Using Counts as Heuristics for the Analysis of Static Models
Authors: Phalp, K.T., Counsell, S.J., Chen, L. and Shepperd, M.
Place of Publication: BournemouthAbstract:
The upstream activities of software development are often viewed as both the most important, in terms of cost, and the yet the least understood, and most problematic, particularly in terms of satisfying customer requirements. Business process modelling is one solution that is being increasingly used in conjunction with traditional software development, often feeding in to requirements and analysis activities. In addition, research in Systems Engineering for Business Process Change, highlights the importance of modelling business processes in evolving and maintaining the legacy systems that support those processes. However, the major use of business process modelling, is to attempt to restructure the business process, in order to improve some given aspect, e.g., cost or time. This restructuring may be seen either as separate activity or as a pre-cursor to the development of systems to support the new or improved process. Hence, the analysis of these business models is vital to the improvement of the process, and as a consequence to the development of supporting software systems. Supporting this analysis is the focus of this paper.
Business processes are typically described with static (diagrammatic) models. This paper proposes the use of measures (counts) to aid analysis and comparison of these static process descriptions. The proposition is illustrated by showing how measures can be applied to a commonly used process-modelling notation, Role Activity Diagrams (RADs).
Heuristics for RADs are described and measures suggested which support those heuristics. An example process is used to show how a coupling measure can be used to highlight features in RADs useful to the process modeller.
To fully illustrate the proposition the paper describes and applies a framework for the theoretical validation of the coupling measure. An empirical evaluation follows. This is illustrated by two case studies; the first based on the bidding process of a large telecommunications systems supplier, and the second a study of ten prototyping processes across a number of organisations.
These studies found that roles of the same type exhibited similar levels of coupling across processes. Where roles did not adhere to tentative threshold values, further investigation revealed unusual circumstances or hidden behaviour. Notably, study of the prototyping roles, which exhibited the greatest variation in coupling, found that coupling was highly correlated with the size of the development team. This suggests that prototyping in large projects had a different process to that for small projects, using more mechanisms for communication. Hence, the empirical studies support the view that counts (measures) may be useful in the analysis of static process models.
Preferred by: Keith Phalp