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Written by Helmut Ortmann
This is the second of a 2 part series - Read Part 1 here.
The link between processes and value creation is the point of focus for business. Processes are often the heart of how many organizations look to deliver value both inside and outside of the organization and the overarching organisational process is the value chain.
The BPMN standard developed by the Object Management Group (OMG), provides the ability to communicate both internal and external business procedures, in a graphical, standardised manner. This core enabler of business process management supports both Business and IT, in that it allows the modeling of business processes and services, in a notation that is both intuitively understood by the Business Analysts, who draft the processes, while including the complex semantics - comprehended by Software Developers, who implement the technology - to execute these processes.
Complexity and Risk:
An equally important aim of the BPMN is to ensure that XML, designed for business process execution - and BPML - can also be visually expressed in a common notation. The value of modeling is the capacity to assist the management of complexity and associated risk and to facilitate communication. The models produced, reflect the activities between businesses and their customers and provide explicit records of the agreed requirements for successful business processes.
To manage inter-organizational business processes, concepts for business process management (BPM) need to be adopted and extended. Formerly siloed key industries are being forced to collaborate, rethink their fundamental business purpose, envision the business they are in and will be in. They are rapidly adapting from exclusive, to inclusive and from “me” to “we.” In the “we” future of collaboration, success lies in how organisations use technology to improve their own internal processes, while tapping into exo-organisational ecosystems.
Mobile and automotive industries are collaborating, as are health, retail, and aviation. This requires the propagation of data between different organisations where sharing of standards based process models has a mutual benefit.
New cross-organizational processes need close coordination among networking partners and in this area the Schema Composer in Enterprise Architect 12.1 represents a key enabling technology.
Just as the value of a model, is the standards-based common view of a complex system that it presents to a variety of stakeholders, so being able to successfully construct messages from within the model is very valuable because the format or style of messages to be exchanged, can be designed and communicated in a standards-based way- between machine to machine or business to business.
The Schema Composer provides all entities with mutual assurance via interoperability standards, as to how each entity will react, read and connect with respect to the message exchange and removes the concern to ensure that messages will be successfully exchanged - i.e received and understood - on key levels such as business, information, software etc.
New business opportunities are realised through collaboration and interoperability. At the heart of any change, whatever it may be is a common standards-based reference frame that allows individuals and business to understand their industry goal, and their contribution and role in achieving the goal.
Collaboration is becoming a new enterprise standard. In the face of the disruptive challenges, successful transition to optimised utilisation of strategic information technology is a priority for many organisations. Collaboration supports group synthesis, enabling the enterprise to leverage the strengths of all its parts to increase the chances of success while reducing or eliminating process overlap and resource redundancy. The shared awareness of issues promoted through collaboration, encourages trust and builds confidence in group stakeholders, synergising the collective response to problem resolution.
Betsy Burton, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner said in a 2011 press release “Organizations that do not focus EA on their business strategy and on collaborating with business leaders will be greatly limited in their ability to deliver substantial business value. To achieve business outcomes and to drive business change, EA value must be collaboratively developed and supported within the context of the business direction, strategy and future vision."
The organization's enterprise architecture plays a key role in this transition. It is no surprise that in the current atmosphere of technology change collaboration in the enterprise architecture work space is growing. A recent article in SD Times, reports from the 2014 Collaborative Development trends report by the Linux Foundation that collaborative development is on the rise. Nearly half of business managers surveyed said they got involved in collaborative development because it allows them to innovate and/or help transform their industry.
A common reference frame that allows individuals to understand what the goal is, and their contribution and role in achieving the goal, is at the heart of any change, whatever it may be.
Viewing the Future:
BPSim is directly linked to (and extends) the Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) standard to enable easy exchange of models and analysis data required for simulation between platforms.
Business transformation projects are frequently initiated by enterprises in order to capitalise on market opportunities and boost profitability and a critical task is to create an accurate picture of exactly which business processes and resources are needed to deliver against future demand. Furthermore, they must be sure that any business changes support optimised efficiency and a clear understanding developed around the crucial timing of key asset investments.
Simulating business processes offers a view of future performance of new processes and the opportunity to validate changes to existing processes without disturbing current business operations.
Brochure: MDG Technology for BPMN
Platforms Page: Tools for Business Process Modeling using the BPMN
Resources: The Business Process Model
For information about how Enterprise Architect provides essential support for all of the critical business change issues mentioned above, please visit Sparx Systems website at www.sparxsystems.com, where you can download a 30 day evaluation licence and test for yourself.
Following almost one and a half decades of effort by the OASIS Technical Committee, the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) V2.1 was approved as an International Standard: Universal Business Language (UBL) v2.1 (ISO/IEC 19845) on Friday 18 December 2015.
UBL, the Universal Business Language, is the product of an international effort to define a royalty-free library of standard electronic XML business documents such as purchase orders and invoices and was developed by an OASIS Technical Committee with participation from a variety of industry data standards organizations.
The UBL originated out of efforts in 1999 to create a set of standard XML "office documents" within OASIS. The working group that came to be known as UBL was established as an in November 2001. This approval of the Universal Business Language (UBL) v2.1 (ISO/IEC 19845) ensures that UBL is both recognized in public sector policies and will also provide additional layers of governance for the long-term sustainability of UBL. Sparx Systems has been a long term supporter of the work of the OASIS Technical Committee responsible for this development and has demonstrated this relationship with provision of Enterprise Architect licences for the standard development effort.
Sparx Systems support for standards was extended with the addition of the Schema Composer in the release of, Enterprise Architect 12 earlier this year. Following expressions of concern about the lack of semantic interoperability between various standards communities and the impact that this was having on the adoption of standards by the stakeholders in various industry ecosystems, Sparx Systems created the Schema Composer which enables semantic interoperability, by automating the building of XSD and similar data definitions from a model subset, using simple check boxes.
Direct Support for Key Industry Standards
The Schema Composer currently targets a number of key industry standards including CIM, NIEM, UN/CEFACT, UBL and generic XSD, RDF, OWL and other formats and allows the rapid design and build of XSD and similar data definitions such as RDF and JSON, from a selection of elements within the model.
NIEM schema definition and model transform (for creating NIEM model extensions and schemas) is directly supported in Schema Composer and a NIEM subset can be created directly within your model ready to define extension and exchange schemas.
Similarly CIM XSD schemas are directly supported in the Schema Composer as is CIM Augmented RDFS which includes both forward and inverse property for each bi-directional Association in the message. See http://www.sparxsystems.com.au/products/ea/12/index.html
Enterprise Architect provides the following resources for the composition of business documents using UBL:
- UBL 2.1 Main Document Libraries
- UBL 2.1 Common Component Libraries
Business Document Composition
- Schema Composer for component composition
- Schema Composer for document composition
- Schema Composer for schema generation
- Add-in integration
- Scripting integration
For more information, please visit the Enterprise Architect User Guide.
"OASIS", ["UBL" and "Universal Business Language" ] are trademarks of OASIS, the open standards consortium where the [UBL] specification is owned and developed. [UBL] is a copyrighted © work of OASIS Open. All rights reserved.
Sparx Systems released mid September the first beta of Enterprise Architect version 12.1. Full details on this version are available here.
Below is a summary of the main features and enhancements introduced in EA 12.1.
Web-based, online EA User Guide
Enterprise Architect User Guide has been redesigned to access the help content from a web browser. By default, the EA user guide is opened on Sparx Systems web site in order to access an up to date help content.
For those who use Enterprise Architect offline, an installation file makes it possible to access it locally. The online help section is available here.
Management of security user accounts and groups in Enterprise Architect 12.1 has been improved with the Active Directory Groups support (prior to this version, each AD user had to be imported).
Permission and user details are shown in a more efficient manner.
Tagged Values support in the Traceability view
The traceability view provides a dynamic, navigable view of the current element's relationships to other elements in the model, e.g. to find associated classes, realized requirements, etc.
Enterprise Architect 12.1 adds a support for model elements referenced in a Tagged Value. To illustrate this enhancement, a RefGUID Tagged Value (see. Sparx EA User Guide) has been defined so that a reference between an business and implementation class can be set. In the example below, the traceability view shows a link between Class1 (Domain Object) and Class1 (System) via the "Tagged Value References" list.
Metafile rendering improvement
Image Metafile rendering has been improved with Enterprise Architect 12.1. An anti-aliasing filter is applied for many metafiles to increase the image clearness. Below is a screenshot-based comparison between Enterprise Architect versions 12 (build 1512) and 12.1 (build 1220).
Enterprise Architect 12 :
Enterprise Architect 12.1 :
Note: a new image library to use with Enterprise Architect 12 is available from Sparx Systems web site.
Quicklinker: Create multiple elements
The Quicklinker is a very useful feature that lets you create elements on the fly from within a diagram. Enterprise Architect 12.1 makes it possible to create multiple elements at once. When dragging the Quicklinker, a new option is available:
The popup window below lets you define a list of associated elements, providing their name, type and link type:
Once submitted, the expected elements are created:
Model Wizard pattern customization
The Model Wizard is available via the Project Browser to create a predefined model structure, provided by Sparx Systems. A new "Customize Pattern on Import" option is available to let users select the model branches to generate.
Virtualized Connector Ends
Enterprise Architect 12.1 introduces the concept of virtualized elements, a feature that lets you show several times the same element onto a diagram. This feature answers a need for a number of users that need to achieve this e.g. to simplify its layout.
I tried to add the same class twice onto a diagram and Enterprise Architect didn’t let me do that, so how does this feature work?
Once a connector has been created between elements, a right click on this connector makes it possible to create a virtual representation of the element. In the following diagram, a blue connector has been added between the Transaction and ShoppingBasket classes.
A right click on the connector lets you virtualize the connector end either to the Source or Target i.e. it lets you create a virtualized element of the source (Transaction class) or the target (ShoppingBasket class).
- Enterprise Architect 12.1 does not let you create connectors to a virtualized element. It would be useful as an enhancement to allow the association of a virtualized element with any other element.
- When the element or any of its virtualized version is selected, they’re all selected.
- When the main element is hidden, all virtualized elements are hidden as well since they're directly associated with connectors.
- Hiding a virtualized element will hide the connector as well.
- Virtualized elements don't count as additional occurrences of the element in the diagram (results from running Find in All Diagrams are the same).
This feature hasn’t changed for a while until this new version 12.1 which supports a link between the diagram legend and the rendering style of the elements and connectors.
The Diagram Legend window provides additional options to compare elements with the legend’s content. If an element matches a set of criteria, it will be rendered with a fill colour, line colour and line width as set in the legend’s value. This is enabled with the “Apply auto color” option.
To test this enhancement, a filter has been defined on the element’s alias i.e. the legend’s values will be compared with the elements’ aliases. Evaluation has been restricted to Class elements (see option "Applies to" in the screenshot below). On the following diagram:
- StockItem class is rendered in green as its alias is set to 1
- LineItem class is rendered in light red as its alias is set to 2
- Class2 class is rendered in light blue as its alias is set to Class (note that Class1 alias doesn’t match)
Note: the association stereotyped “test” is rendered in orange as per the following settings.
This enhancement can save time, however I can see some limitations:
- In a given legend, I can only apply a filter for a specific type of elements. In other words it is not possible to define styles for classes, interfaces, and components in a diagram. A diagram legend definition is also restricted to a given element’s property such as the alias (note the element’s name doesn’t seem to be supported). It would make more sense to make the Filter and Applies to settings specific to each diagram legend value.
- Matching values only work with numeric values or identical string values. It would help to have a way to set a rule like ‘Class-*’.
- It would also be useful to have an option to define a connector’s line style based on the legend (e.g. Orthogonal, Tree Style...).
- The tested value is shown in the legend whereas in most cases it is not relevant to the target audience. It would be better to have a separate field to set the content to display in the diagram legend, e.g. to display "Customer" for elements matching the rule where their Alias starts with "Cust-", instead of showing "Cust-" in the legend.
According to Sparx Systems, Info View is a new option aimed at providing “a simplified view of an element that allows the name, description and selected other properties to be displayed […]. This view allows a diagram to be constructed for a non-technical audience or any purpose where display of descriptions is more important than the notations defined by the modeling language.”
This can be enabled via a right click on an element > Info View > Enabled. Then properties can be chosen as needed. Below is an illustration for a class and use case:
Windows Phone 8 Wireframing support
Wireframing has been introduced in version 12 to create UI diagrams for web sites, iPhone, iPad and Android phones. Windows Phone support has been added in Enterprise Architect 12.1:
The Schema Composer includes the following enhancements in version 12.1:
- CIM Schemas can be reverse-engineered to create Schema Composer profiles.
- When loading classes into the Schema Composer from Message Assemblies or from Class Diagrams, all classes referenced through inheritance and associations are also loaded, ensuring the inclusion of all classes required for generation of valid schemas.
SysML 1.4 support, SysML 1.2 & 1.3 enhancements
SysML 1.4 is now supported and enhancements have been added for previous SysML 1.2 and 1.3 versions:
- Multiplicity is shown for SysML 1.2 and 1.3 ports displayed in a compartment on their parent block.
- On Parametric diagrams, SysML 1.3 Properties owned by constraint blocks or constraint properties are now drawn as a small box with an external label.
- The ID and Text values of SysML requirements can now be displayed in the Summary window.
- Behaviour of copies of SysML requirements updated such that Text tagged value on copies is pinned and updated as the original is updated.
BPSim 1.0 support
Sparx Systems has announced the following: “Enterprise Architect supports BPSim, a specification for parameterization and exchange of process analysis data, allowing the creation, comparison and reuse of different simulation configurations stored within the model. BPSim takes into account a wide range of runtime information such as statistical information, random variations, queuing, scheduling and resources. BPSim configurations can be exported from Enterprise Architect for consumption in a 3rd party simulation engine”.
Note that a BPSim capable simulator is planned to be released in Enterprise Architect for the end of this year.
Enterprise Architect User Group
Sparx Systems hosted the 2015 Canberra Enterprise Architect User Group in April 2015. The User Group included a number of presentations from partners located across Australia, Asia and the US.
Scott Hebbard, Communications Manager at Sparx Systems provided a brief overview of Enterprise Architect 12.
Any business can benefit, from the solid foundation that standardization brings. The development of new technologies and opportunities, to share and enhance existing practices, are just two of the many benefits, to be derived. Furthermore the economies introduced by standardization dramatically reduce tooling and process duplication while increasing the competency of the work force while the efficiency and effectiveness of standards can ultimately save lives.
However, for enduring economic health and prosperity, the adoption of standards that support interoperability between business partners, is essential. In recent history there has never been a period of standards development like that which we are currently experiencing. Communication circles the globe in a click while global competition is on our doorstep 24x7 and legislation-driven change is creating a tsunami of disruption and opportunity where standards offer navigation and increased survivability.
Interoperability,- that is, the ability to transfer and use information in a uniform and efficient manner across multiple organizations and information technology systems- underpins the level of benefits accruing to enterprises, government and the wider economy through e-commerce. To enable two information systems to interoperate, they have to be implemented based upon a mutually agreed set of specifications covering both the business aspects (e.g. how the business activities of one party interact with those of its business partners, what the legal consequences of such interactions are, what information needs to be sent from one party to another, the semantics behind the exchanged information, etc.) and the technical aspects (e.g. what protocol and message format should be used to send information from one party to another).
Successful communication has traditionally been effected by laborious and error prone processes. It takes the “dedicated” quite some time, to gain a degree of familiarity with the dense and interconnected style in which XML schema specification is written. Most people simply cannot afford such a luxury. Meanwhile on the receiving end the user finds it very difficult to decide whether the error is in their schema/instance or a bug in their processor.
In the standards area the Schema Composer in EA 12 represents a key enabling technology. Standards and frameworks such as NIEM and SWIFT provide the grammar to communicate between organisations and at low level, this requires a common information model. The Schema Composer allows an organisation to quickly create XML files in XSD which specifies how to formally describe the elements in an XML document. This description can be used to verify that each item of content in a document adheres to the description of the element in which the content is to be placed, enabling propagation of data between different organisations. With these types of data interchange you want to be able to define various interchanges that support communication of details from sub-sections of your broader schema. For example, as a vehicle manufacturer you may want a data interchange with a parts supplier which involves a different data interchange that you would have to a retailer selling your models. These can involve different data sets, with specific data types, from the same overall schema.
For more information or to evaluate the Schema Composer please visit www.sparxsystems.com and download a copy of Enterprise Architect version 12