Overview > Concepts > Methods and Tools > Modeling Large Organizations


Small and Large Organizations To top of page

The differences between a small and a large organization lie in the broader spectrum of products, often within several totally different product families. Generally the higher the complexity of products, the more distributed the organization and the market. This results in a larger number of more complex business use cases, involving many more employees with more specialized tasks.

The techniques proposed here can be applied independently or in combination.

High-Level and Detailed Business Use Cases To top of page

A company's executive management, as well as its process owners, are interested in their company's business models-the management must work with the company's strategic objectives, whereas the process owners and leaders need a detailed picture of how their process should be performed.

If the differences between the executive's and the process owners' views of the organization are too great, you could satisfy their needs by developing two different, yet related, sets of business use cases, either maintained in one model or in two separate models; for the executives, a set of high-level business use cases that shows the intent and purpose of the organization; for the process owners, a detailed set of use cases that helps clarify how the organization needs to function internally. For each high-level business use case, define one, or several, detailed business use cases representing the same activities in the organization. For example, you can start with the primary business actor, detail the results and services she is interested in or even specialize the business actor itself, then develop a separate business use case for each detailed area.

If you want to engineer your organization one business use case at a time, you can apply this technique incrementally for one business use case at a time. First, make a high-level, use-case model of the entire business, and rank the business use cases in an overview, then identify one or several detailed business use cases for the most highest ranked, high-level business use cases. 

There is a one-to-one relationship between a high-level business use case and its set of detailed business use cases. The relationships between business use cases of the two categories are represented as «refinement» relationships, a stereotype of dependency. A high-level business use case, and the group of detailed business use cases it represents, can be presented in the same diagram.

High-level business use cases and detailed business use cases. The detailed business use cases have been identified by detailing the results in which the Customer and Potential Customer are interested. 

Superordinate and Subordinate Models To top of page

The technique for modeling business use cases presented so far is most easily applied to companies that have a single business area and whose business activities are concentrated geographically at one location. For larger companies with several geographical distributed over several locations, it may be necessary to scale up the technique.

Therefore, to model companies built of independent yet cooperating parts, you can build one superordinate business use-case model that describes the whole business, and then one subordinate business use-case model for each business area.

To explore realizations of the superordinate business use cases, you can identify the organization units and show how they collaborate to perform the workflow. At this level, an organization unit would correspond to a business area. 


Superordinate and subordinate models of an organization

Each business area can now be treated as an organization on its own, fulfilling the interfaces defined in the superordinate business object model. 

Layered Business Models To top of page

In software engineering, a technique used to master the complexity of very large systems is called layering. The idea behind this technique is to separate the application-specific parts from the more general parts of the system, so that the program units and program services can be reused. When structuring organizations, the same principles are often naturally applied. For example, in the bottom layer you find resources that provide general services, somewhere in the middle layer you often find resources that support business-specific activities, and in the top layer you find business area-specific or product-specific specialists, Research and Development, and sales force activities. Core business use cases use resources from all layers.

Therefore, layering is not a question of qualifications or seniority, but of uniqueness and importance in relation to the company's business ideas. A task handled by a business worker from the general skill layer could be as qualified as any other. The work in core business use cases and supporting business use cases where business-specific information systems, production lines, and other types of business infrastructure are developed, may require equally business-specific skills from the same layered organization.

Business Use Cases and Classes in a Layered Model 

Structuring the organization into layers does not change the business use case-the same results still need to be produced-but it does change the business use-case realization.

Compared to a non-layered business object model, a layered business object model should be developed with two recommended restrictions in mind:

  • A business worker in a certain layer never makes contact with a business worker or manipulates a business entity of a higher layer, except on explicit request from someone in the higher layer.
  • A business worker has responsibilities only within his or her own layer.

Without these restrictions, a layered structure quickly degenerates.

When identifying business workers and assigning activities to business workers, the required skills needed in order to perform an activity needs to be understood. A business worker from the layer that organizes resources for those particular skills must perform an activity that by its nature requires a particular skill. Instead of having as few business workers as possible, which is the normal rule of thumb when designing a business use case, you should now have as few business workers as possible-with as wide responsibilities as possible-in each layer.

Workflows, business workers, and business entities in lower layers should be designed with generality in mind to provide services shaped for reuse in several areas. Business workers and business entities are organized into organization units according to their business specificity. Organization units that include the most general competencies and phenomena are found in the bottom layer; while the most company-specific organization units can be found in the top layer.

Core Business Use Cases versus Supporting Business Use Cases To top of page

Business use-case realizations will, to differing degrees, engage business workers from different layers. Business use-case realizations, with a high degree of top-layer involvement, set the profile of the company, should implement the business idea, and should be the profit centers. These correspond to core business use cases and supporting business use cases to provide core business use cases with essential, business-area-specific infrastructure.

Business use-case realizations in lower layers, without top layer business workers, provide general services required to keep the company running. They can be abstract and define workflows performed as parts of other business use cases, for instance, billing activities that conclude a sales business use case. They can also be concrete, executing on their own and performing activities that do not need business area-specific competence, like bookkeeping. These normally correspond to supporting business use cases.

A layered structure reflects those kinds of skills that are key to the business ideas, whether needed in core business use cases or supporting business use cases, and which skills are less specific. This could be a good starting point for systematically analyzing the company's available resources.

Models of the Entire Organization To top of page

In many cases, you would only be interested in detailed information about one or a few of you business processes. However, to give context it can be practical to identify the complete set of business process, and briefly describe each of them. This will result in a model that includes core business use cases, supporting business use cases, and management business use cases.

Supporting business use cases-such as core business use cases, business-specific information systems, computer networks, and premises-are responsible for the development and maintenance of a company's infrastructure, among others. From the modeling perspective, there are no real differences between core business use cases and supporting business use cases. Both types of business use cases should have the same requirements of usability and effectiveness. To perform successfully, both kinds of business use cases may require the same types of resource.

A supporting business use case in one organization, for instance a software development business use case, might be a core business use case in another. The major difference is for whom the business use cases work. At the request of a business owner, the supporting business use cases develop the business in cooperation with the affected business use case owners and operators. In a model of the entire business, a typical business actor would be "the Board". When the modeling is delimited to the supporting business use cases only, typical business actors are "business use case Owner" and "business use case Operator".

Management business use cases, on the other hand, are responsible for managing the business; that is, for running and developing the other business use cases according to directives from the owner, to initiate and supervise core business use cases, and supporting business use cases, according to directives from the owner. The object model describes how executives, resource owners, business use case owners, business use case leaders, and business use case operators need to cooperate. Typical business actors are "the Owner" or "the Board".

A model of an entire organization

At the other end of the scale, there are many minor tasks that need to be taken care of, like keeping the computer network running, answering the phone, and cleaning the coffee machine, but these tasks are not part of a defined business use case. For instance, if you intend to be certified according to the ISO 9000 standard, these activities need to be included in the model as well. A straight-forward approach, if it is a full-time job, is to assign such activities to a specific business worker. If it is less than a full-time job, assign such activities to an existing business worker with the right skill requirements without trying to include them in any business use case.