Organizations achieve their goals by executing processes, which can be physical processes to produce goods (e.g., assembling components of a PC), information processes to manage information (e.g., to collect information about facts), or business processes (e.g., to produce goods, to provide services, and to manage information). Final goals are achieved by executing atomic work units (tasks), by coordinating them, by assigning them to executors (agents) that can be human or automatic ones. A workflow management system (WfMS) is a software system that supports the execution of such processes inside organizations. A WfMS requires a formal description, known as schema or process model or workflow, for every process it has to manage: many instances (or cases) of a process can be executed at the same time, sharing the same schema, while each case has its specific data, like patient’s name, insurance claim, and so on.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Exception: An event that may occur during the execution of a business process, and can—if the exception is expected and has suitably been modeled by the workflow designer—force the process to deviate from its normal flow of execution.
Data Model: A formal description of data managed by a business process. In most cases, these data are stored via a Database Management System (DBMS), and are also referenced by an Information System (IS) and, possibly, by a Decision Support Systems (DSS)
Workflow Management System (WFMS): A software systems that helps to execute, automate, and enact business processes described by workflows.
X-PDL: A language, defined and standardized by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) to describe business processes. X-PDL is vendor-independent, and aims at becoming a standard way for exchanging process definitions among WfMSs from different vendors.
Process/Business Process: Any activity executed within an organization, requiring the coordinated execution of simple atomic activities (task) by executing agents. A business process is described by a workflow.
Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC): A nonprofit organization collecting researchers, developers, users, and consultants in the area of business process automation.
Process Model: A formal description of a business process. The definition is performed via a process definition language (PDL), which in most cases is WfMS-dependent.
Organizational Model: A formal description of an organization, including agents and resources. The organizational model is used by a WfMS to assign activities to agents.