Semantic Business Process Management: A Case Study

Semantic Business Process Management: A Case Study

Sebastian Stein (IDS Scheer AG Altenkesseler, Germany), Christian Stamber (IDS Scheer AG Altenkesseler, Germany), Marwane El Kharbili (IDS Scheer AG Altenkesseler, Germany) and Pawel Rubach (Telekomunikacja Polska S.A., Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-804-8.ch011
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The application of semantic technologies promises boosting business process management because semantic integration of business and IT is achieved. To enable the vision of semantic business process management, semantic technologies like ontologies, reasoners, and semantic Web services must be integrated in BPM tools. We extended a professional BPM tool to allow semantic business process modelling using the EPC notation. In addition, we adapted the tool’s EPC to BPEL transformation to preserve the semantic annotations. By introducing a proxy service, we are able to perform Semantic Web service discovery on a standard BPEL engine. We evaluated our approach in an empirical case study, which was replicated 13 times by 17 participants from 8 different organisations. We received valuable feedback, which is interesting for researchers and practitioners trying to bring semantic technologies to end-users with no or only limited background knowledge about semantics.
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Business processes are a core asset of every company. They govern how employees, departments, and resources collaborate to create business value and to adapt to changing market conditions. Today, business processes are often supported or even automated by a combination of IT systems. The IT implementation of business processes is hindered due to the business-IT divide (Smith & Fingar, 2003; Dehnert & van der Aalst, 2004; Koehler, Hauser, Sendal, & Wahler, 2005). Business processes are designed by business experts with no IT knowledge. On the other hand, IT implementation is done by IT experts, who do not have the necessary business knowledge to correctly interpret the business process models. To overcome this business-IT divide it is suggested to use semantic technologies like ontologies, reasoners, and semantic web services (Hepp, Leymann, Domingue, Wahler, & Fensel, 2005).

Even though the use of semantics in business process management (BPM) promises many advantages, an empirical evaluation is still missing. Therefore, we1 first created a semantic business process management (sBPM) prototype to allow using semantics while implementing business processes. Afterwards, we conducted an empirical case study with participants from industry and research to evaluate this prototype.

In this chapter, we report on the technical details of the sBPM prototype as well as on the empirical evaluation. The chapter is structured as follows: First, we1 provide background information by explaining the basic concepts of BPM and sBPM in section 2. Section 3 describes the research design and the research question. The case study is based on a sBPM prototype. The two parts of it are described in section 4 and section 5. Section 6 introduces the different parts of the case study like the real-world business process used, the participants involved, and the interviews conducted. The results of the case study are presented and discussed in section 7. The chapter is concluded with a summary.

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