BPM2012: Papers on Process Quality

It’s the first day of the 2012 conference on BPM research (yesterday we had the pre-conference workshops), and the first set of papers is on process quality.

Tying Process Model Quality to the Modeling Process: The Impact of Structuring, Movement, and Speed

[link to pdf paper]

The first paper, presented by Jan Claes of Ghent University and with several co-authors, looked at the possible links between process model quality and the modeling process itself, which has ramifications for teaching process modeling and related tools. Their initial research defined an understandability metric, then measured the correlation between different modeling practices and understandability. They found that structured modeling was positively correlated with understandability: if the model was created using a structured approach, that is, focusing on developing each block then assembling into the larger model, it was more understandable. Time spent modeling was negatively correlated: the longer that it took to create the model, the less understandable it is, which is similar to a finding that they referenced about how faster programmers tend to deliver code with fewer defects. A third factor, the number of times that the model objects were moved during modeling, showed only a slight correlation (personally, I find that people who are a bit obsessive tend to move model components more often, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to less understandable models).

This is fairly early in this research, and a number of areas need to be explored further. First, the understandability metric may need to be refined further; they have defined a measure of perspicuity that is about clarity of understanding, not necessarily structural correctness. Other factors need to be considered, such as the demographics and prior knowledge of the subjects.

Capabilities and Levels of Maturity in IT-Based Case Management

[link to pdf paper]

Jana Koehler of Lucerne University presented on how well case management systems support case managers in social work, healthcare and complex insurance claims. She set out key characteristics for a case management system: complex assessment instruments, setting objectives jointly with the client, and complex coordination, controlling and monitoring. Then, she discussed key capabilities: information handling (visualization, access and assessment), case history (insights, from simple descriptive artifacts to diagnostic and predictive capabilities), decisions (individual decisions through to best practices), and collaboration and administration.

The result is the C3M maturity model for IT-based case management (that is, supported by some sort of system): similar to other maturity models, this includes the stages of individualistic, supported, managed, standardized and transformative. The paper included a chart of the maturity levels, showing the main capability, benefit and risk at each level. A maturity model such as this can be helpful in evaluating case management systems by identifying capabilities, and providing potential roadmaps for vendors.

Business Process Architecture: Use and Consistency

[link to download for Springer subscribers]

The last paper in the process quality section was on business process architecture, presented by Remco Dijkman of Eindhoven University. He started with a definitely of a business process architecture as a representation of the business processes in an organization and the relationships between processes; their evaluation shows that “explicitly representing and analyzing relations between process models can help improving the correctness and consistency of the business process architecture as a whole”. They listed the different types of relations between processes (triggering, flow, composition and specialization) as well as the events that define the relationship between processes. This process architecture is not an executable process, even though it may have the look of a process model, but rather a high-level abstract view.

The goal of all of this is not just to define process architecture, but to create a framework for assessing the quality of a particular architecture based on patterns and anti-patterns within the relations between the processes; several pages of the paper cover a detailed description of the patterns and anti-patterns. They did a case study of constructing a process architecture for a subset of the SAP reference model, producing a count of each type of pattern and anti-pattern encountered. Looking at the anti-patterns specifically highlights areas in the reference model that may be problematic; although it doesn’t find many types of problems, it is a good first-stage analysis tool.

Their future plans in this research include formalization of the process architecture, visualization, and design of the architecture based on a complex organization.

Overall, a good set of papers looking at the issues of improving quality in processes.

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