Approaches combining methods of Operational Research with Business Process Model and Notation: A systematic review

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PeerJ Computer Science


It has been more than 15 years since ‘Business Process Model and Notation’ or ‘Business Process Modelling Notation’ (BPMN) became the official notation for process modelling. During its lifetime, this notation has gained many users and, thanks to its user-friendliness, it is used in many areas. This wide usage has led to the interconnection and use of other technologies and methods. The fundamental problem of any complex process is decision making. Operational Research as a popular scientific approach is so often associated with procedural issues, making its connection to BPMN is more than natural. This article focuses on the analysis of the relationship between the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) process modelling and specific methods of Operational Research.

Business Process Modelling Notation was created by the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI) as an open standards. It is very similar to flowcharts and Petri nets but offers much more sophisticated tools to describe and simulate behaviour. Silver (2009) stated that this approach is an ‘event-triggered behaviour,’ a description of the ‘something happened’ mode. Business Process Modelling is used to describe, recognize, re-engineer, or improve processes or practices, Tomaskova (2017). Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is the language that is used to model business process steps from start to end. The notation was explicitly designed for wide-ranging use in process analysis, The Object Management Group (2011). BPMN is both intelligible to non-specialists and allows a complicated processes between different participants to be represented. Another, very significant feature of BPMN is its ‘business-friendly’ orientation, which is essential for the company’s business and knowledge.

Operational Research (OR) is concerned with formulating, modelling, and solving a variety of decision-making situations to find the optimal solutions. The company’s philosophy and decide over business data are the most crucial management actions. The task of the manager is to select in the real system the problem to be analyzed and to formulate it precisely. The standard way of doing this involves the expression of the economic model and then the formulation of a mathematical model. It is necessary to build a simplified model of the real financial systems that only includes the essential elements that describe the formulated problem. The manager has to set the goal of the analysis and subsequent optimization. It is important to define all operations and processes that influence this goal, to describe all the factors, and to verbally express the relationships between the stated purpose and the mentioned processes and factors.

The article is divided into the following parts. The “Related works and background” section lists research articles that are relevant to a given combination of BPMN and OR areas and briefly. That part briefly provides essential information regarding the approaches that are fundamental to this systematic review. The “Research methodology” section describes a systematic search, i.e. entry conditions, exclusion criteria and limitations. The “Results” section presents the results of the analysis of articles fulfilling the requirements of the systematic review. We analyzed publications according to when they were published, their citations, the scientific areas covered, the cooperation of the authors and their keywords. Subsequently, we examined selected articles in terms of methodology, approach and research areas. In the “Discussion”, we focus on scientific gaps and future research. We present a research area where we expect an increase in publications, including their specific components. We also discuss the future development of applied methods and approaches. Finally, the “Conclusion” section summarizes the results and benefits of this study.

Research Methodology

Kitchenham & Charters (2007) highlighted three essential elements for a systematic literary review: the determination of the research question(s), the organisation of an unbiased and extensive analysis of related publications, and the determination of precise criteria of inclusion and exclusion.

We identified three research questions:

  • Research question 1 (R1): Greater adaptability of BPMN elements causes greater application of this notation in publications.

  • Research question 2 (R2): The connection between BPMN and OR methods is most often applied to the business and economics areas.

  • Research question 3 (R3): The queue theory is the most widely used method in BPMN processes.

The analysis process and criteria are given in the following relevant subsections.

Eligibility criteria

This study included publications listed in the Web Of Science (WOS) database of Clarivate Analytics that were published between 1 January 2004 and 18 May 2020. The year 2004 was selected as this is when BPMN was created by BPMI.

Exclusion criteria (EC) are:

  • EC1 = The publication was published in a language other than English.

  • EC2 = The full text of the publications was not available.

  • EC3 = The publication did not coincide with the topic of systematic research.

  • EC4 = BPMN was used only as a presentation tool and not as part of the research.

Information sources and search

The primary source of information for the study was the database Web Of Science (WOS) of Clarivate Analytics. An advanced search was performed for the search query mentiones below. The search was performed in the Topics (TS) section.

Especially, the CORE database with the indexes listed in Table 1 was selected. The search was performed for ‘All document types,’ ‘All languages’ and the years 2004–2020.

Table 1:
Web of Science Core Collection Indexes.
Indexes Abbreviation
Science citation index expanded (SCI-EXPANDED)
Social sciences citation index (SSCI)
Arts & humanities citation index (A&HCI)
Conference proceedings citation index—science (CPCI-S)
Conference proceedings citation index—social science & humanities (CPCI-SSH)
Book citation index—science (BKCI-S)
Book citation index—social sciences & humanities (BKCI-SSH)
Emerging sources citation index (ESCI)
Current chemical reactions (CCR-EXPANDED)
Index chemicus (IC)
DOI: 10.7717/peerj-cs.301/table-1

Study selection

The first step of the review process involved title and abstract screening, followed by a full-text review of the remaining articles. Two independent assessors verified the results of the title and abstract screening and the full-text review. One assessed the suitability of the results from the perspective of OR and the other from an IT perspective, i.e. whether it was BPMN notation and its use. Articles were included if they met all the following criteria: (i) they used an OR method, (ii) a BPMN model was used and (iii) the complete text was available in English (abstracts, commentaries, letters and unpublished data were excluded). Studies were not excluded based on their methodological quality.

The selected publications were examined from many perspectives, and each contribution was coded according to different criteria. This study aimed to enhance the discipline’s fundamental progress in understanding the link between OR methods and BPMN. The results of this study could encourage scientists to use OR methods for process analysis.

A limitation of this review was restricting the included articles to English-language publications that looked at process analysis using OR and BPMN published between 1 January 2004 and 18 May 2020. Relevant studies in other languages or published after 18 May 2020 may have been omitted.

Data collection process

Data was collected based on keywords selected from the article Lane, Mansour & Harpell (1993), which analyzed the quantitative techniques of Operation Research. From this document, the 18 Operation Research methods were selected and listed in the Table 2.

Table 2:
Electronic search strategy in WoS.
Query Results
TS=(Computer AND programming AND BPMN) 6
TS=(Decision AND Analysis AND BPMN) 40
TS=(Decision AND theory AND BPMN) 7
TS=(Dynamic AND programming AND BPMN) 4
TS=(Heuristic AND programming AND BPMN) 0
TS=(Hypothesis AND testing AND BPMN) 2
TS=(Inventory AND control AND BPMN) 1
TS=(Linear AND regression AND BPMN) 2
TS=(Linear AND programming AND BPMN) 3
TS=(Math AND analysis AND BPMN) 0
TS=(Math AND programming AND BPMN) 0
TS=(Network AND analysis AND BPMN) 23
TS=(Nonlinear AND programming AND BPMN) 0
TS=(Probability AND BPMN) 14
TS=(Queuing AND BPMN) 9
TS=(Statistic AND BPMN) 2
TS=(Stochastic AND processes AND BPMN) 15
DOI: 10.7717/peerj-cs.301/table-2

The results were further categorized as to whether they corresponded to the given keywords and their meaning. The main results of the systematic literature review were obtained by analyzing by the two main guidelines of PRISMA: Moher et al. (2009) and MECIR: Higgins et al. (2018).

Synthesis of results

The individual studies were subjected to bibliometric analysis and then the studies were assessed according to the content and methods used. The bibliometric analysis describes and analyses up to date research. It aims at summarizing the latest progress in the field by quantitatively investigating the literature. This method provides a vast canvas of knowledge from the micro-level (institutes, researchers, and campuses) to the macro-level (countries and continents) Mryglod et al. (2013). Frequency analysis was used to find the most common scientific areas, the countries with the most publications and the most common keywords. Science mapping was performing using the VOS viewer, Venn diagrams and bar and bubble graphs, Van Eck et al. (2010), Cobo et al. (2011).

The Venn/Euler diagram graphically represents the relationships of the largest set of keywords. Euler diagrams are considered to be an effective means of visualizing containment, intersection, and exclusion. The goal of this type of graph is to communicate scientific results visually. Leonhard Euler first popularized the principle of labeled closed curves in the article Euler (1775) Alternative names for Euler diagrams include ‘Euler circles.’ They can also be incorrectly called Venn diagrams. Venn diagrams require all possible curve intersections to be present, so can be seen as a subset of Euler diagrams, that is, every Venn diagram is a Euler diagram, but not every Euler diagram is a Venn diagram. John Venn introduced Venn diagrams a hundred years after Euler in the article Venn (1880). Venn diagram is a schematic graph used in logic theory to depict collections of sets and represent their relationships.


The initial search resulted in 128 articles. After removing duplicates, 107 were left that underwent title and abstract screening. After screening, 61 articles remained that underwent full-text review. The final number of included articles for information abstraction was 36. Overview of the number of publications according to exclusion criteria is shown in Fig. 1.

Overview of the systematic review.

Figure 1: Overview of the systematic review.

Eighteen keywords selected from the article by Lane, Mansour & Harpell (1993) were involved in the study. These keywords have been classified according to whether a publication meeting a study condition has been found for them. Only for 13 keywords were found a publication suitable for this study, as can be seen in Table 2

Categorization of publications based on the clarivate analytics

Journals and books covered by the Web of Science Core Collection were assigned to at least one Web of Science category. Each Web of Science category was mapped to one research area Clarivate Analytics (2019). The research areas for the selected publications were:









We selected four main groups, for which we compiled a bar graph and a Venn diagram after analysis. We chose the number of four research areas for representation in the Venn diagram; four sets are still well arranged. Another argument was the number of publications in other areas, where the set "ROBOTICS" contains two documents and the sets ‘AUTOMATION CONTROL SYSTEMS,’ ‘TELECOMMUNICATIONS’ and ‘TRANSPORTATION’ each one document.

Bar graph on Fig. 2 is based on frequency analysis and contains the total number of publications in a given research area, their average number of citations, and the corresponding average number of pages per article. The graph shows the results by type of purpose. The first part shows the frequency of documents for each research areas. The second part focuses on the average number of citations, and the third shows the average number of pages per article.

Research areas of selected publications, documents, average citations and average pages.

Figure 2: Research areas of selected publications, documents, average citations and average pages.

The Venn diagram, in Fig. 3, shows selected four research areas as sets, including their intersection areas. In a specific area, we also stated the relevant number of documents and their average number of citations.

Venn diagram of research areas of selected publications, the average number of citations is listed in the parentheses.

Figure 3: Venn diagram of research areas of selected publications, the average number of citations is listed in the parentheses.

This part of the bibliometric analysis showed us the answer to the research question R2. Although BPMN was explicitly designed for corporate analysis and economic analysis, and Operational Research focuses primarily on addressing managerial decisions, most publications were not in the field of business economics (BE). Surprisingly, this area actually has the fewest publications. The field of computer science had the most papers, and papers in the field of OR had the most citations. The field of BE had the most extended publications, however, i.e. the average number of pages per paper.

Result1: Research question R2—not confirmed.

Year of publication

Figure 4 illustrates the distribution over time of the selected publications with BPMN milestones. The BPMN versions adoption dates, taken from (2018), complements this figure.

Distribution of the publications by year and their representation in research areas.

Figure 4: Distribution of the publications by year and their representation in research areas.

The different BPMN versions brought more or fewer changes in notation. While the changes between BPMN 1.0 and BPMN 1.2 were rather consmetics, e.g. renaming ‘Rule’ elements to ‘Conditional’ or slight increasing the number of elements from 48 to 55. The arrival of BPMN 2.0 was a major breakthrough and represented the largest revision of BPMN since its inception. In this version, it is possible to create a new ‘Choreography model,’ ‘Collaborations model’ and ‘Conversation model’ in BPMN in addition to collaborative processes and internal (private) business processes. Events are now divided into ‘interrupted’ and ‘non-interrupted’ and ‘catching’ and ‘throwing.’ The message type is newly introduced, and the data object has three specifications. BPMN 2.0 contains 116 elements. BPMN 2.0.2 included only minor modifications in terms of typos.

Given the magnitude of changes between the different versions of the BPMN notation, the sharp increase in publications following the introduction of the BPMN 2.0 notation can be considered a confirmation of research question R1. It is very interesting that publications in the field of BE did not appear until 2017.

Result: Research question R1—confirmed.

The average number of citations of the analysed documents was 2.22. The first quartile was 0, and the third quartile was 3.75. The median was equal to 1 and data variability above the third quartile was limited to seven citations. We identified two outliers values: 12 citations for Hasic, De Smedt & Vanthienen (2018) and 15 citations for article Wu et al. (2015).

Author analyses

Bibliometric analysis cannot be done without review by the authors. We focused on illustrating co-authorship. The total number of authors of publications selected for this study was 84: al achhab, m (1), aouina, zk (1), ayani, r (1), aysolmaz, b (1), bahaweres, rb (1), batoulis, k (1), ben ayed, ne (1), ben said, l (1), ben-abdallah, h (3), bisogno, s (1), bocciarelli, p (1), boukadi, k (1), braghetto, kr (1), burattin, a (1), calabrese, a (1), ceballos, hg (2), chien, cf (1), cho, sy (1), creese, s (1), cunha, p (1), d’ambrogio, a (1), d’ambrogio, sa (1), de lara, j (1), de smedt, j (2), demirors, o (1), duran, f (2), el hichami, o (1), el mohajir, b (1), ferreira, je (1), figl, k (1), fitriyah, a (1), flores-solorio, v (2), fookes, c (1), garcia-vazquez, jp (1), ghiron, nl (1), ghlala, r (1), gomez-martinez, e (1), hansen, z (1), hansen, znl (3), happa, j (1), hasic, f (2), herbert, lt (8), holm, g (1), iren, d (1), jacobsen, p (3), jobczyk, k (1), kamrani, f (1), khlif, w (2), kluza, k (1), ligeza, a (1), manuel vara, j (1), marcos, e (1), mazhar, s (1), mendling, j (1), mendoza morales, le (1), mengersen, k (1), monsalve, c (1), moradi, f (1), naoum, m (1), onggo, bss (1), pablo garcia, j (1), perez-blanco, f (1), pitchforth, j (1), proudlove, nc (1), rekik, m (1), rocha, c (2), rosemann, m (1), rozy, nf (1), salaun, g (2), sharp, r (4), sperduti, a (1), suchenia, a (1), tang, rz (1), tokdemir, g (1), tomaskova, h (1), vanden broucke, sklm (1), vanthienen, j (3), veluscek, m (1), villavicencio, m (1), vincent, jm (1), weske, m (1), wisniewski, p (1), wu, ppy (2), xie, y (1).

These authors formed different sized groups, as can be seen in Fig. 5. We grouped the authors according to their co-authors’ collaborations with a curve connecting the co-authors. The size of the node of this connection corresponds to the number of documents by the given author. The colours used to distinguish the authors were created using the average years of the publication of their papers.

Division of authors into groups according to co-authorship.

Figure 5: Division of authors into groups according to co-authorship.

For the authors’ average publication years, the first quartile was 2015, the third quartile was 2018.5 and the median was 2017. The variability outside the lower and upper quartiles was given by 2011 and 2020. We identified one outlier value corresponding to the year 2009.

The most prominent groups were around the authors listed in Fig. 6. This figure also contains the number of documents by the authors, their total number of citations and their average value.

Fifteen most successful authors.

Figure 6: Fifteen most successful authors.

According to this analysis Wu, P. Y. had the highest number of citations (7.5), followed by De Smedt, J. (7) and Hasic, F. (7). Herbert, L.T. had the most documents (8) and Tomaskova, H. had no co-author connections.

The authors were also analyzed in terms of their country or region affiliations. A total of 25 countries were identified and their location, including the number of relevant publications, are shown in Fig. 7. The countries with the highest number of affiliated publications were Denmark (8) and Tunisia (4), followed by Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Spain, who all had three.

Location of publications in the world, own processing.

Figure 7: Location of publications in the world, own processing.

Keywords analysis

The keywords were categorized according to those identified by the published authors and the keywords PLUS assigned by Clarivate Analytics databases. The data in KeyWords Plus are words or phrases that frequently appear in the titles of an article’s references but do not appear in the title of the item itself. Based upon a special algorithm that is unique to Clarivate Analytics databases, KeyWords Plus enhances the power of cited-reference searching by searching across disciplines for all the articles that have cited references in common, more information is on the web link Clarivate Analytics (2018). A total of 130 unique keywords and 46 unique KeyWords Plus keywords were found for selected publications.

A total of 130 author keywords were mentioned in the publications and a general view of their interconnection can be seen in Fig. 8.

Co-ocurence of Author keywords.

Figure 8: Co-ocurence of Author keywords.

Below is a list of all author keywords with the number of the weight-link to other keywords: activity theory (4), affiliation (6), agent based model (4), agent-based systems engineering (3), airport passenger facilitation (8), atl (5), automated verification (4), bayesian network (4), bayesian networks (4), bpm (6), bpmn (60), bpmn business processes (4), bpmn extension (3), bpmn model restructuring (5), business process (18), business process automation (3), business process management (13), business process model (5), business process model measures (3), business process modelling notation (4), business process optimisation (5), business process outsourcing (3), business processes (3), cloud computing (3), clustering (5), communication theory (11), configurable reference model (8), consequence modelling and management (10), contextual factors (8), cycle time (4), decision making (15), decision mining (3), decision model and notation (3), decision modeling (4), decision modelling (5), dikw (11), discrete-event simulation (4), dmn (15), effort prediction model (3), engineering agent-based systems (3), engineering systems (6), enterprise risk management (4), eqn (5), evolutionary algorithm (2), evolutionary algorithms (5), facilitated modelling (4), fault tree analysis (6), fault tree generation (6), flow (8), formal risk analysis (6), genetic algorithm (3), healthcare (4), hierarchical clustering (6), incident response (11), integrated modelling (5), interviews (11), jeqn (5), knowledge discovery (6), knowledge management (11), knowledge rediscovery (6), licenses (11), maude (7), mc-dmn (5), mcdm (5), mda (5), metrics (5), model checking (4), model transformations (5), model-driven architecture (4), model-driven engineering (5), modelling (4), object modeling (4), optimisation (6), organizational mining (3), performance (5), performance evaluation (3), petri nets (5), pproduction optimisation (2), preference to criteria (5), prism (8), probability (2), process configuration (8), process enhancement (3), process chain network (5), process merging (8), process mining (6), process modeling (4), process modelling (5), project management (3), qualitative analysis (4), quantitative model checking (10), quantitative service analysis (6), quantitative workflow analysis (4), queues (3), queuing theory (4), reliability analysis and risk assessment methods (4), resource allocation (4), restructuring (6), rewriting logic (7), rules (5), safety assessment software tools (4), safety management and decision making (4), security (11), security operation center (11), sense-making (11), separation of concerns (5), service engineering (6), scheduling (4), simulation (4), simulations (3), social network (5), social network analysis (3), social network model (6), socio-technical systems (sts) (4), soundness (4), space-sensitive process model (8), statistical model checking (4), stocastic bpmn (2), stochastic automata network (3), stochastic bpmn (11), stochastic model checking (13), stochastic modeling and analysis (4), structural and semantic aspects (5), tacit knowledge (11), task analysis (11), task assignment (4), task model (4), timed automata (4), topsis (5), verification (2).

As you can see in the figure, most of the author’s keywords are directly or indirectly linked with the term ‘BPMN’, but there are also isolated groups. In the following text, we’ve listed separate keyword groups. We’ve added a year of publication, a number of citations, and a specific document to which the keywords belong.

  • 2013; citations; (business process automation; business process model measures; effort prediction model; project management) Aysolmaz, Iren & Demirors (2013).

  • 2014; citation; (evolutionary algorithm; pproduction optimisation; stocastic bpmn) Herbert et al. (2014),

  • 2015; citations; (agent based model; bayesian network; business process modelling notation; modelling; socio-technical systems (sts)) Wu et al. (2015),

  • 2015; citation; (affiliation; bpm; hierarchical clustering; knowledge discovery; knowledge rediscovery; restructuring; social network model) Khlif & Ben-Abdallah (2015),

  • 2016; citations; (bpmn extension; business process outsourcing; cloud computing; genetic algorithm) Rekik, Boukadi & Ben-Abdallah (2016).

  • 2017; citations; (bpmn model restructuring; clustering; metrics; rules; social network; structural and semantic aspects) Khlif, Ben-Abdallah & Ben Ayed (2017).

  • 2019; citations; (atl; business process model; model transformations; model-driven engineering; petri nets; process chain network) Gómez-Martnez et al. (2019).

As mentioned above, there were only 46 KeyWords Plus keywords (the number of links to other keywords is given in parentheses after the keyword): accuracy (6), ambiguity (6), automation (3), bpmn (20), business process models (6), checking (6), cognitive effectiveness (7), communities (2), complex (0), confidence (6), context (9), critical path (9), decision-making (7), design (7), dimensions (7), distributed simulation (1), framework (8), functional size (2), group creativity (6), identification (9), implementation (5), information (6), integration (2), model (7), neural-network (7), organizational knowledge (1), patterns (6), performance (9), process execution (9), process models (9), productivity (2), quality (2), reality (2), reference models (2), resources (9), risk (6), science research (2), semantics (9), sensemaking (1), simulation (9), strategy (0), systems (6), tables (7), verification (15), web (1), workflow (9).

As can be seen in Fig. 9, these keywords are far more separate from each other compared to the author’s keywords.

Co-ocurence of KeywordsPlus.

Figure 9: Co-ocurence of KeywordsPlus.

Classification of articles by methodology

Based on the expert assessment, we examined the documents regarding the methods and approaches used. We created seven groups corresponding to a method or approach that was an essential part of the publication: probabilistic models, Decision Model and Notation (DMN), dynamic task assignment problem, evolutionary and genetics algorithms, queuing theory, social networks and others. These groups were also based on keyword analysis, as some separate groups of copyright keywords belong to highly unique articles. We assigned each document to just one group. That is in contradiction to research areas, where one article can be attributed to more than one research area. The individual documents and their division between research areas and methodological groups can be seen in Table 3. We further analyzed the documents regarding their years of publication and plotted a bubble graph (Fig. 10) with the publication years on the x.axis and the methodological groups on the y-axis. The appropriate number of publications corresponding to the given year and the group is indicated in the respective bubble. This quantity is also graphically represented by the size of the given bubble.

Table 3:
Documents division according to the research areas and methodological groups.
Indexes Abbreviation
Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED)
Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI)
Computer science (26) Engineering (16) Operational Research (6) Business economics (5)
Probabilistic models (5) Herbert & Sharp (2012, 2013), Ceballos, Flores-Solorio & Garcia-Vazquez (2015), Ceballos, Flores-Solorio & Pablo Garcia (2015), Naoum et al. (2016) Herbert & Sharp (2012), Herbert & Sharp (2013), Ceballos, Flores-Solorio & Garcia-Vazquez (2015)
DMN (10) Batoulis & Weske (2017), Ghlala, Aouina & Ben Said (2017), Hasic, De Smedt & Vanthienen (2018), De Smedt et al. (2019), Durán, Rocha & Salaün (2019), Suchenia et al. (2019), Cho, Happa & Creese (2020) Figl et al. (2018), Suchenia et al. (2019), Cho, Happa & Creese (2020) Batoulis & Weske (2017), Hasic, De Smedt & Vanthienen (2018 Batoulis & Weske (2017), Tomaskova (2018), Mazhar, Wu & Rosemann (2018)
Dynamic task assignment problem (1) Xie, Chien & Tang (2016) Xie, Chien & Tang (2016)
Evolutionary and genetic algorithms (5) Herbert & Sharp (2014b), Rekik, Boukadi & Ben-Abdallah (2016) Herbert & Sharp (2014b), Herbert et al. (2014), Herbert, Hansen & Jacobsen (2015), Herbert & Hansen (2016) Herbert & Hansen (2016)
Queuing theory (4) Bocciarelli & D’Ambrogio (2012), Bahaweres, Fitriyah & Rozy (2017), Gómez-Martnez et al. (2019) Bocciarelli & D’Ambrogio (2012) Onggo et al. (2018) Onggo et al. (2018)
Social network (2) Khlif & Ben-Abdallah (2015) Khlif, Ben-Abdallah & Ben Ayed (2017)
Other (9) Kamrani et al. (2009), Braghetto, Ferreira & Vincent (2011), Aysolmaz, Iren & Demirors (2013), Burattin, Sperduti & Veluscek (2013), Wu et al. (2015), Mendoza Morales, Monsalve & Villavicencio (2017), Duran, Rocha & Salaun (2018) Kamrani et al. (2009), Burattin, Sperduti & Veluscek (2013), Herbert & Sharp (2014a), Herbert, Hansen & Jacobsen (2014) Kamrani et al. (2009), Wu et al. (2015)
DOI: 10.7717/peerj-cs.301/table-3
Buble graph—quantity of article according to methodological groups and publication year.

Figure 10: Buble graph—quantity of article according to methodological groups and publication year.

The largest group consisted of 10 publications on DMN and BPMN. Given the initiate year of DMN, this is the most significant approach serving with BPMN. DMN 1.0 was made available to the public in September 2015, the OMG group released DMN 1.1 in June 2016, DMN 1.2 was released in January 2019 and the latest version of DMN 1.3 was released in March 2020. The latest version did not affect this systematic search; however, the growth of publications since 2017 (see Fig. 10, for example, was undoubtedly be affected by the DMN update.

We only assigned four documents to the methodological group focused on queue theory (See Table 3 and Fig. 10). The specific articles are listed in the following section under the appropriate heading. As the largest group was the DMN and BPMN group, we can thus rule out research question R3.

Result: Research question R3—not confirmed.

The methods, techniques and approaches used in the included publications are listed in the following section.

Probabilistic models

The probabilistic model can be used to make decisions when the activity reaches an exclusive splitting gateway and the activity’s subject must decide between alternative actions. They can be used for predicting or deciding between alternative works based on desirable outcomes. Probabilistic models were presented in the following publications:

there the (Causal) Bayesian Network or Markov Decision processes were used.

DMN and decision analysis

Decision Model and Notation (DMN) is an industry standard for modeling and executing decisions that are determined by business rules. The association of DMN and BPMN is now common practice:

Both standards fall under OMG.

Dynamic task assignment approach

The study : A dynamic task assignment approach based on individual worklists for minimizing the cycle time of business processes by Xie, Chien & Tang (2016) develop a dynamic task assignment approach for minimizing the cycle time of business processes. The contribution of this article lies in developing a dynamic task assignment approach based on queuing theory, individual worklist model, and stochastic theory.

Evolutionary and genetic algorithms

The evolutionary algorithm was applied in the following publications:

to optimize the BP diagram, thus looking for a more efficient process. Especially the publication: Specifying business process outsourcing requirements, Rekik, Boukadi & Ben-Abdallah (2016), presented a genetic algorithm to identify most appropriate activities of a business process that should be outsourced.

Queuing theory

In the article: Comparative analysis of business process litigation using queue theory and simulation (case study: Religious courts of South Jakarta) Bahaweres, Fitriyah & Rozy (2017), Onggo et al. (2018). A BPMN extension to support discrete-event simulation for healthcare applications: an explicit representation of queues, attributes and data-driven decision points Onggo et al. (2018) and Gómez-Martnez et al. (2019). Formal Support of Process Chain Networks using Model-driven Engineering and Petri nets Gómez-Martnez et al. (2019), the authors use queuing theory and simulation to compare processes modeled in BPMN. In the article: Automated performance analysis of business processes Bocciarelli & D’Ambrogio (2012), authors presented a BP performance model of EQN (Extended Queueing Network) type.

Social network

The publications below focus on the application of social network analysis metrics (SNA) to studies of biological interaction networks in informatics.

Other approaches

The following publications were unique in their approaches. We can mention for example: Workflow fault tree generation through model checking by Herbert & Sharp (2014a) with FMEA analysis. An effort prediction model based on BPM measures for process by Aysolmaz, Iren & Demirors (2013) with Linear multiple regression analysis. Performance evaluation of business processes through a formal transformation to SAN by Braghetto, Ferreira & Vincent (2011) using Stochastic Automata Network. Estimating performance of a business process model by Kamrani et al. (2009) using a Task assignment approach. Formal verification of business processes as timed automata by Mendoza Morales, Monsalve & Villavicencio (2017) convert BPMN to Timed Automata and then perform standard Queuing analysis. Business models enhancement through discovery of roles by Burattin, Sperduti & Veluscek (2013), there the authors have extended the process model to roles, specifically designed role-sharing algorithm. Stochastic analysis of BPMN with time in rewriting logic by Duran, Rocha & Salaun (2018) presents a rewriting logic executable specification of BPMN with time and extended with probabilities. SBAT: A STOCHASTIC BPMN ANALYSIS TOOL by Herbert, Hansen & Jacobsen (2014) presents SBAT, a tool framework for the modelling and analysis of complex business workflows and A framework for model integration and holistic modelling of socio-technical systems by Wu et al. (2015) presents a layered framework for the purposes of integrating different socio-technical systems (STS) models and perspectives into a whole-of-systems model.


We have identified several gaps in the research and issues that need to be addressed in future research. The main gaps concern the research area of business economics. We assumed that this area would be the main and most frequent for the combination of BPMN and OR methods. However, we found that this area could be affected by the absence of specific notation. The relevant publications were written only after the release of version DMN 1.1. The effect of DMN notation will be addressed in future research.

An unexpected gap was a solution to finance and human resources management through OR. We would like to introduce publications Savku & Weber (2018) and Graczyk-Kucharska et al. (2020) as the pioneering works. The first article added the problem of optimal consumption problem from cash flow with delay and regimes. The authors developed the general analytic model setting and methods for the solution by studying a stochastic optimal control problem using the tools of the maximum principle. They proved the necessary and sufficient maximum principles for a delayed jump-diffusion with regimes under full and partial information. The second publication focused on transversal competencies, which are sets of knowledge, skills and attitudes required for different positions and in different professions. The authors used the method of multivariate additive regression spline together with artificial neural networks to create a model describing the influence of various variables on the acceleration of the acquisition of transverse competencies.

We assume that future research will be influenced by simulation and prediction methods. This study showed the use of Agent-based modelling methods and discrete-event simulations, or probabilistic models and social networks, but neural networks or artificial intelligence methods appeared in any publication. Based on this study, we further expect the use of more sophisticated approaches and the effect of new techniques. At the same time, it is possible to extend process modelling to inaccurate data using Fuzzy methods.


This paper presented a systematic overview of publications using BPMN and OR methods in process analysis. We analyzed 108 articles, that were selected using the appropriate strings in the advanced search option of in the WOS database. The papers that met the conditions of the study were subjected to various analyzes and were briefly described.

The review showed that the processes modelled by BPMN can be extended or analyzed as probabilistic processes, queue theory, or role and task assignments. Alternatively, processes can be optimized using evolutionary or genetic algorithms. The research also highlighted the need to identify keywords in publications correctly. For example, less than two-thirds of the selected articles contained the keyword BPMN, even though all the documents used this notation. Most of the articles were so-called one-off publications. Only a small number of author teams developed their topic in further continuing publications. Due to this, the average number of citations is relatively low. Due to the average number of citations to the total number of publications in all research areas, documents falling into the field of Operational Research are outstanding; there is an average of seven citations per article.

We analyzed the publications by research area and found that there is great potential for the research area of business economics (BE). Only a few papers were associated with this area (five in total) but all of them had a higher than average number of citations. The first document we included in this research area was published in 2017, that is only in the last quarter of the examined publication years. This focus on BE may have been initiated by the introduction of DMN notation.

Among the authors, smaller collaborating groups around the world were been identified. That groups co-work within the framework of co-authorship and co-citations. We only identified one single-author publication.

The analysis of keywords showed a significant difference between the keywords assigned by the authors and the so-called KeyWords Plus keywords. While the former were almost completely connected across publications, the latter were significantly diversified.

We have pointed out that the introduction of BPMN 2.0 led to an increase in publications using this notation.

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