Object-Aware Process Management

Künzle, Vera (2013) Object-Aware Process Management. PhD thesis, University of Ulm.

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Companies increasingly adopt process management systems (PrMS), which offer promising perspectives for a more flexible and efficient process execution. However, for many process-aware application systems (e.g., ERP or CRM systems), the underlying process logic is still hard-coded. As a consequence, these business applications are both complex to design and costly to maintain; i.e., they require long development cycles, and even simple process changes might result in costly code adaptions and high efforts for testing.

One reason for this situation stems from the fact that contemporary PrMS were primarily designed for the support of highly structured, repetitive business processes. By contrast, many processes found in practice are rather unstructured or semi-structured, i.e., they are knowledge-intensive and driven by user decisions. In addition, the business functions to be integrated with these processes usually cannot be straight-jacketed into activities. For all these reasons, the activity-centered paradigm of contemporary PrMS is by far too inflexible for realizing
more advanced business applications. This deficiency mainly stems from the unsatisfactory integration of processes and data in existing PrMS. Despite emerging approaches, which target at a tighter integration of process and data, a unified and comprehensive understanding of the relationships between them is still missing.

This thesis first analyzes real processes not adequately supported by existing PrMS and elaborates their characteristic properties. As a major insight it became clear that in many application scenarios comprehensive process support requires both object- and process-awareness. This means, business processes and business data must not be treated independently from each other. Instead, business processes must comply with the underlying data structure. In particular, in accordance to the given data model comprising object types and object relations, the
modeling, execution and monitoring of processes must be based on two levels of granularity: object behavior and object interactions. Further, the individual processes, coordinating the behavior of single object instances, must be coordinated with the ones of related object instances.
Opposed to these well-defined process support granularity levels, activities must be executable at different levels of granularity. In particular, while a particular user may only want to work on a particular object instance, another one may want to process a number of related object instances in one go. Furthermore, process execution must be accomplished in a data-driven manner; i.e., the progress of a process instance mainly depends on available business objects and on value changes of their attributes. Finally, authorized users must be able to access and manage process-related objects at any point in time.

Based on the properties identified, this thesis elaborates major requirements for enabling object-awareness in processes management systems. The major contribution of the thesis is the PHILharmonicFlows framework, which addresses these requirements and enables object-aware process management in a comprehensive manner. In particular, the framework not only provides a new process modeling approach, but also establishes a well-defined operational
semantics enabling the automatic and dynamic generation of end-user components for object- and process-aware business applications at run-time (e.g., overview tables and user forms).

Overall, a holistic framework integrating data, processes and users offers promising perspectives in order to overcome the numerous limitations of contemporary PrMS. This thesis considers research in this area as fundamental maturation of process management technology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Object-aware process, data-driven process, data and process, PHILharmonicFlows, micro process, macro process
Subjects: DBIS Research > Master and Phd-Thesis
Depositing User: Prof. Dr. Manfred Reichert
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2013 22:34
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2013 22:34
URI: http://dbis.eprints.uni-ulm.de/id/eprint/1010

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