Business & Information Systems Engineering

Document Type

Research Paper


Many factors influence the creation of businessprocess models which are understandable for a targetaudience. Understandability of process models becomesmore critical when size and complexity of the modelsincrease. Using vertical modularization to decompose suchmodels hierarchically into modules is considered toimprove their understandability. To investigate thisassumption, two experiments were conducted. The exper-iments involved 2 large-scale real-life business processmodels that were modeled using BPMN v2.0 (BusinessProcess Model and Notation) in the form of collaborationdiagrams. Each process was modeled in 3 modularityforms: fully-flattened, flattened where activities areclustered using BPMN groups, and modularized usingseparately viewed BPMN sub-processes. The objective wasto investigate if and how different forms of modularityrepresentation (used for vertical modularization) in BPMNcollaboration diagrams influence the understandability ofprocess models. In addition to the forms of modularityrepresentation, the presentation medium (paper vs. com-puter) and model reader’s level of business process mod-eling competency were investigated as factors thatpotentially influence model comprehension. 60 businesspractitioners from a large organization and 140 graduatestudents participated in our experiments. The results indi-cate that, when these three modularity representations areconsidered, it is best to present the model in a ‘flattened’form (with or without the use of groups) and in the ‘paper’format in order to optimally understand a BPMN model.The results also show that the model reader’s businessprocess modeling competency is an important factor ofprocess model comprehension.