UPN (Universal Process Notation)


UPN (Universal Process Notation)

Just a simple building block (When, What, Why, Who, How)

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The principles behind UPN were first published back in 2004 in a book called Common Approach UnCommon Results. Nimbus released this as an open standard in 2008 called UPN (Universal Process Notation). This has been updated by TIBCO after the acquisition of Nimbus and the latest copy of UPN is available here.

The power of UPN is its simplicity because:

  • Any end user, no matter what level of seniority, background or discipline can understand it. It is lingua-franca for process.
  • Diagrams are tighter* so that they fit onto a single screen (laptop/tablet) which means they can be accessed at point of need.
  • It is not proprietary to the TIBCO Nimbus tool.   Elements and many of the process mapping tools and even the diagramming tools like Powerpoint and Visio can be used to develop UPN diagrams. Clearly Elements has been designed to be the best (and cheapest) UPN drawing experience.

*take any process drawn using flowcharting, swimlanes or BPMN notation and a UPN diagram will be smaller. Fact. Jim Boots in his book “Boots on the ground”, which chronicles his experiences of running the BPM program at Chevron, wrote a chapter with a worked example to demonstrate the point.

If you want to go straight to draw diagrams using the UPN Approach, see how easy it is in this Quick Start video and article. We would suggest you read the rest of this page first, but we also realise some of you just want to dive in 🙂

Notation approach

Activity box text

The text starts with a verb  i.e.  Deliver proposal, Close sale.


One or more resources can be attached to an activity box. They describe who is responsible for an activity i.e. Salesforce  Admin, Customer Success Manager, but it can also be a system or facility  ie Salesforce Sales.  Resources are an alternative to swimlanes. They show the responsibility, but without constraining the layout of the process diagram.



The drilldown is a link to a lower level diagram.There is only one diagram that can be a child of the activity box.



The Attachment Icon is used to link to supporting information; notes, URL links or meta data.

  • Notes: this is a simple text box that could be used to describe
  • URL link: this is to attach Salesforce screens, documents (procedure, instructions, training, video, configuration specs) that are stored in Salesforce Files, cloud document management systems i.e Box.com, websites or company portals
  • Data table: collect data specific to the activity via a custom form. i.e KPIs, customer touchpoints, compliance, configuration settings.



The lines between activity boxes show the triggers and outcomes.  Every activity box should   have lines connecting them.  And every line should have line text. The text should be the output. If the activity is “Process Invoice” then try to avoid calling the output “processed invoice” but instead be more specific.  Is it “approved invoice” or “validated invoice”


Off-page connector

The last output from a diagram is normally the input into activity on another diagram. The circle at the end of a line enables you to connect this line to line on another diagram. This makes it easier for a user to navigate a long end to end flow.



This shows that this line is the final output from the process.

If you want to draw diagrams using the UPN Approach, see how easy it is in this Quick Start video and article