Literate Process Modeling

Literate Process Modeling is based on the idea of combining graphical process models and informal textual descriptions (cf. Figure 1A). According to dual channel theory [4], pictorial and textual representations are processed differently by the human mind. Pictorial information is processed in parallel by the visual system whereas textual representations are processed serially by the auditory system [2]. This fact is exploited by dual coding theory, suggesting that conveying information is more efficient when images and text are combined [6]. [5] goes even further by claiming that “textual encoding is most effective when used in a supportive role: to supplement rather than to substitute for graphics.”

Based on this theoretical background, Literate Process Modeling combines the well known technique of Literate Programming [3] from the software engineering domain with Literate Modeling [1] and adopts it to the modeling of business processes. Literate Programming was invented by Donald E. Knuth to improve software quality by fostering program comprehension. Literate Modeling, in turn, adopts a similar idea to UML modeling [1], combining textual descriptions and UML models to create more comprehensive documentation. In the proposed project we aim to adopt these techniques to business process modeling to foster process model comprehension and maintainability.

Figure 1 illustrates how we envision that Literate Process Modeling can be applied to business processes modeling. The sketched user interface of the Literate Process Modeling editor depicted in Figure 1A consists of two separate areas for process modeling and the corresponding textual descriptions. Textual descriptions are separated from the process model as incorporating comments in the process model might “add visual clutter to diagrams and confound their interpretation by making it more likely they will be interpreted as constructs” [5]. Relations between activities and the corresponding text fragments are highlighted fostering the communication between domain specialists and system analysts. By linking process models with textual descriptions, the intention behind a specific construct in a business process becomes much clearer.

Literate Process Modeling

Figure 1: Literate Process Modeling

Furthermore, Literate Process Modeling can be used to generate more readable process documentations by interweaving the process model and the corresponding parts of the informal specification in a single document (cf. Figure 1B). When revisiting the process model for conducting changes, the process documentation provides valuable knowledge about modeling choices made in the past, reducing the risk of introducing errors. Efforts needed for creating additional documentation are expected to be easily regained, because less time is spent with fixing errors [3]. Furthermore, Literate Process Modeling can be used to generate more readable process documentations by interweaving the process model and the corresponding parts of the informal specification in a single document (cf. Figure 1B). When revisiting the process model for conducting changes, the process documentation provides valuable knowledge about modeling choices made in the past, reducing the risk of introducing errors. Efforts needed for creating additional documentation are expected to be easily regained, because less time is spent with fixing errors [3].

Literate process models not only support the communication between domain experts and systems analysts, but also serve as executable specifications, i.e., the process model can be fed into a workflow engine providing execution support for process models (cf. Figure 1C).

Publications

  • J. Pinggera, T. Porcham, S. Zugal and B. Weber: LiProMo-Literate Process Modeling. In: Proc. CAiSE Forum ’12, pp. 163–170, 2012.   

References

[1] Arlow, J., Emmerich, W., Quinn, J.: Literate Modelling – Capturing Business Knowledge with the UML, In: Proc.: UML’98, pp. 189-199 (1998).

[2] J. Bertin, Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps. Univ. of Wisconsin Press (1983).

[3] Knuth, D., Literate Programming, Computer, 27 (2), pp. 97-111 (1984).

[4] R. E. Mayer, R. Moreno, Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning, Educational Psychologist, 38 (1), pp. 43-52 (2003).

[5] D.L. Moody, The “Physics” of Notations: Toward a Scientific Basis for Constructing Visual Notations in Software Engineering, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 35, pp. 756-779 (2009).

[6] A. Paivio, Mental Representations: A Dual Coding Approach, Oxford Univ. Press (1986).