The Importance of Social Interaction in Process Modeling

Introduction

Modeling is central to process management activities and methods; however, little attention has been paid to modeling as a socio-cognitive process, that is, the process of managing interactions from different sources of information and knowledge to build a workable, useful business model.

This article, based on the one by Adamides and Karacapilidis (cf. complete source at end), discusses this reality and explains why it’s important to consider interaction in process modeling.

Modeling as a group learning exercise

Modeling should be considered a group learning exercise that builds up the organization’s knowledge base. Various stakeholders shape different mental models and assign different meanings to knowledge constructs. Furthermore, in trying to interpret another participant’s modeling proposals, the modeler may delete elements and associations from his own knowledge. As a consequence, process modeling, as a social and knowledge activity, is complex. Model building is also influenced by the organization’s strategy and by its relationships with other organizations, which increases that complexity.

A number of information technology-based methods have been proposed to address this issue of collaborative business modeling. However, the majority of them focus on static models for visualization and analysis purposes or on how to combine the simulation models developed by different parties, in both cases based on a predefined collaboration method.

Technology serving group modeling

Two strategies may be considered to improve process modeling quality:

  • Focus on codifying knowledge using richer modeling formalisms.
  • Focus on modelers’ interactions as a means of eliciting and rigorously exploiting personalized knowledge.

In general, the methods focus on the representation of knowledge (content), but pay even less attention to knowledge creation via interaction. Nevertheless, organizations are becoming increasingly turning their attention to systems that can facilitate group decision making by providing spaces for expressing opinions and collaborative work tools. For example, intranet or Internet technologies connect decision-makers in a way that encourages dialogue and stimulates the exchange of knowledge. That provides a corporate memory and mechanisms that improve knowledge sharing and dissemination by facilitating interaction and collaboration.

In addition, a chat-based dialogue using a simulation tool may facilitate developer-client interaction during the modeling process. As well, “social Web” ICT can improve participation and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of interaction by providing a structured forum for the expression of opinions, argumentation and negotiation. In reality, however, supporting collective model building implies providing an infrastructure that increases the work of a group of people beyond technological or facilitation constraints.

Since process modeling is a social process that involves spontaneous and multidirectional interaction, technical and methodological types of support, lacking in the systems proposed so far, are necessary. Indeed, the focus is still on the productivity of the model building process, not team learning and group creativity, which are the key requirements of a modeling session. The objective is not to model the best possible way but to achieve consensus as to what the stakeholders of the process think the (existing or future) process may look like.

Finally, the absence of a strict meeting schedule and agenda allows them to think independently, come back and enrich the model at different times.

Conclusion

This article stresses the importance of interactions among the different stakeholders in process redesign sessions. Here, process modeling is seen as an organizational skill that can be enhanced by incorporating as many perspectives as possible. However, such incorporation of multiple perspectives requires managing the interactions of those expressing them. It is a knowledge creation process, because the modelers not only build the model around their viewpoint alone, but also around the viewpoints of others, which influences their beliefs.

Technology has a role to play in managing interactions if is it used methodologically taking into account the social dynamics of the modeling team. “Social Web” IT can improve participation and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of interaction by providing a structured forum for the expression of opinions, argumentation and negotiation.

 

Source: ‘’A knowledge centered framework for collaborative business process modelling’’ by Emmanuel D. Adamides and Nikos Karacapilidis:

 

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