Managing the complexity of business process diagrams

What?

Managing the complexity of business process diagrams by introducing Opacity-Driven Graphical Highlights (ODGH).

Problem

The main purpose of business process diagrams is to provide a mean for a standardized and more effective communication between process related stakeholders. To perform effective ‘diagrammatic communication’ it has to be ensured that diagrams remain simple, which is often challenging, because business processes and the corresponding workflows commonly represent complex systems.

Goals

The goal of our ongoing research is, therefore, to investigate the understandability of business process modelling notations and the resulting diagrams, as well as to propose novel techniques for addressing the complexity of business process diagrams.

Solution

  1. In light of the complexity of notations and diagrams an empirical research was conducted, with the goal to validate the intuitiveness of the diagrams empirically, modeled in the most commonly used process modeling notations, i.e. Unified Modeling Language 2.0 Activity Diagrams (UML AD), Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and Event Driven Process Chain (EPC).The experimental results demonstrated that, in the case of low-complexity processes, BPMN diagrams were outperformed by EPC and UML AD – based diagrams, which opens new challenges and opportunities in enhancing BPMN. However, when the complexity of processes was higher, participants using EPC diagrams performed significantly worse than those using the UML AD and BPMN diagrams.

    Figure 1: Empirical validation of the intuitiveness of process diagrams
  2. A second branch of research is dedicated to addressing the complexity of business process diagrams actively with a novel approach and a corresponding tool that aims to decrease the complexity of business process diagrams without changing the notation or existing approaches by introducing ODGH.Opacity enhances business process diagrams in light of the structural and behavioral opacity-driven highlights, while not interfering with specification of the modeling language or existing complexity-coping mechanisms. A performed case study demonstrates that the usage of ODGH decreases the cognitive load by highlighting only relevant elements of business process diagrams. The ODGH-tool was implemented in the PHP programming language, along with AngularJS and Bootstrap.

    Figure 2: An ODGH-tool for managing the complexity of business process diagrams

The outcomes of the research have implications for our domestic and international projects with the focus on business process analysis and redesign (e.g. 100+ BPMN related deliverables produced for Good e-Learning, founded in London, UK).

Authors

Asst. Prof. Dr. Gregor Polančič, Gregor Jošt, Jernej Huber, Prof. Dr. Marjan Heričko

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