Using WfMS to Support Unstructured Activities

Using WfMS to Support Unstructured Activities

Hernani Mourao (Polytechnic Institute of Setubal, Portugal) and Pedro Antunes (University of Lisboa & LaSIGE, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-288-6.ch016
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In this chapter the authors propose a solution to handle unexpected exceptions in WfMS. They characterize these events deeply and recognize that some of them require immediate reaction and users can not plan their response in advance. Current approaches that handle unexpected exceptions are categorized by their resilience property and it is identified that supporting unstructured activities becomes critical to react to these events. Their proposed system is able to change its behaviour from supporting structured activities to supporting unstructured activities and back to its original mode. They also describe how the system was implemented and we discuss a concrete scenario where it was tested.
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2. Adjusting The Wfms To Organizations

The work processes carried out by organizations have been identified to belong to a continuum ranging from totally unstructured to completely structured (Sheth et al., 1996). It is interesting to note that the majority of the available organizational information systems tend to fall close to both sides of the spectrum boundaries (Sheth et al., 1996), thus leaving a significant gap in between. Unfortunately, traditional WfMS fall into the highly structured boundary and thus contribute to this gap. WfMS emphasize the execution of work models and thus have a normative engagement (Schmidt, 1997). Closer to the other end of the spectrum limits, Suchman (1987) proposes the notion of maps, which position and guide actors in a space of available actions, providing environmental information necessary to decision making but avoiding the normative trait. Email systems, the newly developed collaborative Web platforms sharing information among users and group support systems are examples of systems that fall close to the unstructured limits of the spectrum. Usually these systems promote interaction and do not have a normative engagement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Exception Handling: Activities carried out by the involved actors to overcome an exceptional situation and to replace the system into a coherent state.

Unstructured Activities: Users performing unrestricted activities eventually guided by and available procedure and rich contextual information. Even though a procedure may be used it does not have an engagement role and users may choose their actions freely.

Structured Activities: When procedures determine user’s actions having a normative engagement.

Unexpected Exceptions: Situations that where not foreseen during systems design. These events usually are not known by the organization when the system is being designed.

WfMS Resilience: The resilience property of a WfMS concerns its ability to maintain a coherent state and continue supporting business processes after being subject to any hazardous situations that affect its execution.

Exceptions in WfMS: Exceptions are situations that the WfMS is not designed to handle. Some of these events could have been foreseen during system design but designers did not include them.

WfMS Flexibility: The ability a WfMS shows to adjust to concrete user demand.

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