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What are Message Flows in BPMN?

Posted by Chris Adams

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Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)


What are Message Flows in BPMN?Message flows are used in BPMN collaboration diagrams.  Collaboration diagrams show how two or more processes without a central control interact with each other in synchronized way (how they collaborate).  Each process is contained within its own pool and the pool is typically labeled with the participants name.

Collaboration Diagram

Message flows are how the two separately controlled processes communicate and collaborate with one another.  An activity or event in one pool can initiate a message to another pool.  Message Flows are depicted as dashed lines with an empty circle showing where the message originates and and empty arrowhead where the message terminates.
Message Flow
When using message flows, the message itself can be depicted as an envelope on the flow line or attached to it by a dotted line.  The message represents an item which is transferred, manipulated, or stored during the process.  These can be physical items or informational.  The message icon (the envelope) can be show unfilled, or with a gray fill.  The unfilled icon represents an initiating message while the filled icon represents a non-initiating message (or a message which a participant has sent in response to a previous message it received)
Message Flows can cross the boundaries of a pool, and represent the exchange of information between participants, whereas sequence flows will never cross over the boundaries of a pool.  Message flows can be attached to a pool, activity or event.



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