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A semi-automated approach for generating natural language requirements documents based on business process models
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Context: The analysis of requirements for business-related software systems is often supported by using business process models. However, the final requirements are typically still specified in natural language. This means that the knowledge captured in process models must be consistently transferred to the specified requirements. Possible inconsistencies between process models and requirements represent a serious threat for the successful development of the software system and may require the repetition of process analysis activities. Objective: The objective of this paper is to address the problem of inconsistency between process models and natural language requirements in the context of software development. Method: We define a semi-automated approach that consists of a process model-based procedure for capturing execution-related data in requirements models and an algorithm that takes these models as input for generating natural language requirements. We evaluated our approach in the context of a multiple case study with three organizations and a total of 13 software development projects. Results: We found that our approach can successfully generate well-readable requirements, which do not only positively contribute to consistency, but also to the completeness and maintainability of requirements. The practical use of our approach to identify a suitable subcontractor on the market in 11 of the 13 projects further highlights the practical value of our approach. Conclusion: Our approach provides a structured way to obtain high-quality requirements documents from process models and to maintain textual and visual representations of requirements in a consistent way.