Investigating expressiveness and understandability of hierarchy in declarative business process models

Stefan Zugal, Pnina Soffer, Cornelia Haisjackl, Jakob Pinggera, Manfred Reichert, Barbara Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Hierarchy has widely been recognized as a viable approach to deal with the complexity of conceptual models. For instance, in declarative business process models, hierarchy is realized by sub-processes. While technical implementations of declarative sub-processes exist, their application, semantics, and the resulting impact on understandability are less understood yet-this research gap is addressed in this work. More specifically, we discuss the semantics and the application of hierarchy and show how sub-processes enhance the expressiveness of declarative modeling languages. Then, we turn to the influence of hierarchy on the understandability of declarative process models. In particular, we present a cognitive-psychology-based framework that allows to assess the impact of hierarchy on the understandability of a declarative process model. To empirically test the proposed framework, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods is followed. While statistical tests provide numerical evidence, think-aloud protocols give insights into the reasoning processes taking place when reading declarative process models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoftware and Systems Modeling
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1081-1103
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Business process management
  • Declarative business process models
  • Modularization
  • Understandability
  • Cognitive psychology

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