Artifact-Centric Business Process Models

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Artifact-Centric Business Process Models: Brief Survey of Research Results and Challenges Richard Hull
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, USA

Abstract. A data-centric approach to business process and workflow modeling has been emerging over the past several years. This short paper presents a structured framework for a class of data-centric business process models, which are based on “business artifacts”. The paper provides a brief survey of research results on artifact-centric business process, and identifies a broad array of remaining research challenges.

1 Introduction
Businesses and other organizations increasingly rely on business process management, and in particular the management of electronic workflows underlying business processes. While most workflow is still organized around relatively flat process-centric models, over the past several years a data-centric approach to workflow has emerged. A key paper in this area is [37], which introduces the artifact-centric approach to workflow modeling. This approach focuses on augmented data records, known as “business artifacts” or simply “artifacts”, that correspond to key business-relevant objects, their lifecycles, and how/when services (a.k.a. tasks) are invoked on them. This approach provides a simple and robust structure for workflow, and has been demonstrated in practice to permit efficiencies in business transformation. As this approach has been applied, both internal to IBM and with IBM customers [5,6] a family of new requirements has emerged which are not easily addressed by the largely procedural artifact-centric model introduced in [37]. To address these requirements, variations of the original artifactcentric model are now being explored. This short paper presents a framework that can be used to help structure this exploration and more clearly expose the implications of different modeling choices in artifact-centric business process. The paper also highlights a broad array of research challenges raised by the artifact-centric approach. The field of artifact-centric business process is still in its infancy; the research results and challenges described here are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to reflect the author’s view on some of the most pressing and useful issues to study. The basic challenge in business process modeling is to find mechanisms whereby business executives, analysts, and subject matter experts can specify, in an intuitive yet concise way, the framework and specifics of how the operations of a business are to be conducted. The specification should make it easy to develop IT infrastructures to automate the operations as much as possible. At the same time the framework must support Supported in part by NSF grants IIS-0415195 and CNS-0613998. R. Meersman and Z. Tari (Eds.): OTM 2008, Part II, LNCS 5332, pp. 1152–1163, 2008. c Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Artifact-Centric Business Process Models

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flexibility at two important levels. The first is at the level of individual enactments of the workflow – with the increasing intricacy of modern day corporate and personal life, and the emergence of the “mass market of one” [20], it is essential that workflows permit a dramatic improvement in permitting highly varied operation for different customers, products, contexts and regions. The second is flexibility in enabling rich evolution of the workflow schema. This is increasingly important as “internet speed” becomes a reality in the definition and transformation of new narkets, new competitors, and new government regulations. While both forms of flexibility must be supported, monitoring and reporting continue to be critical, and mechanisms need to be found so that the reports are meaningful in spite of highly varied enactments and continually evolving workflow schemas. The emerging challenge of generic/specialized is focused on the need to permit the specification of a generic workflow schema that can have multiple...
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