Designing modeling notations readers understand

[Context] IT modelers create models to communicate their conceptualization of an organization and to facilitate the collaboration between business and IT people. The story they convey in their models is how the corporate IT systems fulfill the business people’s needs. The business people who must validate these models often have no IT background. Therefore, IT modelers need to create models that non-IT individuals understand. [Motivation and Problem] We explore the understanding of models created with IT notations by non-IT individuals. We enable IT modelers to create models such that non-IT readers can understand. We also enable IT notation designers to design notations that help modelers to create models that non-IT readers can understand. [Idea and Results] We perform an explorative qualitative case-study for two modeling notations, SEAM and i*, by using two cases: car-maintenance service and meeting scheduler, in order to investigate how readers interpret models. Readers evaluate our models and identify the elements that are difficult to comprehend. We create improved models by making these elements easier to comprehend, so that readers understand the modeler’s story. We reduce the misalignment between the modeler’s story and the readers’ perceptions of this story. We improve models without changing the identity of the underlying notation. [Contributions] Our contributions address modelers and designers of IT notations. For IT modelers, such as IT architects, service designers, and consultants, using IT notations (e.g., UML, BPMN, ArchiMate), this research provides the means necessary to create models so that readers, unfamiliar with the notation, understand. We recommend to modelers to model: (i) the relation with reality, by focusing on the readers’ conceptualizations, (ii) the rationale, by using the questions, options, criteria and their assessment, and (iii) the story, by using story-phases: context, conflict, climax and closure. In addition, we provide them with a modeling process for creating models. For designers of IT notations, this research provides the means necessary to design notations. We recommend to designers to design: (i) the relation with reality, by identifying implicit elements in the modeling notation by evaluating readers’ understanding of what elements represent, (ii) the rationale, by using visual cues to guide readers’ understanding of the problem, and (iii) the story, by creating models in which different stories are told to elicit readers’ understanding of what happens in the model. In addition, we provide them with a design process for designing notations.

Wegmann, Alain
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis7261-7

 Record created 2016-10-11, last modified 2019-01-18

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