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Modeling in ARIS is very simple because it has  a very simple meta model. You have only to create a diagram and use objects, connections, attributes and assignments. But if certain conventions have to be kept, the sequence of different steps could become quite complex and this might lead to acceptance problems. Let’s create an example (see figure 1):

We have a function in a BPMN diagram that should get the character of a human task when the process will be automated. Three steps have to be done:





 

  1. The symbol has to be changed to a special human task symbol
  2. The workflow pattern has to be chosen and connected with both the function and the responsible organizational unit
  3. A set of attributes has to be maintained (Description, Subject, Priority, …), some of them mandatory

Of course you can do all of these modeling activities manually, but you have to know how (change the symbol in the properties dialog, create an assigned diagram of correct type, re-use the objects for workflow pattern and organizational units, maintain the attributes in properties tab). To ensure that all mandatory attributes have been maintained you need a consistency check. This is the classical way to work with ARIS, but some users consider this as too expensive.

Macros could be used to support the modeler at this point, but they seem only acceptable if the conventions could be applied automatically, if user interaction is needed (like choosing the workflow pattern in our case) it becomes complex quickly and the macro creation and maintenance effort for the user might get higher than the advantages.



With development of Oracle BPA Suite we went another way, mainly pushed by Oracle product development, which was afraid that complex manual modeling would not be accepted by the targeted users. A special UI has been created and if the user places an Oracle specific function a dialog appears (see figure 2) and all relevant data can be maintained here. In the background the according diagrams with their assignments, objects and connections are created. Mandatory properties are forced to maintained, otherwise the dialog cannot be closed.





Similar requirements also come from time to time from ARIS customers. In most cases only the advantages are considered, but we have also to care for the potential problems and open questions around this approach. The dialog has to be based on the ARIS method and the method can be filtered. What should happen, if e.g. an attribute, which is maintained by a dialog field, is forbidden by the current filter? Disable the dialog field or remove it from dialog? Or try to avoid in the filter configuration, that only parts if a dialog are allowed and others forbidden? And what about new attributes created by the user – how could they be included in the dialog? It seems if dialog based modeling is a very powerful concept but quite complex to implement with all its challenges at detailed level.



Maybe the usage fragments and templates as introduced with ARIS Express (but soon also available in other ARIS products) is a useful alternative. What do you think?

 

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