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Business Process Modelling Foundation

Business processes consist of activities whose coordinated execution realizes some business goal. These activities can be system activities, user interaction activities, or manual activities. Manual activities are not supported by information systems. An example of a manual activity is sending a parcel to a business partner.

Conceptual Model and Terminology

The business process modelling space as laid out in Chapters 1 and 2 is organized using conceptual models. While the terms mentioned have been used in the previous chapters informally, the concepts behind these terms and their relationships will now be discussed in more detail, using conceptual models. These models are expressed in the Unified Modeling Language, an object-oriented modelling and design language.

Abstraction Concepts

To capture the complexity in business process management, different abstraction concepts are introduced. A traditional abstraction concept in computer science is the separation of modelling levels, from instance level to model level to meet model level, denoted by horizontal abstraction. Aggregation can also be used to cope with complexity, motivating another type of abstraction. At a higher level of abstraction, multiple elements of a lower level of abstraction can be grouped and represented by a single artefact.

Vertical Abstraction

Vertical abstraction in business process modelling is depicted in Figure 3.3, where distinct modelling subdomains are identified. As depicted, process modelling is at the center of the modelling effort, because it also integrates the modelling efforts that are conducted in the other subdomains.

From Business Functions to Business Processes

As discussed in value chains provide a high-level organization of the functions that an enterprise performs. To provide a more detailed view, these top-level business functions are broken down to functions of smaller granularity and, ultimately, to activities of operational business processes. Functional decomposition is the technique of choice.


Business functions provide a high-level, coarse-grained representation of the work conducted by enterprises. Activities can be found in the leaves of the functional decomposition. This section investigates how activities can be described.

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