In order to introduce human interaction workflows, it is useful to discuss its development. An early predecessor of human interaction workflow management systems is the office automation system, developed in the early 1980s. The goal of these systems was supporting the organization and the collaboration of work involving multiple persons. Until then, supporting office work of individuals was at the centre of attention. It turned out that it is not sufficient to equip workers with adequate software for their individual workplace, but also to consider the relationship of the work activities that are performed by different workers and provide support for their collaboration. By shared, consolidated data repositories and by improving the handover of work between employees, a considerable speed-up in office procedures could be realized. However, the scope of office automation was still quite narrow: workers of a given organization process information objects, primarily using forms-based applications. Today, human interaction workflows typically realize parts of a larger business process that has automated as well as nonautomated parts. The goal of human interaction workflows is to effectively support the automated parts of business processes by actively controlling the activities performed according to process models. Definition 2.6 Workflows in which humans are actively involved and interact with information systems are called human interaction workflows. Workflow management systems also take into account the organization in which the process runs. In particular, for each step in a workflow process, the role responsible for executing is defined. Roles are groups of employees that qualify for this responsibility. The role concept introduces an additional type of flexibility, because at run time of the workflow, a person currently available can be offered to work on the respective activity, and one of the persons can select the activity to actually start working on it.
Goals attributed to human interaction workflows are reduction of idle periods, avoiding redundant work such as the entering of data multiple times by different knowledge workers, and improved integration of human work with underlying information systems. In addition to the activities and their logical ordering in a process model, the information system required to enact the workflow for each activity is represented. This information is required, since the workflow management system at run time will invoke these applications and will feed the required process data to these applications. In the workflow at hand, first an order is stored in an order management system. Then the inventory is checked to find out whether the order can be fulfilled. To keep the process simple, the process design assumes that the order can be fulfilled, i.e., there is no alternative modelled if this is not the case. Then, concurrently, the shipment is prepared, the parcel is handed to the shipper, and the invoice is prepared and sent. The fulfilled order is archived, completing the human interaction workflow. Human interaction workflows require particular graphical user interface concepts. The main concept is the work item list. Knowledge workers interact with the system using work item lists, which are also called in-baskets. Whenever a knowledge worker can perform a process activity, he or she is informed by an item in his or her work item list. When the item is selected, the respective application is started, and the input data is provided. When the activity is completed, the knowledge worker informs the workflow application. The workflow management system then computes the current state and determines the activities next due.