proCollab - Process-aware Support for Collaborative Knowledge Workers

Motivation

Knowledge-intensive processes (KiPs) have become the centerpiece for creating value in highly developed countries. Well-known KiPs are, e.g., automotive engineering projects, patient treatment cases, software development projects, research projects, or police investigations.

However, the proper operational support of KiPs constitutes a big challenge. As KiPs are emergent and unpredictable by nature, they are driven by knowledge workers utilizing their skills, experiences and expertise at run time. KiPs cannot be pre-specified like routine processes a priori and traditional process-oriented approaches just fail.  In particular, for coordinating and synchronizing their work, knowledge workers rely on task lists, such as to-do lists, task sheets, or checklists.

Though these means are intuitive and prevalent, their current implementations are highly ineffective and error-prone.  In addition, no lifecycle support is provided and media disruptions aggravate task management in the scope of KiPs. As a result, knowledge workers spend much time for inefficient and redundant work as their efforts are not preserved and exploited for optimizing future KiPs.

proCollab in a Nutshell

The proCollab (process-aware Support for Collaborative Knowledge Workers) approach was developed to establish a generic, lightweight and lifecycle-based task management support for KiPs. In this context, the approach is capable to provide customizable coordination support for a wide range of KiPs in the shape of projects, cases or investigations. Further,  all kind of prospective (to-do lists) and retrospective task lists (checklists) are supported to enable better task coordination and synchronization within the knowledge-intensive processes.

Lifecycle-based Task Management Support for Knowledge-intensive Processes
As a foundation, proCollab employs processes, task trees and tasks as its key components. To establish the required lifecycle-based support, knowledge workers may define process, task tree, and task templates in proCollab. These templates enable the definition of best practice for planning and coordination as well as the preservation of existing process knowledge. At run time, knowledge workers may instantiate specified templates or create process, task tree, and task instances from scratch.

proCollab Overview
Figure 1: proCollab Overview

Domain-specific Customizations
To support a wide range of processes and task lists, proCollab allows for the domain-specific customization of its key components: processes, task trees and tasks may be customized using specialization types to feature additional properties, required constraints, or custom states. The latter, in particular, are controlled by an advanced state management concept using refinable state models.

Awareness and Synchronization
The awareness of who is doing what is crucial for knowledge workers to effectively plan and conduct work in the scope of KiPs. Providing a web-based, real-time collaboration platform, proCollab allows knowledge workers to continuously update and perceive the required information, while coordinating and synchronizing tasks

Template Configuration
proCollab additionally entails a sophisticated configuration concept to enable the definition of templates being usable in different application scenarios. Template configurations are based on context-aware situations and rules. Consequently, at run time, templates are adjusted and instantiated  taking the current context and knowledge workers’ requirements into account.

Template Evolution
To enable the controlled evolution of templates, proCollab incorporates algorithms to analyze the usage of process and task tree instances. Based on the results, process and task tree templates may be optimized. For example, the frequent removal of a specific task from many task lists may lead to the removal of this task from an existing task tree template.

proCollab Prototype

To prepare emprical studies and to validate feasibility, we developed a sophisticated proof-of-concept prototype. It is realized with Java EE 7 and relies on a multi-layer architecture (cf. Figure 2) based on the Model–View–Controller design pattern. The application logic layer represents the core of the prototype realizing the key services of the proCollab approach and its key components. The RESTful interface enables web and mobile applications to communicate with the services. In particular, this includes the synchronized presentation of the proCollab components across connected clients. Hence, the user interface of the web application (cf. Figure 2) enables knowledge workers to collaboratively manage their projects or cases (i.e., proCollab processes) including task trees in the shape of, e.g., to-do lists and checklists.

To illustrate the proof-of-concept prototype, we prepared a screencast available on vimeo. It is also embedded on the right column of this page.

proCollab Architecture and Screenshot
Figure 2: proCollab Architecture and Screenshot

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 windowNicolas Mundbrod
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems
Opens internal link in current windowJens Kolb
Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems

Project Partners

Ulm University, Institute of Databases and Information Systems

proCollab Prototype Demo

proCollab Tool Demonstration (June 2017) from DBIS, Ulm University on Vimeo.

Poster

Involved Students

Bachelor Theses:

  • Sabrina Geiger
  • Matthias Gerber
  • Bianka Hampp
  • Andreas Köll
  • Daniel Reich
  • Simon Stöferle
  • Norman Thiel
  • Enrico Weigelt
  • Jule Ziegler

Master Projects:

  • Florian Beuter
  • James Diesenbacher
  • Matthias Gerber
  • Michael Lamp
  • André Lang
  • Florian Lutz
  • Ekaterina Molokova
  • Jan Sellner
  • Simon Stöferle

Master & Diploma Theses:

  • Florian Beuter
  • Matthias Gerber
  • David Langer
  • Nicolas Mundbrod
  • Bettina Nowak
  • Christoph Rothermel

Duration

The proCollab project has been running since summer 2012.

Publications

| 2017 | 2015 | 2014 | 2012 |

2017

Mundbrod, Nicolas and Reichert, Manfred (2017) Configurable and Executable Task Structures Supporting Knowledge-intensive Processes. In: 36th International Conference on Conceptual Modelling (ER 2017), Valencia, Spain, November 6-9, 2017, LNCS 10650, Springer, pp. 388-402. file
Mundbrod, Nicolas and Reichert, Manfred (2017) Demonstrating Flexible Support for Knowledge-Intensive Processes with proCollab. In: Proceedings of the BPM Demo Session 2017 (BPMD 2017), co-located with the 15th International Conference on Business Process Management (BPM 2017), Barcelona, September 10-15, 2017, CEUR Workshop Proceedings 1920, CEUR-WS.org. file
Mundbrod, Nicolas and Reichert, Manfred (2017) Flexible Task Management Support for Knowledge-Intensive Processes. In: 21st IEEE Int'l Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference (EDOC 2017), Québec City, Canada, October 10-13, 2017, IEEE, pp. 95-102. file

2015

Mundbrod, Nicolas and Beuter, Florian and Reichert, Manfred (2015) Supporting Knowledge-intensive Processes Through Integrated Task Lifecycle Support. In: Proceedings of the 2015 IEEE 19th International Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference (EDOC 2015), Adelaide, September 23-25, 2015, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 19-28. file
Pryss, Rüdiger and Mundbrod, Nicolas and Langer, David and Reichert, Manfred (2015) Supporting medical ward rounds through mobile task and process management. Information Systems and e-Business Management, 13(1): 107-146, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 10.1007/s10257-014-0244-5. file

2014

Mundbrod, Nicolas and Reichert, Manfred (2014) Process-Aware Task Management Support for Knowledge-Intensive Business Processes: Findings, Challenges, Requirements. In: IEEE 18th Int'l Distributed Object Computing Conference - Workshops and Demonstrations (EDOCW 2014), Ulm, Germany, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 116-125. file

2012

Mundbrod, Nicolas and Kolb, Jens and Reichert, Manfred (2012) Towards a System Support of Collaborative Knowledge Work. In: 1st Int'l Workshop on Adaptive Case Management (ACM'12), BPM'12 Workshops, Tallinn, Estonia, 2 September 2012, LNBIP 132, Springer, pp. 31-42. file

Master & Bachelor Theses

| 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 |

2017

Gerber, Matthias (2017) Design and Implementation of a Dynamic Web-based User Interface for the proCollab System Supporting Knowledge-intensive Business Processes. Master thesis, Ulm University. file

2016

Rothermel, Christoph (2016) Referenz- und Bewertungsmodell für Scrum-Projekte im Automobilbereich unter Beachtung der Anforderungen der funktionalen Sicherheit nach ISO 26262. Master thesis, Ulm University. file

2015

Beuter, Florian (2015) Design and Implementation of Task Management Lifecycle Concepts based on Process Mining. Master thesis, Ulm University. file
Gerber, Matthias (2015) Konzeption und Realisierung fortschrittlicher aufgabenbasierter Koordinationsverfahren in mobilen Anwendungen. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Stöferle, Simon (2015) Systematische Analyse von Vorgehensmodellen zur Unterstützung wissensintensiver Prozesse. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Weigelt, Enrico (2015) Synchronisation und Fehlertoleranz mobiler Clients in einem bestehenden System für kollaboratives Task-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file

2014

Nowak, Bettina (2014) Analyse, Klassifikation und Evaluation der Unterstützung klinischer Prozesse . Diploma thesis, Ulm University. file

2013

Geiger, Sabrina (2013) Konzeption und Entwicklung einer auf Smartphones optimierten mobilen Anwendung für kollaboratives Checklisten-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Hampp, Bianka (2013) Academic Paper Writing - Eine Fallstudie zur Unterstützung kollaborativer Wissensarbeit. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Köll, Andreas (2013) Konzeption und Enwicklung einer auf Tablets optimierten mobilen Anwendung für kollaboratives Checklisten-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Reich, Daniel (2013) Konzeption und Entwicklung eines Cloud-basierten Persistenz-Systems für kollaboratives Checklisten-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Thiel, Norman (2013) Konzeption und Entwicklung einer Web-Applikation für kollaboratives Checklisten-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file
Ziegler, Jule (2013) Konzeption und Entwicklung eines Cloud-basierten Servers für kollaboratives Checklisten-Management. Bachelor thesis, Ulm University. file

2012

Langer, David (2012) MEDo: Mobile Technik und Prozessmanagement zur Optimierung des Aufgabenmanagements im Kontext der klinischen Visite. Diploma thesis, University of Ulm. file
Mundbrod, Nicolas (2012) Business Process Support for Collaborative Knowledge Workers. Master thesis, Ulm University. file