A Language for Designing Process Maps

Monika Malinova

Publication: ThesisDoctoral thesis

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Business Process Management (BPM) is often adopted by organizations as a method to increase awareness and knowledge of their business processes. Business process modeling is used as a method to represent business processes in form of business process models. The number of organizations adopting BPM is quickly increasing. By this means, so is the number of business process models as result of a BPM initiative.
Within a single organization the number of business process models often ranges from hundreds to even thousands. In order to handle such large amount of business process models, organizations structure them by the help of a process architecture. It includes a process map, which is considered as the top-most view of the process architecture where the organization's business processes and the relations between them are visually and abstractly depicted. The details of each business process shown on the process map are stored in the lower levels of the corresponding process architecture.
The purpose of a process map is to provide an overview of how an organization operates as a whole without necessarily going into the process details. Therefore, the design of a process map is vital not only for the understanding of the company's processes, but also for the subsequent detailed process modeling. This is primarily because, a process map is often the result of the process identification phase of the BPM lifecycle, and is used as a foundation for the subsequent phases, where the detailed process modeling and process improvement takes place.
Despite their importance, the design of process maps is still more art than science, essentially because there is no standardized modeling language available for process map design. As a result, we are faced with a high heterogeneity of process map designs from practice, although they all serve a similar purpose.
This has accordingly been our main motivation for pursuing the research presented in this thesis. The research question for this thesis is the following: How to effectively model processes on an abstract level?

In this thesis, we document the development of a language for designing process maps. In particular, we provide the following contributions. First, we present a holistic reference BPM framework. It is a consolidation of procedural frameworks introduced by prominent BPM researchers. The framework includes eleven BPM elements, each holding activities organizations need to consider when adopting BPM. Second, we provide a method for assessing cognitive effectiveness of process maps used in practice. For this, we follow the nine principles for cognitively effective visual notations introduced by Moody cite{moody2012physics}.
In addition, we employ the cognitive fit theory to check whether the design of process maps has an effect on the BPM success in the respective organization. Second, we conduct a systematic literature review on the quality of modeling languages and models. We use the quality requirements we found as basis for developing the language for designing process maps. Third, we define the abstract syntax, semantics, and concrete syntax of the language for process maps. We follow an explorative method, hence we rely on empirical data for the language development. Accordingly, we reuse symbols in our language which have already been used in practice as part of process maps.
We follow this approach in order to ensure the language will consist of elements already familiar to organizations. We evaluate the language by means of an experiment, in which we assess the effectiveness and efficiency of process maps designed using elements from our language against process maps that have not been designed using our language. Last, this thesis provides a method for testing the suitability of existing languages for specific purposes. (author's abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • WU Vienna
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2016

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