UPN & process gateways

“How are gateways handled in UPN?”

“There doesn’t seem to be a specific object in the notation that is dedicated to gateways.”

That’s for a reason – in an earlier post about decision boxes  we saw that they didn’t merit a separate object. The same applies here.

Gateway Types

Business gateways tend to fall into two types:

  1. Way-points
  2. Control-points


Process way-points are like map markers – GPS points on a journey.  In a UPN process map they may be activities on which a user needs to pause and reflect.  e.g. Have I got all the necessary approvals I need to allow me to proceed?  That seems like an obvious candidate for special treatment doesn’t it? 

I’m not convinced.  In UPN’s human oriented processes you complete a step and move on to the next.  Every activity expects you to check you have done everything you need to (the action) with all you were given (the inputs) to add value (the outputs). Checking you have all the approvals you need to move on is just an example of that principle. 

Call the activity out if you want to but consider these key questions first:

1. What benefit will you get for the effort it takes? (Cost / benefit case?)

2. How will you sustain the effort required to apply your method consistently across your editor community. On all content, all editors, forever?

3. Can you train all your users to recognise what your gateway means – all users, forever?

In many cases, companies have gone to a lot of effort to be different, and have later abandoned the “great idea” when it is seen to add little value.

Do something out of the ordinary and you have to make sure you do it consistently across all your processes because unless every process designer highlights all gateways in the same way, the end users will be confused. You can imagine the conversations that could follow, from the inquisitive…

“I am asked to check approvals at steps A and B.  Step A is shown as a gateway, step B is not.  Does that mean the approval at step B is not important?”

to the defensive…

“No I didn’t check for the approvals at Step B.  Why not?  Because step B wasn’t marked out as  a gateway, so that was not a mandatory step right?” (Ouch!)


Control-points are activities that are governance touchpoints.  This could be a line manager approving a team member’s expenses and then obtaining approval from a one-above manager if they exceed $1,000.  GDPR has added its own crop of controls around personal data security and observing the rights of an individual.

From an audit perspective it’s clearly a good idea to be able to assess how well  corporate processes meet the requirements of corporate governance.  The best place to start is to have the governance standards recorded in a framework so that you can link individual governance requirements to individual activities in your process.  This will allow you to see the touch points where the processes meet the governance needs but, more important, it will let you see the gaps. 

In an earlier article I explained how external frameworks could be used to assess your processes. You can create your own internal controls frameworks to define the XYZ Company Controls Framework.

Highlighting Control-Points

Some argue that controls designed to catch fraud should be hidden to make it more difficult to circumvent them.  Others say that prevention is better than cure – let’s dissuade people from trying by making our speed cameras visible – there’s little to be gained by hiding controls from staff who want to do the right thing.  But it’s your choice. 

Ask yourself the same questions we asked earlier but add another…

4. Do we need to do this to meet a regulatory requirement?

Ways  to highlight 

There are several ways to highlight way-points and control-points, depending on which UPN application you use.


Colour is a popular solution but, as I explained in my previous article, I don’t believe it’s a good metaphor because it is meaningless for anyone who doesn’t have the colour key, and different colours may not even be distinguishable by people with colour blindness.  It’s your choice, and it is a simple approach.  But there’s a more effective, inclusive way.


You will create a much more readily understood metaphor with imagery.  For example, a control point could be represented by:

All the UPN apps will let you place the image close to the activity box, although you may need to adjust the size and position to take account of the number and direction of flow lines on the box:

If you’re using Elements, you have the option to place the image inside the activity box, although the text only appears on mouse-over:


GDPR  has our attention currently.  We can represent this in a similar way (see below) – these images are easy to create.  Pair that with a GDPR framework and you’ll begin to understand the impact of GDPR on your processes.

Skore uses a similar approach.  In their case a rule can be defined to drive the activity box’s style. TIBCO Nimbus will also allow you to drop an image on the canvas.

Data Tables and Frameworks

Tagging an activity with an image gives users the visual clue that something needs their particular attention. 

You can also tag it with metadata by attaching a data table record or a link to a framework node.  In truth, there’s probably more value in doing this than in the highlighting, because it enables you to report on your compliance / process touchpoints and, more importantly, discover where your carefully crafted process is GDPR delinquent.  That’s true added value – and a scary fine avoided too.

TIBCO Nimbus has a function called Business Controls that will allow an admin to pre-define business controls.  All an author has to do is tag an activity as a control point and they will be guided through the correct steps to add the metadata.  The system then applies the correct image to ensure consistency across all editors.

In conclusion

This is not an exact science and you need to work out a gateway approach that works for you.  Just remember to:

  1. Answer the four key questions
  2. Use an easily recognised image metaphor
  3. Avoid using colour, and never use it on its own
  4. Use your metaphor consistently across your content
  5. Focus on what you need to do instead of what you can do
  6. Design something that doesn’t require the user to think.

If you have a need for gateways that I haven’t covered here, please click the button.







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