Three abstraction levels of process documentation

by Sojo Nagaroor

22. April 2024 4 minutes
3 Abstraktionsebenen der Prozessdokumentation

Well conceptualized processes are crucial for business success. Process documentation plays an important role in this. It serves as a guideline that transforms complex processes into clear visualizations, making them understandable for all stakeholders. However, not all process documentation is the same. To meet different requirements, there are three levels of abstraction:

These often vary in their «altitude» and level of detail of the model. In addition to the different types of documentation, there are also different modeling languages, with Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) being one of the most common. Please also read our article «Choosing the Right Modeling Standard for Process Documentation».

Strategic process model

The strategic process model is the simplest form of a process model and focuses on the essentials. It is intended to simplify complex processes and provide a general overview of the process flow. The goal of this model is to give people with little BPMN experience the ability to clearly understand a process. A quick glance at the model is enough to grasp the process and create a basis for discussion.

Exceptions are deliberately not modeled, and instead the ideal case (happy path) is shown. The «altitude» is very high and the level of detail is deliberately low, as few decisions and work steps as possible are modeled. This approach is often used in management to get a general overview of the necessary steps without requiring deep detail.

Target group: Management, executives, process managers

Operational process model

The operational process model delves deeper into the details. It describes the individual steps of a process on an operational level, including responsibilities and surrounding systems, as well as which documents or information flow in and out of the process. This creates clear instructions for specialist departments that need to know exactly which steps follow each other and where exceptions can occur.

In the operational process model, a process is modeled as it is actually carried out in reality. The decisions are graphically represented, and feedback loops are modeled, with the effective level of detail varying according to needs. The general rule is: as detailed as necessary, as little detailed as possible.

Target group: Employees, consultants, trainers

Technical process model

The technical process model focuses on the technical implementation and automation of processes. It provides a detailed representation of the IT systems, software, and hardware required to carry out a process. By using workflow engines like Camunda, process models can be effectively put into practice.

In a technical process model, the interactions between humans and machines are primarily important. All other activities are summarized or omitted. Variables are defined and interfaces are developed. Special software solutions and corresponding configurations are required for effective information processing. When implementing such process automations, the use of a modeling tool (e.g., Camunda Modeler) can be helpful to facilitate implementation.

Target group: IT experts, system administrators, system developers, process modelers


The three abstraction levels of process documentation – strategic, operational, and technical model – form a coherent picture of an organization's entire workflows and are important tools for improving the efficiency and transparency of business processes. These models enable clear communication, support effective collaboration, and enable continuous process optimization. By using different abstraction levels of process documentation in a targeted manner, companies can precisely adapt their processes to their specific requirements. The realization of executable process models in workflow engines allows the automation of BPMN business processes, which leads to significant added value.

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