Applying Cognitive Psychology for Improving the Creation, Understanding and Maintenance of Business Process Models

S. Zugal

PhD thesis, University of Innsbruck, Department of Computer Science, 2013.

Abstract. Considering the wide–spread adoption of business process modeling, the role of process models has become ever more central. Still, industrial process model collections display a wide range of quality problems, resulting in vivid research on the quality of process models, business process modeling languages and –methods. This thesis contributes to this stream of research by advocating the adoption of concepts from cognitive psychology for improving business process modeling languages and –methods. To address this rather broad research statement, this thesis focuses on two particular problems that are approached with the support of cognitive psychology. First, issues related to the creation, understanding and maintenance of declarative process models are analyzed. To counteract respective problems, the adoption of test cases, supporting the test driven development and maintenance of declarative process models, is proposed. By developing a prototypical implementation of the proposed concepts and employing them in empirical studies, the feasibility of the proposed approach is demonstrated. More specifically, empirical evidence for the positive influence on the creation and understanding of declarative process models is provided in a case study. Furthermore, beneficial effects on the maintenance of declarative process models are established in the course of two experiments. Second, the focus is shifted toward the interplay between a process model’s modularization and the resulting impact on understandability. By conducting a systematic literature review, apparently contradicting findings related to the understanding of modularization are found. To resolve these apparent contradictions, a cognitive–theory–based framework for assessing the impact of a process model’s modularization on its understandability is proposed. The subsequent empirical validation in the course of three experiments provides empirical evidence for the validity of the proposed framework. Summarizing, the creation, understanding and maintenance of declarative process models as well as the connection between a process model’s modularization and its understandability are successfully addressed. Thus, it can be concluded that concepts from cognitive psychology are indeed a promising foundation for improving business process modeling languages and –methods.

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Stefan Zugal