The business motivation behind interacting business processes stems from
value systems, which represent collaborations between the value chains of
multiple companies. These high-level collaborations are realized by interacting
business processes, each of which is run by one company in a business to
business process scenario. This section studies interactions between business
processes performed by different companies.
For the sake of concreteness, this section uses an example from the area of
order processing, described as follows. A buyer orders goods from a reseller,
who acts as an intermediary. The reseller sends a respective product request to
a manufacturer, who delivers to product to the buyer. In addition, the reseller
asks a payment organization to take care of the billing.
There are many interesting issues to study: how do we make sure that the
business-to-business process created by putting together a set of existing business
processes really fulfils its requirements? Structural criteria, for instance,
absence from deadlock, need to be valid for these processes.
The problem is aggravated by the fact that internal business processes are
an important asset of enterprises. Therefore, few enterprises like to expose
their internal processes to the outside world. This means that the properties of the overall business-to-business collaboration cannot be based on the actual
detailed local processes run by the enterprises, but rather on the externally
visible behaviour and the associated models to represent it.
The developments in enterprise software architectures and in organizationlevel
business process management laid out in the previous sections led to
workflow management. The important achievement of workflow management
is the explicit representation of process structures in process models and the
controlled enactment of business processes according to these models.
The model-driven approach facilitates a high degree of flexibility, because
process models can be adapted to fulfil new requirements, and the modified
process models can immediately be used to enact business processes.
In the 1990s, the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) was founded
to bundle workflow related activities by vendors, users, and academia. The Workflow Management Coalition defines workflows and workflow management
systems as follows.
Definition 2.2 Workflow is the automation of a business process, in whole
or in part, during which documents, information, or tasks are passed from one
participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.
Definition 2.3 A workflow management system is a software system that
defines, creates, and manages the execution of workflows through the use of
software, running on one or more workflow engines, which is able to interpret
the process definition, interact with workflow participants, and, where
required, invoke the use of IT tools and applications.
Workflow technology is capable of supporting business processes within a
given application system or between a set of application systems, effectively
integrating these systems. But workflow technology can also be used to enact
business processes in which humans are actively involved, thus improving the
collaboration between knowledge workers.