I’ve recently blogged on this website about the issues involved with designing a Business Process Modelling language that meets the requirements of your specific project (when looking into the approval/reapproval processes).
T-SPARC’s workflow diagrams started with a basic flowchart, but as the intricacies of the process began to reveal themselves, we soon realised we were going to need something that had the ability to convey more information than just the processes involved and the links between these processes.
We looked into studying a UML Business Process Modelling course here at Birmingham City University, to better equip ourselves with the knowledge to undertake the process, but unfortunately the course was orientated towards a Software Modelling perspective rather than Business Process Modelling. With time ticking on, and after reading sections of several textbooks, I decided to continue with the process and look at designing a bespoke process language that would use elements of UML to encapsulate all the information that our CICT department would require to turn a workflow diagram into a working MS SharePoint site.
After a brief meeting with CICT, they agreed that the system we’re in the process of developing should be in a form that will eventually allow them to convert the workflow diagrams we produce into a working MS SharePoint site. We are looking at conducting a brief trial study to ensure that the information is conveyed to the programmers as effectively as possible, to which we will receive feedback. Regular contact with our Academic Registry has also provided some positive feedback on these ideas, and several members of their staff have helped with the process of collating the relevant information on the different workflows/processes etc, commenting positively on both the depth of the work we are undertaking, and the clarity and user-friendly nature of the workflow diagrams.
So far, we have not mapped the whole current approval/reapproval process using the new modelling language, as it is in the process of going through some changes at the moment anyway. Once these have been finalised we will be moving full steam ahead and I will upload any workflow diagrams that I think may be of interest for other institutions conducting similar work, in Design Cluster B or otherwise on to Circle for your persual.
We received a Tweet from Sheila MacNeill from JISC CETIS yesterday afternoon. After a conversation this morning about modelling languages/modelling approaches, Sheila clarified that the approach of designing a language that is fit for purpose is totally acceptable, and sometimes a necessity when looking at workflow processes. One of the problems I highlighted to Sheila is that if we did a very ‘high end’ UML business process map, to convey the processes involved to our CICT department, they would have to be trained to the same extent in UML that we had been, and this would create a huge accessibility barrier to nearly all of our other stakeholders, and also possibly some of our CICT programmers. With our system, they have already had some input at an early stage into how the workflows will be designed, and we will continue to keep them engaged in the process as it evolves.
Over the coming weeks I’ll keep you updated on progress, and any information I think you may find useful or relevant. Please let me know if you have any questions, or would like to make any suggestions.
A couple of questions to conclude:
If you have already completed this process, or something along similar lines involving Business Process Modelling, what modelling languages did you use, if any? How did your IT departments find the process of turning a workflow diagram into a working SharePoint system – did it convey all of the appropriate information?
If you haven’t completed this process yet but are looking to undertake something similar in the coming months, what modelling languages do you intend to use? Have you picked one specific language? Have you considered adapting it to suit the need of your institution (convey the right information) and the end users? Will the people using it, find it useful?