ideal asset for your toolkit. This roadmap highlights the essential tasks that contribute to rapid revenue and market-share growth, often in a one-year timeframe.

Sales, marketing, and product teams champion this roadmap, as they use this tool to plan and communicate their business development projects that play a hand in aggressive business growth. For example, sales can use this roadmap to visualize their “land and expand” strategies, while product can outline initiatives like a referral program or live chat that will capture more customers—and ultimately rake in $$.

Business development roadmap examples

Milestones can clearly highlight the KPIs the business wants to hit during this growth period, thereby giving your teams specific goals (and deadlines) to strive towards. On top of that, you can also explicitly communicate external factors, like changes to privacy laws or updates to a certain OS, that could muddy the “biz dev” waters.

For the less deadline-oriented businesses, a swimlane-view lets you bucket your business development tasks into loose buckets such as quarters. It’s a sweet and simple way to manage all the teams’ expectations on when certain things must get done.

Reach your biz dev goals (even) faster with our business development roadmap template .

5. Business intelligence roadmap

For managers and their teams that need a tool for keeping track of and visualizing the different areas of BI everyone is working on.

What’s a business intelligence roadmap?

For business intelligence (BI) teams that want to maximize their effect on organizational decisions and growth, enlist a business intelligence roadmap. Owned and operated by BI managers and their teams, this type of roadmap visualizes and communicates all aspects of BI, from data mining and analysis to querying and reporting.

BI managers can use this roadmap to plan how their team can optimize internal business processes to be more efficient, which leads to better-informed decisions by the business. An added benefit of this roadmap is that it helps BI managers inform the rest of the organization and C-level executives about what BI is doing and how they plan on being a part of the business’ bigger picture.

Business intelligence roadmap examples

The swimlane-view of the BI roadmap hones in on the BI team’s higher-level goals versus the dates that they’re hitting. Assigning BI tasks to different business verticals like data governance, process improvement or architecture & infrastructure, this roadmap then organizes tasks based on BI goals like strategy, growth and efficiency.

Build your own business intelligence roadmap with our ready-to-use template (just like above ☝️).

6. Data strategy roadmap

For teams that need to communicate how a company’s data operations will evolve over time, as well as what resources will be required to achieve them.

What’s a data strategy roadmap?

A data strategy roadmap tells the rest of your organization how you’ll improve your business’ data operations—such as data collection, storage, management, and application. Well-planned and properly stored data = better business decisions = better organizational growth.

This roadmap tends to fall into the hands of your CIOs, CTOs, and data teams. These data-leaning individuals use this roadmap to ensure their business’ data strategy fits nicely with not only their business processes, but security and information management best practices.

Think of this roadmap as a way to answer any pressing questions—internally and externally—regarding how your business handles data. Are you legally (and ethically) collecting the right data from your users when they visit your website? Are you storing any “unclean” data that should be expunged from your records? What security protocols are in place in case of a data breach?

Data strategy roadmap examples

For more flexibility with your data strategy, apply a swimlane-view . Rather than mapping data initiatives across an extensive timeline, the team’s activities and tasks are sorted into smaller time frames like months or quarters. This way, the team (and organization) can see which types of data security initiatives are getting priority and when.

Get your data strategy in order with our data strategy roadmap template .

7. Enterprise architecture roadmap

For enterprise businesses that need a way to communicate—and align stakeholders on—a plan for evolving the organization’s infrastructure.

What’s an enterprise architecture roadmap?

Enterprises need a roadmap to bring clarity to the chaos. Designed for your big corporations and complex, towering businesses, an enterprise architecture roadmap presents how an enterprise will evolve its own infrastructure in the coming years.

Focusing on organizational agility, efficiency, and stability, this business roadmap illustrates the steps that will be taken to evolve the enterprise’s architecture from status quo to end goal. Mapping and planning this evolution communicates to the rest of the organization how the enterprise will stay competitive and brace itself for changes in the market.

Enterprise architecture roadmap examples

For enterprises that want to provide a quick summary of their business growth, a swimlane-view may be more your speed. Charting enterprise architecture projects across flexible timeframes like months or quarters, this roadmap provides an overtly transparent depiction of which project will be completed when.

Start planning how your organization's infrastructure will evolve using our enterprise architecture roadmap template

8. eCommerce roadmap

For eCommerce businesses that need a way to visually map and communicate future growth, customer acquisition strategies, and optimization efforts.

What’s an eCommerce roadmap?

An eCommerce roadmap aligns the various marketing, design, merchandising, and development initiatives involved in sustaining and growing an ecommerce platform. Milestones come in handy by marking common deadlines, such as collection launches and important seasonal retail dates.

This type of roadmap can help an organization plan the development of an online business, coordinate cross-departmental efforts, and better identify business opportunities.

eCommerce roadmap examples

And with the swimlane-view , you can get a high-level, less time-sensitive version of your ecommerce strategy.

Keep your stakeholders aligned on how you plan to grow your eCommerce business using our enterprise architecture roadmap

9. Capability roadmap

For teams that need a way to visualize the plan around resources for big, future projects.

What’s a capability roadmap?

You know those big projects you’ve always envisioned, but they’re so grand they take years to implement? A capability roadmap helps you plan how to execute these projects.

Plotting the large-scale goals a business wants to tackle in the next few quarters or years, a capability roadmap revolves around potential rather than your present projects. It plans the super-ambitious, game-changing goals beyond features and releases. Think launching five product lines in three years, or opening up a global office in Europe, or owning 25 percent of the market share in two years.

Capability roadmap examples

If a timeline is too detailed for your capability plans, a swimlane-view might be more up your alley. Organizing your plans into loose and/or fuzzy time buckets like years or “Future,” this roadmap view offers a digestible snapshot of how and when each team plans on tackling capability initiatives.

Try this template for free + check out the other 35+ roadmap templates in our library and find the perfect roadmap for your organizational needs.

Continue exploring this guide

What is a business roadmap, business roadmap templates to grow your non-product teams, you might also like these, try roadmunk for free.

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business development model diagram

  • Business strategy |
  • 7 strategic planning models, plus 8 fra ...

7 strategic planning models, plus 8 frameworks to help you get started

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Strategic planning is vital in defining where your business is going in the next three to five years. With the right strategic planning models and frameworks, you can uncover opportunities, identify risks, and create a strategic plan to fuel your organization’s success. We list the most popular models and frameworks and explain how you can combine them to create a strategic plan that fits your business.

A strategic plan is a great tool to help you hit your business goals . But sometimes, this tool needs to be updated to reflect new business priorities or changing market conditions. If you decide to use a model that already exists, you can benefit from a roadmap that’s already created. The model you choose can improve your knowledge of what works best in your organization, uncover unknown strengths and weaknesses, or help you find out how you can outpace your competitors.

In this article, we cover the most common strategic planning models and frameworks and explain when to use which one. Plus, get tips on how to apply them and which models and frameworks work well together. 

Strategic planning models vs. frameworks

First off: This is not a one-or-nothing scenario. You can use as many or as few strategic planning models and frameworks as you like. 

When your organization undergoes a strategic planning phase, you should first pick a model or two that you want to apply. This will provide you with a basic outline of the steps to take during the strategic planning process.

[Inline illustration] Strategic planning models vs. frameworks (Infographic)

During that process, think of strategic planning frameworks as the tools in your toolbox. Many models suggest starting with a SWOT analysis or defining your vision and mission statements first. Depending on your goals, though, you may want to apply several different frameworks throughout the strategic planning process.

For example, if you’re applying a scenario-based strategic plan, you could start with a SWOT and PEST(LE) analysis to get a better overview of your current standing. If one of the weaknesses you identify has to do with your manufacturing process, you could apply the theory of constraints to improve bottlenecks and mitigate risks. 

Now that you know the difference between the two, learn more about the seven strategic planning models, as well as the eight most commonly used frameworks that go along with them.

[Inline illustration] The seven strategic planning models (Infographic)

1. Basic model

The basic strategic planning model is ideal for establishing your company’s vision, mission, business objectives, and values. This model helps you outline the specific steps you need to take to reach your goals, monitor progress to keep everyone on target, and address issues as they arise.

If it’s your first strategic planning session, the basic model is the way to go. Later on, you can embellish it with other models to adjust or rewrite your business strategy as needed. Let’s take a look at what kinds of businesses can benefit from this strategic planning model and how to apply it.

Small businesses or organizations

Companies with little to no strategic planning experience

Organizations with few resources 

Write your mission statement. Gather your planning team and have a brainstorming session. The more ideas you can collect early in this step, the more fun and rewarding the analysis phase will feel.

Identify your organization’s goals . Setting clear business goals will increase your team’s performance and positively impact their motivation.

Outline strategies that will help you reach your goals. Ask yourself what steps you have to take in order to reach these goals and break them down into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals .

Create action plans to implement each of the strategies above. Action plans will keep teams motivated and your organization on target.

Monitor and revise the plan as you go . As with any strategic plan, it’s important to closely monitor if your company is implementing it successfully and how you can adjust it for a better outcome.

2. Issue-based model

Also called goal-based planning model, this is essentially an extension of the basic strategic planning model. It’s a bit more dynamic and very popular for companies that want to create a more comprehensive plan.

Organizations with basic strategic planning experience

Businesses that are looking for a more comprehensive plan

Conduct a SWOT analysis . Assess your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a SWOT analysis to get a better overview of what your strategic plan should focus on. We’ll give into how to conduct a SWOT analysis when we get into the strategic planning frameworks below.

Identify and prioritize major issues and/or goals. Based on your SWOT analysis, identify and prioritize what your strategic plan should focus on this time around.

Develop your main strategies that address these issues and/or goals. Aim to develop one overarching strategy that addresses your highest-priority goal and/or issue to keep this process as simple as possible.

Update or create a mission and vision statement . Make sure that your business’s statements align with your new or updated strategy. If you haven’t already, this is also a chance for you to define your organization’s values.

Create action plans. These will help you address your organization’s goals, resource needs, roles, and responsibilities. 

Develop a yearly operational plan document. This model works best if your business repeats the strategic plan implementation process on an annual basis, so use a yearly operational plan to capture your goals, progress, and opportunities for next time.

Allocate resources for your year-one operational plan. Whether you need funding or dedicated team members to implement your first strategic plan, now is the time to allocate all the resources you’ll need.

Monitor and revise the strategic plan. Record your lessons learned in the operational plan so you can revisit and improve it for the next strategic planning phase.

The issue-based plan can repeat on an annual basis (or less often once you resolve the issues). It’s important to update the plan every time it’s in action to ensure it’s still doing the best it can for your organization.

You don’t have to repeat the full process every year—rather, focus on what’s a priority during this run.

3. Alignment model

This model is also called strategic alignment model (SAM) and is one of the most popular strategic planning models. It helps you align your business and IT strategies with your organization’s strategic goals. 

You’ll have to consider four equally important, yet different perspectives when applying the alignment strategic planning model:

Strategy execution: The business strategy driving the model

Technology potential: The IT strategy supporting the business strategy

Competitive potential: Emerging IT capabilities that can create new products and services

Service level: Team members dedicated to creating the best IT system in the organization

Ideally, your strategy will check off all the criteria above—however, it’s more likely you’ll have to find a compromise. 

Here’s how to create a strategic plan using the alignment model and what kinds of companies can benefit from it.

Organizations that need to fine-tune their strategies

Businesses that want to uncover issues that prevent them from aligning with their mission

Companies that want to reassess objectives or correct problem areas that prevent them from growing

Outline your organization’s mission, programs, resources, and where support is needed. Before you can improve your statements and approaches, you need to define what exactly they are.

Identify what internal processes are working and which ones aren’t. Pinpoint which processes are causing problems, creating bottlenecks , or could otherwise use improving. Then prioritize which internal processes will have the biggest positive impact on your business.

Identify solutions. Work with the respective teams when you’re creating a new strategy to benefit from their experience and perspective on the current situation.

Update your strategic plan with the solutions. Update your strategic plan and monitor if implementing it is setting your business up for improvement or growth. If not, you may have to return to the drawing board and update your strategic plan with new solutions.

4. Scenario model

The scenario model works great if you combine it with other models like the basic or issue-based model. This model is particularly helpful if you need to consider external factors as well. These can be government regulations, technical, or demographic changes that may impact your business.

Organizations trying to identify strategic issues and goals caused by external factors

Identify external factors that influence your organization. For example, you should consider demographic, regulation, or environmental factors.

Review the worst case scenario the above factors could have on your organization. If you know what the worst case scenario for your business looks like, it’ll be much easier to prepare for it. Besides, it’ll take some of the pressure and surprise out of the mix, should a scenario similar to the one you create actually occur.

Identify and discuss two additional hypothetical organizational scenarios. On top of your worst case scenario, you’ll also want to define the best case and average case scenarios. Keep in mind that the worst case scenario from the previous step can often provoke strong motivation to change your organization for the better. However, discussing the other two will allow you to focus on the positive—the opportunities your business may have ahead.

Identify and suggest potential strategies or solutions. Everyone on the team should now brainstorm different ways your business could potentially respond to each of the three scenarios. Discuss the proposed strategies as a team afterward.

Uncover common considerations or strategies for your organization. There’s a good chance that your teammates come up with similar solutions. Decide which ones you like best as a team or create a new one together.

Identify the most likely scenario and the most reasonable strategy. Finally, examine which of the three scenarios is most likely to occur in the next three to five years and how your business should respond to potential changes.

5. Self-organizing model

Also called the organic planning model, the self-organizing model is a bit different from the linear approaches of the other models. You’ll have to be very patient with this method. 

This strategic planning model is all about focusing on the learning and growing process rather than achieving a specific goal. Since the organic model concentrates on continuous improvement , the process is never really over.

Large organizations that can afford to take their time

Businesses that prefer a more naturalistic, organic planning approach that revolves around common values, communication, and shared reflection

Companies that have a clear understanding of their vision

Define and communicate your organization’s cultural values . Your team can only think clearly and with solutions in mind when they have a clear understanding of your organization's values.

Communicate the planning group’s vision for the organization. Define and communicate the vision with everyone involved in the strategic planning process. This will align everyone’s ideas with your company’s vision.

Discuss what processes will help realize the organization’s vision on a regular basis. Meet every quarter to discuss strategies or tactics that will move your organization closer to realizing your vision.

6. Real-time model

This fluid model can help organizations that deal with rapid changes to their work environment. There are three levels of success in the real-time model: 

Organizational: At the organizational level, you’re forming strategies in response to opportunities or trends.

Programmatic: At the programmatic level, you have to decide how to respond to specific outcomes or environmental changes.

Operational: On the operational level, you will study internal systems, policies, and people to develop a strategy for your company.

Figuring out your competitive advantage can be difficult, but this is absolutely crucial to ensure success. Whether it’s a unique asset or strength your organization has or an outstanding execution of services or programs—it’s important that you can set yourself apart from others in the industry to succeed.

Companies that need to react quickly to changing environments

Businesses that are seeking new tools to help them align with their organizational strategy

Define your mission and vision statement. If you ever feel stuck formulating your company’s mission or vision statement, take a look at those of others. Maybe Asana’s vision statement sparks some inspiration.

Research, understand, and learn from competitor strategy and market trends. Pick a handful of competitors in your industry and find out how they’ve created success for themselves. How did they handle setbacks or challenges? What kinds of challenges did they even encounter? Are these common scenarios in the market? Learn from your competitors by finding out as much as you can about them.

Study external environments. At this point, you can combine the real-time model with the scenario model to find solutions to threats and opportunities outside of your control.

Conduct a SWOT analysis of your internal processes, systems, and resources. Besides the external factors your team has to consider, it’s also important to look at your company’s internal environment and how well you’re prepared for different scenarios.

Develop a strategy. Discuss the results of your SWOT analysis to develop a business strategy that builds toward organizational, programmatic, and operational success.

Rinse and repeat. Monitor how well the new strategy is working for your organization and repeat the planning process as needed to ensure you’re on top or, perhaps, ahead of the game. 

7. Inspirational model

This last strategic planning model is perfect to inspire and energize your team as they work toward your organization’s goals. It’s also a great way to introduce or reconnect your employees to your business strategy after a merger or acquisition.

Businesses with a dynamic and inspired start-up culture

Organizations looking for inspiration to reinvigorate the creative process

Companies looking for quick solutions and strategy shifts

Gather your team to discuss an inspirational vision for your organization. The more people you can gather for this process, the more input you will receive.

Brainstorm big, hairy audacious goals and ideas. Encouraging your team not to hold back with ideas that may seem ridiculous will do two things: for one, it will mitigate the fear of contributing bad ideas. But more importantly, it may lead to a genius idea or suggestion that your team wouldn’t have thought of if they felt like they had to think inside of the box.

Assess your organization’s resources. Find out if your company has the resources to implement your new ideas. If they don’t, you’ll have to either adjust your strategy or allocate more resources.

Develop a strategy balancing your resources and brainstorming ideas. Far-fetched ideas can grow into amazing opportunities but they can also bear great risk. Make sure to balance ideas with your strategic direction. 

Now, let’s dive into the most commonly used strategic frameworks.

8. SWOT analysis framework

One of the most popular strategic planning frameworks is the SWOT analysis . A SWOT analysis is a great first step in identifying areas of opportunity and risk—which can help you create a strategic plan that accounts for growth and prepares for threats.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Here’s an example:

[Inline illustration] SWOT analysis (Example)

9. OKRs framework

A big part of strategic planning is setting goals for your company. That’s where OKRs come into play. 

OKRs stand for objective and key results—this goal-setting framework helps your organization set and achieve goals. It provides a somewhat holistic approach that you can use to connect your team’s work to your organization’s big-picture goals.  When team members understand how their individual work contributes to the organization’s success, they tend to be more motivated and produce better results

10. Balanced scorecard (BSC) framework

The balanced scorecard is a popular strategic framework for businesses that want to take a more holistic approach rather than just focus on their financial performance. It was designed by David Norton and Robert Kaplan in the 1990s, it’s used by companies around the globe to: 

Communicate goals

Align their team’s daily work with their company’s strategy

Prioritize products, services, and projects

Monitor their progress toward their strategic goals

Your balanced scorecard will outline four main business perspectives:

Customers or clients , meaning their value, satisfaction, and/or retention

Financial , meaning your effectiveness in using resources and your financial performance

Internal process , meaning your business’s quality and efficiency

Organizational capacity , meaning your organizational culture, infrastructure and technology, and human resources

With the help of a strategy map, you can visualize and communicate how your company is creating value. A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows cause-and-effect connections between strategic objectives. 

The balanced scorecard framework is an amazing tool to use from outlining your mission, vision, and values all the way to implementing your strategic plan .

You can use an integration like Lucidchart to create strategy maps for your business in Asana.

11. Porter’s Five Forces framework

If you’re using the real-time strategic planning model, Porter’s Five Forces are a great framework to apply. You can use it to find out what your product’s or service’s competitive advantage is before entering the market.

Developed by Michael E. Porter , the framework outlines five forces you have to be aware of and monitor:

[Inline illustration] Porter’s Five Forces framework (Infographic)

Threat of new industry entrants: Any new entry into the market results in increased pressure on prices and costs. 

Competition in the industry: The more competitors that exist, the more difficult it will be for you to create value in the market with your product or service.

Bargaining power of suppliers: Suppliers can wield more power if there are less alternatives for buyers or it’s expensive, time consuming, or difficult to switch to a different supplier.

Bargaining power of buyers: Buyers can wield more power if the same product or service is available elsewhere with little to no difference in quality.

Threat of substitutes: If another company already covers the market’s needs, you’ll have to create a better product or service or make it available for a lower price at the same quality in order to compete.

Remember, industry structures aren’t static. The more dynamic your strategic plan is, the better you’ll be able to compete in a market.

12. VRIO framework

The VRIO framework is another strategic planning tool designed to help you evaluate your competitive advantage. VRIO stands for value, rarity, imitability, and organization.

It’s a resource-based theory developed by Jay Barney. With this framework, you can study your firmed resources and find out whether or not your company can transform them into sustained competitive advantages. 

Firmed resources can be tangible (e.g., cash, tools, inventory, etc.) or intangible (e.g., copyrights, trademarks, organizational culture, etc.). Whether these resources will actually help your business once you enter the market depends on four qualities:

Valuable : Will this resource either increase your revenue or decrease your costs and thereby create value for your business?

Rare : Are the resources you’re using rare or can others use your resources as well and therefore easily provide the same product or service?

Inimitable : Are your resources either inimitable or non-substitutable? In other words, how unique and complex are your resources?

Organizational: Are you organized enough to use your resources in a way that captures their value, rarity, and inimitability?

It’s important that your resources check all the boxes above so you can ensure that you have sustained competitive advantage over others in the industry.

13. Theory of Constraints (TOC) framework

If the reason you’re currently in a strategic planning process is because you’re trying to mitigate risks or uncover issues that could hurt your business—this framework should be in your toolkit.

The theory of constraints (TOC) is a problem-solving framework that can help you identify limiting factors or bottlenecks preventing your organization from hitting OKRs or KPIs . 

Whether it’s a policy, market, or recourse constraint—you can apply the theory of constraints to solve potential problems, respond to issues, and empower your team to improve their work with the resources they have.

14. PEST/PESTLE analysis framework

The idea of the PEST analysis is similar to that of the SWOT analysis except that you’re focusing on external factors and solutions. It’s a great framework to combine with the scenario-based strategic planning model as it helps you define external factors connected to your business’s success.

PEST stands for political, economic, sociological, and technological factors. Depending on your business model, you may want to expand this framework to include legal and environmental factors as well (PESTLE). These are the most common factors you can include in a PESTLE analysis:

Political: Taxes, trade tariffs, conflicts

Economic: Interest and inflation rate, economic growth patterns, unemployment rate

Social: Demographics, education, media, health

Technological: Communication, information technology, research and development, patents

Legal: Regulatory bodies, environmental regulations, consumer protection

Environmental: Climate, geographical location, environmental offsets

15. Hoshin Kanri framework

Hoshin Kanri is a great tool to communicate and implement strategic goals. It’s a planning system that involves the entire organization in the strategic planning process. The term is Japanese and stands for “compass management” and is also known as policy management. 

This strategic planning framework is a top-down approach that starts with your leadership team defining long-term goals which are then aligned and communicated with every team member in the company. 

You should hold regular meetings to monitor progress and update the timeline to ensure that every teammate’s contributions are aligned with the overarching company goals.

Stick to your strategic goals

Whether you’re a small business just starting out or a nonprofit organization with decades of experience, strategic planning is a crucial step in your journey to success. 

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you and your team define, organize, and implement your strategic goals, Asana is here to help. Our goal-setting software allows you to connect all of your team members in one place, visualize progress, and stay on target.

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Business Process Modelling

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Business Process Modelling (BPM) is a modern term and methodology which has evolved through different stages and names, beginning during the 'division of labour' of the late 1700s, when manufacturing first moved into factories from cottage industry.

Broadly the term 'business' in Business Process Model/Modelling/modelling is interchangeable with 'organisation'. Business Process Modelling is not only carried out in conventional businesses; the methodology is increasingly applicable to all sorts of other organisations, for example government agencies and departments, charities, mutuals and cooperatives, etc.

Confusingly, the acronym BPM can mean different things, some closely related to Business Process Modelling; others less so. 'Business Process Management' is an example of a different and related meaning. More details are in the  glossary  below.

Business Process Modelling is a method for improving organisational efficiency and quality . Its beginnings were in capital/profit-led business, but the methodology is applicable to any organised activity .

The increasing transparency and accountability of all organisations, including public service and government, together with the modern complexity, penetration and importance of ICT (information and communications technology), for even very small organisations nowadays, has tended to heighten demand for process improvement everywhere. This means that Business Process Modelling is arguably more widely relevant than say Time and Motion Study or Total Quality Management (to name two earlier 'efficiency methodologies') were in times gone by.

Put simply Business Process Modelling aims to improve business performance by optimising the efficiency of connecting activities in the provision of a product or service .

Business Process Modelling techniques are concerned with ' mapping ' and ' workflow ' to enable understanding, analysis and positive change. Diagrams - essentially 'flow diagrams' - are a central feature of the methodology.

The diagrammatic representation of Business Process Modelling is commonly called 'notation'. Many and various proprietary software (off-the-shelf computer programs) exist to enable this, but the basic principles of Business Process Modelling can also be applied using a pen and a table-napkin or a flip-chart or a bunch of sticky notes, and in some cases these are still effective aids for creating and communicating fundamental ideas. Computers sometimes get in the way, over-complicate simple things, and exclude groups. So choose your devices wisely. Business Process Modelling generally needs support from people to work in practice.

While Business Process Modelling relates to many aspects of management (business, organisation, profit, change, projects, etc) its detailed technical nature and process-emphasis link it closely with  quality management  and the analytical approaches and responsibilities arising in the improvement of quality.

Business Process Modelling is a quality management tool, like for example  Six Sigma , and is useful especially in  change management .

SWOT Analysis ,  Balanced Scorecard  and  Project Management methods  provide further examples of change management tools, and Business Process Modelling can be regarded as working alongside these methods.

The term Business Process Model (also abbreviated to BPM) is the noun form of Business Process Modelling, and refers to a structural representation, description or diagram, which defines a specified flow of activities in a particular business or organisational unit.

A Business Process Model (BPM) is commonly a diagram representing a sequence of activities. It typically shows events, actions and links or connection points, in the sequence from end to end.

Sequence is significant and essential to most aspects of business process modelling, but there are exceptions to this especially at the higher level of organisational operations (see the note about  sequence ).

Typically but not necessarily, a Business Process Model includes both IT processes and people processes.

Business Process Modelling by implication focuses on processes, actions and activities, etc. Resources feature within BPM in terms of how they are processed. People (teams, departments, etc) feature in BPM in terms of what they do, to what, and usually when and for what reasons, especially when different possibilities or options exist, as in a flow diagram.

Business Process Modelling is cross-functional, usually combining the work and documentation of more than one department in the organisation.

In more complicated situations, Business Process Modelling may also include activities of external organisations' processes and systems that feed into the primary process.

In large organisations operations Business Process Models tend to be analysed and represented in more detail than in small organisations, due to scale and complexity.

Business Process Modelling is to an extent also defined by the various computerised tools or software which are used in applying its methods. These methods and the standard features within them continue to evolve, which means that we should keep an open and curious mind as to how BPM can be used, and what people actually mean when they refer to it.

A Business Process Model diagram is a tool - a means to an end, not a performance outcome in its own right.

The final output is improvement in the way that the business process works.

The focus of the improvements is on 'value added' actions that make the customer service and experience better, and on reducing wasted time and effort.

There are two main different types of Business Process Models:

  • the  'as is'  or baseline model (the current situation)
  • and the  'to be'  model (the intended new situation)

which are used to analyse, test, implement and improve the process.

The aim of modelling is to illustrate a complete process, enabling managers, consultants and staff to improve the flow and streamline the process.

The outcomes of a business process modelling project are essentially:

value for the customer, and

reduced costs for the company,

leading to increased profits.

Other secondary consequences arising from successful Business Process Modelling can be increased competitive advantage, market growth, and better staff morale and retention.

There are no absolute rules for the scope or extent of a Business Process Model in terms of departments and activities covered.

Before committing lots of resources to Business Process Modelling proper consideration should be given to the usefulness and focus of the exercise - ask the questions:

  • Does the modelling have the potential to produce gains that will justify the time and effort?
  • Will the modelling be structured so that people will understand the outputs (not too big and complex as to be self-defeating)?
  • Do people understand why we are doing it, and "what's in it for them"?

As with other management tools, there is no point producing a fantastically complex model that no-one can understand or use, just as it is a bit daft to spend hundreds of hours analysing anything which is of relatively minor significance.

Business Process Modelling is a powerful methodology when directed towards operations which can benefit from improvement, and when people involved are on-board and supportive.

Adding Value for the Customer

Adding value for customers, whether internal or external customers, is at the centre of a Business Process Model. It starts with a customer need and ends with the satisfaction of that need. Unlike a workflow diagram, which is generally focused on departmental activities, a BPM spans departments and the whole organisation.

This point about customers being internal as well as external is crucial:

Staff are among the internal customers of modern right-minded organisations.

If you approach Business Process Modelling purely from a systems and 'things' viewpoint with a fixation on costs and profitability, and squeezing every activity to its theoretical optimum, then people (notably staff) tend to get squeezed too.

Organisations work well when people enjoy and support the processes that they are required to perform, and you will only add sustainable value for your customers, when you also add value for your staff too.

Successful BPM added value for customers is self-sustaining because for staff it contains the magical  WIIFM  element - 'What's In It For Me'.

BPM Added Value: Example

An example could be the actions involved in processing a customer order from an internet-based mail order company.

Starting with a customer placing an order  (the customer need)

send IT-based information to the warehouse

stock picking

packing and recording

sending the appropriate IT-based information to the distribution hub

sending IT-based information to the accounts department

generation of an invoice

allocation and organisation of shipment for the vehicle drivers

delivery of the item and invoicing  (the customer need fulfilled).

This is a simple 'high-level' example. In practice each part or sub-process (for example, stock-picking) may require a 'low-level' BPM of its own.

Please note that : Added value for internal customers, notably staff, does not have to be financial , as is commonly imagined by many top business executives. 

Consider  Maslow ,  Herzberg ,  McGregor  and  Adams  and what these concepts teach about motivation and reward, and attrition. Business Process Modelling has enormous potential to address many of the critical demotivators among staff (e.g., poor working relationships, confused structure, failure, etc) and also many strong motivators (e.g., the quality of work itself, recognition, advancement, new responsibilities, etc). 

Think beyond merely adding value for external customers, and optimising efficiency and profit -  make a special effort to look for added value for staff too , and then the BPM methodology will work on a much more effective level.

Sequence: Significance in Business Process Modelling

Sequence can have a pivotal influence on business process activities, but sequence is not always pivotal, and indeed certain situations are best analysed from a non-sequential viewpoint. As a general guide, sequence is usually vital for elemental processes, but sequence tends to become less significant - and require more 'cause and effect' flexibility - when elements such as already sequenced processes and resources are brought together in a bigger picture of organisational operations.

This Business Process Modelling summary necessarily concentrates on modelling systems which can be defined using sequence based techniques, since at an elemental level sequence is crucial to quality and related factors of process, quality, monitoring, management, and change, etc. Also, at an elemental level, i.e., when a big activity is broken down into its constituent parts, sequence can have a vital effect upon the effectiveness of each of the individual processes.

However a wider consideration is that many large scale systems commonly contain related processes and resources for which a fixed related sequence is not a specific or crucial or predictable aspect, and for which consequently it is not always possible or easy (or in many cases necessary) to define the exact sequential relationship of processes on a big systemic scale. An example could be the bringing together of separate sub-assemblies, or the buying in of stock, or the recruitment of sub-contract staff. This is especially so where demand is unpredictable. Importantly for these sorts of related process, a bigger priority is to focus on understanding and creating the necessary flexible connections between  cause and effect  relationships (see and make use of  other project management tools  for analysing and improving non-sequential elements), rather than try to force a fixed sequence into the analysis or modelling approach.

As with many other tools and methodologies, be mindful of the need for flexibility; use tools and methods as far as they are helpful, but do not blindly force a tool to fit your purposes if it is inappropriate or could distort common sense, or be too constraining, whether for planning, analysis, communications or implementation.

Sequence is always an important consideration, especially when trouble-shooting. Sometimes - at any level - it can be the key to finding dramatic improvements, but sequence is not a mandatory feature, and there is no need to search for and apply sequential conditions within any stage of process modelling or other type of project or change management, if doing so is unhelpful.

Background and History

The quest for standardisation and efficiency in business processes is a long one. Its history is characterised by surges of enthusiasm followed by disillusionment, when the fashionable idea of the moment tends to be dumped for a while before the next generation of process efficiency methodology makes the subject more exciting again. Well, as exciting as business processes can be.

CEOs, consultants and change managers get all fired up about an improvement push (mainly about profits and change and fees). And there lies the central problem: the people who actually put process improvements into practice have never been that excited by the concept. The explicit agenda is about the employer and organisation while the benefit for ordinary employees is not immediately obvious, if at all. For most staff, a new efficiency initiative looks like change, hard work and discomfort, and feels like a threat. Instead workers ideally need to be engaged, involved and included from the start. Like other top-down initiatives and trends over the years, the most common reason for the failure of business process improvement is generally poor internal marketing, poor implementation and poor follow-through. A theoretical model for success devised among senior managers, rarely looks like the same thing further down the organisation.

The origins of BPM principles can be traced back as far as Adam Smith's idea of the division of labour in manufacturing (in 'An Inquiry into the Nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations', 1776). Originally, one person would make one item from beginning to end in a cottage industry situation. When factories became the norm, employing many people who all made items from beginning to end proved time-consuming and inefficient.

Specialisation - 'Division of Labour', 1776

Using the example of a pin maker, Adam Smith argued that breaking up the whole process and creating specialised tasks (or peculiar tasks, as he called them) would simplify and speed up the whole process. 

He showed that if the different stages of the manufacture were completed by different people in a chain of activities, the result would be very much more efficient. The business process was born.

Analysis of Specialised Tasks - 'Time and Motion', early 1900s

Over a century later, Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), the US engineer and business efficiency theorist, moved with the future. He merged his 'time study' with the 'motion study' work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (early US theorists on productivity and workplace science), resulting in new scientific management methods (1911) and the infamous 'time and motion' studies. 

These studies documented and analysed work processes with the aim of reducing the time taken and the number of actions involved in each process, improving both productivity and workers' efficiency. This was enthusiastically embraced by employers and viewed with scepticism and animosity by workers. The term 'Taylorism' still generally refers to a highly scientific and dehumanised approach to efficient operation in business, organisations, economies, etc.

Work Process Flow - 'The One Best Way', early to mid-1900s

Meanwhile, Frank Gilbreth was busy developing the first method for documenting process flow. 

He presented his paper 'Process charts - First Steps to Finding the One Best Way' to the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1921. 

By 1947, the ASME Standard for Process Charts was universally adopted, using Gilbreth's original notation.

Disenchantment with the Assembly Line, 1930s

In the first decade of the 20th century, 'time and motion' was a familiar concept, in tune with the modern 'scientific' age. 

However, by 1936, disenchantment had set in, reflected in Charlie Chaplin's film Modern Times. The film satirised mass production and the assembly line, echoing cultural disillusionment with the dreary treadmill of industry during the great depression. 

It is perhaps no coincidence that theories for optimising productivity, and those who profit most from them, are more strongly questioned or criticised when the economic cycle moves into recession.

Workflow, mid-1970s

Research and development of office automation flourished between 1975 and 1985. Specialist workflow technologies and the term 'workflow' were established. 

While BPM has its historical origins in workflow, there are two key differences:

Document-based processes performed by people are the focus of workflow systems, while BPM focuses on both people and system processes.

The Quality Era, 1980s

In the 1980s, Quality or Total Quality Management (TQM) was the fashionable management and business process theory, championed by Deming and Juran. Used initially in engineering and manufacturing, it is based on the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen or continuous improvement. The aim was to achieve incremental improvements to processes of cost, quality, service and speed. Key aspects of Total Quality Management have now become mainstream and successfully adapted to suit the businesses of the 2000s. Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing are the best-known of these methodologies.

Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR), 1990s

In the early 1990s, Business Process Re-engineering made its appearance and started to gain momentum in the business community. While TQM (at this point facing a decline in popularity) aimed to improve business processes incrementally, BPR demanded radical change to business processes and performance.

In 1993, Michael Hammer (US professor of computer science) and James Champy (a successful corporate CEO, consultant and author) developed the concept in their book 'Re-engineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution' (1993). 

Hammer and Champy stated that the process was revolutionary, fast-track and drastic rather than evolutionary and incremental. It was a huge success and organisations and consultants embraced it with fervour. The re-engineering industry grew and triumphed before it began to wane.

By the end of the 1990s, BPR, as a whole-organisation approach, had fallen dramatically out of favour. It proved to be too long-winded for most organisations, was therefore poorly executed and has consequently been sidelined as a whole-organisation approach.

Critics of this completely 'new broom' methodology would say that it is impossible to start from a clean slate in an already established organisation. 

Other criticisms were that it was dehumanising and mechanistic, focusing on actions rather than people - Taylorism by another name. Crucially, it is associated with the terms 'delayering', 'restructuring' and 'downsizing' of organisations, all lumped together as euphemisms for layoffs. Not what Hammer and Champy had envisaged..

Business Process Modelling, 2000s

The best principles of this approach still survive in BPM, on a less drastic, less brutal and more manageable scale. Lessons have been learnt. Business Process Modelling can and does work, but it must be treated with caution. The key is in the implementation. When it is conducted and implemented sensitively and inclusively, it can be good for the company, and its staff too.

For a workforce drowning in administration, much of it repeated or re-entered into multiple databases, BPM can be a great thing. It can free up time to focus on the 'value added' tasks that are empowering and rewarding: talking and listening to customers, making decisions or doing what they are good at rather than dealing with dull and meaningless duties.

BPM is effective like any other tool can be. In the hands of an idiot BPM can suffocate and hinder an organisation and its people.

The tool doesn't produce the results - what matters is how you use it.

A Business Process Model is central to a host of other related activities, briefly outlined below. Redesigning a process and implementing it is not a speedy enterprise. It can take months and occasionally years, depending on the extent of the process and sub-processes, how many people and systems are involved and how much of it needs to be redesigned.

As the project develops, the business will change and new requirements will surface, so the approach must be flexible and frequently reviewed and re-prioritised. It is advisable to stage the process in a succession of 'builds', each one completed within a business quarter, so that it can be reviewed and measured for return on investment.

It is essential that the people involved in the process, at all levels, are engaged, all the way through. Not only because their input is vital, but also because they need to be fully 'on board.' Senior management buy-in is important to ensure that the resources are available to involve managers and staff members and overcome any resistance to the change. Without this, the redesign cannot work. Focus groups, formal and informal discussions and workshops are useful at each stage and 'build'.

Stages in Development

Developing the models in practice follows the sequence:

Identify the process and produce an 'as is' or baseline model.

Review, analyse and update the 'as is' process model.

Design the 'to be' model.

Test and implement the 'to be'.

Continuously update and improve the new model.

Creating a Business Process Model

This section provides a guide to creating an initial, 'as is' or baseline model, in other words - the current situation.

Component Parts

An 'as is' or baseline model gives an overall picture of how the process works, now. Any structural, organisational and technological weak points and bottlenecks can then be identified, along with possible improvements at the next stage.

You will need the following information before you start to construct your model:

The desired outcome of the process.

The start and end points (customer need and customer need fulfilment).

The activities that are performed.

The order of activities.

The people who perform the activities.

The documents and forms used and exchanged between functions and from customers and suppliers.

First Draft

The first draft of the model will involve a lot of positioning and repositioning of events and activities, so make sure you use a method that is flexible and easily changed. Use a flipchart, pens and some sticky notes or a whiteboard and a rubber. If you're working with a group of users, everyone needs to be able to see it.

Second Draft

Once you have established an agreed sequence of events, you can create it as a flowchart on generic software or on specialised proprietary software.

At this stage, you will need to check your model with the users by carrying out 'live' observations of the sequence in practice. People in focus groups or meetings invariably either forget their exact actions or say what should be happening rather than what does happen!

Symbols and Notation

The diagrammatic representation of Business Process Modelling is commonly 'notation'.

If you are using generic software, decide on the visual symbols you will use for the different activities.

There is no definitive system for Business Process Modelling notation (note the small 'n'), although efforts persist to standardise one.

The Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) system (note the upper-case 'N', since this is like a brand name), is an example of an attempt to establish a standard BPM notation system. The BPMN system is maintained the OMG consortium (Object Management Group) which comprises a few hundred computer-related corporations).

Organisations may develop their own notation systems or use the notation of their chosen proprietary software.

Importantly - whatever notation system/software you use - its symbols must be understood within your own group or organisation.

The example below uses four symbols that are widely understood:

It's a flowchart, which makes it very easy to see the process and the key elements within it.

Here is a  better quality picture of the same Business Process Model diagram example in PDF format .

Note that while most Business Process Modelling diagrams necessarily include a strong sequencing dimension, there are circumstances where sequence is not so crucial and more of a 'mapping' perspective is appropriate. 

Refer to the  note about sequence , and see  other project management tools  for examples of analysis methods which enable non-sequential activity 'mapping'.

BPM Glossary

Different organisations refer to the elements related to Business Process Modelling in different ways. This is complicated by the fact that acronyms can stand for more than one thing, and are often used interchangeably. 

For example, BPR stands for Business Process Re-engineering as well as Business Process Redesign. BPM itself stands for Business Process Modelling/Modeling, Business Process Model, and Business Process Management. In the healthcare sector incidentally BPM would more readily be interpreted to mean Beats Per Minute, relating to pulse rate, which emphasises the need to explain acronyms when you use them.

Organisations develop their own ways of referring to the different elements. They know what they mean, but someone from another organisation could become very confused! This glossary may help anyone feeling lost.

Broadly the term 'business' below is interchangeable with 'organisation'. Business Process Modelling is not only carried out in conventional businesses; the methodology is increasingly applicable to all sorts of other organisations, for example government agencies and departments, charities, mutuals and cooperatives, etc. 

' As is' and 'To be' models -  The common two perspectives of a modelling exercise - Where are we now?, and Where do we want to be? -

The  'as is'  or  baseline  model is an accurate depiction of what actually happens now. Once the model is developed, it is used to analyse and improve the process.

The  'to be'  model is a proposed diagram of how the future process could look, incorporating improvements. This is used to demonstrate, model and test the new process and then to implement it.

Brainstorming  - Not usually part of BPM technical language, but actually a very useful initial stage in mapping or attempting to represent/understand/agree/scope a BPM project given little or no information to begin with. Also a useful way to achieve essential involvement, input, support, etc., from people affected by the modelling exercise. See  Brainstorming .

Business Architecture  - A vague and widely used term basically referring to the structure of a business.

Business Model  - A vague term used to refer to how a business aims to operate and make money in a given market. This term is not directly related to Business Process Modelling. A detailed business model might typically contain descriptions of basic business processes implied or necessary for the the model to operate, but a business model is mainly concerned with strategy and external market relationships, rather than the internal processes which feature in BPM.

Business Process -  A structured series of work activities, IT interventions and events that generate one complete service or product for an organisation's customers.

Business Process Model  - A representation - usually computer-generated and diagrammatic, but can be a low-tech whiteboard or flipchart and marker pens and sticky notes - of a process within a business. Two models are usually produced: an 'as is' and a 'to be'. The process(es) featured in a Business Process Model can be very simple or highly complex, and will typically involve different departments working (hopefully) together while the provision or creation of a product or service flows through different stages and decision-points in an organisation on its way to the customer. A Business Process Model for a large process can be comprised of other smaller modelled processes which contribute to the whole. In theory an entire huge business can be modelled, although for the modelling to be useful and meaningful to people it is normally built in sections, each representing a self-contained process alongside potentially scores, hundreds or even thousands of others, all inter-relating, hopefully smoothly, efficiently and enjoyably. (The 'enjoyable' part is not a technical necessity, but is actually important for any model to translate from theory into sustainable practice.)

Business Process Modelling/Business Process Modeling  - The term which refers to the methodology and techniques of producing a Business Process Model, or several Business Process Models, in the course of business improvement/development or quality management or change management, etc. (Modelling is UK-English; Modeling is US-English.)

Business Process Change Cycle  - An overall term for the life cycle of business processes, including the external environment in which the organisation operates. This external environment drives change in the business processes and the organisation responds to it by adjusting its strategy and goals. As the external environment keeps changing, the cycle also changes, prompting continuous change and improvement to business processes.

Business Reference Model  - A (usually computerised and diagrammatic) key to understanding and using a Business Architecture Model. It presents certain core structural elements as fixed, thereby encouraging and enabling others using or developing the model to understand and adhere to essential aspects of structural policy and foundation. In this respect a Business Reference model may be relevant to Business Process Modelling

BPR  -  Business Process Re-engineering  (also known as  BPI  -  Business Process Innovation ) - A radical approach to restructuring an organisation in every area, starting with what the organisation is trying to achieve, rethinking its core processes and redesigning every one. It is a way of reassessing and restructuring the whole organisation, all at once, starting from scratch.

BPI - Business Process Improvement -  This refers to improving existing processes, continuously and incrementally, reducing waste and driving efficiency. Six Sigma is currently one of the most popular of many BPI approaches in use today.

BPM - Business Process Management -  Used in two different ways by two different groups within the business processing community:

Firstly, it is used by the people and process management group to describe the overall management of business process improvement, aligning processes with an organisation's strategic goals: designing, implementing and measuring them and educating managers to use them effectively.

Secondly, it is used by IT people to describe the systems, software and applications that provide the process framework.

BPM - Business Process Mapping  - Often used interchangeably with Business Process Modelling, Business Process Mapping is also used to mean documenting all the processes in the business, showing the relationships between them. This provides a comprehensive visual overview of the processes in an organisation.

BPM  -  Business Process Model/Business Process Modelling -  See Business Process Model/Modelling above.

BPMN - Business Process Modelling Notation  - A 'branded' Business Process Modelling notation system of the OMG Consortium, representing several hundred primarily US computer-related corporations. (UK-English 'Modelling'.)

BPR  -  Business Process Redesign -  Rethinking, redesigning and implementing one complete process using Business Process Modelling tools.

Enterprise Architecture  - Basically the same as Business Architecture. Enterprise is a relatively modern term for a business organisation or company than 'business', probably because business has quite specific associations with profit and shareholders, whereas the word enterprise can more loosely encompass all sorts of business-like activities which might be constituted according to mutual or cooperative rather than traditional capitalistic aims. Enterprise is also a popular way to refer to business development and entrepreneurial creativity. The relevance of all this to BPM is merely the use of the word enterprise in BPM terminology, where previously the word 'business' would have been used.

Gateway -  A stage in a Business Process Model diagram or notation at which decision or choice is made because more than one main option or outcome exists.

Notation  - The technical term for a Business Process Model diagram or computer-generated map or flowchart.

OBASHI  - A methodology, and related aspect of BPM, for mapping and developing how IT systems relate to organisational operations (OBASHI stands for Ownership, Business Processes, Applications, Systems, Hardware, and Infrastructure).

UML  -  Unified Modeling Language  - a visual representation/design system for software-led modelling, overseen by the OMG Consortium (as with BPMN).

What if? (scenario)  - A popular term given to discussion or modelling of possible shapes, structures, resourcing and any other options that are available to people considering change in businesses and organisations. The 'What if?' principle extends far beyond Business Processes, but is a useful technique in team-working and attempting to make BPM methods more consultative and involving. This is especially important given that the nature of BPM (the computer systems, terminology, highly detailed aspects) often tend to position the methods as a lone job away from people and groups affected by its implications and opportunities. BPM works best when people are involved - considering questions like 'What if?' - and often fails when it guarded and developed secretively by technocrat minority.

Value-added/Added-value  - The principle of increasing the usefulness, attractiveness and benefits of a product or service, which in the context of BPM, ideally improves progressively with each modelling exercise. Added-value is commonly represented as benefiting customers and shareholders (via reduced costs, and increased efficiencies and profits) but should also benefit staff/employees too.

Zachman Framework  - In this list mainly because an interesting listing under the letter Z is irresistible. This is a computerised diagrammatic notation system for representing an enterprise (or business or other organisation) - notably its 'enterprise architecture'. It was devised by John Zachman, a US ex-naval officer computer scientist, while working for IBM in the 1980s.

Deming, W.E. (1982), Out of the Crisis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gilbreth, Frank and Lillian (1924), The Quest of the One Best Way, Purdue University Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Papers.

Hammer, Michael and Champy, James (1993), Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Harper Business.

Juran, J.M. (1988), Juran on Planning for Quality, Free Press, New York, NY.

Smith, Howard and Fingar, Peter (2003) Business Process Management, The Third Wave, MK Press.

Taylor, F.W. (1911) The Principles of Scientific Management. Harper & Brothers. New York and London.

With thanks to Melanie Allen, and to Tony Markos for raising the matter of sequence in the practical application of business process modelling.


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Business Model Example Diagram

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Business development process

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Business development is an essential process for any business to identify, pursue and acquire new opportunities. It involves researching and developing new products, services and markets that allow businesses to grow and generate success. It is essential for the sales process, as it enables businesses to expand their customer base, increase conversions and reach greater success. For example, companies can use data-driven research to identify potential customers and target them with new products and services. Additionally, they can also identify partners who can help promote and facilitate sales. In conclusion, business development is a vital strategy for both generating new customers and driving sales.

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