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An Empirical Study on Simplification of Business Process Modeling Languages (BPMN). Presentation at SLE2015 & SPLASH2015 Pittsburg, PA



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The adaptation, specially by means of a simplification process, of modeling languages is a common practice due to the overwhelming complexity of most standard languages (like UML or BPMN), not needed for typical usage scenarios while at the same time companies don't want to go to the extremes of defining a brand new domain specific language. Unfortunately, there is a lack of examples of such simplification experiences that can be used as a reference for future projects. In this paper we report on a field study aimed at the simplification of a business process modeling language (namely, BPMN) for making it suitable to end users. Our simplification process relies on a set of steps that encompass the selection of the language elements to simplify, generation of a set of language variants for them, measurement of effectiveness of the variants through user modeling sessions and extraction of quantitative and qualitative data for guiding the selection of the best language refinement. We describe the experimental setting, the output of the various steps of the analysis, and the results we obtained from users. Finally, we conclude with an outlook towards the generalization of the approach and consolidation of a language simplification method.

Presentation at SLE2015 & SPLASH2015 Pittsburg, PA.

Eric Umuhoza
Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Marco Brambilla
Politecnico di Milano and Fluxedo, Italy

Davide Ripamonti
Politecnico di Milano and Fluxedo, Italy

Jordi Cabot
ICREA, Spain

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An Empirical Study on Simplification of Business Process Modeling Languages (BPMN). Presentation at SLE2015 & SPLASH2015 Pittsburg, PA

  1. 1. An Empirical Study on Simplification of Business Process Modeling Languages Marco Brambilla, Eric Umuhoza, Politecnico di Milano, Italy Jordi Cabot, ICREA & UOC, Spain Davide Ripamonti, Fluxedo, Italy
  2. 2. Agenda • Motivation • Problem setting • Process • Experience reporting • Success story (?)
  3. 3. Context and Motivation • Adaptation of modeling languages  Standard languages are complex  No perfect match of the domain to be modeled • Other approaches towards simplification  New DSLs  Extending an existing base language • Our approach  Simplify existing language according to the user needs
  4. 4. Empirical experiment: BPM scenario Michael zur Muehlen and Jan Recker "How much language is enough? "
  5. 5. How much is enough?
  6. 6. Objective: Personal Processes From BPM to PPM Study “how much is enough” for • End users • Collaborative planning and execution • Social network based interactions
  7. 7. Meanwhile on the TODOlist planet…
  8. 8. Commercial Question Any Space for intermediate solutions?
  9. 9. Our Study
  10. 10. Our ProcessEnd-userLanguagedesigner User Questionnaire Language Evaluation Definition of Language Variants Modeling of Use Cases Simplified Language Selection of Reducible Language Elements General Language
  11. 11. Beyond classical approaches of language quality (e.g., Moody’s physics) 1. Semiotic Clarity 2. Perceptual Discriminability 3. Semantic Transparency 4. Complexity Management 5. Cognitive Integration 6. Visual Expressiveness 7. Dual Coding 8. Graphic Economy 9. Cognitive Fit
  12. 12. Not just about the Syntax Before going to syntax, you need to address semantics! • Identify possible reduction points • Select variations of those points • Cluster them (too many combinations!)
  13. 13. Selection of reducible elements
  14. 14. Syntax Variants Elements to evaluate Syntax 1 Syntax 2 Syntax 3 Syntax 4 Start x x x x End x x x x Task x x x x Params: global x x Params: single local x Params: multiple local x Events x x x Sequence x x x x Parallel x x x Condition x x x Cycle x
  15. 15. Implementation details Online model editor (PHP, HTML5, CSS3, JS JQuery) • Maximum usability • Configurable for syntax variants • Tracking user activity • Minimal model checking realitme
  16. 16. Validation Experiment setup • 3 application scenarios • 4 syntax variants • 24 users • Multiple tests per user
  17. 17. Variants Assigment 4 syntaxes 3 scenarios Graeco-latin square: • 2 cases per user • No replication of sytax nor scenario }= 12 cases
  18. 18. Variants Assigment 4 syntaxes 3 scenarios Graeco-latin square: • The real one
  19. 19. Procedure with users 1. Intro 2. Learning 3. Experiment 1. Learn syntax 2. Read scenario 3. Model scenario with syntax 4. Questionnaire 1. Demographics 2. Evaluation of experience
  20. 20. Results Analysis • Average modeling time • Average # of used concepts ~16 min ~21 min ~19 min Language VariantsLanguage Variants Duration(s) #Elements
  21. 21. Modeling operations – average count
  22. 22. Results Analysis Wait Until Parallel Condition Cycle Activity Sequence #Elements
  23. 23. Common modeling errors
  24. 24. Results analysis Explicit feedback on language variant complexity Language Variants #opinions Easy Med Hard
  25. 25. Rule of “thumb” on Language Variants Variant 1 Simpler, faster, less errors, limited power (no conditions) Variant 2 Strong thanks to looping, a lot of errors Variant 3 Good compromise. Limited by single local parameter Variant 4 Harder, slower, more errors. Multiple local parameters not appraciated
  26. 26. Rule of “thumb” on Single Elements • Event Until • Parallel • Condition • Cycle • Global params • Event Wait • Local params single • Local params multiple
  27. 27. Conclusions • Simplification in mind • Definition of a formalized selection process of language constructs and variants • Actual selection of a variant for our case study Future Work • Modeling through multiple expertise levels – From expert to the crowd
  28. 28. END OF THE STORY
  30. 30. A company has born
  31. 31. Key: reduce complexity. FROM THIS…
  32. 32. TO THIS…
  33. 33. Integrating people…
  34. 34. Integrazione servizi online.. and Online Services
  35. 35. Take home message • Being a modeler is hard • Modeling simplification seems really to lead to extreme solutions, i.e. completely hide modeling The challenge is not to show off modeling, is to hide it
  36. 36. An Empirical Study on Simplification of Business Process Modeling Languages @marcobrambi @fluxedo_app Thanks