Business Information Systems Course


Business Information Systems Course
Process Mining Course
Business Process Management Systems Course
Workflow Management Course
Business Process Intelligence Course


This course is based on the book Modeling 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 answers

over 100 pages of updated questions and answers

Course Contents

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 to:
• 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 and invariants.
• Have a good understanding of simulation and process mining.
• Understand the role of models in the design, configuration, enactment, and diagnosis phase.
• 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 (Version 3.5.7 or later). Make sure to download the proper version of CPN Tools. Also see for more information on CPN Tools and 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 and
• 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, and exercises.

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 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 systems."

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 1992.

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.