ICT Support for Enterprise Modelling

Tools for Business Process Modelling:

An Evaluation Framework for Business Process Modelling Tools
Dr. Markus Nüttgens
Universität Trier, Wirtschaftsinformatik II
E-Mail: markus@nuettgens.de

The supply of modelling tools for business process management has developed to an independent market segment since the beginning of the 90s. An annual survey published by Gartner Research estimates the global market volume at over $500 million and forecasts an average market growth of about 20% for the next years. Another forecast predicts that the number of commercially available products will decrease from currently 35 to about half that number in the near future [Ga01][Ga02].

A previous study of business process management tools comprised the tool categories Visualization, Modelling, Simulation, Workflow-Management, and CASE [BS01]. Unfortunately this categorization cannot be applied selectively in practice. In particular the term modelling tool is often – at least implicitly – contained in all five categories.

Hence, in the following evaluation framework the term modelling tool is used in the broader sense. It covers the aspects of visualization, modelling, and simulation as integrated performance features of a modelling tool. The requirements towards Workflow Management systems and CASE systems are introduced as interface concepts for the interconnection with third-party-systems and are thus not dealt with in further detail. The latter also applies to the general criteria for quality requirements for software systems according to the standards ISO/IEC 9126 and in particular that for application systems according to ISO/IEC 12119.

The framework was derived from a bi-directional bottom-up and top down approach and is structured in five main categories. Those main categories are further operationaliszed through multilevel sub categories and comprise about 350 attributes at the lowest level. While the first three main categories are rather general and deal with application independent aspects, the remaining top level categories are targeted at specific characteristics of modelling tools. The developed framework is to be used for the evaluation of modelling tools for business process management. At the moment it is successively filled with data of 20 standard modelling tools. It should help target organizations with a comprehensive (pre)selection of relevant products and make a user specific weighting and rating of single attributes and characteristics possible. Further, the framework can support business process integration towards an improved model interchange, making use of the validation results and a potential harmonization or transformation of the methodologies and the applied modelling languages.
Business Process Modelling Tool Categories
Product and Pricing Model Producer and Customer Base Technology and Interfaces Methodology and Modelling Application and Integration
Launch date
Price List
Cost/work place
Ref. Models
Supp't +Service
Foundation date
Installed inventory
Core market
Industry sector
Operating system
Application software
Data management
Front end GUI
Multi user
Access rights
Language supp't
Interface Tech.
Method supply
Method definition
Method transformation
Method filter
Model management
Model creation
Model consistency
Variant management
Process model
Project model
Business ratios
Activity based costing
Quality management
Risk management
Data base reengineering.
Third party integration

Evaluation Framework for Business Process Modelling Tools [Nü02]
The main category ‚Methodology & Modelling’ explained in the following, represents the characteristics that are essential for modelling tools:

·    Method Supply: The predefined method supply is an important part of the functional range of a modelling tool. It comprises general or tool and vendor specific methods. The different methods can be split up into strategic, process oriented, organization oriented, data oriented, or object oriented methods according to their derivation and objective target. (UML diagrams, Event Driven Process Chains, Petri Nets etc.).
·    Method Definition: Besides the predefined methods the functionality of a free and endures specific method definition is an important characteristic. The method definition can refer to the level of model type, object type, and attribute type.
·    Method Transformation: A method transformation describes a function that converts methods into one another (Event Driven Process Chains to Petri nets or UML activity diagrams etc.).
·    Method Filter: A method filter enables an end user to restrict methods according to his/her own application context and thereby customize“ the methods so that only certain subsets of model, object and attribute types are visible in the user interface (role based concepts).
·    Model Management: Functions for model management can be divided into explorer concepts, view concepts, presentation concepts, and search concepts. An explorer concept is used to store, access, sort, and select models and objects in a tree structure.  The view concept supports a perspective structuring of models (organization view, process view, data view, resource view etc.). Presentation concepts are used for the visualization of model and object characteristics, model overviews (orientation windows), tables, print and presentation views, input and output functions, and for the definition of validity periods for models and objects. Search concepts can be applied for model concepts, object concepts, and attribute concepts.
·    Model Creation: For the manipulation of graphics it is important to equip the modeler with powerful manipulation functions (drag & drop, clipboard, grid layout, guides, ruler, zoom, grouping, object alignment etc.). Besides the functions for the immediate model creation the integration of external objects (audio, video, text, graphics, hyperlinks), freeform graphics and freeform text is very important. Models can be improved or abstracted according to the desired perspective to the extent to which this is methodically supported (generation of models and model hierarchies).
·    Model Consistency: Within the scope of syntax and semantics checks model specific characteristics can be verified. In the context of a syntax check it is possible to use either predefined standardized verifications or user defined verification programs. Semantics checks can also be conducted in a predefined and standardized or in a user defined way in analogy to syntax checks. Verifications of that kind imply that a formal description of the dynamic behaviour of the system and a model specific specification of the properties that are to be verified exists (e.g. recognition of dead locks or live locks in a process model).
·    Layout: The functional range comprises functions for the presentation of objects (size, colour, shape, shading, external object), display of attributes (grouping, tree structure, assigned graphics), definition of font formats, templates, and work space (scaling, colour, print scaling, header, and footer). In the functionality of layout generation a fully automated relative positioning of model objects is supported.
·    Variant Management: The importance of an integrated variant management rises with an increasing size of a modelling project. The definition and management of variants on the model and object level is supported in the context of variant creation. The comparison and consolidation of variants are necessary to combine distributed models.
·    Version Management: In the context of version management technological and historical versions can be distinguished. Version management supports the management and conversion of models beyond different versions.
·    Process Model: Process models can either be predefined/standardized and thereby enforce a hard-wired proceeding or they can be freely defined.
·    Project Management: Functions for the support of project management can refer to different levels of abstraction and aggregation and are often realized with the help of a more or less integrated interconnection of specialized external products.


[BS01]    Bullinger, H.-J.; Schreiner, P. (Hrsg.): Business Process Management Tools,- Eine evaluierende Marktstudie über aktuelle Werkzeuge, Frauenhofer IRB Verlag, Stuttgart 2001.
[Ga01]    Gartner Research: The BPA/M Market Gets a Boost From New Features. Gartner's Applications Development & Management Research Note, M-13-5295, 16 May 2001.
[Ga02]    Gartner Research: The BPA Market Catches Another Major Updraft. Gartner's Application Development & Maintenance Research Note M-16-8153, 12 June 2002.
[Nü02]    Nüttgens, M.: Rahmenkonzept zur Evaluierung von Modellierungswerkzeugen zum Geschäftsprozessmanagement, in: Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) e.V. (ed.): Informationssystem Architekturen, Wirtschaftsinformatik Rundbrief der GI Fachgruppe WI-MobIS, 9(2002)2, pp. 101-111.

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