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Colloquium - van der Aalst

Changing Workflows: On the Interplay Between Flexibility and Support
Department of Mathematics and Computing Science, Eindhoven University of Technology
10/14/1999
3:30pm-4:45pm

Today's workflow management systems are inflexible and have problems dealing with changes. As a result, the workflow management system is not used to support dynamically changing workflow processes or the workflow process is supported in a rigid manner, i.e., changes are not allowed or handled outside of the workflow management system. Typically, there are two types of changes: (1) ad-hoc changes and (2) evolutionary changes. Ad-hoc changes are handled on a case-by-case basis. In order to provide customer specific solutions or to handle rare events, the process is adapted for a single case or a limited group of cases. Evolutionary change is often the result of reengineering efforts. This talk addresses two notorious problems related to adaptive workflow: (1) providing management information at the right aggregation level, and (2) supporting dynamic change, i.e., migrating cases from an old to a new workflow. Most of the problems related to change stem from the fact that flexibility (the ability to handle changes) on the one hand and process support (enactment, control, and management information) on the other hand impose (partially) conflicting constraints. It is our belief that the inheritance-preserving transformation rules developed at EUT are a good starting point for solving the problems identified. The rules correspond to design constructs often used in practice, namely choice, parallel composition, sequential composition, and iteration. In fact, the applicability of the inheritance notions and inheritance-preserving transformation rules is not limited to adaptive workflow. Other application domains are ERP-systems (reference models), electronic commerce (trade procedures), and O.O. methods.

Wil van der Aalst is an associate professor of the Department of Mathematics and Computing Science of Eindhoven University of Technology. He leads a research group working on software engineering, Petri nets, and workflow management. For the past five years, he has also been working for the Dutch consultancy firm Bakkenist where he has been involved in workflow-related projects. His research interests are in simulation and verification of business processes, Petri net theory, information systems, BPR, and logistics. In 1998, he worked as a visiting professor at AIFB (University of Karlsruhe, Germany). In 1999, he has been a visiting processor at both LSDIS (University of Georgia, USA) for 5 months and WI-II (University of Frankfurt, Germany) for 1 month. Since the beginning of August he is visiting the University of Colorado (CTRG lab.) to conduct research in the field of workflow management.

Refreshments will be served in ECOT 831 immediately following the talk.
Hosted by Clarence (Skip) Ellis.

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University of Colorado Boulder
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