This course is based on the book
Business Processes (ISBN: 9780262015387) by Wil van der Aalst and Christian
Stahl. The course was developed by Wil van der Aalst over a period of 20 years.
The book covers about 90% of the course and can be used for self-study. However,
exercises and hands-on modeling using CPN Tools are vital for a good
understanding of the material.
Slides supporting the book/course
Exercises and Solutions
over 100 pages of questions and
over 100 pages of updated questions and
The ultimate goal of any information system is to support processes. The
system itself is not to primary objective. Therefore, Business Information
Systems (BIS) need to be designed and analyzed such that in the end the
processes are conforming to certain rules (e.g., auditing or legal
requirements), response times and flow times are a short as possible, costs are
reduced, and risks are minimized. Therefore, the focus of this course is one the
relation between processes and systems.
Process-aware information systems, such as Workflow Management (WFM) Systems,
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Business Process Management (BPM)
systems, Enterprise Information (EI) systems, Customer Relationship Management
(CRM) systems, and Product Data Management (PDM) systems, are generic
information systems that are configured on the basis of process models. In some
systems, the process models are explicit and can be adapted (e.g., the control
flow in a WFM/BPM system) while in other systems they are implicit (e.g., the
reference models in the context of SAP). In some systems, they are hard-coded
and in other systems truly configurable. However, it is clear that in any
enterprise, business processes and information systems are strongly intertwined.
Therefore, it is important that students understand the relationships between
systems and processes and are able to model complex systems involving processes,
humans, and organizations.
The language used in this course is high-level Petri nets as supported by CPN
Tools. CPN Tools is used as a tool to test ideas, to do simple simulations and
other forms of analysis, and to construct basic prototypes. The course focuses
on transforming informal descriptions of business processes and systems into
high-level Petri nets. Given an informal description, students should be able to
map the control-flow perspective onto high-level Petri nets. Also mappings of
the other perspectives (e.g., data, resources, organization, and applications)
onto abstractions understandable by computer programs are considered. In
addition, students are exposed to industrial languages such as UML AD, UML SC,
UML SD, UML CD, EPCs, and BPMN.
All of this is put into the context of characteristic classes of information
systems (e.g., WFM/BPM systems and ERP systems).
The focus of this course on Business Information Systems (BIS) is on the
modeling, analysis, and enactment of business processes and the information
systems to support these processes. After taking the course, students are able
• Explain the relation between processes and information systems.
• Describe the role of process-aware information systems and process thinking.
• Model complex (business) processes and systems in terms of Petri nets.
• Apply not only classical Petri nets but also Petri nets extended with time,
data, and hierarchy.
• Analyze processes (and the corresponding systems) using state-space analysis
• Have a good understanding of simulation and process mining.
• Understand the role of models in the design, configuration, enactment, and
• Translate informal requirements into explicit models.
• Suggest redesigns for an existing process.
• Describe the functionality and architecture of characteristic classes of
information systems (e.g., workflow management and ERP systems).
• Communicate process designs to both end-users and IT specialists.
CPN Tools plays a prominent role in this course. It is mandatory to use CPN
Tools for this course (for making assignments and for better understanding the
concepts). For the instructions, it is assumed that people will bring their
laptops (with a fully charged battery). Download the software via
http://cpntools.org/ (Version 3.5.7 or
later). Make sure to download the proper version of CPN Tools. Also see
http://cpntools.org/ for more information on
CPN Tools and
http://www.standardml.org/Basis/ for more information on the inscription
language ML. Moreover, the following additional tools are used:
• ProM 6.2 will be used for various types of analysis (see
• Next to CPN Tools, tools like Oryx, WoPeD, and Yasper can be used to draw
process models and export them as PNML files which can be analyzed using ProM.
Examples files (e.g., CPN models) related to
exercises and lectures can be found here:
The material used for this course consists of a book, several papers, sheets,
The book “Modeling Business Processes” (ISBN: 9780262015387) by Wil van der
Aalst and Christian Stahl covers about 90% of the course and can be used for
self-study. However, please note that it is essential to be able to apply the
techniques discussed. Hence, the lectures and instructions are vital for a good
understanding of the material. Many students underestimate the course by just
looking at precooked small examples (there is a huge difference between
understanding a solution and creating one!). Information about the book can be
found on http://cpntools.org/books/modeling and the book can be ordered via the
publisher's Web page or via Amazon, BOL, selexyz, etc.
Next to the book, there are slides and there is an exercise bundle (see above).
For active participation in the course it is essential to start with the
exercises from the first week and make them all, without any exceptions.
Using This Material
We encourage lecturers, practitioners, and researchers to use the book
“Modeling Business Processes” and the material provide above. When using it for
other courses, presentations, and publications please clearly refer to the
original source and credit the author(s). In case of doubt, contact
Wil van der Aalst.
The course is the result of two decades of experiences in teaching business
process modeling for different audiences ranging from Bachelor and Master
students to system designers and business consultants. Already in the early
nineties, I developed a course with the title "Specification of Information
Systems" (SIS). This aimed to teach Bachelor students at Eindhoven University of
Technology the basics of information systems modeling. This course consisted of
two main parts: one part on object modeling and one part on process modeling.
Over time the course started to focus more and more on process modeling. This
was motivated by the increasing emphasis on business processes in industry and
the availability of more and more process-aware information systems. Today, it
is widely acknowledged that process-orientation is important to realize
enterprise information systems that are aligned with the actual business
processes. However, two decades ago, database technology and information
modeling served as the predominant starting point for IT systems development.
Right from the start, Petri nets were used to provide a system-independent
foundation for business process modeling in the SIS course. While industry
standards come and go, this foundation proved to be remarkably stable. This fits
well with the goal of this book: "To provide a comprehensive and foundational
approach to business process modeling that is timeless but highly relevant for
anyone involved in the development or analysis of enterprise information
Initially, ExSpect was used as a system to support the different courses given
by me. Later, ExSpect was replaced by CPN Tools. The reason was that colored
Petri nets had become the de facto standard for practical modeling based on
Petri nets. Moreover, CPN Tools provided didactic advantages because of the
direct manipulation of the model, incremental checking, and interactive
simulation. As a result of these developments and new insights, the current book
has little overlap with the syllabus initially developed for the SIS course in
Many people have been involved in courses such as Business Information Systems (BIS),
Specification of Information Systems (SIS), Process Modeling (PM), Workflow
Management (WFM), and Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) given by me.
Their efforts resulted in continuous improvements of the material and a vast
amount of exercises. Moreover, several people provided feedback on earlier
versions of the course. Therefore, I would like to thank Ad Aarts, Jacques
Bouman, Søren Christensen, Boudewijn van Dongen, Dirk Fahland, Jan Goossenaerts,
Judith Gordebeke, Kees van Hee, Monique Jansen-Vullers, Kurt Jensen, Herman
Koppelman, Niels Lohmann, Arjan Mooij, Hajo Reijers, Ella Roubtsova, Robert
Schuwer, Eric Verbeek, Marc Voorhoeve, Gerd Wagner, Lisa Wells, and Jaap van der
Woude for their involvement. Special thanks go to Christian Stahl who is also a
co-author of the “Modeling Business Processes” (ISBN: 9780262015387) book.
Together with Boudewijn van Dongen, he also also developed new exercises and
polished old ones. Moreover, we thank the CPN Group at the University of
Aarhus for their work on CPN Tools. Michael Westergaard is currently the driving
force behind CPN Tools. Without his extraordinary efforts one could only make
pen and paper exercises.
Wil van der Aalst, 2013.