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Workflow – An Overview

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  1. Workflow – An Overview Jussi Stader Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute Centre for Intelligent Systems and their Applications University of Edinburgh • What is it? • Where has it been & where is it going? • What are the issues?

  2. Workflow – Definition The automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action according to a set of procedural rules. Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC)

  3. Workflow Management System (WfMS)- Definition A 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. WfMC

  4. Types of Workflow • Production • Increase throughput through full automation • Administrative • Ease of process definition, flexibility • Collaborative • Support communication of process and status • Ad-hoc • Ease of changing processes

  5. Development of Workflow • Early systems • Support and automate the delivery of work items • BPR • Workflow used in re-engineered processes • Now • Support and automate the process itself • Future • Component or control in more global contexts • e-Commerce, m-Commerce, B2B • Portals

  6. Issues… • Representation of process specifications • Specification often done elsewhere • Information management • Who needs to know what and when • Delivery mechanisms • Information status • Resource management • Distribute work to agents in a network • Capability statements • Time management • Deadlines, urgency, problems, feedback

  7. …Issues… • Delegation • Responsibility • Authority • Monitoring progress • Establish status of process or work items • Communication of progress • Escalation • Process-specific exception handling • Auditing/evaluation • For work assessment, • Feedback and process improvements • + opportunity for repeated evaluation

  8. …Issues… • Flexibility • Interleaving specification, planning, execution • Decision points • vs simplicity • Communication • Between participants • About workflow and about work • User issues • Different user types • User interaction • Different levels of abstraction

  9. …Issues • Integration/interoperability • With applications, humans, other WfMS • Standards • Distribution • Across different departments • Across different organisations (e-Commerce)

  10. Integration • Standards important • Workflow Reference Model and Glossary • Wf-XML • jFlow • SWAP • NIST-PSL • Interfaces of WfMS to • Process definition tools • Client applications • Invoked applications • Other WfMS • Admin and monitoring tools

  11. Representation for Integration • Process • Attributes • Results • State (current status) • Request • New process • Get/set state of process • Get/set process attributes • Response/notification

  12. Roles for Integration • WfRequester – sets work to be done • Registers interest in progress • WfProcess – does the work • Gives access to control/monitoring • May delegate • WfProcessManager – has process definition • Lets WfRequesters register with WfProcess • WfActivity – links to other Wf-applications

  13. Workflow in Action • Network of agents • Process library • Decision points • Initiate process • Which one? • Deal or delegate • Delegate who to? • Accept or reject? • Do it or expand? • Expand which way?

  14. A Workflow Story • PO’s Bid/no-Bid • Not all problems are process-based