Bringing life into references process models: A participatory approach for identifying, discussing, and resolving model adaptations

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1 Schermann, M.; Prilla, M.; Krcmar, H.; Herrmann, T. (2008), Bringing life into references process models: A participatory approach for identifying, discussing, and resolving model adaptations, In: Bichler, Martin; Hess, Thomas; Krcmar, Helmut; Lechner, Ulrike; Matthes, Florian; Picot, Arnold; Speitkamp, Benjamin; Wolf, Petra (Hrsg.): Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik, MKWI 2008, München, , Berlin: GITO-Verlag, S Bringing life into references process models: A participatory approach for identifying, discussing, and resolving model adaptations Michael Schermann 1, Michael Prilla 2, Helmut Krcmar 1, Thomas Herrmann 2 1 Chair for Information Systems Technische Universität München Boltzmannstraße Garching 2 Department of Information and Technology Management Institute for Applied Work Science Ruhr-Universität Bochum Bochum Abstract: Although reference models are focal research objects in our discipline, surprisingly little guidance can be found on the actual process of identifying and resolving adaptations to reference models. Hence, we present a participatory workshop approach that enables participants to resolve on adaptations by modelbased discourse. We found that three design principles influence the outcome of the workshop: First, we argue that reference model should be constructed as a set of modules to reduce the complexity of adaptation tasks. The modules come with a domain-specific set of adaptation triggers. Second, we applied a discursive process walkthrough. We use the triggers as guiding questions during this phase. Third, when the participants resolved on an adaptation to the model, they additionally had to agree on action items that are necessary to implement the adaptations made. Overall, our workshop approach closes the gap between construction and use of reference models. 1 Introduction 1 The goal of reference modeling in IS research is to capture and publish existing knowledge on how to design and structure information systems and business processes [BS04]. The technique of reference modeling has been adopted by companies in many industries (e.g. Software, Health, Banking) to denote good practices for designing business processes or application systems [BeKn02; FL04]. As the term reference model suggests, such models do not provide a specific solution to the problem at hand [Be02]. As Figure 1 shows, reference models have to be adapted 1 This research is part of the MARIS project. The MARIS project is part of the research program Innovative Services that is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (Contract No. 01HQ0520). Members of the project consortium are Ruhr-Universität Bochum, University of Erfurt, University of Stuttgart, Technische Universität München and various industry partners.

2 and extended to fit the specific problem. The resulting application model [FL03] is then used to transform or create business processes or information systems and thus realizes a business transformation, e.g. by increasing process throughput [BSK07]. Reference model construction Reference Model Reference model adaptation Application Model Application model usage Business Transformation Figure 1: Adaptation of reference models as scope of the paper based on [BSK07] However, adapting reference models effectively requires including constraints of the given context, e.g. existing processes, applications, norms and values [FL04]. Thus, especially process models hold the potential for conflicts with organizational constraints, e.g. internationally differing cultural norms. Therefore, we argue that adapting reference models requires a discursive and participatory process, which should result in an agreement on the characteristics and consequences of the application model among stakeholders [Ku06]. In this paper, we present three design principles for a workshop-based approach to adapting reference models: A modular approach reduces the complexity of adaptation scenarios, a discursive process walkthrough facilitates acceptance of participants, and integrated management of resulting actions helps to evaluate the applicability of the adaptations during the adaptation process. The approach presented in this paper has been derived from and tested in an action research study [Ba99]. It was conducted in cooperation with the German facility management service provider M-BETA 2. The goal of the action research study was to supporting M-BETA in adapting its standardized service processes to new locations abroad. The remainder of this paper is structured along the action research cycle [Ba99]. In the following section 2 we discuss the challenges of M-BETA and draw the analogy with adapting reference models. Thus, in section 3 we discuss related research on adapting reference models. We show that support for the actual process of identifying and resolving adaptations is still a white spot. Then, we discuss modularization, the sociotechnical walkthrough, and action item management as the design principles of our workshop approach in section 4. In section 5 we discuss experiences from conducting adaptation workshops following these principles. The paper concludes with a critical discussion of our experiences from the study and presents our further research plans. 2 To ensure anonymity of our company partner the pseudonym M-BETA is used. 1578

3 2 The context of M-BETA The underlying action research study for this paper was conducted in 2007 in cooperation with the German service provider M-BETA. M-BETA offers facility management services in Europe ranging from operating facilities to technical maintenance. In German facility management industry various norms exist for service operations. They describe operations on a very detailed level, including the time to be allocated and quality criteria to be met. Generally, these standards are regarded as an international competitive advantage of German facility management service providers. However, such standards are missing for other processes along the life cycle of service contracts, especially for management activities during service delivery. We found that M-BETA s service management processes were hardly documented, but were part of the implicit knowledge of service project and account managers. Furthermore, the service management processes were complicated and included decisions on a local or country level, which often led to global ramifications. With continuing globalization, service customers increasingly require M-BETA to follow, i.e. deliver services with similar characteristics and quality agreements internationally. Subsequently, when establishing new services abroad, management processes were mainly reinvented by local managers. This led to increased communication and coordination frictions among local project managers and the account manager in the target country. Furthermore, similar efforts were also necessary when coordinating and accounting for the work that service technicians perform at a particular site. Hence, the first goal of the study was to develop a reference process model for the service management processes. However, experience with standardized processes at M-BETA has shown that they often fail to meet local requirements such as laws, cultural norms, and quality standards. Thus, M-BETA s service management processes have to be adapted without compromising the intended effects of the standardization, e.g. clear responsibilities and communication channels. Hence, our second goal was to provide a systematic approach to adapt the process models to local requirements of the target country. In the following section we analyze existing research results on adapting reference models. 3 Related research on adapting reference models The basic proposition of reference models is that they accelerate model-based development phases, e.g. requirements engineering, by adapting existing reference models instead of pursuing individual modeling [BS04; FL04]. 1579

4 Not surprisingly, the task of supporting the adaptation and configuration is a focal topic in reference modeling research, e.g. [BDK04; Be02; Be03; VB04]. For instance, [BDK07] use a comprehensive tool kit to develop configurable reference models and provide adaptations for them. [Th06] develops a reference model and a software prototype for creating and managing variants of reference models. [Re97] and [SBK07] suggest approaches to modularize reference models to enhance usage and evaluation of these models. Regarding the implementation of application models and processes, again many research results are available [e.g. BKR02]. For instance, [HLL02] summarize existing approaches to implement processes. As depicted in Figure 2 these research results focus either on the capabilities of reference models or on the management and implementation of resulting application models. Figure 2: Research gap in the context of the reference model life cycle Surprisingly few research results are available on the actual process of adapting reference models. For instance, [La07] propose a questionnaire-based approach to identifying adaptation needs. However, we argue that ensuring acceptance of the application model among stakeholders is critical and requires a participatory approach. M-BETA s service managers have to ensure similar quality characteristics across all service facilities, despite local circumstances for service personnel to act differently. We are not aware of any research that focuses on a participatory approach to adapting reference process models. Hence, the remainder of the paper focuses on the design principles of our approach to adapting reference process models. 4 Participatory adaptation of reference models The theoretical foundations of our approach to participatory adaptation of reference models lie in the research stream of participatory design [KSB98],[Ca00]. The goal of participatory design is to integrate the perspectives and constraints of stakeholders and to resolve resulting design issues cooperatively. From this theoretical background we have identified three main design principles for an approach for adapting reference process models (see Figure 3). 1580

5 Figure 3: Design principles for adapting reference process models First, during the reference model construction phase, we deconstruct the process models into coherent process model modules. Subsequently, each module can be adapted individually. Second, these modules become work items of the participatory phase, in which we applied the socio-technical walkthrough (STWT). Third, to identify and discuss implications of the reference model adaptation, we integrate a management of resulting actions in the adaptation process. An adaptation should result in specific tasks assigned to one or more participants. The discussion of such actions helps to ensure the applicability of the adaptations. In the following subsections we will discuss our rationale for these design principles. In the following section 5 we show how to apply these principles when developing an approach to adapting reference models. 4.1 Process model modules To capture the problem domain adequately, reference models tend to be very complex [Be02; BS04; Sc98]. Based on Alexander s work [Al73] on design in architecture, we apply the idea of patterns to modularize process models and thus reduce the complexity of decisions when adapting the models. Similar strategies have been proposed for reference process models by e.g. [Re97; SBK07]. The resulting process model modules are coherent models that describe a process for a specific objective. Each module consists of a well defined interface encapsulating a process. Each module is associated with a set of guiding questions (triggers). Triggers can be used to invoke discussions among the participants during model adaptation sessions. The triggers were developed during the construction phase of the reference model and include context specific issues as well as questions applicable to all modules. Furthermore, usually only particular sections of a reference model are relevant for the problem at hand. Using a modularized reference model helps to identify relevant stakeholders and processes that should be in the focus of model adaptation. 1581

6 4.2 The Socio-Technical Walkthrough The Socio-Technical Walkthrough (STWT) is an approach in integrating relevant stakeholders and their perspectives in process design, analysis, discussion and adaptation [He04]. Having its foundation in the field of participatory design and cognitive walkthroughs [Po92], the STWT is based on a series of workshops in which participants are actively involved in the design and adaptation of process models. The STWT has been successfully applied in several case studies in various domains [He04], [HKL07]. Workshops are usually conducted by two people. One of them takes over the role of a facilitator as described above, e.g. by referring to the adaptation triggers of the process model modules. The other person acts as a modeler, continuously adapting the process models to visualize the current discussion. The outcome of the STWT is a set of models that the participants have created, discussed or adapted to their needs [He04]. The benefits of the STWT are an increased acceptance and reliability of the process models based on the iterative discussions and the integration of multiple perspectives into process design and adaptations [He04]. 4.3 Action Item Management During the case study, we found that identifying on specific tasks resulting from reference model adaptations is an important aspect of reference model adaptation as these action items usually trigger further discussion whether the adaptation is really needed. Furthermore, summarizing action items to a preliminary process implementation plan helps to conclude the adaptation process. Subsequently, identifying and discussing action items facilitates gaining commitment of the participants. Overall, we consider the development of action items to be an important part of adapting reference models in our overall approach. 5 Internationalizing service processes at M-BETA In the following we show the applicability of our approach and discuss its benefits and limitations. 5.1 Process of the case study In the course of the case study, we conducted several interviews and process modeling session to gain an understanding of M-BETA s problems. When constructing the process model modules, we focused on pre- and post conditions of the processes to identify the interface of the process in the module. Furthermore, we developed an associated set of guiding questions based on the issues and problems identified. 1582

7 Then, we developed a workshop for adapting the set of process model modules based on the design principle discussed above. The goal of the one-day-workshop was to transfer service processes of M-BETA from Germany to another European country. We conducted the workshop with senior managers and project managers from Germany and the target country. The process of the workshop (see Figure 4) was to identify relevant process model modules for the target country, adapt these modules to local requirements and agree upon an implementation plan for the processes. In the first phase, based on corresponding questions, the participants were asked select relevant modules. Then, in the second and third phase the interfaces and actual processes of the selected modules were discussed and adapted recursively. Furthermore, action items were identified and documented based on the discussion. In the fourth phase the participants agreed upon the implementation plan. Figure 4: Overview of the adaptation workshop 5.2 The case of organizing emergent service tasks To give an impression, we provide an example taken from the second phase of the workshop. A particular problematic process module chosen by the participants was concerned with organizing emergent tasks such as maintenance and repair of technical facilities. Contractual constraints for the new country required an additional approval process for maintenance work in the target country, depending on a certain financial threshold. As can be seen in Figure 5, there are several changes from the reference model module shown on left side and the resulting process module for the target country on the right side. In the discussion of our approach, we will focus on the changes marked as (1), (2) and (3) in the figure. 1583

8 Figure 5: Simplified example of an adapted module (interface view in SeeMe [He04]) We identified the need for adapting the process modules by using the associated trigger questions. These questions were derived from initial interviews and modeling sessions during the construction phase of the modules. These triggers includes, e.g. Who is responsible for task X?, Which tools do you need to organize task X?, and How are these tasks coordinated?. During discussion of the process module shown in Figure 5, the facilitator used the trigger questions to focus the discussion of the participants on coordination tasks in the approval process for organizing emergent service activities. The person acting as the modeler in the STWT approach, documents the discussion by permanently adapting the module to reflect the current state of discussion. For instance, the discussion for the depicted module led to two issues. First, the account manager and the project manager from the target country had different views on the tobe-implemented procedure of planning service operations in general in the target country. The discussion revealed that new contractual constraints in the target country should be reflected by an additional approval (3) from the overall account manager in Germany. Hence, participants agreed on specific communication rules to speed up the approval process (1). 1584

9 Second, German managers did not accept workload estimations for documentation purposes done by the manager from the target country. Since the STWT modeler constantly reflects the discussion in the models and thus showing associate roles, required information and applications, workshops participants realized differences in their documentation workflow. Service customers in the target country were used to issue service requests by phone, whereas German customers use a service ticketing application. Overall, the participants agreed to roll out the ticketing application in the target country (2). The right side of Figure 5 shows the adapted reference model. Furthermore, our approach includes the identification and assignment of action items for process implementation. The importance of this component can be seen in the example of integrating the ticketing application into the new process (2). Prior to the workshop, M-BETA planned to introduce this application when the services processes were established in the target country. As the discussion showed, an earlier roll out was needed. Thus, the workshop participants agreed upon consulting the company s IT manager on how the application could be rolled out on time. The associated entry in the action item manager is shown in Figure 6. Figure 6: A simplified entry of the action item manager In our study, the procedure described above was applied to several modules and led to a commonly agreed upon prioritized list of action items concerning implementation issues. 5.3 Discussion Our approach combines the adaptation of reference models with integrating various perspectives of relevant stakeholders and facilitates workshop participants in agreeing upon feasible processes. During and after the case study, we received positive feedback from M-BETA s management, who are currently planning to continue the usage and extension of the reference model for future purposes and other projects. One of the account managers we have worked with is planning to hire a new employee that will be responsible for maintaining the reference model and conducting the adaptation workshops. Furthermore, the participatory approach helped the participants to brainstorm and identify quite unexpected country characteristics, e.g. the need for exotic compliance reports in the target country. However, the workshop facilitator often was required to refocus the current discussion by using the questions in the trigger check lists. 1585

10 The participants experienced the identification of action items as very helpful during the adaptation process. For instance, the project manager from the target country abandoned a previously desired adaptation, as the standard process promised a more efficient communication. First, he wanted to implement own reporting routines for his country. When he realized the efforts for adapting the underlying applications to convert his country-specific reports to the project-wide standard, he agreed on the standard process. The modularization of the reference models was very helpful to focus the discussion on a manageable set of adaptation. During the workshop, we used two video projectors to provide navigational guidance including both the process currently discussed and the corresponding action item list. Furthermore, the workshop facilitator was required to introduce each new module by discussing the general context again. Overall, our approach provides a participatory and systematic process for adapting reference process models. Since the workshop facilitator is a crucial part of the workshop, the approach is dependent on the skills and the experiences of the facilitator with both the company setting and the adaptation process. 6 Conclusion and Outlook In this paper we presented a participatory and systematic approach for adapting reference models. While the challenge of adapting and configuring reference models is an ongoing research issue, we are not aware of existing solutions to methodical guidance for adapting reference models and the integration of relevant stakeholders in this process. During the conduct of an action research study, we have found three main design principles for the process of adapting reference process models. First, a participatory approach is needed to integrate the various perspectives of affected stakeholders. Second, reference models should be constructed in a modular manner to reduce the complexity when adapting the reference model. Third, identifying and agreeing upon specific tasks resulting from the adaptation is crucial for reviewing adaptation agreements. Although our approach requires a workshop facilitator that is experienced with the business context of the company and with the use of our approach, we provided an efficient way for adapting reference models that leads to application models that are accepted among the stakeholders. Altogether, the approach provides an efficient way for adapting reference models that leads to application models that are accepted among the stakeholders. As we have argued, the efficiency of the adaptation process is crucial for the benefits of reference modeling. 1586

11 Therefore, our future research will include the integration of existing configuration mechanism as well as extending the tool support during the workshop and afterwards. Here, we see potential synergies with existing research result in reference modeling, e.g. the work by [BDK07], [De06], [Th06]. Furthermore, we will research on more effective ways of supporting the actual workshop situation. For instance, providing participants with additional information on potential implications and navigational information will be included in our next research steps. 7 Bibliography [Al73] Alexander, C.: Notes on the Synthesis of Form. 7 ed., Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, USA [Ba99] Baskerville, R.: Investigating Information Systems with Action Research. In: Communications of the Association of Information Systems 2 (1999) 19. [BDK04] Becker, J.; Delfmann, P.; Knackstedt, R.: Konstruktion von Referenzmodellierungssprachen: Ein Ordnungsrahmen zur Spezifikation von Adaptionsmechanismen für Informationsmodelle. In: Wirtschaftsinformatik 46 (2004) 4, [BDK07] Becker, J.; Delfmann, P.; Knackstedt, R.: Adaptive Reference Modeling: Integrating Configurative and Generic Adaptation Techniques for Information Models. In: Becker, J.; Delfmann, P. (Eds.): Reference Modeling: Efficient Information System Design Through Resue of Information Modeling. Physica, Heidelberg, Germany 2007, pp [Be02] Becker, J.; Delfmann, P.; Knackstedt, R.; Kuropka, D.: Konfigurative Referenzmodellierung. In: Becker, J.; Knackstedt, R. (Eds.): Wissensmanagement mit Referenzmodellen: Konzepte für die Anwendungssystem- und Organisationsgestaltung. Physica-Verlag, Heidelberg 2002, pp [Be03] Becker, J.; Knackstedt, R.; Kuropka, D.; Delfmann, P.: Konfiguration fachkonzeptioneller Referenzmodelle. In: Uhr, W.; Esswein, W.; Schoop, E. (Eds.): Wirtschaftsinformatik Medien, Märkte, Mobilität Dresden, pp [BeKn02] Becker, J.; Knackstedt, R. (2002). Referenzmodellierung 2002: Methoden - Modelle - Erfahrungen (90). Münster: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik. [BKR02] Becker, J.; Kugeler, M.; Rosemann, M. (Hrsg.): Prozessmanagement: ein Leitfaden zur prozessorientierten Organisationsgestaltung. 3 ed. Springer, Berlin [BS04] Becker, J.; Schütte, R.: Handelsinformationssysteme. 2 ed., Redline Wirtschaft, Frankfurt am Main [BSK07] Böhmann, T.; Schermann, M.; Krcmar, H.: Application-Oriented Evaluation of the SDM Reference Model: Framework, Instantiation and Initial Findings. In: Becker, J.; Delfmann, P. (Eds.): Reference Modeling: Efficient Information System Design Through Resue of Information Modeling. Physica, Heidelberg, Germany 2007, pp [Ca00] [De06] Carroll, J.M.; Chin, G.; Rosson, M.B.; Neale, D.C.: The Development of Cooperation: Five Years of Participatory Design in the Virtual School. In: Boyarski, D.; Kellogg, W.A. (Eds.): Conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques New York, NY, USA, pp Delfmann, P.: Adaptive Referenzmodellierung: Methodische Konzepte zur Konstruktion und Anwendung wiederverwendungsorientierter Informationsmodelle. Logos, Berlin

12 [FL03] Fettke, P.; Loos, P.: Ontological evaluation of reference models using the Bunge-Wand- Weber-model. In: (Eds.): 9th Americas Conference on Information Systems Tampa, Florida, USA, pp [FL04] Fettke, P.; Loos, P.: Referenzmodellierungsforschung. In: WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK 46 (2004) 5, [He04] Herrmann, T.; Kunau, G.; Loser, K.-U.; Menold, N.: Socio-technical Walkthrough: Designing Technology Along Work Processes. 8th Conference on Participatory Design: Artful Integration: Interweaving Media, Materials and Practices, Toronto, Canada [HKL07] Herrmann, T.; Kunau, G.; Loser, K.-U.: Socio-technical Self-Description as a Means for Projects of Introducing Computer Supported Cooperation. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, Big Island, Hawaii, USA [HLL02] Hansmann, H.; Laske, M.; Luxem, R.: Einführung der Prozesse - Prozess-Roll-out. In: Becker, J.; Kugeler, M.; Rosemann, M. (Eds.): Prozessmanagement: Ein Leitfaden zur prozessorientierten Organisationsgestaltung. Springer, Berlin 2002, pp [KSB98] Kensing, F.; Simonsen, J.; Bodker, K.: MUST: A Method for Participatory Design. In: Human-Computer Interaction 13 (1998) 2, [Ku06] Kunau, G. (2006). Facilitating Computer Supported Cooperative Work with Socio- Technical Self-Descriptions. Dissertation Thesis, Universität Dortmund. [La07] La Rosa, M.; van der Aalst, W.M.P.; Dumas, M.; ter Hofstede, A.H.M. (2007). Variability Modeling for Questionnaire-based System Configuration. Brisbane, Australia: Queensland University of Technology. [Po92] Polson, P.G.; Lewis, C.; Rieman, J.; Wharton, C.: Cognitive Walkthroughs: A Method for Theory-based Evaluation of User Interfaces. In: International Journal of Man- Machine Studies 36 (1992) 5, [Re97] Remme, M.: Konstruktion von Geschäftsprozessen: ein modellgestützter Ansatz durch Montage generischer Prozeßpartikel. Gabler, Wiesbaden [SBK07] Schermann, M.; Böhmann, T.; Krcmar, H.: Fostering the Evaluation of Reference Models: Application and Extension of the Concept of IS Design Theories. Wirtschaftsinformatik 2007, Karlsruhe, Germany [Sc98] Scheer, A.-W.: Wirtschaftsinformatik: Referenzmodelle für industrielle Geschäftsprozesse. 2 ed., Springer, Berlin, Germany [Th06] Thomas, O.: Management von Referenzmodellen: Entwurf und Realisierung eines Informationssystems zur Entwicklung und Anwendung von Referenzmodellen. Logos, Berlin [VB04] vom Brocke, J.; Buddendick, C.: Konstruktionstechniken für die Referenzmodellierung: Systematisierung, Sprachgestaltung und Werkzeugunterstützung. In: Becker, J.; Delfmann, P. (Eds.): Referenzmodellierung - Grundlagen, Techniken und domänenbezogene Anwendung. Physica-Verlag, Heidelberg 2004, pp

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