Visualizing and realizing your business design with WebSphere Business Compass

WebSphere Business Compass is a web 2.0-based collaborative authoring environment for defining your business—including your strategies, capabilities, organizations, processes, and more. This article demonstrates how to define and discover the relationships among these aspects of your business and use them to provide visibility, clarity, and consistency across your organization. This content is part of the IBM Business Process Management Journal.


Ann Ewan (, Senior Information Developer, IBM

Anne Ewan photoAnn Ewan is a senior information developer with the BPM Tools ID team. She was previously team lead of the WebSphere Business Monitor information development team and has worked on the WebSphere Business Modeler information development tean. Ann is also a published author of fantasy novels (Firedrake and Brondings' Honour), and is working on her third book.

Curtis Miles (, BPMN Lead Developer, IBM

author photoCurtis Miles is a technical advisor and lead developer for WebSphere Business Compass. He has a passion for creating rich, innovative user interfaces and has extensive Web and Eclipse development experience, having worked on the WebSphere BPM suite for the past few years. When not busy innovating for IBM, he enjoys relaxing with his family and friends at his home just outside of Toronto.

08 September 2010

Also available in Chinese


For your organization to be as successful as you want it to be, everyone in the organization must know where you're going and how you want to get there. Everyone must understand what the organization does and how it's structured to do the things it does. Each person must also understand how he or she fits into the organization and how the jobs each person does provide value and help the organization realize its goals. All of this information—the pieces that are in place for your organization to do what it needs to do, the actual things that your organization does, and how it does them—make up the business design.

Related to business design is business implementation, which can also be called the realization of business design. Business realization is the way that your organization operates to meet its objectives, and it includes all the processes and procedures that your organization performs. You could say that there are two different but closely related worlds: one that is a world of pure business design and another world that is the realization of that design.

WebSphere Business Compass (hereafter called Compass) gives you insight and visibility into both worlds: the high-level business design and the more detailed business realization. With Compass, you can bring business design and business realization together and capture the relationships that are the key to understanding them. For your organization to be successful, these two worlds must evolve together.

In this article, you'll learn how to use Compass to capture business information in documents. We all know how to work with documents—files, letters, scraps of paper. We write them, collect them, store them, sort them, and pass them on. Compass takes the document metaphor and builds on it. Everything that you do is created and stored in documents. Documents capture the elements of both worlds: business design and business realization.

Different types of business information are related to each other, so information in one document can be related to information in another document. When the documents are connected, they form a network of information that moves your business in the direction you want it to go. The relationships between documents are very important because different types of information are brought together to solve business problems. In Compass, the documents are connected through predefined and custom link types.

Bringing the two worlds together

The types of documents in Compass can be divided into business design and business realization as suggested in the following table.

Table 1. Types of documents in Compass
Business designBusiness realization
organization chartform
business vocabularybusiness vocabulary

Relationships between these documents are captured using one of the following types of links:

  • Predefined: Compass has built-in support for creating relationships of predefined types between documents. For example, within a process, a step that must be performed by a human can have a form associated with it.
  • Custom: You can create relationships between documents that go beyond the information that can be automatically captured using the set of predefined relationships. For example, you can capture information that is unique to your business or reflects the way your business operates.

The following flow chart shows the elements of the two worlds: business design and business realization. The links show the types of predefined relationships between these document types in Compass.

Figure 1. Predefined relationships between document types in Compass
Predefined relationships between document types in Compass

By following the fictitious CreativeGenius Board Game Company as they create documents in Compass, let's look at an example of how you can tie the two worlds (business design and business realization) together by defining and discovering relationships. To follow along with the sample, go to the Business Design Home space, click the Start button, and create a new space. Select Design=> Upload File to import the CreativeGeniusTeamSpace.BCA sample file included for download with this article.

The CreativeGenius Board Game Company

Wilby recently came on board as president of the CreativeGenius Board Game Company and he sees some areas that he would like to improve. One of his plans is to harness the creative talents of his board game developers and visual designers to collaborate with the marketing team and come up with innovative, creative ways to market and sell the games.

However, because the company has been successful so far, Wilby doesn't want to change things too quickly or drastically, and he wants to be sure that he understands how the company currently works. He decides to use Compass to capture how the business operates and to clarify and define his goals. Eventually he plans to share his ideas with the rest of the company.

He starts by creating a Business Design space where he and others can create and edit business design documents. Wilby names the space CreativeGenius Team Space. The members of the team that is associated with the space can see and edit the documents inside the space. Wilby adds the vice-presidents of all the departments to use the space so that they can contribute their ideas to his vision.

Capturing the company’s strategy and vocabulary

Wilby starts by capturing the strategy for the company in a strategy map. He wants all members of the company to be able to see the map when it's complete, so that they can make decisions that align with the company's overall strategy.

He clicks Strategy Map on the toolbar and names the map CreativeGenius Strategy.

He sets the overall objective as Be the leading producer of board games in the world and adds two actions that the company can take to reach that objective (Produce more original new games this year and Come up with an advertising campaign as imaginative as our games) as well as two measures (5 original new games and 35% of the board game market share) that the company can use to see if the objective has been successfully achieved.

Figure 2. Strategy map showing actions and measures
Strategy map showing actions and two measures.

He also maps the business factors that will affect the strategy, adding two strengths (All staff are 'creative geniuses' and Currently hold licenses for popular TV series) that he hopes will help the company achieve its strategic objective, an opportunity (Many of our recent games are just old ones reworked) that he sees for more creativity, and an outside threat (Growing popularity of video games).

Figure 3. Strategy map showing business factors
Strategy map showing business factors

As he creates the strategy map, Wilby defines the shared business vocabulary for the company. He goes to the Documents view, clicks Vocabulary on the toolbar, and adds the company's definitions for terms such as board game and video game. The vocabulary acts as the basis of shared definitions for all the documents.

The vocabulary will also eventually be a reference that all Wilby's employees will use to understand the language heard in the halls of the CreativeGenius company. It can grow over time as the business evolves and new terms come up that need shared definitions. This way, CreativeGenius employees are sure that they all mean the same thing when they use the same term.

Adding capabilities

Next, Wilby adds a capability map, which defines and decomposes the main functions that CreativeGenius performs. Business capabilities tend to be stable over time, so a capability map provides a high-level view of the functional structure of the company, as opposed to the organizational structure (departments and so on) that are described in an organization chart.

Wilby wants the capability map to help define what his company knows how to do and is doing, and he wants the map to discover growth areas (where his company needs to improve) and gaps (where his company is missing capabilities).

He clicks Capability Map on the toolbar and names the map CreativeGenius Capabilities. At the top level, Wilby decides that CreativeGenius has three main capabilities: Market Games, Product Development and Manufacturing, and Risk and Financial Management.

Figure 4. Capability map showing three capabilities
Capability map showing three capabilities

Each of these capabilities breaks down into more detailed capabilities or functions. Members of CreativeGenius can explore these hierarchies of capabilities by clicking Details in the lower-right corner of each capability. They can return to the top level of the map by clicking the beginning of the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page.

Figure 5. Breadcrumb trail
Breadcrumb trail

Although it takes a while to identify the capabilities that exist within an organization, the capability map will become a lens through which all members of CreativeGenius can view what the company does. When these capabilities are established, they can be used to group processes, so that instead of having a sea of disjointed process definitions, processes are classified to clarify the problems they are solving and how they fit together. Besides processes, other documents can also be associated with capability maps and grouped. As Wilby gets to know the company better, he can group other documents by adding some custom relationships to see how other parts of the organization are seen through the lens of the capability map.

Documenting a process

One of the things that CreativeGenius does well is generate new ideas, so Wilby wants to capture the process that his team follows to create and harness these ideas. He decides to start with a very simple process flow.

He clicks Process Map on the toolbar and names the map Develop Ideas. This process map visually represents how ideas are generated and reviewed in the CreativeGenius Board Game Company. Process maps follow the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard for showing the flow of business processes.

Figure 6. Process map consisting of two activities and a decision point
Process map consisting of two activities and a decision point

Wilby also creates a larger, high-level process map so that he can document the complete process for creating board games. He names the larger map New Board Game Development Process and creates a process map with a set of activities that occur in sequence.

Figure 7. Beginning of a process map showing three activities
Beginning of a process map showing three activities

Wilby sees that the New Board Game Development Process realizes one of the capabilities that he showed in his capability map. He returns to the capability map, selects the Product Development and Manufacturing capability, clicks Details, expands Supporting Processes, and clicks Add a process. He adds a link from the capability to the New Board Game Development Process.

In addition, Wilby now has a way to measure one of the goals ("Produce more original new games this year") that he set in the strategy map. He clicks Details for the Develop Ideas process, expands Measures, and clicks Add a measure. He selects CreativeGenius Strategy and checks 5 original new games.

Remember our diagram showing the links between documents? Wilby has now created two of those links.

Figure 8. Predefined links among strategy maps, capability maps, and process maps
Predefined links among strategy maps, capability maps, and process maps

In creating the process map, Wilby also wants to be able to identify the departments in his company that are responsible for performing various activities. He decides to create an organization chart.

Adding an organization chart

The organization chart shows the relationships between the different organization units in the CreativeGenius Board Game Company. Wilby adds the Marketing, Sales, and Research and Development departments.

Figure 9. Organization chart showing three departments
Organization chart showing three departments

To define the skills that are available in each department, he adds roles. For example, he adds a role to Research and Development by clicking the blue icon and then clicking New Role. He defines a new role (in this case, Game Developer) by adding a name and description. The role is automatically added to the vocabulary and referenced from the organization chart.

Wilby also specifies the number of people performing that role within the department (10).

Figure 10. Organization chart showing roles
Organization chart showing roles

The roles that are associated with the organization units can now be assigned as performers of activities in process maps. Returning to the process map, Wilby can add a performer to an activity to show which team is responsible for which activity. In the Generate Ideas activity, he clicks Details, expands Performers, and clicks Add to add the Game Developer role that he just created.

Digging into the details: subprocesses and forms

After Wilby has established this core set of documents in Compass, other people in the company can collaboratively work on the documents and create other documents. The business analyst in the company, Destiny, wants to refine what Wilby has done to add lower levels of detail.

First, Destiny decides to tie Wilby's Develop Ideas process map into the higher-level New Board Game Development process map. She adds an activity to the New Board Game Development process map and names it Develop Ideas Process. To use Wilby's process, Destiny must first refine her new activity to make it a global subprocess, which requires her to use the detailed palette instead of the simple (default) palette.

Figure 11. Selecting the detailed palette
Selecting the detailed palette

The detailed palette provides additional types of elements that you can use to create a more detailed process diagram. Wilby didn’t need to use this palette because he was interested only in the high-level design.

Destiny expands the Task palette by clicking the down arrow, and she selects Global Subprocess. She drags the global subprocess icon down onto the Develop Ideas Process activity that she just added, making the activity a global subprocess.

Figure 12. Selecting the global subprocess
Selecting the global subprocess

To refer to the process that this new subprocess will use, Destiny must first open the Details window of the Develop Ideas Process, add the Called Process section, and click Choose in that section. She selects Wilby's Develop Ideas process map as the called process.

Figure 13. Adding the Called Process section
Adding the Called Process section

Destiny wants to be able to walk through the process and show it to others, using the Walkthrough option found on the palette under View. She wants her walkthrough to show what forms get filled out at each stage of the process, because she knows that some of the activities that the CreativeGenius Board Game Company performs involve forms. In the New Board Game Development Process map, the Prepare Order for Manufacturing task is associated with a form that captures the details of the board game to be manufactured. When she performs a walkthrough of the process, Destiny wants to be able to show this form, giving a more complete picture of the process by showing the input that is required to start the manufacturing process.

Destiny takes a screen capture of the manufacturing specification form and saves it as an image file. She then creates a new form document, enters the name of the form (CreativeGenius Manufacturing Request form), and selects Add an image file to add the image of the form to the Business Design space.

To be associated with a form, the activity must be performed by a person. From the Task palette, Destiny selects User Task and drags the user task onto the Prepare Order for Manufacturing activity, making it an activity done by a person. Then she opens the Details window of the activity, expands Associated User Interface, and clicks Add. She selects the CreativeGenius Manufacturing Request form.

Now when Destiny gives a walkthrough, she can click the Form icon when the flow reaches the Prepare Order for Manufacturing activity and show how the form will look when the process is running. If more than one form is associated with an activity, Destiny would click the arrows beside the icon to show each of the required forms in turn.

Figure 14. Displaying a form during a walkthrough
Displaying a form during a walkthrough

With the creation of the organization chart (which allowed Wilby to add performers to the process map) and the form document (which is associated with a user interface), two more links between documents have been added.

Figure 15. Predefined links among strategy maps, capability maps, process maps, form documents, and organization charts
Predefined links among maps, forms, and organization charts

Adding outside services

Some of the processes, such as manufacturing and shipping, that the CreativeGenius Board Game Company requires are outsourced to other organizations. To represent the services that those third parties provide to CreativeGenius, Destiny creates service documents and names them Game Manufacturing Service and Game Shipping Service.

A service document can contain one or more service operations. In the Game Manufacturing Service, Destiny clicks Add an operation and names the new operation Manufacture Games. Operations can have input and output messages, which represent the information that is communicated between parties. CreativeGenius sends a message (containing the board game specifications) to Manufacturing and later receives the packaged games back from Manufacturing.

To specify the inputs and outputs of an operation, Destiny can choose from messages that have previously been created in the vocabulary. In this case, no messages exist, so Destiny creates one herself. In the Manufacture Games operation, Destiny clicks Specify an Input and then New Entry. She specifies Game Manufacturing Specification as the name of her new message. When she clicks OK, the new message is automatically added to the vocabulary.

Although the message that Destiny created conceptually represents the information that flows between the service provider and CreativeGenius, it doesn't actually supply the details of the message. To provide the details, Destiny decides to create a business item to represent the information in the message. The business item can then be reused in other messages.

Destiny opens the vocabulary document and creates a Manufacturing Specification business item in the vocabulary by selecting Business Item as the type and then entering the name and description.

Figure 16. Adding a business item to the vocabulary
dding a business item to the vocabulary

All business items have a name and description, and can be expanded to include key attributes that are important to understanding the content of that business item. To be able to specify those key attributes, Destiny selects Complex for the type of the business item, and then adds some attributes.

Figure 17. Adding attributes to a business item
Adding attributes to a business item

Now that Destiny has created service definitions, she can indicate that the process uses those services. She returns to the New Board Game Development Process and revises an existing task (Send to Manufacturing) to make it a service task, just as she did when she revised a process to create a global subprocess. She can now associate the service task with the service document that she created. Destiny creates this association by opening the Details window of the Send to Manufacturing task, expanding the Service Definition section (which exists only in service tasks), and selecting the Game Manufacturing Service service document.

Because manufacturing games is not a service that immediately returns its results, Destiny adds a Received Message event named Receive Boxed Game Units to represent a point at which the output of the operation is required before the process can proceed.

Figure 18. Process showing a Received Message event
Process showing a Received Message event

Destiny also decides to add a link to show that the Make-It Inc. organization provides the Game Manufacturing Service. Because there is no predefined link type to capture this relationship in Compass, she chooses to create a custom relationship between the organization chart and the service document to keep track of this information. First, she creates a separate organization chart for Make-It Inc. In the new organization chart, she opens the Details window, expands Links, and clicks Add. She adds a link to the Game Manufacturing Service, clicks Specify a label for the selected link, and names the link Provided Services.

In this way, Destiny can create any number of custom relationships and name them whatever she wants.

Figure 19. Adding a label to a custom link
Adding a label to a custom link

Destiny creates the Ship-It Inc. organization chart and links it to the Game Shipping Service document in the same way. She has now added two custom relationships.

Collaborating across organizations or departments

Destiny continues to look at the next level of detail to capture the specifics of how CreativeGenius does what it does. After creating the service documents, she decides to use a collaboration to show how CreativeGenius interacts with other organizations by using those organizations’ services. A collaboration represents the interactions between two or more business entities, such as companies or departments.

Destiny creates a collaboration document to show how the organizations work together to produce a board game. She names this collaboration Board Game Development Cross Team Collaboration. By default, the collaboration contains two empty pools that represent participants in the collaboration. Destiny clicks Add a process to this pool and is given a choice of the activities from the New Board Game Development Process. She selects the activities that are important to cross-team collaboration and clicks Done to return to her collaboration document. The selected activities are shown within one of the pools.

Because Destiny wants pools to represent each of the outside organizations that CreativeGenius collaborates with, she needs another pool. She clicks the Pool icon on the palette and drags it to an empty spot on the canvas. The other two pools are not associated with processes because CreativeGenius is not concerned with how the other two companies perform their activities and no internal details are required.

Destiny adds a participant to each of the empty pools by clicking the pool and then clicking Choose beside Participant in the Details window. She selects Make-It Organization for one of the pools and Ship-It Organization for the other.

When she has two pools that represent the two companies that CreativeGenius interacts with, Destiny connects the activities in her process to the pools to show where the communication happens. She drags the connection handle from the Ship New Game to Distributors activity and drops it onto the Ship-It Organization pool to create a message flow. Similarly, she drags the connection handle from the Send to Manufacturing activity and drops it onto the Make-It Organization pool. She also creates a message flow that returns from the pool by dragging the connection handle from the pool onto the Receive Boxed Game Units activity.

Figure 20. Collaboration document
Collaboration document

The resulting collaboration shows how CreativeGenius processes communicate and interact with the outside world. Destiny could also go on to create collaborations that show relationships between departments within the company.

Exploring with the network browser

As you've seen, relationships between documents are very important in Compass. Using the network browser, which is available in the Documents view, you can view relationships and navigate between them.

Now that Destiny has added activities to Wilby's maps and added maps of her own, Wilby uses the network browser to investigate the relationships in CreativeGenius and gain a more holistic understanding of what his company can do and how it does it.

He clicks the new Board Game Development Cross Team Collaboration document to put it at the center, and then clicks Network Browser on the toolbar. In the Network Browser window, he selects Incoming and Outgoing Connections. The following image shows the result.

Figure 21. Collaboration document with all its relationships
Collaboration document with all its relationships

Wilby can see the various organizations that interact with the CreativeGenius Board Game Company during game development. He is interested in seeing more details of the New Board Game Development Process, so he clicks that process next.

Figure 22. New Board Game Development Process with all its relationships
New Board Game Development Process with all its relationships

He can see some of the new documents that Destiny added, such as the CreativeGenius Manufacturing Request Form. He also sees the new relationships that she created, including the relationships between the New Board Game Development Process, the Game Manufacturing Service, and the Game Shipping Service.

Next, Wilby clicks the CreativeGenius Company Vocabulary document to view all the various documents that refer to the vocabulary. This view shows him how his company is using common terms and definitions, and how the common vocabulary is propagating through the company. Ideally, the vocabulary document should be the central hub of all the documents.

Wilby has a new way to visualize relationships and gain insight into his business.

Sharing documents with the company

Wilby now wants to let his employees see the information that he has defined. The company derives two benefits from sharing the documents in Compass. At the business-design level, the documents provide the employees with a better understanding of how their work fits into the context of the larger organization. They can see how their capabilities are reflected in the information and how their day-to-day work fits into the company's overall strategy.

At the business-realization level, the documents provide information about how the various processes in the company are meant to be run. Understanding the processes means they can be run more effectively and the employees can avoid confusion and redundancy.

To share the documents with his employees, Wilby goes to the Documents view of the CreativeGenius team space, selects all the documents, and clicks the Make Document Public icon. Now all the employees in the company can see the documents and refer to them in their own documents, opening them and referring to the pieces inside as a way of sharing information. If they want to change the information in the documents, they can either work with the document owner by requesting edit access and making the changes themselves or they can ask the document owner to make the changes.

Now that he has used Compass to capture how the business operates and to clarify and define his goals, Wilby is confident in his decision to accept the position as president of the CreativeGenius Board Game Company. He understands how the organization works and has come to know many of the employees through the work of collaboratively documenting their processes. He is sure that, with his expertise, he and the CreativeGenius Board Game Company can forge a successful future in the board game industry.


Sample Business Design Space CreativeGenius Team Space.BCA34KB




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