Four Things to Consider Before Mapping Processes for Software Requirements – No. 2
February 7, 2019
The second of four articles regarding the use of process mapping in support of software projects, particularly GIS projects.
In Article 1, I discussed the advantages business process modeling and design (BP) software has over other tools for capturing process diagrams and software requirements. The number one advantage is having one place to store and update this information. With this single source of truth, you can avoid rework, duplication and the potential for transcription errors.
Today’s BP software is powerful and easy to use, but what if you need to provide this information to someone who doesn’t own the software? It certainly doesn’t make sense to buy a license for everyone who just needs access to the information for review.
In this article we explore some of the mechanisms you have at your disposal to disseminate process-based information:
- View-Only Access
- HTML Publishing
- Document Generator
- Custom VB Script Reporting
As was mentioned previously, because POWER Engineers has standardized on using Enterprise Architect for BP requirements mapping, I will base this discussion on that software. However, other BP software products have similar capabilities.
Option 1 – View-Only Access
This option allows the reviewer to download a read-only version of the software. Enterprise Architect Lite is a free version of EA that provides advance tools for viewing and reviewing the captured BP information. By using the EA Lite, users can:
- navigate throughout the entire model
- access descriptions, tags, attributes and requirements
- create and respond to posts
- add their comments to elements
However, the user is unable to make changes to the model. A drawback to this option is that the user must download, install and link the software to the target database. Your users may not want to make that much effort, especially if their purpose is just for review or approval.
Option 2 – HTML Publishing
This option allows you to export the BP model to HTML. Once exported, you can post it to your own intranet and allow view access to other members of the team.
The example HTML page shown below was generated using EA. The navigation pane to the left (see arrow) allows you to maneuver through the hierarchy of diagrams. Clicking on a process in the diagram window will open the related child diagram. Clicking on an activity in the diagram will show its properties (description, tags, system, requirements, etc.).
This is an excellent way to quickly disseminate information, especially to a big group. However, there is no mechanism for viewers to add comments. Also, the HTML is not live. It reflects the model as it was when the HTML was generated. You must regenerate the HTML to reflect updates and changes.
Option 3 –Document Generator
EA comes with a document generator which simplifies the creation of reports. An image of the interface is shown.
Checking an element in the left panel sends it to the right panel, including it in the report. When run, the data is populated out of the diagram into the structure you developed and sent to an output document.
This describes the simplest use of the document generator. However, you can get as sophisticated as you’d like. The document generator allows you to define templates, apply filters, imbed external elements and leverage scripts and queries, so you can create highly customized reports.
Option 4 – Custom VB Script Reporting
A fourth option is to utilize Enterprise Architect’s scripting tools. EA supports the use of Java Script and VB Script to extract the model information. EA ships with multiple snippets of code to serve as starting points for your own application development. The scripting tools can write data to a variety of formats including Word, RTF and CSV files.
POWER Engineers has written a suite of scripts that create standard reports against the data stored in the EA repository and which are executed with a single click. Some scripts export the data to CSV files for further analysis using Excel. Other scripts generate formatted Word reports.
The Word report VB Scripts loop through the database, write the diagram name for each diagram (and child diagram), and imbed the diagram image. For each activity in the diagram, the report lists the role that performs the activity, task type, systems used, a description and any requirements driven by that activity (see example below).
These reports are easily generated and distributed. They provide a great way to trace requirements back to workflows, roles and business drivers. This information is very helpful when it comes time to develop Use Cases, change management plans, training plans and testing scripts.
The use of business process modeling and design software like Enterprise Architect can provide a convenient mechanism for capturing, viewing, updating and reporting on this information. However, this single source of truth has limited value if others don’t have access to the information. Leveraging viewing and report generating tools will help you overcome that limitation.
Next in this series: #3: The Right Level of Diagram Detail. I will discuss how much detail one should (or should not) place on a diagram to keep it usable and manageable.
About the Author
Frank Weiss, P.E., is a strategic consultant in POWER Engineers’ Geospatial and Asset Management division. He has over 40 years’ experience in the utility business, including 19 years as a consultant. Frank has utilized his expertise to deliver solutions in engineering, operations, process reengineering and software implementation projects. His process mapping experience includes mobile workforce dispatch, T&D work management, outage restoration, energy market resource dispatch and GIS-based job design and posting. If you have any questions or comments for Frank you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enterprise Architect is a software product developed and sold by Sparx Systems Inc. Note: there are many other tools provided by EA including Data Modeling, Use Case and Sequence Diagramming.