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 journalArticlepeer-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 languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1081-1103
Number of pages23
JournalSoftware and Systems Modeling
Issue number3
StatePublished - 7 Jul 2015


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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Modelling and Simulation


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