Mixing Soft Systems Methodology and UML in Business Process Modeling

Mixing Soft Systems Methodology and UML in Business Process Modeling

Kosheek Sewchurran (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Doncho Petkov (Eastern Connecticut State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-128-5.ch006
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The chapter provides an action research account of formulating and applying a new business process modeling framework to a manufacturing processes to guide software development. It is based on a mix of soft systems methodology (SSM) and the Unified Modeling Language (UML) business process modeling extensions suggested by Eriksson and Penker. The combination of SSM and UML is justified through the ideas on Multimethodology by Mingers. The Multimethodology framework is used to reason about the combination of methods from different paradigms in a single intervention. The proposed framework was applied to modeling the production process in an aluminum rolling plant as a step in the development of a new information system for it. The reflections on the intervention give details on how actual learning and appreciation is facilitated using SSM leading to better UML models of business processes.
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Alter (2006) points the fact that techno-centric analysis of business and Information Technology problems is one of the many causes which contributes to the poor results in information systems development. This underlines the need to bridge the description of business problem contexts with Information Systems (IS) modeling. This requires the application of an interdisciplinary body of knowledge to IS development incorporating the systems approach (see Mora et al., 2007). In calling for greater application of systems thinking in Information Systems, Alter (2006) also emphasized the dangers of promoting single non-systemic approaches, among them Business Process Re-engineering as a panacea for implementation problems. The theoretical motivations for the work on process modeling reported here are of a somewhat similar nature. A recent example of addressing just one aspect of complex problems like enterprise system implementation is a thought provoking paper by Sommer (2002:20). It recognizes that many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation failures can be attributable to overzealous implementation cycles, a lack of top management support, traditional scope creep, inadequate requirements definition and a host of other factors but focuses only on the role of middle management in the implementation process. The resulting research model is interesting but it is impossible in our opinion to determine whether middle management or inadequate requirements definition can be taken independently from the other factors affecting IS success. It is hard to ignore the interdependencies between all factors involved. Hence, in line with Alter’s (2006) ideas, we conclude that there is a fundamental need for systemic ways of capturing the richness of business processes and expressing their models more adequately for the purposes of building enterprise information systems.

Systems thinking was recently applied to the design of business processes in manufacturing by Clegg (2006). Clegg’s (2006) effort was aimed at building process models that can be nested within a hierarchy but without consciously adopting any reductionist principles. Clegg (2006) uses ssystems thinking and input-transformation-output process analyses to produce a new process modeling methodology called process orientated holonic modeling. The paper’s value is that it provides a systemic way of building a large scale view of business processes within a company. The effort however does not give indication of how the models can be directly used in the design of information systems. There is no discussion of how one can go from the granularity level of business processes analysis through to a granularity necessary for modeling applications development to reflect the redesigned processes. This is an issue that we attempt to address in this chapter.

The practical reason for the research discussed here emanated from the needs of the employer of the first author which at the time the project took place was an aluminium rolling and extrusion company. In the late nineties, it grappled with understanding the complexities influencing the design of business processes. It is widely accepted that the notion of a business process (see Hammer and Champy, 1993; Kumar and Hillegersberg, 2000:23-25) is central to organisational change and IT development initiatives. In other words the business process serves as the unit of design and the unit of evaluation in change programs. A fundamental activity of all these process-improvement initiatives is business analysis and modeling.

Complete Chapter List

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Associate Editors
Table of Contents
Mehdi Khosrow-Pour
Chapter 1
Manuel Mora, Ovsei Gelman, Guisseppi Forgionne, Doncho Petkov, Jeimy Cano
A formal conceptualization of the original concept of system and related concepts—from the original systems approach movement—can facilitate the... Sample PDF
Integrating the Fragmented Pieces of IS Research Paradigms and Frameworks: A Systems Approach
Chapter 2
Steven Alter
The work system method was developed iteratively with the overarching goal of helping business professionals understand IT-reliant systems in... Sample PDF
Could the Work System Method Embrace Systems Concepts More Fully?
Chapter 3
Alfonso Reyes A.
This chapter is concerned with methodological issues. In particular, it addresses the question of how is it possible to align the design of... Sample PDF
The Distribution of a Management Control System in an Organization
Chapter 4
Phillip Dobson
This chapter seeks to address the dearth of practical examples of research in the area by proposing that critical realism be adopted as the... Sample PDF
Making the Case for Critical Realism: Examining the Implementation of Automated Performance Management Systems
Chapter 5
Jo Ann Lane
As organizations strive to expand system capabilities through the development of system-of-systems (SoS) architectures, they want to know “how much... Sample PDF
System-of-Systems Cost Estimation: Analysis of Lead System Integrator Engineering Activities
Chapter 6
Kosheek Sewchurran, Doncho Petkov
The chapter provides an action research account of formulating and applying a new business process modeling framework to a manufacturing processes... Sample PDF
Mixing Soft Systems Methodology and UML in Business Process Modeling
Chapter 7
Aidan Duane, Patrick Finnegan
An email system is a critical business tool and an essential part of organisational communication. Many organisations have experienced negative... Sample PDF
Managing E-Mail Systems: An Exploration of Electronic Monitoring and Control in Practice
Chapter 8
Stephen V. Stephenson, Andrew P. Sage
This chapter provides an overview of perspectives associated with information and knowledge resource management in systems engineering and systems... Sample PDF
Information and Knowledge Perspectives in Systems Engineering and Management for Innovation and Productivity through Enterprise Resource Planning
Chapter 9
Gunilla Widén-Wulff, Reima Suomi
This chapter works out a method on how information resources in organizations can be turned into a knowledge sharing (KS) information culture, which... Sample PDF
The Knowledge Sharing Model: Stressing the Importance of Social Ties and Capital
Chapter 10
Jijie Wang
Escalation is a serious management problem, and sunk costs are believed to be a key factor in promoting escalation behavior. While many laboratory... Sample PDF
A Meta-Analysis Comparing the Sunk Cost Effect for IT and Non-IT Projects
Chapter 11
Georgios N. Angelou
E-learning markets have been expanding very rapidly. As a result, the involved senior managers are increasingly being confronted with the need to... Sample PDF
E-Learning Business Risk Management with Real Options
Chapter 12
C. Ranganathan
Research on online shopping has taken three broad and divergent approaches viz, human-computer interaction, behavioral, and consumerist approaches... Sample PDF
Examining Online Purchase Intentions in B2C E-Commerce: Testing an Integrated Model
Chapter 13
Nicholas C. Georgantzas
This chapter combines disruptive innovation strategy (DIS) theory with the system dynamics (SD) modeling method. It presents a simulation model of... Sample PDF
Information Technology Industry Dynamics: Impact of Disruptive Innovation Strategy
Chapter 14
Shana L. Dardan, Ram L. Kumar, Antonis C. Stylianou
This study develops a diffusion model of customer-related IT (CRIT) based on stock market announcements of investments in those technologies.... Sample PDF
Modeling Customer-Related IT Diffusion
Chapter 15
Bassam Hasan, Jafar M. Ali
The acceptance and use of information technologies by target users remain a key issue in information systems (IS) research and practice. Building on... Sample PDF
The Impact of Computer Self-Efficacy and System Complexity on Acceptance of Information Technologies
Chapter 16
James Jiang, Gary Klein, Eric T.G. Wang
The skills held by information system professionals clearly impact the outcome of a project. However, the perceptions of just what skills are... Sample PDF
Determining User Satisfaction from the Gaps in Skill Expectations Between IS Employees and their Managers
Chapter 17
James Jiang, Gary Klein, Phil Beck, Eric T.G. Wang
To improve the performance of software projects, a number of practices are encouraged that serve to control certain risks in the development... Sample PDF
The Impact of Missing Skills on Learning and Project Performance
Chapter 18
Leigh Jin, Daniel Robey, Marie-Claude Boudreau
Open source software has rapidly become a popular area of study within the information systems research community. Most of the research conducted so... Sample PDF
Beyond Development: A Research Agenda for Investigating Open Source Software User Communities
Chapter 19
Milam Aiken, Linwu Gu, Jianfeng Wang
In the literature of electronic meetings, few studies have investigated the effects of topic-related variables on group processes. This chapter... Sample PDF
Electronic Meeting Topic Effects
Chapter 20
A. Durfee, A. Visa, H. Vanharanta, S. Schneberger, B. Back
Text documents are the most common means for exchanging formal knowledge among people. Text is a rich medium that can contain a vast range of... Sample PDF
Mining Text with the Prototype-Matching Method
Chapter 21
Francis Kofi Andoh-Baidoo, Elizabeth White Baker, Santa R. Susarapu, George M. Kasper
Using March and Smith’s taxonomy of information systems (IS) research activities and outputs and Newman’s method of pro forma abstracting, this... Sample PDF
A Review of IS Research Activities and Outputs Using Pro Forma Abstracts
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