Business Process Management Systems Course

08/09/13

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This course focuses on enterprise information systems that are driven by models, i.e., instead of constructing code these systems are assembled, configured or generated using a model-driven approach. Of particular interest are so-called "process-aware" information systems. Typical examples are Workflow Management (WFM) systems, Business Process Management (BPM) systems, and the process engines of ERP, CRM, PDM and other enterprise information systems. This page

Slides supporting the course

Exercises and Solutions

For all lectures there are corresponding questions and answers. These can be found here:

Scope and Content

This course focuses on enterprise information systems that are driven by models, i.e., instead of constructing code these systems are assembled, configured or generated using a model-driven approach. Of particular interest are so-called "process-aware" information systems. Typical examples are Workflow Management (WFM) systems, Business Process Management (BPM) systems, and the process engines of ERP, CRM, PDM and other enterprise information systems. Starting point for the course are the process modeling techniques taught in the Bachelor phase. In particular, it is assumed that the participants are able to model in terms of (high-level) Petri nets and are able to make object models. Nevertheless, a short refresher is offered to learn the main concepts.

The first part of the course focuses on the modeling and implementation of workflows. Different languages and systems are presented. Emphasis is on the control-flow and resource perspective. Using the so-called workflow patterns, participants need to compare and evaluate languages and systems. Moreover, participants need to model and implement non-trivial workflows in a specific workflow management system (i.e., YAWL). Besides YAWL other tools and notations are discussed. For example, the participants will also model and simulate workflows using BPMone by Perceptive Software (formerly Pallas Athena). It should be noted that although the focus is on pure WFM/BPM systems, the knowledge and experience will also applicable to other process-aware information systems.

The second part of the course focuses on the analysis of workflows/business processes. Different types of analysis will be considered:
Business process simulation with the goal to improve the process design. Moreover, simulation will be linked to workflow technology and process mining.
Workflow verification. How to automatically identify design errors and correct them? Here different tools are being used and, among others, the SAP reference model and its errors are used as examples.
Process mining. This topic is quickly gaining importance in the context of BPM as more and more events are being recorded. Concretely the course will focus on a concrete type of process discovery and a concrete type of conformance checking.

The course closes with two more advanced topics: process configuration and service-orientation in BPM.

Why is the course relevant?

The interest in BPM systems is a rapidly growing. It has become evident that information systems need to be driven by processes and not just data. Moreover, the importance of the link between business process analysis and redesign on the one hand and enterprise information systems on the other hand is evident. Process-aware information systems are used by large organizations all over the world and in many different sectors (banks, insurance companies, governments, manufacturers, service providers, travel agencies, electronic stores, etc. etc.).
Today, there is a lot of attention for BPM systems, both in practice and academia. Note that leading software companies such as SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are heavily investing in BPM technology. As an engineer working in practice, you will often work on the interface between business processes and IT. Moreover, there are many academic and intellectual challenges as enterprise-wide systems are much more complex than the software found in isolated applications or technical devices.

Objectives

As indicated the focus of this course on Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) is on the modeling, analysis, and enactment of business processes. After taking the course students are able:
to explain the organizational merits of process thinking and the use of process-aware information systems in particular,
to model complex business processes in terms of various languages,
to translate languages coming from a variety of tools ranging from business process modeling tools to workflow management systems,
to translate informal requirements into explicit models,
to describe the functionality and architecture of a variety of process-aware information systems (e.g., workflow management systems like BPMone and YAWL),
understand the relation between Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and BPM architectures,
to critically evaluate modeling languages and systems,
to use the workflow patterns to characterize and model processes and to evaluate systems,
to have an overview of the different analysis techniques (simulation, process mining, verification, etc.),
to analyze business processes before they are put in production,
to understand concepts such as WF-nets, soundness, etc.,
to explain and recognize semantical problems such as the vicious circle in the presence of OR-joins,
to understand and apply process discovery techniques,
to understand and apply conformance checking techniques,
to model a family of processes in terms of a configurable process model,
to understand the basic principles of process configuration, and
to explain how BPM systems can be used to compose new services.

Software

The tools BPMone/Protos, YAWL, and ProM 6 are used for assignments, modeling and analysis, prototyping, and to illustrate concepts.
BPMone is used as an example of a commercial BPM system supporting the whole lifecycle (design, simulation, enactment, reconfiguration, process mining, etc.). However, for practical reasons, also Protos will be used which can be viewed as a classical, stand-alone, design and simulation tool for BPMone. Models created with Protos can be uploaded in BPMone. For the assignment, mainly Protos will be used.
YAWL (version 2.3) is used to create a running BPMS. YAWL can be downloaded from http://www.yawlfoundation.org/
ProM 6 will be used for analysis purposes (e.g., verification, state-space analysis, synthesis, mining, etc.) and can be downloaded via http://www.promtools.org/prom6/
WoPeD (http://woped.org/) can be used to draw Petri nets and export them as PNML files. Alternatively, Yasper or the new version of CPN Tools can also be used for the same purpose.

Additional pointers

See the BPM page for more pointers, e.g., Business Process Management (BPM) Conference Series, BPM Tools, BPM Course, European BPM Round Table, and recommended books.

Using This Material

We encourage lecturers, practitioners, and researchers to use the material (slides excercises, etc.) provided 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.

Acknowledgements

The course is the result of twelve years of teaching BPM and WFM courses for different audiences ranging from Bachelor and Master students to system designers and business consultants. I developed the Workflow Management (WFM) and Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e) and the current course is based on this. Since the mid-nineties there has been remarkable progress in this area and each year the course had to be updated. The above slides describe the BPMS course given in 2013. Over time many people supported me in giving this course. I'm very grateful for their support and feedback. The research of many PhD students helped to progress BPM field. Moreover, the development of the workflow patterns and YAWL played an important role in the development of this course. See the book Modern Business Process Automation: YAWL and its Support Environment for a historic overview. I would like to thank my co-authors Arthur ter Hofstede, Michael Adams, and Nick Russell for their seminal work in this area.

 

Wil van der Aalst, 2013.