Monday, 9 July 2012

Comparing Archimate Views With Process Maps

In a previous post on this blog about our use of Archimate I talked about the difference between Archimate views and business process maps. It can be a struggle to find the right level to model at when creating Archimate views. There is a natural tendency to include too much process detail, especially if modellers have process mapping expertise. Archimate views are intended to act as the focus for discussion of issues and trade-offs between domain experts, not to document process details. Consequently, the goal of the Archimate modeller is to capture enough information from domain experts to create the view whilst resisting the temptation to cram all the details into each view. A 'just enough detail' approach is needed. Because this can be a tricky balancing act, I thought an example of how they differ might be useful. This post shows how a simple Archimate view can be derived from a Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) process map and illustrates how the resulting Archimate view captures an overview with the BPMN process map providing the details.

The BPMN process map below, captured as part of the StaffsXCRI-CAP Course Data Project, shows the process for creating a postgraduate course sheet for a new award. The postgraduate course sheet is used to advertise the award. The process map shows the flow of actions carried out by staff involved in the process. The horizontal swim lanes denote who does what. Each of the boxes describes behaviour that occurs in sequence as part of the overall process. BPMN process maps such as this one describe the process in sufficient detail that someone given the process map would know what to do to participate in the process.
BPMN business process map shows process details

Throughout the process map there are references to actors, roles, business objects and other entities that we would want to include in the Archimate model. These are highlighted in the text of the process map below.
Text of the process map contains references to Archimate elements

The highlighted items refer to Archimate elements as shown in the process map below. The overall process becomes a Business Process element in the Archimate view. The swimlanes refer to Archimate Roles. The text describes several Business Objects, software applications and bits of infrastructure like shared network drives (represented as Technology Nodes).
BPMN process map overlaid with corresponding Archimate elements

These Archimate elements can be collected into an Archimate view and relationships and inferred elements added to arrive at the view shown below.

Archimate view of the postgraduate course creation process

You can see that the Archimate view doesn’t contain any of the process detail. It only shows that there is a course sheet creation process which has a range of roles involved in performing it, with business objects and applications used along the way. The value of this level of modelling might not be evident from this single view but as more views added to the model, a critical mass is reached whereupon the model becomes a useful tool for analysis. Individual actors, roles and business objects can be quickly dragged into a view and related elements added to find out, for example, what processes an actor or role is involved with or who needs access to particular business objects for what purpose.

In the JISC Enable project we used existing process maps, corporate process documentation and notes from a series of interviews with stakeholders as input for the creation of our Archimate models. The approach shown above works for written documentation in the same way as with process maps. Pick out references to Archimate elements in the text and add them into Archimate views.

To make gathering of the right information easier, we used a simple template for making notes from interviews which is shown below. The columns acted as a prompt for us to ask about all aspects of the business architecture and enough about the other architecture layers to have a good go at creating a model on the first attempt. This reduced the need to revisit the same areas with stakeholders because of missing information.

Simple template to promote collection of the right information when talking to stakeholders

At Staffordshire University, everyone who has tried Archimate modelling has found that the process of modelling itself has raised questions about how everything fits together. Answering these questions has led to improved understanding of the problems we are trying to solve, improved understanding of the solutions and improved communication with stakeholders.

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