Viewpoints on Business Process Models

Viewpoints on Business Process Models

Giorgio Bruno (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch068

Abstract

Over the past few years a number of viewpoints have influenced the design of notations for business processes. They emphasize the different elements (tasks, business entities and roles) that compose business process models; for this reason, they are referred to as activity-centric, data-centric, and role-centric viewpoints. The activity-centric viewpoint focuses on the orchestration of operational activities, which encompass human tasks and automatic ones. On the contrary, the data-centric viewpoint stresses the identification of the key business entities and their life cycles consisting of states and transitions. In the role-centric viewpoint, a process model is made up of several “role” models; each role model provides a restricted view of the process limited to the behavior of the role under consideration. This article illustrates how the above-mentioned viewpoints can be extracted from a global model, with the help of an example concerning the submission of papers to conferences.
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Introduction

A business process is a standard way of organizing work in a business context (Rummler & Brache, 1995). Business processes cross functional boundaries in that they involve members of different departments; common examples are developing a new product, ordering goods from a supplier, and processing and paying an insurance claim (Davenport & Short, 1990).

Over the past few years a number of viewpoints have influenced the design of notations for business processes (Bruno, 2011). They emphasize the different elements (tasks, business entities and roles) that compose business process models; for this reason, they are referred to as activity-centric, data-centric, and role-centric viewpoints.

Probably, the most popular viewpoint is the activity-centric one, whose standard representative is BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) (OMG-BPMN, 2011). It considers business processes essentially as orchestrators of operational activities, which encompass human tasks and automatic ones. Human tasks are carried out by participants by means of graphical interfaces, while automatic tasks are implemented with services. Orchestration is achieved through control flow elements, which enforce rigid precedence relationships: in this context, a business process is like a master distributing the work among the participants in the process.

When processes are meant to operate on the entities which form an information system, whose purpose is to enable human participants and/or machines to perform work using information (Alter 2008), focusing on the identification and the ordering of the activities may not be the right way to start with an investigation of the intended business. The alternative solution proposed by data-centric approaches is to begin with the identification of the key business entities and their life cycles consisting of states and transitions (Hull, 2008). The term artifact has been introduced to designate a concrete and self-describing chunk of information used to run a business (Nigam & Caswell, 2003). The artifact types come from experience and are associated with business goals; the analysis of how to progress towards the goals determines the definition of their life cycles (Battacharya et al., 2005). The major benefit is the right level of granularity, which facilitates communication among the stakeholders and helps them focus on the primary purposes of the business (Chao et al., 2009).

An extension to data-centric approaches is the case-centric viewpoint, whose major purpose is to support knowledge workers in applications requiring the flexibility that cannot be provided by the approaches based on a rigid control flow (Marin, Hull and Vaculín, 2013). Flexibility implies that the participants in the process are no longer considered as mere resources needed to carry out tasks that are not automatable, but they can be involved in a number of choices, such as the selection of the input entities when a task needs more than one and the selection of the task with which to handle the input entities when two or more tasks are admissible (Bruno, 2014).

Human tasks are associated with roles, which represent the participants involved in the processes. However, if the process model shows the activity flows of the roles in a single view, it may be difficult for a participant to understand what their actual involvement is. The participation of users in processes is made more evident if the process is decomposed into several “role” components: this is the essence of the role-centric viewpoint (Ould, 2005).

This article illustrates how the above-mentioned viewpoints can be extracted from a global model, which is based on a notation named iBPN (integrated Business Process Notation). This notation is inspired by high-level Petri nets so as to take advantage of their ability of being state and action oriented at the same time (Jensen, 1997). An example concerning the submission of papers to conferences will be used to illustrate the construction of the global process model and then the extraction of the data-centric viewpoint and the role-centric one.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Data Flow: The information items used and produced by the tasks.

Case Management: A flexible approach for taking care of a subject in order to achieve a desired outcome. The actions cannot be anticipated in a predefined sequence of tasks: the case workers may perform the run-time planning of the tasks to be carried out.

Performer: For a given task, the user in charge of performing it.

Task: A unit of work in the system.

Task Selection: A situation in which a performer may operate on the same input data with a number of alternative tasks.

Data Selection: A situation in which a performer has to select the input data before performing the task.

Business Process: A standard way of organizing work in a business context. It consists of a number of process actions to be performed by a process engine.

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