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Introduction

In June 2007, Jonathan Gordon published a User experience design for composite application modeling tools – who are the users? asking for support for a research project regarding BPXs and human interface design. I volunteered and ended up having multiple interviews with a few grad students from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  The goal of the project was to

create business user enabled composite application design-time tools. The project’s scope was not to simply redesign the interface of current SAP design-time tools but to allow business users to participate in a more meaningful way in the development of the composite applications that will be used by them.

One result of this project was a prototype called Jigsaw:

Using JIGSAW, business process experts can propose a composite application that supports the task-oriented workflow while modeling out the entire business process. JIGSAW also allows business process experts to test the composite application modeled in action and to invite the end-users to try the prototype.

Unfortunately, I ended up going on my summer vacation before being able to take Jigsaw for a test-drive. But I was lucky enough to rediscover the group’s site and found their research most interesting.

Key Findings

Based on this research, the project found the following key findings which describe the main dilemma of the BPX project involvement:

Our user studies showed that the business process expert often found the biggest challenge in managing human dynamics and fostering adaptation of business process change. Enormous amount of effort was focused on communication with various stakeholders through the means of visualization and prototyping of the to-be business process and/or maintaining comprehensive documentation. We further identified several other high-level user needs which are listed below:

  • To foster awareness and collaboration in cross-functional teams
  • To detect inefficiency in as-is business process
  • To rapidly create user interface prototype for to-be business process
  • To have a visualization of business process that can be easily understood
  • To have an intelligent business process documentation scheme.

Of these findings, the most intriguing detail is involved with change management

One of the key responsibilities of business process expert is to gain the stakeholders support on business process change. During our contextual inquiry sessions, the business process experts often expressed that the biggest challenge is in managing human dynamics and fostering adaptation of business process change. People have the tendency to resist changing their current workflow unless the benefit of change is made obvious. Hence, enormous amount of effort is focused on communicating the to-be business process to the stakeholders through various means of visualization, prototypes, and comprehensive documentation. We believe that it is essential for the system to provide some solutions in alleviating the amount of extra work that has to be done for the business process expert to create convincing communicational deliverables.

The Jigsaw Prototype

The application that resulted from this research is very cool and has certain similarities to the Eclipse-based Process Composition environment – codename Galaxy .

JIGSAW is a composite application modeling tool that integrates business process modeling, task-oriented workflow modeling, and prototype testing. It targets to empower business process expert with the functionalities to model composite application supporting business processes and workflows. Moreover, it provides an environment to immediately test workflows at design-time.

There are three views that are available:

  • Process View: users can construct the high-level structure of a composite application in the flowcharting practice that is comparable to business process modeling
  • Workflow View: after drilling down into a task in the process flow, users can manipulates the composite details of the task by changing the visual model of the workflow, such as adding an user interface screen or a service call and modifying data connections
  • Test View: Once a workflow model is completed, users can test the resulting composite application by going into the testing environment. In the testing environment, a prototype of the composite would be compiled from the workflow model. Users can interact with the composite and step through the entire workflow just like the end-users would. Users can also inspect the input and output of the services called along the workflow. At the end of the testing, users can document the test details including statistical data of the efficiency of the workflow.

 

The following screenshot shows an example from the workflow view.

Conclusion

This blog just describes a few of the details of the research as well as that concerning the Jigsaw prototype. The web site from the grad students has lots more details, screenshots and other goodies.

For anyone interested in the daily work of the BPX or the future of composite applications, then this is definitely a site to examine in more detail. I have no idea if this research influenced internal SAP product development but I found the final UI quite useful. I think for those interested in how BPXs interact with others, especially regarding the hand-over between BPX and development, then there are definitely a few lessons in this research that are useful.

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