Integration of Data Envelopment Analysis in Business Process
Models: A Novel Approach to Measure Information Security
Agnes Åkerlund and Christine Große
Department of Information Systems and Technology, Mid Sweden University, Holmgatan 10, Sundsvall, Sweden,
Keywords: Data Envelopment Analysis, Information Security, Business Process, BPMN, Human Factor.
Abstract: This article explores the question of how to measure information security. Organisational information security
is difficult to evaluate in this complex area because it includes numerous factors. The human factor has been
acknowledged as one of the most challenging factors to consider in the field of information security. This
study models the application of data envelopment analysis to business processes in order to facilitate the
evaluation of information security that includes human factors. In addition to the model, this study
demonstrates that data envelopment analysis provides an efficiency measure to assess the information security
level of a business process. The novel approach that is proposed in this paper is exemplified with the aid of
three fictive processes. The Business Process Model and Notation has been used to map the processes because
it facilitates the visualisation of human interactions in processes and the form of the processed information.
The combination of data envelopment analysis with process modelling and analyses of process deficiencies
and threats to information security enables the evaluation of information security to include human factors in
the analyses. Moreover, it provides a measure to benchmark information security in organisational processes.
The inclusion of human factors in organisational
efforts to ensure information security (InfoSec) is
both necessary and challenging. One obstacle to such
integration is that the standard definition of InfoSec
does not explicitly include human factors in
evaluations of information processing (Lundgren and
Möller, 2019). In addition, the human factor can exert
two opposite effects on organisational InfoSec. First,
employees can reduce risks to InfoSec in an
organisation when complying with policies
(Bulgurcu, Cavusoglu and Benbasat, 2010; Lundgren
and Möller, 2019). Second, the human interaction
with information poses a major threat to its security
(Gonzalez and Sawicka, 2002; Vroom and von
Solms, 2004). Therefore, in addition to external
threats to InfoSec, organisations must contend with
internal threats that emerge from human interaction
with information during business processes. This
paper aims to address the need to enlarge the
perspective of InfoSec. It focuses on human factors in
business processes and proposes a novel approach to
evaluate and benchmark InfoSec in organisations.
The new approach applies data envelopment
analysis (DEA) to business processes. Since the
Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)
facilitates both the identification of human interaction
with information in processes and the form of the
processed information, it offers valuable input for the
following DEA.
The DEA is a popular tool of management
analysis to evaluate the efficiency and performance of
businesses or operations, such as mass productions or
logistics (Arunyanart, Ohmori and Yoshimoto, 2015;
da Silva, Marins, Tamura and Dias, 2017; Zheng and
Park, 2016). To date, DEA has not been studied as
tool for examining InfoSec among processes. The
present study addresses this gap in InfoSec research.
Subsequent to the background and method
sections, Section 4 describes the proposed model in
more detail. An example implementation evaluates
the model and demonstrates the benchmarking of
business processes. Then, Section 5 discusses the
suggested approach and its practical applicability. A
brief conclusion completes the study.
2.1 Human Factors in InfoSec
The cornerstones of InfoSec are the triad of
confidentiality, integrity and availability. The
ISO/IEC 27000:2018 standard defines confidentiality
as the principle that information is available for the
right persons and protected from disclosure to
unauthorized individuals, processes or entities.
Integrity indicates that information is correct and
complete, and availability is achieved when
information is accessible and useable by certified
users (ISO 27000:2018; Laybats and Tredinnick,
2016; Lundgren and Möller, 2019; Paliszkiewicz,
To ensure proper levels of InfoSec, organisational
efforts need to consider internal and external threats.
Apart from external threats to InfoSec, human aspects
warrant particular attention in order to reduce InfoSec
risks (e.g. Pereira and Santos, 2015). Since
information systems are socio-technical systems that
involve both technical and human components in
interaction, such systems rely on not only appropriate
technical measurements for ensuring InfoSec but also
the awareness of human operators. Thus, human
behaviour is crucial for maintaining adequate InfoSec
(Gonzalez and Sawicka, 2002; Nyman and Große,
2019; Vroom and von Solms, 2004). Metalidou et al.
(2014) have emphasised that ‘[i]nformation security
has not been given enough attention in the literature
in terms of the human factor effect’ and encouraged
further investigation in this field.
From the perspective of human factors as internal
threats, one risk emerges from people who access
programs and information systems at an organisation.
One measure to prevent unauthorised access to
information flows is to assign permission to certain
employees by an administration department
(Mitrovic, 2005). Every human interaction with
information in a system poses a certain risk to
InfoSec, and this risk increases with each person who
has access to the information. Hence, in business
processes, the number of people who edit information
should be reduced if possible (Hwang and Cha, 2018;
Laybats and Tredinnick, 2016).
Other mitigation strategies consider eliminating
the manual control of information and its varying
formats. First, manual control, which depends on
people, carries a risk of violating InfoSec (Venegas,
2007). Second, the change of the information format
can incorporate a threat to InfoSec if the data is not
properly converted. The risk of losing or improperly
changing data or information in a transformation can
be reduced by decreasing human interaction with
processed information during business processes
(Lawrence et al., 2000; Venegas, 2007)
Moreover, passwords have proven to be an
effective way to enhance InfoSec (Wood, 1983).
Although text-based passwords are the most common
type, organisational password policies can require
special characters or numbers. The advantage derives
from the effect of more characters reducing the
success of guessing the password (Komanduri et al.,
2011). However, passwords that are more
complicated to comply with such policies accordingly
have lower usability (AlFayyadh, Thorsheim, Jøsang,
and Klevjer, 2012). Such decrease in usability implies
that employees struggle to remember passwords and
therefore tend to write them down, which in turn
poses a threat to InfoSec.
However, measuring InfoSec including the
selection of metrics is perceived as challenging and
far from obvious (Houngbo and Hounsou, 2015).
Research has acknowledged a need for measurable
InfoSec by design (e.g. Cohen, 2011; Stolfo et al.,
2011) and argued that proper measurements, for
example regarding human factors, are necessary to
improve decision making (Zalewski, 2014).
2.2 Information in Business Processes
Several key organisational indicators depend on
information that is generated alongside business
processes, such as supply chains. Examples of such
key indicators are the productivity of industrial
manufacturing or the innovation of new services. In
such contexts, people depend on proper information
to proceed, which also affects the efficiency of an
organisation (Badenhorst, Maurer, and Brevis-
Landsberg, 2013). To achieve an appropriate
information flow, several tools have been developed
to visualise the flows of information and material
within and between organisations. A simple tool for
mapping value streams can help to identify waste
within processes, which can facilitate mitigation and
heightened efficiency (Garza-Reyes, Torres Romero,
Govindan, Cherrafi, and Ramanathan, 2018).
The BPMN, which is an ISO standard, is another
tool for modelling a business process and its activities
(ISO 19510:2013; Geiger, Harrer, Lenhard, and
Wirtz, 2018). Previous research has demonstrated the
usefulness of BPMN to include considerations
regarding InfoSec in business process models. Such
studies have, for example, addressed the integration
of the General Data Protection Regulation (Bartolini,
Calabro and Marchetti, 2019) or the integrated quality
and InfoSec management in small and medium-sized
enterprises (Große, 2016). The BPMN not only
assists in the identification of human interaction with
processed information but also indicates the form of
the processed information. The interaction with
information during a business process can occur
manually by a human operator or automatically
through a technical information system. The BPMN
provides several categories of elements that yield a
detailed representation of the information processing
alongside an organisational process.
2.3 Data Envelopment Analysis
Data envelopment analysis was first developed by
Charnes, Cooper and Rhodes (CCR) (1978). This
analysis enables analysts to calculate the efficiency of
an output from non-parametric inputs, such as
resources. Figure1 illustrates such analysis, which
supports organisations to evaluate their process
efficiency in order to find weaknesses and strengths
in processes, which can indicate potential for further
development in a competitive environment (Zhu,
Figure 1: Data envelopment analysis.
In DEA, a business process is called a decision-
making unit (DMU), each of which has inputs and
outputs (Zhu, 2014). An ideal DMU (IDMU)
constitutes the perfect DMU that uses the lowest input
to provide the maximum output. Such IDMU is the
most efficient option compared to other DMUs but
often exists solely as a virtual representation (Wang
and Luo, 2006).
The efficiency measure is calculated from the
weighted sum of inputs and outputs. The weights are
assigned to maximise the efficiency score. There are
different models within DEA, such as the classic CCR
model or the Assurance Region I (ARI) model. The
CCR model assumes that inputs and outputs are based
on a constant return to scale. The efficiency measure
emerges from the relationship between inputs and
outputs. One problem with the CCR model is that it
allows weights equal to zero; consequently, important
inputs or outputs can be neglected (Mecit and Alp,
2013). In contrast, the ARI model can use weight
restrictions to mitigate this problem. The ARI model
maximises efficiency scores through the sum for the
output weights multiplied by the output values.
Whereas the former model views inputs as resources
that are required to perform a process and outputs as
the result, the latter DEA model is used to evaluate
the relative efficiency between different DMUs in
cases of multiple inputs (Mecit and Alp, 2013).
Therefore, this particular DEA model appears to be
appropriate to provide an efficiency measure for
InfoSec in business processes.
2.4 Previous Research
Data envelopment analysis is a popular tool in
management analysis to evaluate efficiency and
performance. It is normally used to evaluate DMUs
that represent businesses or operations in, for
instance, mass productions or logistics (Arunyanart,
Ohmori and Yoshimoto, 2015; da Silva, Marins,
Tamura and Dias, 2017; Zheng and Park, 2016). Like
DEA, InfoSec that includes human factors is a
thoroughly researched area (e.g. Houngbo and
Hounsou, 2015; Lundgren and Möller, 2019; Nyman
and Große, 2019; Zalewski, 2014). In the area
of business processes, research has focussed on the
development of models for InfoSec risk analyses (e.g.
Hariyanti et al, 2018). For example, InfoSec
requirements are used to indicate vulnerabilities in
business processes (Taubenberger et al., 2013).
Taubenberger and Jürjens (2008) have proposed a
method for identifying InfoSec risk events within
business processes. However, there is a lack of
methods for comparison between process settings,
which can improve business process development to
include a certain level of InfoSec. Moreover, studies
have not yet investigated how DEA can provide a tool
for evaluating InfoSec among business processes.
Thus, this paper aims to address this gap.
This paper provides a model that can assist with
benchmarking InfoSec in business processes.
First, this study presents a mathematical model
that is based on DEA. The development of the DEA
model departed from the preceding literature review
and analyses of business process models using BPMN
(see Figure 2 for an example of a business process
model). Factors in the processes that particularly
relate to human interaction with information, and can
Efficiency measure of the output
thus affect InfoSec, have been included in the model.
Such factors appear as inputs in the DEA. Departing
from the review of human factors in literature (see
Section 2) and various business process models (for
example, see Figure 2), this study restricts the DEA
model to the following inputs, which are considered
to affect confidentiality, integrity and availability.
Data storage and access
Automatic and manual processes
Change in information form
Figure 2: Example business model using BPMN.
These inputs can be evaluated for the degree to
which they are satisfied. Even though such inputs can
be equally fulfilled, they can have different impacts
on the InfoSec of the process. For instance, passwords
can vary in strength, or organisations might apply
specific requirements for password strength in
different processes. Furthermore, the classification of
information in processes can vary from highly
confidential to public. Hence, each input in the DEA
model must reflect specific considerations about
these aspects, as they change the efficiency according
to the InfoSec of a particular process. One way to
handle such variation is to weight the inputs.
Second, an example implementation of this model
demonstrates its usability. A comparison of three
processes – one IDMU and two fictive DMUs –
illustrates the evaluation of InfoSec in business
processes from a human factor perspective. Whereas
the IDMU mirrors the ideal level of InfoSec, DMU1
and DMU2 exemplify possible implementations.
To illustrate the usage of the proposed model for
evaluating business process settings, all values for
DMU1 and DMU2 were randomly chosen in Excel
by the function RANDBETWEEN. This function
returns a random integer number in an interval, which
was predefined to exemplify the method(see4.1).
The general scenario in this study has been set as
Maximal 12 people who have access,
Maximal 30 manual processing of data,
Twenty data transfers during which
information can change its form,
Five events where passwords could be required
Whereas the IDMU reflects the perfect process,
which is defined by the predefined inputs that
matches the efficiency score of 1.0, DMU1 and
DMU2 provide a possible set of variables that could
relate to a business process in any organisation.
4.1 The DEA Model
This section details the DEA model that this study
applies to assess InfoSec in business processes. The
resulting efficiency score can be used to not only
measure InfoSec but also benchmark business
processes within and among organisations.
The model seeks the maximum efficiency through
the sum of the output weights multiplied by the output
values (see Equation1).
: efficiency,
: weight to the output
: weight to the input
: upper boundaries for the weights
: lower boundaries for the weights
Equations2to5 specify the constraints of the
DEA model. The sum of the weighted inputs must be
equal toone, and the difference between the sums of
the weighted outputs and inputs must be greater than
or equal tozero, according to Equations2and 3,
respectively. Equations4 and 5 set the boundaries for
the weight restrictions (Arunyanart et al., 2015; da
Silva et al., 2017; Lertworasirikul, Fang, Nuttle and
Joines, 2003; Opricović and Tzeng, 2008; Seiford and
Zhu, 1999; Zheng and Park, 2016).
In the case that some inputs are negative, and
others are positive, the negative ones must be pre-
processed to fit the model. To this end, the inverse is
calculated with Equation6. Moreover, it can be
assumed that total InfoSec can hardly be achieved,
and it probably cannot be lower than zero. Therefore,
input values should be normalised within an interval
that appropriately reflects these considerations.
Therefore, Equation7 displays a determined interval.
This study defines the intervall between 0.1 and0.9,
which adopts the previous reflections and leaves
room for InfoSec developments in both directions.
4.2 InfoSec Efficiency in Processes
This section presents an example implementation of
the DEA model to demonstrate its usability for
measuring InfoSec efficiency in business processes.
Three processes – one IDMU and two fictive DMUs
– exemplify evaluation of InfoSec that involves
human factors. The following example primarily aims
to explain the principles of the proposed model and
thereby to encourage a discussion of this measure.
The inputs of the IDMU departed from the general
scenario, and their weights emerged from the brief
review of recommendations for good InfoSec in
literature (see e.g. Gonzalez and Sawicka, 2002;
Nyman and Große, 2019; Venegas, 2007). As
mentioned, the values for DMU1 and DMU2 were
randomly chosen, to exemplify a possible scenario.
Table1 displays the values for the three processes.
Table 1: Input values for the DMUs.
Number of people who have
access to processed
10of12 12of12 5of12
Manual processing(MP) 23of30 8of30 5of30
Changes of information
10of20 7of20 5of20
Password required(PW) 3of5 2of5 5of5
The minimum for employee access (EA) is set to
allow five persons to have access to the information
within the business process. The minimum times for
manual information processing (MP) was also set to
five during the process. The general scenario transfers
information 20 times; thus, the form of information
can change. Information sometimes needs change,
such as when information appears first within an e-
mail and must be transferred into an enterprise
resource planning system. Hence, the minimum of
five changes with respect to the form of information
(IC) is set to be optimal. In contrast, a maximum of
five process events in which passwords (PW) can be
required has been determined as optimal in the
As the description of the inputs reveals, the first
three negatively impact InfoSec, while the latter has
a positive effect. Therefore, the inverses of the former
three inputs must be calculated, which return the
effects that support the maximisation model
regarding InfoSec. Table2 presents the processed
input values for the DEA model.
Table 2: Input values for DMUs after inverse calculation.
EA 16,66% 0% 58,33%
MP 23,33% 73,33% 83,33%
IC 50% 65% 75%
PW 60% 40% 100%
In the final step of the DEA model, the values are
normalised to enable the model to return an efficiency
measure, which can be used to evaluate InfoSec with
regard to human factors in business processes.
Table3 presents the final input values for
calculating the InfoSec efficiency measure. The
values are normalised with Equation7.
Table 3: Input values for the DMUs after normalisation.
EA 0,76667 0,9 0,4333
MP 0,71333 0,3133 0,2333
IC 0,5 0,38 0,3
PW 0,42 0,58 0,1
The example in this study applies the following
weight restriction: no input weight can be more than
double another input weight.
Table 4 displays the results from the
implementation of the proposed DEA model on three
variants of a fictive business process. The displayed
efficiency scores indicate that the IDMU is
approximately twice as efficient as DMU1 and
Table 4: Efficiency scores for InfoSec in the DMUs.
DMU EfficiencyaccordingtoInfoSec
IDMU 1.000
DMU1 0.491
DMU2 0.558
Since DMU2 yields a higher efficiency score, this
process can be considered to incorporate superior
InfoSec. In particular, the process involves a lower
number of both manual processing of information and
changes of its form. The differences in the inputs
regarding password implementation and employee
access to the information within the processes were
relatively small between DMU1 and DMU2.
Therefore, even though DMU1 slightly
outperformed DMU2 in these inputs, this small
advantage could not regain the losses of efficiency
that relate to the other two. Both DMUs obtained a
noticeably lower efficiency compared to the ideal
process, which illustrates the importance of
enhancing each aspect that affects InfoSec in business
processes that relate to both technical and human
5.1 Treatment of the Model
The proposed model is a tool for evaluating InfoSec
in business processes that include information flows
and interaction between employees and the processed
information. However, it is important to understand
that the efficiency measure in this model indicates
how one DMU compares to the others that the model
includes. Thus, the scores in Table4 reflect the
relative performance of the processes regarding the
efficiency of InfoSec. For example, the IDMU yields
an efficiency score of 1.0 according to InfoSec. This
score suggests that the IDMU is the ideal process
compared to the others. In other process settings, this
IDMU may perform with less success and yield other
scores. Therefore, the efficiency scores of this model
are not easily transferable; instead, all processes must
be included in the model to compare their efficiency.
Moreover, it is advisable to notice that InfoSec
can hardly be absolute. The proposed model seeks to
account for this aspect through normalisation of the
input values into a predefined interval. For the scope
of this study, the DEA provides a proper method
because it facilitates an individual assessment of each
input. In addition, the DEA model allows for the
inclusion of a larger number of inputs beyond the four
in the example,which can expand the implementation.
5.2 Critical Discussion of the Approach
Although the proposed model provides an appealing
method to assess InfoSec that interrelates to human
interaction with information in business processes,
there are some concerns with the current state of the
approach, which we intend to address in future work.
First, the demonstration of the method in this
study includes four inputs in two fictive processes.
Hence, a further improvement of the proposed model
must include a larger number of factors that can affect
InfoSec, particularly with regard to human interaction
with information. In addition, an examination of a
larger number of business process models and real
implementations could be used to improve the
comprehensiveness and validity of the method.
Second, the BPMN is viewed as tool to support
InfoSec assessments because it enables the
visualisation of information processing and the
inclusion of privacy requirements in business process
models (Bartolini, Calabro and Marchetti, 2019). In
this study, BPMN has been a useful tool to identify
events that can involve human interaction with
information. Depending on the granularity of such
business process models, they can facilitate InfoSec
risk analysis (Hariyanti et al, 2018; Taubenberger et
al., 2013; Taubenberger and Jürjens, 2008). However,
further resarch is needed to substantiate a systematic
transfer of identified events into the DEA model as
well as the inclusion of privacy aspects in the method.
Third, associated with the previous concern, the
evaluation of the proposed model in this study applies
a general scenario and randomly generated inputs to
exemplify two processes. Further developments need
to include real examples of business process settings
for proper method evaluation and improvement. As
indicated, regular process and risk assessment could
enhance the method, for example to determine the
upper and lower boundaries in the DEA model with
respect to the desired level of InfoSec in a particular
Although the proposed DEA model provides a
method to benchmark InfoSec in business processes,
the inputs that substantiate the model must be subject
to careful in-depth assessment and monitoring in
order to adopt the method to particular settings.
Therefore, further research could study appropriate
inputs and methods to attribute weights and
boundaries, which also could address benchmarking
and comparability between different businesses.
5.3 Implications for the InfoSec Field
In practice, a detailed modelling of selected business
processes should precede any implementation of the
proposed DEA model. The initial investigation for
this study as well as the previous discussions
recommend the usage of BPMN for this task because
it provides elements to model the interrelations, flows
and interactions during business processes as well as
the interrelated InfoSec requirements (Bartolini,
Calabro and Marchetti, 2019).
A comprehensive business process model
facilitates an analysis of weaknesses and strengths
regarding InfoSec as previous research has
encouraged (Hariyanti et al, 2018; Taubenberger et
al., 2013; Taubenberger and Jürjens, 2008). Such
analysis can reveal areas for improvement and risk
reduction. In departing from these areas, an
implementation of the DEA model in practice can
focus on several human aspects of InfoSec even
besides those that this study has applied (e.g.
Houngbo and Hounsou, 2015; Lundgren and Möller,
2019; Nyman and Große, 2019; Zalewski,
2014). All aspects that can be measured can fit in the
DEA model as either input or output. Depending on a
particular organisation and its processes, various
inputs can be considered and selected for closer
evaluation, whereas other organisations may value
similar inputs in a unique way.
However, each input must be carefully defined for
both types of processes – the ideal one and those that
are subject to the evaluation. To improve such
definition, each input should be evaluated from an
InfoSec perspective. One option is to multiply an
input value by a factor that reflects the potential of
this particular input to affect the InfoSec in this
business process. All input values ideally derive from
a regular assessment of the business processes. An
implementation of the DEA model can then use
proper values in the calculations. This approach
strengthens the quality of the benchmarking with the
aid of the InfoSec efficiency measure.
This study suggests that future research should
include a larger variety of both technical and human
aspects of InfoSec in the DEA model, especially
regarding issues that relate to the General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR), such as traceability
and privacy. In addition, further research could
investigate how organisations select, assess and value
inputs for the model in order to refine the proposed
method and the resulting InfoSec efficiency measure.
Measuring InfoSec in organisational business
processes is challenging because it involves both
technical and human factors. This study proposes a
novel approach to assess InfoSec among business
processes in organisations. The new method
facilitates the identification of internal threats and
further provides an InfoSec efficiency measure to
compare process models and implementations.
Assessments of InfoSec in organisations commonly
apply techniques and tools that target external threats
or potential attackers. Accordingly, internal threats
are acknowledged but not regularly included. The
suggested approach therefore integrates DEA in
evaluations of business process models during which
human interaction occurs with processed information.
An example application of the proposed approach has
demonstrated its usefulness for measuring InfoSec.
This study thus contributes a tool for comparing
InfoSec among business processes and a desired level
of InfoSec, which also facilitates the assessment of
improvements within business processes. The
proposed DEA model for calculating an InfoSec
efficiency measure for a portfolio of business models
provides a valuable tool to organisational efforts to
enhance InfoSec in business processes, before
implementation as well as during operation.
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