Sebastian Stein's picture

Business process models and related diagrams such as organisational charts or data models make the tacit knowledge of domain experts explicit. It is one of the hardest tasks of modelling experts to identify those people with the necessary process knowledge and to motivate them sharing it. Usually, workshops and interviews are conducted to collect this knowledge. Later, a modelling expert turns this input into explicit models, which are then approved by domain experts.

In an ideal world, one would expect that domain experts model processes on their own. So far, this is not happening on a large scale, hindering a quick adoption of business process management (BPM). One reason might be that BPM tools are too complex for this user group, but it is more likely that those domain experts have enough other tasks to do.

Still, we shouldn’t give up on this point, because it could simplify the modelling task if domain experts are directly involved. Our fellow colleagues at Software AG might have the solution to this problem - ARISalign. On a first glance, ARISalign looks like yet another social network targeting business people. In fact, this commodity character of ARISalign is a main advantage. If you as a modelling expert invite a domain expert to the platform, the domain expert will feel familiar immediately, because on a first glance ARISalign looks like Facebook, LinkedIN, XING, etc. Members are able to maintain their profile, add other members to their list of contacts, send messages or discuss in groups. Still, there is more included in ARISalign, which might help you to get your domain experts start modelling!

Creating private modelling projects

When you are logged in to ARISalign, take a look at the project section by clicking on the project tab in the main navigation.

link in ARISalign to create a project collaboration space

On the project tab, you can create new projects. Projects are collaboration spaces, but we will come to this point in a few lines. First make sure that we set up a project so that only people we invite can access it:

creating a hidden project in ARISalign

The important option is the one marked red in the screenshot above. If you create a hidden project, only people you invite to your project are able to access it. We can use a project as a discussion board or to share files between project members. But we can also use a project for creating an initial process design.

Collaborative process modelling

ARISalign allows to collaboratively brainstorming on process designs. In a project, open the whiteboard by clicking on the whiteboard tab.

link to create a whiteboard for realtime collaborative brainstorming in ARISalign

A whiteboard is like a flipchart in a conference room. You put (post-it) notes on the whiteboard to quickly collect thoughts and ideas. The cool thing about ARISalign whiteboards is that someone else (read: your domain expert) opens the whiteboard on his computer, he can immediately see your changes. In addition, he can make his own changes while you are editing the whiteboard – like on a physical flipchart. A whiteboard model provides stages, which are further refined in activities. You can also define KPIs and goals for your stages. See this article on the whiteboard model type for a detailed description of the different modelling elements.

interaction of whiteboard and process models in ARISalign

ARISalign also supports BPMN 2 like process models. You can edit a process model next to your whiteboard and drag objects from the whiteboard to the process model. For example, you create a process model to structure the sequence of the stages and activities you sketched before on the whiteboard. Again, someone else also viewing the process model on another computer is able to see your changes immediately. In contrast to whiteboards, he is not able to change the model at the same time.

Growing up

There are many good things about ARISalign. For example, it is free-of-charge, it requires zero installation and it supports real-time collaboration, because it runs in your web browser. Still, at some point you might want to grow up. Creating large process models with a sophisticated layout it nothing you would like to do in a browser-based tool if you have tried a desktop client such as ARIS Express before.

Good news: You can directly open and edit ARISalign models in ARIS Express. On the whiteboard and process canvas in ARISalign, you find action buttons to export your model to an ARIS Express file (*.adf).

exporting an ARISalign whiteboard to ARIS Express

exporting an ARISalign process model to a BPMN 2 ARIS Express model

This is not just good news for you as a process modeller and BPM enthusiast, but also for the domain experts. Use ARISalign to show them the benefits of process modelling. As soon as they start using it and experience the advantages for their own work (e.g. not having to approve process models anymore, because they created them on their own), they will ask for more. Point them to ARIS Express and show them how they can migrate the models created before in ARISalign. Also, show them that modelling is not just about processes, but that many other aspects get clearer by getting visualised (organisational structures, data models, system landscapes, etc.).

Now, the only thing left to do is creating your ARISalign account and inviting your domain experts to your network. You might also be interested in joining the ARISalign group here in ARIS Community to discuss with other users how to use ARISalign in your BPM effort. If you don't want to register yet, take a look at the webcast about ARISalign.