PHILharmonic Flows - Process, Humans and Information Linkage for harmonic Business Flows

Project Description

Our basic mission in this project is to develop concepts, methods and tools for realizing object- and process-aware application systems. In particular, we aim at a flexible integration of business data, business processes, and thus want to overcome limitations known from activity-centered Workflow Management Systems.

A general goal of business information systems is to provide advanced functionality for managing business information and business processes in an integrated way. Existing information systems provide a data-oriented view which enables users to access and manage relevant business data at any point in time. In addition, many systems additionally offer a process-oriented view within which upcoming tasks are assigned to responsible actors at the right point in time.

On the one hand business information should include information about the corresponding processes. On the other hand, adequate context information should be offered during process execution. Any business software therefore should provide an integrated view on business information as well as on business processes! Interestingly, many application systems already enable an integrated access to business data and to business processes (e.g., CRM or ERP systems). However, in these systems, process logic is often hard-coded. Thus, even simple process changes require costly code adaptations and high efforts for testing. As a consequence long development cycles and high maintenance costs result.

To cope with this unsatisfactory situation, Workflow Management Systems (WfMS) have been introduced. Using WfMS, it becomes possible to define processes independent from specific applications. However, a comprehensive data-oriented view is still missing in contemporary workflow technology resulting in many limitations and costly workarounds.

In the PHILharmonic Flows project, we have analyzed numerous processes as supported by existing application systems and we have evaluated their relation to application data. We have observed that contemporary WfMS have not achieved the technological maturity yet for adequately supporting the data-driven processes (see Fig. 1) within these application systems.

Fig.1: Data and Process Structure within Application Systems
Fig.1: Data and Process Structure within Application Systems

We have elaborated the key challenges for an advanced process management technology which we denote as Object-aware Process Management (see Fig. 2). The underlying idea is to provide a generic component which enables similar features as can be found in hard-coded application systems on the one hand and which benefits from the advantages known from WfMS on the other hand.

Fig. 2: Challenges for Object-aware Process Management Systems
Fig. 2: Challenges for Object-aware Process Management Systems

Challenge 1:
Providing an integrated view on data and on the corresponding processes.

Challenge 2:
Defining a uniform granularity for the harmonized modelling of processes which considers the underlying data structure.

Challenge 3:
Synchronizing concurrently executed process instances in accordance with their semantic relations.

Challenge 4:
Enabling data-based process modelling and data-driven process execution.

Challenge 5:
Ensuring a flexible granularity of activities and enabling dynamic coordination of optional and mandatory activities.

Additionally we address research questions which emerge from the involvement of users in Object-aware Process Management Systems.

Challenge 6:
Enabling authorizations based on individual object instances.

Challenge 7:
Ensuring compliance between permissions for accessing data and for executing process activities.

Challenge 8:
Considering the relations between users and object instances.

Challenge 9:
Differentiating between optional and mandatory permissions.

By tackling these challenges, we want to achieve the following benefits:

  • A clear and intuitive methodology for the harmonized modelling of processes which leads to comparable process models.
  • A generic implementation of basic application functions like forms, overview lists, and so forth.
  • A separation between business rules and process logic.
  • A knowledge-driven process execution for better assisting users.
  • Compliance between the state of data objects and the progress of the process.
  • Controlled and synchronized evolution of data and processes.
  • Controllable integration of context information; i.e., avoidance of the "context tunnelling" problem.
  • The generation of different perspectives on one and the same process considering the context of the user.

Our overall vision is to develop a framework for an Object-aware Process Management System which tackles the above mentioned challenges. In the course of the project we want to give detailed insights into the different components of the framework as well as their complex interdependencies.

Altogether, PHILharmonic Flows will provide an important contribution towards the realization of more flexible process management technology in which daily work can be done in a more natural way.

Project Details

Project Team

Opens internal link in current windowProf. Dr. Manfred Reichert
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems
Opens internal link in current windowVera Künzle
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems
Opens internal link in current windowCarolina Chiao
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems
Opens internal link in current windowKevin Andrews
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems
Opens internal link in current windowSebastian Steinau
Persis GmbH

Project Partners

University of Ulm, Institute of Databases and Information Systems

Persis GmbH, High-Level Human Resource Software

Funding

The project is partially funded by Persis GmbH.

Duration

The PHILharmonic Flows project has been running since 2009.

Publications

Master & Bachelor Theses