UPN vs BPMN – Analysis

UPN stands for Universal Process Notation and BPMN stands for Business Process Model Notation. They are both types of mapping notations used in the business world to represent processes

Mapping processes is an important step for businesses. It allows them to know what is happening, when it is happening, and who is in charge of it happening. With this information, businesses can then determine where they can optimise their current processes.

It helps organisations find places to cut costs, save more, and speed up or automate processes.

BPMN has been a popular choice for process mapping profesionals as a mapping notation for quite some time, but UPN has become a favourite in recent years. Here at Skore we use UPN for our software, and in this article, we will make the case for why that is.

Pros and Cons of BPMN

BPMN has been around since 2004. Since 2005, the Object Management Group (OMG) consortium has ensured that there is a standardized notation and process.

It means that there is an overarching authority anyone can turn to when they have questions or complications designing the processes using this notation. This is important, as the main selling point for this notation is that it is unifying for all processes. 

BPMN notation-style is viewed as comprehensive and all-encompassing. 

It makes use of a wide range of shapes and symbols to more accurately and fully communicates your processes on your diagrams. By using this notation, everyone should be in agreement about the meaning.

While all of this seems quite good, there is definitely room for improvement.

Because BPMN is tied to a larger, non-profit organisation (OMG) that must maintain a certain level of prestige, the training required to develop such a chart is lengthy. To give you an idea, a 7.1 MB PDF of 530 pages was needed back in 2016 to learn how to use the software.

Why so long?

Well, the seemingly endless symbols and notation types mean that those who want to use the notation correctly must be versed in all of them. And that takes time to master.

BPMN relies on symbol precision for the processes to be communicated accurately. Machines can be programmed to recognize and associate certain symbols with the corresponding action. Humans, on the other hand, may arbitrarily disagree with the machine and with the original intention behind the symbol’s use. 

It leaves room for error and interpretation – the same issues BPMN is supposed to fix.

As a result of all these possibilities, BPMN is often very visually complex. So you need to be well-trained to develop and understand the diagrams and flowcharts developed. That stakeholder may be able to follow along with the chart during the meeting being led by a business analyst

But the moment they’re at home trying to decipher it again? Good luck…

Not to mention, because of how complex the charts can get, important information can end up on the cutting room floor. This means that you might be skipping process information or steps during the overall design. BPMN cannot cover all potential processes and possibilities without it becoming messy. Both are due to a lack of space and too many notations and symbols available.

BPMN is also organised by the owner of the action as opposed to in the chronological order of steps attached to a process. When an analysis of a process takes place, teams will spend time reading the full title of the action box. They need to confirm that they are all on the same page instead of organically following along to the next step.

This type of structure, coupled with the visual complexity and infinite symbol possibilities, means that not only is information omitted from the process, but actions and steps lack context. It opens up room for too many interpretations and complexities when it comes to developing streamlined, easy-to-follow, and understandable processes.

None of what it promises ends up being correct.

Instead, you might find all of this by using UPN.

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Pros and Cons of UPN

At Skore, we make no secret of the fact that we use UPN for our software.

We’ve written about UPN before; to introduce it to our audience, to explain why it’s great for workshops, why it is indeed the best option for process improvement methodologies, and as an alternative to several other types of process management notation.

We love UPN, and we’re not afraid to admit it.

It lends itself well to the software model and helps keep everyone in line and in agreement.

UPN is a lot easier for everyone to follow along with than BPMN. There is no need to memorize and learn an entire set of very specific, yet debatable symbols. And the entire process is organized chronologically. 

You can take a look at our template library for some free previews to truly understand the simplicity we offer thanks to UPN.

Roles are clearly defined and assigned. There is no room for interpretation or doubts regarding who is in charge of what at what point of the process.

Furthermore, our software at Skore permits our users to create sub-processes within the larger process. This means that it is possible to have an overarching process dedicated to, for example, new customer onboarding, and have a smaller sub-process be part of it. This means you can keep your processes simple and clean without having to create huge canvases to include every single step. Instead of having one very long and messy process you can create a hierarchy and go down to sub-processes for all the detail.

It is not taxing or confusing visually, and you are able to add all of this important information seamlessly and easily. Your clients and stakeholders can easily follow along as you explain what happens during each step, even if you have to access a sub-process.

And we are not the only ones touting UPN as the true notation for business processes. From white papers to sales specialists to process consultants, more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of UPN when it comes to business process mapping.

When looking at our client’s successes, it’s not hard to see why.

From Change Platform Consulting’s need to communicate with the NHS, a quite rigid and unchanging institution, to Scrutton Bland’s approach to involving their clients directly – all of our clients have seen great benefits in utilizing our UPN-based software. Common threads of simplicity, communication, and clarity can be found as great aspects of our product in our case studies.

Skore’s UPN focus has resulted in companies being able to cut discovery times by half, proven integral to understanding between companies and their clients, become the base for an entire restructuring process, and has even led to new, fruitful partnerships.

If there is one con to UPN as a notation system, it is that it is not as widely used yet. Many business analysts continue to train in BPMN, learning all the symbols and their meanings and then having to explain complicated diagrams to their employers.

But at Skore, we avoid all of the confusion and go straight to solving.

UPN not being as easy to find simply means we have a great, avant-garde product in our pocket you want to jump on before it is too late. 

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Depending on your needs, BPMN or UPN might be the way to go.

What is absolutely true is that UPN is the simpler option of the two, which can go a long way when it comes to communication with clients and stakeholders.

Still not 100% convinced?

Worry not!

At Skore, we believe in our product and UPN so much, that we’re happy to give anyone interested the opportunity to try Skore. 

Contact us for more information!