The Structured Process Modeling Theory (SPMT) - A cognitive view on why and how modelers benefit from structuring the process of process modeling

Jan Claes, Irene Vanderfeesten, Frederik Gailly, Paul Grefen, Geert Poels
Information Systems Frontiers, Vol 17 (6), p. 1401-1425, 2015 (IF-2015: 1,450 - Q2 (Q1 in 2016)) pdf
The final publication is available via


Abstract. After observing various inexperienced modelers constructing a business process model based on the same textual case description, it was noted that great differences existed in the quality of the produced models. The impression arose that certain quality issues originated from cognitive failures during the modeling process. Therefore, we developed an explanatory theory that describes the cognitive mechanisms that affect effectiveness and efficiency of process model construction: the Structured Process Modeling Theory (SPMT). This theory states that modeling accuracy and speed are higher when the modeler adopts an (i) individually fitting (ii) structured (iii) serialized process modeling approach. The SPMT is evaluated against six theory quality criteria.

Additional material.


Figure 1. PPMChart visualization representing one process-modeling instance

Figure 2. Example of flow-oriented process modeling

Figure 3. Example of aspect-oriented process modeling

Figure 4. Example of a combination of flow-oriented and aspect-oriented process modeling

Figure 5. Example of undirected process modeling

Figure 6. Boxplots of modeling time in minutes for each of the observed serialization styles

Figure 7. Causal model centered on cognitive overload in working memory

Figure 8. The effect of serialization on the course of cognitive overload

Figure 9. The effect of structuredness of the serialization on the course of cognitive overload

Figure 10. The effect of serialization style fit on the course of cognitive overload

Figure 11. Theoretical model of the Structured Process Modeling Theory (SPMT)

Figure 12. Example of happy path first process modeling

Figure A.1. Model interactions recorded in CEP and visualized in the PPMChart

Figure C.1. Indicated prior domain knowledge (PDK) and prior modeling knowledge (PMK)

Figure C.2. Indicated modeling experience (ME)