BPMN Activity Types


Activities are the building blocks of BPMN 2.0—there would be no business process without them. With Lucidchart, you can easily add activities and form your BPMN diagram.

Want to make a BPMN diagram of your own? Try Lucidchart. It's quick, easy, and completely free.
Make a BPMN diagram
Want to make a BPMN diagram of your own? Try Lucidchart. It's quick, easy, and completely free.

BPMN review

BPMN stands for Business Process Modeling Notation, and it is a standard method for creating valuable business process flowcharts. This guide will only cover one portion of BPMN diagrams—to learn more, see our guides on BPMN artifacts, events, and gateways. For a general overview of BPMN, check out our BPMN tutorial.

To create BPMN diagrams easily, we recommend signing up for a free Lucidchart account. Lucidchart requires no downloads and will allow you to seamlessly collaborate and share your diagram with co-workers online.

BPMN activities are broken up by activity types (task, transaction, event sub-process, and call activities), task types, and activity markers. Read on to learn more about each variation of BPMN activity shapes.

BPMN tasks

A task is the most granular level of a process. Lucidchart supports many types of symbols that signify the various task types.

Normal task

A normal task is a single action that occurs in a business process, i.e. mailing a letter.

BPMN Normal Task

The example below shows the process of writing a paper, and normal tasks are used to depict each of the activities.

BPMN Normal Task Example

Loop task

A loop task is a task that repeats over and over again in sequence.

BPMN Loop task

If you want to incorporate a loop task into the previous example, you might change the editing paper task to a loop task. This loop task signals your intention to repeatedly edit the document before submitting the final draft. To explain the conditions of the loop task, you might also add an annotation saying that you will continue to edit the paper until the teacher says the current draft will get an A.

BPMN Loop Task Example

Multiple instance task

A multiple instance task is a task that happens multiple times. These instances can happen in parallel or sequentially.

BPMN Multiple Instance task

Let's say that you were able to get several friends to look over your draft and give you feedback on possible changes. You would want to make it a multiple instance task instead of a loop task. This task type indicates that you gave a draft to three different people and that all three will get back to you at the same time. This example shows multiple edits happening simultaneously, but you could easily show the multiple edits happening sequentially by changing the activity type.

BPMN Multiple Instance Task Example

Compensation task

A compensation task is a specialized version of a task that only happens when another specific task occurs previously. Compensation tasks are often used to show the form and timeliness of payout given for the work done in the process.

BPMN Compensation Task

Your friends probably won't work for free, so you can add a compensation task to show that you will pay them on the condition that they edit your paper.

BPMN Compensation Task Example

Compensation loop task

A compensation loop task makes compensation a recurring event. In this example, if you only had one editor, you could show that you paid them each time they edited your work.

BPMN Compensation Loop Task

 

BPMN sub-processes

In BPMN, sub-processes are a subset of regular task types that favor simplicity. In a typical work environment, BPMN diagrams are used to communicate processes to stakeholders and developers alike. Stakeholders generally do not want the complexity that developers require, so sub-processes allow you to collapse and expand tasks to quickly convey information to both groups.

BPMN Sub-Process

Loop

A loop indicates that a sub-process repeats itself in sequence. It is treated similarly to a loop task when in a collapsed view.

BPMN Loop

Multi-instance

This sub-process can run concurrently with other identical sub-processes. It is treated similarly to a multi-instance task when in a collapsed view.

BPMN Multi-Instance

Compensation

A compensation sub-process is typically reserved for a group of tasks that describe some part of the compensation method, either accounts receivable or accounts payable.

BPMN Compensation

Ad hoc

An ad hoc sub-process is a group of tasks that exist for the sole purpose of completing a piece of a process. For example, an ad hoc sub-process might deal with one particular vendor who has a unique payment system.

BPMN Compensation Sub Process

 

Transactions

A transaction activity is a specialized sub-process symbol that represents payment processes. All transaction activities are contained by a double line. Transactions must verify that all participants have completed their parts of the transaction before the sub-process can be completed.

BPMN Transaction

Event sub-process

Event sub-processes are used to describe events that happen within the boundary of a sub-process. Event sub-processes are triggered by a start event, and they differ from other sub-processes because they are not part of the regular flow. They’re self-contained and occur within the context of a sub-process.

There are two main types of event sub-processes: interrupting and non-interrupting. An interrupting event sub-process interrupts the normal business flow, while a non-interrupting event sub-process does not. For example, if an order on a website is canceled, the process is interrupted, and all website activity is terminated. But if the customer simply checks the shopping cart to see which items are reserved for purchase, the process is non-interrupting.

BPMN Event Sub-Process

Call activity

A call activity is a global process that is used whenever a certain process needs to be implemented. Whenever the call activity notation is used, control of the process is pushed to the global predefined process.

BPMN Call

BPMN task types

BPMN task types represent executable tasks. While they are not used much in practice, they are particularly important when modeling the requirements for an engineering project.

Business rule task type

Business rules, added with BPMN 2.0, are specific types of services maintained by a business group, rather than an IT group. The rule shape is used to represent the implementation of a business rule.

BPMN Business Rule Task Type

Manual task type

A manual task type is used whenever an activity must be executed manually. It can be executed without any outside help or application (e.g. loading a truck with product).

BPMN Manual Task Type

Receive task type

A receive task indicates that the process is relying on an incoming message from a third party. Upon receiving a message, the task has been performed.

BPMN Receive Task Type

Script task type

Script tasks are executed by a business process engine. The script is written in a language that the engine can parse, which, in many instances, is JavaScript.

BPMN Script Task Type

Send task type

A send task sends a message to another process or lane. The task is completed once the message is sent.

BPMN Send Task Type

Service task type

A service task is any task that uses an automated application or web service to complete the task.

BPMN Service Task Type

User task type

The user task type indicates that the task is being performed by a person and cannot be easily broken down into simpler tasks.

BPMN Service Task Type