Investigating expressiveness and understandability of hierarchy in declarative business process models

S. Zugal, P. Soffer, C. Haisjackl, J. Pinggera, M. Reichert and B. Weber

Software & Systems Modeling 14(3):1081–1103, 2015.

Abstract. Hierarchy has widely been recognized as a viable approach to deal with the complexity of conceptual models. For instance, in declarative business process models, hierarchy is realized by sub-processes. While technical implementations of declarative sub-processes exist, their application, semantics, and the resulting impact on understandability are less understood yet—this research gap is addressed in this work. More specifically, we discuss the semantics and the application of hierarchy and show how sub-processes enhance the expressiveness of declarative modeling languages. Then, we turn to the influence of hierarchy on the understandability of declarative process models. In particular, we present a cognitive-psychology-based framework that allows to assess the impact of hierarchy on the understandability of a declarative process model. To empirically test the proposed framework, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods is followed. While statistical tests provide numerical evidence, think-aloud protocols give insights into the reasoning processes taking place when reading declarative process models.


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Stefan Zugal
Cornelia Haisjackl
Jakob Pinggera
Barbara Weber