The Magical Number Seven


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The capacity of the human brain is limited to the number of things it can absorb at any one time. This was documented in 1956 by the cognitive psychologist, George A. Miller, in his paper "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information".

4 playing cards - 7 hearts, 7 clubs, 7 diamonds, 7 spades

The number seven plays a significant role in our lives ...

  • the seven wonders of the world
  • the seven seas
  • the seven deadly sins
  • the seven daughters of Atlas
  • the seven ages of man
  • the seven (nine?) levels of hell
  • the seven primary colours
  • the seven notes of a musical scale
  • the seven days of the week

When creating models, Proforma UK takes the 7 ± 2 rule with a pinch of salt but we observe the general principle, i.e. don't put too much on one model and 'Keep It Simple, Stupid' - KISS. Use the 7 ± 2 rule to simplify development, understanding, communication and future maintenance.

The 'award' goes to the person who can tell the story in the clearest, simplest manner possible - not the person who can cram the most objects and lines onto a page. We employ the drill-down capabilities of OpenText ProVision and, coupled with our application of the latest modelling techniques, we are able to create clear, simple, consistent, unambiguous models.

In the example below, the numerous low-level activities of an end-to-end process have been aggregated (grouped) into three top-level activities.

OpenText ProVision - Example of model where low-level activities have been aggregated into top-level activities

It is possible to drill-down on each of these top-level activity objects to see their low-level constituent detail; for example, shown below is the drilled-down (expanded) Activity #3.

Note that decision-point (diamond) objects do not appear on the top-level model; that souce/start/begin and sink/finish/end objects only appear on the top-level model; and that these begin and end points are replaced on low-level models by context objects (those with a dotted border, showing they originate from the higher-level 'parent' model).

OpenText ProVision - Example of drilled-down version of model
Consultancy, training and product services for OpenText ProVision - Business Architecture, Enterprise Architecture, Process Analysis, Process Modelling, Process Improvement, Process Management, Process Simulation and Corporate Transition - BPM - BPMN - EA - Zachman - UML - TOGAF - Lean - Six Sigma - Lean Six Sigma - SOA - ITIL - Sarbanes Oxley - NGOSS / eTOM - RACI / RASCI - CMMI