Tutorial: Dictionary best practices

This tutorial describes best practices on how to make use of the Dictionary as a business process/business decision modeler.

By reading this tutorial you will learn how to...

  • ...reference and create dictionary objects directly from the modeling canvas.
  • ...drag & drop existing dictionary entries as modeling elements from the element repository onto the canvas.
  • ...manage changes to diagram elements.

Following these best practices will increase your modeling speed as well as the consistency and completeness of your process landscape.

Let’s start by creating a new process as part of our example process landscape.

First, we create a pool for our company. The pool ACME AG can be dropped from the dictionary entry repository on the left side of the modeling canvas. It is directly available under Frequently used dictionary items:

Drag & drop from the element the dictionary entry repository.

Drag & drop from the element the dictionary entry repository

In the attribute panel on the right-hand side we can see that element attributes have been filled in automatically, based on the attribute values of the dictionary item:

The attribute values are fetched from the referenced dictionary entry.

The attribute values are fetched from the referenced dictionary entry

Subsequently, we want to add the organizational role Approver as a lane.

We are not sure if a corresponding dictionary entry exists, so we simply start to fill in the corresponding label. As we type, the dictionary entry Approver is suggested as a reference.

We select the entry to assign it to the lane:

Select the dictionary entry you want to reference.

Select the dictionary entry you want to reference

Hint

If the default Dictionary settings have not been changed, only dictionary items that match the corresponding element type are suggested. In our case, only organizational units and IT systems are suggested and e.g. no events or activities. IT systems can be referenced from pools and lanes because they are similar to organizational units in their ability to execute tasks. For example, the task ‘Send email’ can be executed by both an employee and an IT system.

Now we add a start event and name it Employment contract received

We can assume that this event is only occurring in this one diagram, so we don’t need to create a dictionary entry for it.

We don't create a new dictionary entry for the 'Employment contract received' event

We don’t create a new dictionary entry for the ‘Employment contract received’ event

Subsequently, we create the task Review employment contract. No dictionary entry is suggested by the system. Let’s now assume that we need to create the same task in a different process later on. Thus, we create a new dictionary entry by clicking the dictionary icon at the lower left corner of the element:

Create a new dictionary entry.

Create a new dictionary entry

The dictionary entry is now available in the dictionary element repository.

The document employment contract already exists:

Reference the dictionary item 'employment contract'.

Reference the dictionary item ‘employment contract’

Now, we want to link the IT system that the approver needs to use. We don’t know which system to use exactly, so we use the filter function of the dictionary element repository to gain an overview over our IT systems:

Filter the dictionary for IT systems.

Filter the dictionary for IT systems

We identify Personnel System as the correct IT System and drag it onto the modeling canvas:

We can refer to the steps described above to continue adding elements to our model.

Generally, we recommend to re-use dictionary entries wherever it makes sense and to create or reference dictionary entries for all elements that are likely to be re-used. This prevents duplicates and inconsistent information in your Signavio workspace.

However, when revising the process, we find that the role Approver is too generic for our purpose:

The dictionary entry does not provide specific information.

The dictionary entry does not provide specific information

To adjust the element, we have three options:

  • Edit the element (not recommended):

    We can edit the attribute documentation and adjust it to a more specific description.

    Before editing the attribute, a warning will appear:

A warning is displayed, as element attribute and dictionary item attribute will no longer be consistent.

A warning is displayed, as element attribute and dictionary item attribute will no longer be consistent

After the attribute was edited, a warning icon next to the attribute indicates that the value is not consistent with the corresponding value of the referenced dictionary item:

The warning sign indicates the inconsistency between element attribute and dictionary item attribute.

The warning sign indicates the inconsistency between element attribute and dictionary item attribute

However, this procedure is not recommended, as it makes it very hard to detect the difference between the approver in our current lane and other lanes referencing the approver object. Moreover, it is no longer possible to centrally manage the attribute value via the Dictionary.

Adjust the dictionary entry:

We can click the dictionary item and select Open in dictionary:

Open the dictionary entry.

Open the dictionary entry

Now, we can click Edit and adjust the dictionary entry our needs:

Adjust the dictionary entry.

Adjust the dictionary entry

This option is recommended if the dictionary entry is generally not correct or lacks information. This does not apply in our case.

Create a new dictionary entry (recommended in our case):

As our approver is a human resource/legal specialist, we need to add more specific information. However, we can assume that the approver reference in other diagrams doesn’t match our new specification. In that case, we will need to click the dictionary icon next to the entry and select Remove link:

Remove the dictionary reference.

Remove the dictionary reference

We confirm the action and rename the lane with a more specific term, for example Legal approver (HR). Subsequently, we add a new dictionary entry:

Create a new dictionary entry for our contract approver.

Create a new dictionary entry for our contract approver

Hint: Generally, we recommend you to avoid inconsistencies between dictionary entries and referencing elements and to avoid re-purposing dictionary entries because of one specific reference. In such cases, the creation of a new Dictionary is usually the best alternative.