Modelling - a collaborative data repository

19 August 2020
modelisation-business-processes
AUSY work alongside their customers to support them in their functional test automation projects. The goals are straightforward: to speed up and save time while also improving the quality and efficiency of solutions, in a way that responds to an ever decreasing time-to-market and market demands. AUSY has developed a specific modelling-based approach that provides optimal support and preparation for test automation.

What is it?

Modelling is a collaborative method that produces a quick graphical representation of business processes using a common vocabulary. When different stakeholders are working together on a project in SAFe, DevOps and Agile environments, barriers can appear between them that hinder the advancement of the project. Developers don’t share the same vocabulary as testers, who don’t use the same as MOAs, which is different again to other business areas.

AUSY tackles this problem with the BPMN (Business Process Model Notation) standard. This standardised graphical representation shares information quickly and fluidly in a way that is easy to understand, as every stakeholder has access to the same graphical information. This saves a significant amount of time.

Modelling affords the different teams a global view and gives them the ability to quickly assess the status of a situation. It also provides good visibility in terms of future developments/modifications and their impact.

Thus, the whole SAFe train, or app-ensemble, has a perfect understanding of processes and can take control of user journeys.

Before moving on, let’s take a closer look at the BPMN standard behind the modelling. AUSY has some best practice guidance on how to get the most out of this standard.

BPMN, an essential tool for business process modelling

BPMN can be defined as a set of standardised graphical elements (see the key and description below) that are a representation of business processes that can be characterised as follows: Events + Activity(ies) + sequence flow

business-processes-bpmn

Key and description of the graphical elements of BPMN

 
graphical-elements-BPMN
graphical-elements-BPMN

 

The elements of BPMN can be divided into various categories :

  • Pool

A pool contains lanes. It represents the ‘boundaries’ of a process. All tasks take place inside a pool. Only message flow may move between one pool and another.

pool-bpmn-ausy

 

AUSY recommends using three lanes for optimal modelling. These are ‘corridors’ that represent the stakeholders, systems and activities inside the pool. The flow of activity may cross these corridors to represent how tasks are linked to different stakeholders in a process.

  • Lane

lane-bpmn-ausy

     

     1. The first lane represents the different stakeholders of the process. This is where the beginning, middle and end phases relating to all user journeys are represented.

     2. The second lane is dedicated to activities and user actions. This is where the user pathways and journeys are represented through processes, gateways and flow. User pathways are differentiated from user journeys as follows:

  • User pathways: this is understood to mean a start, the completion of some specific actions, and an end.

user-paths-bpmn

 

  • User journeys: this is when several pathways are linked. These are shown in blue in the example below. User journeys can be understood as a number of starts, activities and ends that correspond to a series of user actions.

user-journeys-bpmn

 

In this lane there are also processes (user actions) and sub-processes (the sequences of more complex user actions are detailed inside another diagram. The aim is to clarify and facilitate understanding of the modelling). You’ll also notice different types of decision points: induced (these represent management rules) and those the user can make (to take a specific action or not).

 

     3. The third lane is called ‘Systems’. The applications used are indicated here, represented by coloured rectangles. Each application is linked to a journey or a process. Visually, it is easy to see the different stakeholders involved in each process as well as their exact level of involvement.

To round off this section on BPMN, here are some good practices for getting the best out of your modelling.

First of all, we recommend processes run from left to right, to show their chronological development and to make them easy to understand. This last point should always follow three requirements: Begin with a start event; go through the intermediate results/actions; and finish with an end event (for user pathways) or several end events (for user journeys). Consider using naming conventions (verbs or common nouns) to describe each part of a process. We also recommend showing any decisions that may be required to follow the process through, as well as any information exchanged at these decision points. It is also important to assign stakeholders to the activities that are represented. For example, in an application for validation, for the applicant, it needs to be clear who is the user and who is the validator.

Finally, to keep track of business actions and make the most of the visibility and clarity that modelling offers, consider including notes and keys on the template to display hypotheses.

 

The AUSY support process

AUSY stands out from the crowd by supporting clients throughout their digital transformation and functional test automation journey. To do this, we look to the know-how and expertise of our test coaches who train internal teams on best practices in modelling, test strategy and test automation. The aim, over time, is for internal teams to become completely autonomous, to save time and make significant efficiency savings and improvements in the quality of their solutions. At the outset of a project, the AUSY team introduces the BPMN standard and its benefits. This is followed by modelling workshops that are led by our test coaches and experts (project stakeholders with in-depth knowledge of part of a process to be modelled). 

In order to reach this point, we recommend four different tools:

  • Draw.io. Recommended for its usability, price and Jira integration capability. On top of that, it comes with built-in BPMN templates.
  • Enterprise Architect supports a wide range of modelling templates. We use this tool as a platform to exchange files and methods from the client workshops. 
  • Finally, Yest, alongside Jira, facilitates interactions between the business line and test teams. Yest allows the PO or Business Analyst to create test paths from Jira, which will then be tweaked in Yest by a tester who will enhance the data sets and add the necessary test functionalities. Yest will then be used to build the automatic testing framework through keywords, either current or to be developed and to then run automatic tests.

 

Advantages of modelling for the different stakeholders of a project

As already described, modelling gives all the stakeholders in an app-ensemble an overall view of a project as well as the interactions between the different internal and external systems. This means newcomers can hit the ground running as it provides an easily comprehensible overview of a project. Finally, it supports and offers time savings to different stakeholders, detailed below.

 

Advantages for Project Managers

Thanks to the flexibility and adaptability of modelling, PMs can use original modelling and add in other elements (new functionalities, new processes, etc.) to prepare a new increment.  With modelling they can visualise the impact of the addition, modification and suppression of these functionalities. PMs can easily identify and control the size of features, so they are appropriately sized by development teams.  

 

Advantages for development teams

With modelling, POs (Product Owners) and teams have a clear view of workload requirements and needs in terms of the environment and data sets, based on what they will have received from the PMs. They will also be in a position to judge the impact of new features based on their functional and 2 x 2 (within a SAFe context) testing.

 

Advantages for an end-to-end vision

In the context of SAFe, modelling makes developing a testing strategy for an ecosystem of applications easier, with these main advantages:

  • Rapidly and easily identify critical and nominal pathways. This makes it possible to implement a testing strategy and to determine which need to be done manually or automatically as well as the data sets and environments necessary to carry out different test campaigns.
  • Carry out visual test assessment and test coverage. Modelling offers the possibility of highlighting user journeys to show what has been covered and carried out with tests. This gives a clearer view of what will be put into production.

Please see below an example of a sub-confluent assessment, shared with all the process stakeholders. The journeys that have been tested are shown in blue. It is easy to see whether the tests undertaken were valid or not. It gives a simple indication of whether or not it is too risky to move on to the production stage.  The aim isn’t to eliminate anomalies in production but to guarantee a low criticality level in any anomalies that may remain.

 

 

bilan-sous-confluence
  • When PMs make targeted modelling available, the impact on existing end-to-end tests, environmental needs and datasets can be assessed in order to ensure that a platform will have access to the necessary applications, to tests and with guaranteed coverage of new functionalities.

 

To sum up

Too often, businesses decide to fully automate their functional tests, without going through an initial modelling stage. Although they think they will save time, they often end up wasting it because they have to firefight avoidable problems on an ad hoc basis.

As well as providing project stakeholders with a good understanding of the project (and this is accompanied by better communication and substantial time savings), modelling means anomalies can be quickly identified and swiftly corrected.

Furthermore, this approach offers good visibility in terms of how the project is modified and develops, and the impact of this.

Finally, journey visualisation informs test strategy so it is considered in terms of non-regression test efficiency, so ensuring that test standards are maintained (automated or not).

You can see that this stage is vital to ensure your tests run efficiently and function properly. AUSY has the expertise to make this work for you. Our test coaches are with you every step of the way as regards good practice and to help ensure that your modelling is a success.

 

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