In today’s fast-paced business environment, a holistic understanding of an organization’s business processes is crucial — but you can’t stop there. Equally important is understanding exactly how business processes affect the journeys that stakeholders experience, and how to continuously improve these journeys. A key component of this is the management of complexity. For example, a complex talent acquisition process can negatively impact the applicants’ experience and hence reduce an organization’s ability to attract talent. Similarly, complex customer service processes can facilitate both churn or retention. To allow a systematic assessment of customer journey complexity and its interaction with process complexity, SAP Signavio is introducing a complexity score for journey models, which in turn utilizes process complexity scores.
This blog post explains how journey and process complexity scores are calculated. In the context of business process management, complexity can be defined as the “non routineness, difficulty, uncertainty, and interdependence […] associated with [organizational] activities” . One can further simplify the definition by removing the hard-to-define property “difficulty” and by merging “non-routineness” and “uncertainty”. Removing “difficulty” – a hard-to-define property – and merging “non routineness” and “uncertainty” simplifies the definition and gives us journey complexity and process complexity:
- Journey complexity provides a measure of levels of uncertainty, and interdependence of a journey through an organization.
- Process complexity provides a measure of levels of uncertainty, and interdependence of a business process.
Because a journey typically involves several processes, journey complexity takes into consideration (i.e., aggregates) the complexity scores of these processes, as well as complexity measures of journey-level properties. For journey and process complexity, we have developed model-based scoring algorithms, whose behavior we describe below.
The journey complexity score considers the following properties — and their corresponding complexity sub-scores — of an SAP Signavio journey model.
- Stages: How many stages does the journey model have?
More stages make a journey harder to control. Until five stages, stage complexity is minimal (0); from 15 stages onwards, the maximal score of 10 is reached. For example, a journey with ten stages has a stage complexity score of 5.00.
- Touchpoints: How many touchpoints does the journey model have?
A higher number of touchpoints indicate a high complexity for customers or other stakeholders, and hence, for example, a higher risk of churn. Until one touchpoint, touchpoint complexity is minimal (0); from ten touchpoints onwards, the maximal score of 10 is reached. For example, a journey with four touch points has a touchpoint complexity score of 3.33.
- Organizational units: How many organizational units have been manually added to the journey model?
The more organizational units are involved, the more technical interdependencies the journey has. For two organizational units or less, organizational unit complexity is considered minimal (0); from ten organizational units onwards, the maximal score of 10 is reached. For example, a journey with three organizational units systems has an organizational unit complexity score of 1.25.
- IT systems: How many IT systems have been manually added to the journey model? IT system complexity is motivated and determined in the same way as organizational unity complexity, i.e. for a journey with five IT systems, we get an IT system complexity score of 3.75.
- (Linked) journeys: How many other journey models are linked to the journey?
We assume that links to a small number of other journeys are not adding substantial complexity, but a substantial number of linked journeys is a sign of complexity. Hence, the linked journey complexity score is minimal (0) until two linked journeys and maximal from 10 linked journeys on. For example, a journey with four other journeys linked has a linked journey complexity score of 2.5.
- Processes: How complex are the processes that are linked to the journey?
Linked business processes provide the operational outside-in perspective on the journey’s experience-oriented inside-out perspective. A higher complexity in the processes that contribute to executing journey operations leads to a higher complexity in the journey itself. The complexity scores of all linked processes are determined and summed up. On journey level, process complexity is determined on a scale from 0 to 50. The maximal complexity for a single process is 10, i.e. in case we have, for example, six linked processes of maximal complexity, the maximum of 50 is exceeded, but the score is capped at 50. We explain the details of process complexity calculation further below. Let us assume that in the running example, we have a process complexity score of 22.
Based on the sub-scores, the overall journey complexity is determined by summing up the sub-scores, whereby the process complexity score is a weighted aggregation of the complexity scores of the linked processes. Given the example sub-scores above, we get a total journey complexity of 38.94 out of a maximal score of 100.
In turn, the complexity score of a process model (i.e., of a BPMN diagram) is determined based on the following properties.
- Flow: How many decision and parallelism splits are in a business process and how deeply are they nested?
While there are two perspectives on flow complexity, i.e. decision and parallelism, these perspectives are intertwined, for example when a “decision gateway” (any gateway that is not a parallel/AND gateway) is nested into a parallel gateway. A decision implies uncertainty, parallelism implies interdependence. A parallel gateway has a base complexity of 1, a decision gateway has a base complexity of 1.5. For each gateway, base complexity is multiplied by its nesting level. Then, all scores are summed up to a pre-normalized score. This score is then normalized, on a scale from 0 to 10, where a pre-normalized score of 2 or lower indicates minimal complexity (0), and a pre-normalized score of 24 or higher indicates maximal complexity (10). For instance, the process depicted by the figure below contains two nested XOR splits, and hence has a pre-normalized score of 4.5 (1.5 + 2 * 1.5) and a final flow complexity score of ~1.1.
- Handovers: How many handovers between roles are in the process?
More roles/actors in a process imply more interdependence and complexity. For each handover to a “new” role we add 1.5 to the handover base score. For each handover back to a role that has already been involved in the process, we add 1 to the handover base score. The score is then normalized, on a scale from 0 to 10, where a base score of 1.5 or lower indicates minimal complexity (0), and a base score of 10 or higher indicates maximal complexity (10). For instance, our example process has three handovers, which amounts to a handover base score of 4.5 (3 * 1.5), which is then normalized and rounded to 3.5.
- IT systems: How many IT Systems are there in a process, and to what extent are they accessed by multiple roles?
Each IT system gets an initial base score of one, when it is first utilized via a task, and each additional utilization adds 1.5 to the base score. For all IT systems, the base scores are summed up to a total IT system complexity base score. The score is then normalized, on a scale from 0 to 10, where a total base score of 1.5 or lower indicates minimal complexity (0), and a total base score of 10 or higher indicates maximal complexity (10). For instance, our example process has two IT systems that are used by two tasks and three tasks, respectively. This amounts to an IT system complexity base score of 7.5 (2 * 1.5 + 3 * 1.5), which is then normalized and rounded to 7.1.
- Documents and data objects: How many data objects (incl. documents, i.e. we use ‘data object’ as an umbrella term for BPMN data objects and documents) are in a process, and to what extent are these data objects accessed by multiple roles?
Each data object gets an initial base score of one, when it is first utilized via a task by a role, and each additional ‘handover’ to another role multiplies base score by 1.5. For all data objects, the base scores are summed up to a total data object complexity base score. The score is then normalized, on a scale from 0 to 10, where a total base score of 1 or lower indicates minimal complexity (0), and a total base score of 10 or higher indicates maximal complexity (10). For instance, our example process has two data objects, each of which are used by two roles. This amounts to a document complexity system base score of 3 (2 * (1 * 1.5), which is then normalized and rounded to 2.2.
- (Linked) processes: How many other processes are linked (via sub-processes or link events) to the process model?
For the sake of simplicity, each linked sub-process adds 3 to the linked process complexity base score, and each process that is linked via an event adds 1. The score is then normalized, on a scale from 0 to 10, where a base score of 2 or lower indicates minimal complexity (0), and a base score of 10 or higher indicates maximal complexity (10). Because this process does not have any process that is linked, its linked process complexity score is 0.
To determine the final complexity score of a process, all sub-scores are summed up, rounded, and then divided by 5, i.e. we have a maximal process complexity score of 10 (for a single process).
 Jahangir Karim , Toni M. Somers & Anol Bhattacherjee (2007) The Impact of ERP Implementation on Business Process Outcomes: A Factor-Based Study, Journal of Management Information Systems, 24:1, 101-134, DOI: 10.2753/MIS0742-1222240103