Business modelling

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Business modelling deals with the representation of real world business processes of an enterprise, the intention is clearly to analyze and improve the business processes of an enterprise. Business modelling gives a snapshot of what is perceived at a point in time in a business process. Business process is defined as a structure of organizational and inter-organizational activities that are necessary to accomplish a product or service. Information systems development or integration is a well known driver for the need to model a business process i.e. business modelling. (Ann, Denise and Ken, 2003).

Business modelling has different perspectives or views with regard to business processes of an enterprise. Business process modelling techniques are divided over several aspect modelling techniques. Generally models are categorized by static and dynamic aspects of a business process. Static models are simplified representations of business processes at a point of time and represents structural features of business processes. But the drawback of static models is that it tends to neglect the dynamic behaviour of a business process which changes over a period of time due to interactions and other uncertain conditions. In the case of dynamic modelling, it pays attention to the interactions with external environment in a business process. Dynamic models define business process as a set of subsystems which interact with each other and with their environment to accomplish some goal(s) (Melão and Nuno, 2000). In the field of business modelling and information systems development many different perspectives can be identified for business processes based on static and dynamic aspects.

Interacting Feedback loops perspective views business processes as closed loops with intrinsic control. Its focuses on the complex, interactive and dynamic features of business processes. The business processes are regulated by policies (decisions) in order to achieve a desired result (Melão and Nuno, 2000).

Structural perspective focuses on the static aspect of the business processes. The modelling concepts will be called object class and the interrelationships between object classes can be classified as association, generalization & aggregation. The techniques for modelling this perspective are UML class modelling, Entity-Relationship modelling and Object Role modelling. All the techniques allow binary relationships (relationship between two different types of things) and some allow unary (recursive) relationships (relationship between two things of the same type) (Satzinger and John W., 2005).

Functional perspective describes the business function. The core generic concepts to model this perspective are functions ('processes'). The technique for modelling this perspective is data-flow diagram, which is a graphical representation of the flow of data through an information system. It provides no information about the timing or ordering of the processes.

Behavioural perspective focuses on the dynamic aspect of the business processes and conceives business processes as finite state machine. The state of the business processes from initial state change by means of state transitions. The core generic concepts are states and state transitions. UML state diagrams are an example of this perspective (Simon, Steve and Ray, 2002), Petri net models is also another technique for modelling behavioural perspective. Petri net models offer a precise way of modelling the states and state transitions in business processes.

Workflow-oriented perspective conceives business process as the flow of a single (logical or physical) item that 'flows' through the process. A work flow represents a complete chain of actions being manipulated on the following item to deliver service to an external party(customer) (H. Jonkers and H.M. Franken, 1996).

While doing team-based business modelling exercises these two perspectives were identified

  1. Object Perspective
  2. Communication Perspective

Object perspective conceives business processes as collection of objects that influence or interacts each other in one way or the other. Objects have both aspects - static and dynamic. For modelling static aspect, the modelling concepts of structural perspective can be used : objects, classes and attributes. For modelling dynamic aspect, operations are assigned to objects that can be invoked by other objects. This perspective is based on object oriented modelling, the technique for modelling this perspective is UML (Simon, Steve and Ray, 2002).

Communication perspective focuses on how the work is coordinated between groups of actors by means of communication. This communication can be modelled by concepts such as actors and messages that exchange between these actors. The technique for modelling this perspective is UML sequence diagram (IBM, 2004).

Social constructs perspective - All the perspectives see business processes as a predictable machine which has clear goals to pursue. The human part of the business process is missing in the perspectives mentioned. This perspective sees business processes as social constructs which focuses on the human aspect of the business processes. In this perspective business processes are set by people with different values, targets, goals and motivation. The perspective fits well for less tangible processes in which human activity plays a major role (Melão and Nuno, 2000).

A business process can also be viewed from different quantitative (time-based) perspectives which aids in different analysis and performance measure.

  1. Customer perspective (response time) : the time between issuing a request and receiving the result. Examples of business process in the DMS case study is the time customer delivers the car for servicing and collects the vehicle after completion of the service.
  2. Process perspective (completion time) : the time required to complete one instance of a process. For example multiple orders ,customers, etc.
  3. Product perspective (processing time) : the amount of time actual work is performed on the realisation of result.
  4. Resource perspective (utilisation) : the percentage of the operational time that a resource is busy. This perspective helps in analyzing the resources, if the resource is highly utilised then it can lead to a bottleneck (H. Jonkers and H.M. Franken, 1996).

Each perspective has its own strength and limitations, these perspectives are not independent of each other. These perspectives give a better understanding of complex nature of business process modelling. A business process varies in different organisations, some business processes have an interaction with external environment and some lie within the boundary of business organization. Business processes have technical and social, tangible and intangible, objective and subjective, quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Business modelling should follow a methodology which should have provision for all the perspectives mentioned (Melão and Nuno, 2000).

References

  1. Ann Lindsay, Denise Downs, and Ken Lunn (2003) Business processes-attempts to find a definition. Information and Software Technology, 45 (15). pp. 1015-1019. ISSN 0950-5849
  2. H. Jonkers and H.M. Franken, " Quantitative modelling and analysis of business processes", in A.G. Bruzzone and E.J.H. Kerckhoffs (eds.), Simulation in Industry: Proc. 8th European Simulation Symposium, vol. I, Genoa, Italy, Oct. 1996, pages 175-179.
  3. IBM, UML basics : The sequence diagram. Web Page http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/library/3101.html [WWW]
  4. Melão, N. & Pidd, M. 2000, "A conceptual framework for understanding business processes and business process modelling", Information Systems Journal, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 105-129.
  5. Satzinger, J.W., Jackson, R. & Burd, S.D.(2005), Object-oriented analysis and design with the unified process, Thomson, Boston, Massachusetts.
  6. Simon Benett, Steve McRobb & Ray Farmer, "Object Oriented System Analysis and Design using UML", McGraw Hill,2002.

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