Creating process hierarchies

Depending on the level of detail, process diagrams can become very complex. Huge diagrams are hard to understand and to handle. Therefore, dividing a process into parts, especially via hierarchies, is an important concept for managing complexity.

Signavio Process Manager allows users to define process hierarchies through the use of subprocesses (in the case of BPMN) or process interfaces (in the case of EPC) and through linking to other diagrams. The following explanations are going to use BPMN subprocesses for illustration. The same functionality is also available for EPC.

Refining a subprocess in a separate diagram

  • Select the subprocess you want to refine.

  • Click the + symbol.


    The “+”-symbol opens the “Establish link”-dialog

  • The “Establish link” dialog opens.


    The “Establish link” dialog

  • The input field on the top shows the name of the subprocess. By using this field you can edit the diagram title.

  • Choose the diagram type. BPMN will be pre-selected whenever you are about to refine a BPMN subprocess.

  • Click Link Diagram

  • A new diagram with the specified name will be created and the Editor will show up in a new browser tab or window. You can now start editing the diagram.

Linking an existing diagram to a subprocess

To link an existing diagram to a subprocess, proceed as follows:

  • Select the subprocess you want to link an existing diagram to.

  • Click the + symbol at the bottom of the shape and the “Establish link” dialog will pop up.


    Select a diagram

  • Select Use existing diagram

  • Browse through the folder structure and select the diagram you want to link. On the right you see a preview of the diagram.

  • Click Link Diagram.

Hint: If the preview is too small, you can enlarge the Establish link dialog. This will also resize the preview.

Moving diagram parts to a new process

When BPMN diagrams get too large, you may want to move a part of it into a linked subprocess. In such a case, you condense groups of process elements in collapsed subprocesses:

  • Select the process part which is supposed to be moved, click the change type button out of the interactive shortcut menu on the left bottom and choose Collapsed subprocess:


    The selected area will be copied to a new process and be replaced by a collapsed subprocess containing the new diagram

  • As the diagram might be changed significantly, a warning occurs. Confirm the warning:


    A warning appears as process semantics may be manipulated

  • Add a title for the subprocess and choose whether to edit it now or later:


    Creating the linked subprocess will establish a new subprocess

  • The process will be moved to a new diagram. It is now represented as a collapsed subprocess:


    A collapsed subprocess will represent the process part that has been moved to another diagram


    The new diagram

The new diagram will be created in the same folder as the old one. Refresh the Signavio Explorer to see it.

Linking a web document to a subprocess

Instead of linking a diagram to a collapsed subprocess you can also link an online document.

  • Select the subprocess you want to link the online document to.
  • Click the + symbol at the bottom of the shape and the Establish link dialog will open.
  • Choose Use web link.
  • Paste the URL to the input field and click the Link Diagram button.

Opening a linked diagram

Once you have created a refinement or linked an existing diagram, you can navigate to that diagram from the subprocess.

  • Select the subprocess and click the + symbol.
  • A preview panel appears. Click Open to open the diagram in a separate browser tab.

Hint: If you e.g. are using Internet Explorer 6 to 8, you will be warned that the Editor is not supported in you web browser. For more information about browser compatibility, see


Open the referenced diagram

Hint: The preview will also be shown for linked web documents.