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AAMAS 2004 – Panel on Business Process Management. Tom Wagner, Ph.D. DARPA / IPTO twagner@darpa.mil. BPM. Disclaimer – not to be confused with fact… Broad space / BPM may involve a bundle of ideas: Human task/workflow management.

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aamas 2004 panel on business process management

AAMAS 2004 – Panel on Business Process Management

Tom Wagner, Ph.D.



  • Disclaimer – not to be confused with fact…
  • Broad space / BPM may involve a bundle of ideas:
    • Human task/workflow management.
    • Information flows, e.g., auto-magic information exchange to support human work.
    • Union of that space -- human work management + information management.
  • BPM = business process awareness + management.
    • Progression of focus for practitioners: transaction processing (data in), then business intelligence (information from your data), to process awareness and management.
  • Many different slants driven by different areas of commercial interest:

Process-centric workflow.

Optimization, what-ifs, dynamic task management.

Information management.

Enterprise applications.

Software infrastructure.


Not drawn to scale.

Axis unknown.

bpm and agents
BPM and Agents
  • Sidebar: standards
    • BPMI – business process management initiative. www.bpmi.org
      • Nonprofit company w/goal to setup standards.
      • E.g., BPML (meta biz process modeling language) or BPMN (graphical representations of BPML).
    • Others: BPEL (“bee pell”) web services + biz proc (MS, IBM, BEA, SAP). UML (OMG) = component view.
  • Why agents? Places to hook arguments for:
    • Distribution – large scale, privacy concerns between different companies, etc.
    • Lose coupling – integrating heterogeneous systems and people in dynamic setting.
    • Autonomy – efficiency value proposition (automation makes things faster).
    • Choice – important for dealing with humans (also mixed initiatives).
      • Process may also have choices that need to be made locally.
    • Intelligence – pushing autonomy from simple data triggered action to complex task performance or complex analysis.
    • Adaptive, dynamic, flexible, etc.
  • Stumbling block for (some) agents: explicit representations of processes.
    • Commercial folks have the same problem ( template libraries).
    • Implies look to domains with documented processes.
    • But often existing models will lack features, e.g., choice nodes, parallelism.
    • May not be an issue -- depends on your BPM vision and how near term you are operating.
make your own custom bpm vision
Make Your Own Custom BPM Vision

As a researcher…

  • How you approach BPM is dependent on your needs and goals.
    • Select a subset (of that space) and clearly define the subset.
  • Consider being complimentary to (but not competing with) commercial interests.
    • Shoot high / offer a new capability that dovetails with where they are going.
    • Hard to compete with development or near term work.
  • If you need external investment / are working for “real world” impact:
    • Parallel application spaces, e.g., military.
    • Or know your customer. Voice-of-customer should modulate:
      • Your argument for an agent approach (why distributed, etc.).
      • Your value proposition.
      • Potentially your long term technical vision.
    • You decide the balance of customer voice versus research vision.
  • Most value propositions will include efficiency improvements (faster, cheaper).

Research: learning to adjust workflow models.

Commercial: Process-centric workflow.

Research: distributed dynamic human activity coordination in RT environment.

why i like bpm as an application domain unsure about being the killer ap
Why I like BPM as an Application Domain(Unsure about being “the” killer ap)
  • Amenable to “agent” solutions.
  • Two ways to motivate investment:
    • A product for sale.
    • Internal use / not for sale.
      • All companies, agencies, universities, etc., can improve efficiency of processes.
      • Potentially cheaper / smaller barriers.
  • Some version of the problem space is probably accessible to you.
  • The problem exists today:
    • You will be proposing new solution to a known (and familiar) problem.
      • Les Gasser’s anecdote
    • i.e., not developing both a new product and a new market.
process centric workflow agents vs more conventional approaches
Process-centric WorkflowAgents vs More Conventional Approaches
  • Gross categorizations – probably ranges of things.
  • *If* conventional workflow is often:
    • Centralized.
    • Complete / global information.
    • Top-down – tasks are put at human effectors.
    • Monolithic / fully integrated.
    • Tending toward static.
  • An agent approach might be:
    • Distributed (implies scalable, implies ability to span enterprises).
    • Able to operate with partial information.
    • Blend top-down (direction from management) with bottom-up (performers inputting preferences, choices, and tasks themselves).
    • Loosely coupled (easier to integrate heterogeneous systems).
    • Tending toward dynamic / adaptive.
  • For the predictability question – if you can get a customer to ask that question, they are already interested in your vision. (You have to generate your own actual response to that question.)
funding your custom bpm vision incremental investment payoff
Funding Your Custom BPM Vision Incremental Investment / Payoff

Hypothetical vision: intelligent systems, stupid systems, and humans that work together both within an enterprise and across enterprises.

Problem: research is expensive, payoffs are uncertain, takes a long time to make anything happen.



Incremental investment.

Hypothetical waypoint: centralized management of tasks of two humans who always work on related process / have activities that interact.

Catch-22: You still have to shoot high or they don’t need you.



Project Years