Adaptive Development and Management of Business Collaborations

Adaptive Development and Management of Business Collaborations

Bart Orriens (Tilburg University, The Netherlands) and Jian Yang (Macquarie University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-669-3.ch011
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The IT infrastructure of organizations must be agile and dynamic in order to respond quickly to the new business models and requirements. This has led to an increasing demand from individual organizations for corporate business services that can easily adapt to changes through business collaboration. Popular solutions for business collaboration development and management do not properly cater for the specification of new collaborations nor do they facilitate the management of existing ones. In this book chapter we present a rule based approach for collaboration development and management. The proposed approach allows organizations to capture the requirements for their business collaborations in an explicit, manageable and uniform manner in the form of rules. These rules can then be used to drive and constrain the development and management of needed business collaboration models. Practical feasibility of the approach is demonstrated in the context of a complex insurance claim scenario using prototype tooling.
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Today’s business climate demands a high rate of change with which Information Technology (IT)-minded organizations are required to cope. Organizations are facing rapidly changing market conditions, new competitive pressures, new regulatory fiats that demand compliance, and new competitive threats. All of these situations drive the need for the IT infrastructure of an organization to respond quickly in support of new business models and requirements. Organizations must therefore be agile and dynamic, for only in this way can they gear towards the world of fast occurring, hopefully automated, and complex electronic transactions. This has led to an increasing demand from individual organizations for corporate business services that can easily adapt to changes.

Unfortunately, current business collaboration solutions are too narrowly focused and are not capable of addressing the requirements of adaptive business collaboration development and management. Firstly, there is a lack of a coherent and cohesive vision on business collaboration development. Consequently there is no solution that is capable of designing collaborations where all different types of requirements (and dependencies between them) can be specified. Secondly, as a result these solutions for business collaboration design are unlikely to succeed as they can only offer limited support for adaptive development and management. As such, it is a costly and time-consuming effort to determine whether the developed business collaborations are compliant with the requirements as well as consistent with individual business processes. This is particularly the case when the impact of changes on the compliance and overall consistency of existing business collaborations need to be assessed.

In this book chapter we argue that the adaptive development and management of business collaborations can be achieved using a rule based approach. The idea behind the proposed approach is to make the business collaboration requirements of organizations explicit in the form of rules, and then use these rules to drive and constrain the development and management of business collaboration designs. As a result, design becomes a runtime activity where the business collaboration shapes itself to its specific circumstances by applying the appropriate rules. As such, business collaborations can be generated dynamically rather than statically pre-defined. This makes business collaboration adaptive in two ways: a) design of business collaborations is governed by explicitly defined and thus manageable rules, which can be further chained and used for making complex decisions and diagnoses; and b) business collaborations can be readily changed during design time and runtime by adding new rules and/or re-defining existing rules. Simultaneously, rules can also be applied to ensure that the generated business collaborations are and remain consistent.

Specifically, the chapter addresses the following questions: 1) what is the context in which business collaborations take place? 2) how can we represent the context of business collaborations in terms of formal models; 3) how do we make the development and management of business collaboration models adaptive; and 4) how can we ensure that business collaborations models are and remain conform to the requirements as well as consistent among themselves? In order to provide answers to these questions the chapter is structured as displayed in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Chapter Road Map

As indicated in the road-map the chapter consists of eight sections. In the first part of the chapter the emphasis is on acquiring a clear picture with regard to the means that organisations currently lack for cohesive and agile business collaboration. This is twofold in nature: following the end of this introduction we start by investigating the exact requirements for business collaboration development and management. Subsequently, we survey the existing work in this area and contrast it with the identified requirements. On the one hand this will give us insight into what has already been done and how this positively contributes to facilitating business collaboration development and management. On the other hand it will allow us to identify the shortcomings of existing business collaboration solutions with regard to compliance, agility and consistency.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Abstract Business Processes: partially specified processes that are not intended to be executed. An Abstract Process may hide some of the required concrete operational details. Abstract Processes serve a descriptive role, with more than one possible use case, including observable behavior and process template.

Business Rule: the operations, definitions and constraints that apply to an organization in achieving its goals.

Business Process Management: a method of efficiently aligning an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration with technology.

Collaborative Business Process: an integrated business process which consists of relevant business processes across participating organizations.

Private Business Processes: those internal to a specific organization and are the type of processes that have been generally called workflow or BPM processes.

Business Process Modeling: the activity of representing processes of an enterprise, so that the current process may be analyzed and improved. BPM is typically performed by business analysts and managers who are seeking to improve process efficiency and quality.

Business Collaboration Model: the elements of the collaborative process and the relationships between these elements.

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