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Context-based Selection of Activity Implementations in Workflow Management Systems

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000014904D
Original Publication Date: 2001-Jun-02
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-20
Document File: 6 page(s) / 187K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

1. Introduction Workflow management systems [1] manage the execution of business processes. The major constructs in drawing processes are activities and control connectors. The activities describe the tasks to be performed, and the control connectors describe the potential sequence in which the activities are to be carried out. Figure 1 shows schematically the structure of such a process graph.

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  Context-based Selection of Activity Implementations in Workflow Management Systems

1. Introduction Workflow management systems [1] manage the execution of business processes. The major constructs in drawing processes are activities and control connectors. The activities describe the tasks to be performed, and the control connectors describe the potential sequence in which the activities are to be carried out. Figure 1 shows schematically the structure of such a process graph.

Figure 1 Process Model

    Activities are represented as named circles; the name typically describes the purpose of the activity. Activities come in various flavors to address the different tasks that may need to be performed. They may have different activity implementations to meet these diverse needs. Program activities are performed by an assigned program, process activities are performed by another process, and blocks implement a macro with a built-in do-until loop.

    Control is moving through the process. The activity where the control connector starts is called the source activity; where it ends is called the target activity. When more than one control connector leaves an activity, this indicates potentially parallel work.

    Figure 2 shows two activities A and B. Both activities A and B have an input container associated with them; activity A has also an output container associated with. The input and output container of an activity are conceptually the signature of the activity. The activity obtains

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data necessary for its execution from the input container and writes data that it produces and that is needed for other activities into the output container. As with signatures, the containers of an activity are only available to the activity; that means they are only available locally. Thus, if activity B needs data, for example, from the output container of the activity A, this data must be copied from the output container of the activity A to the input container of the activity B.

Figure 2 Copying Fields between Activities

    For the purpose of copying data from one of the activities to another activity, a data connector is provided which is depicted as a dashed arrow. The data connector indicates that the output container of the activity A has to be copied to the input container of the activity.

    The output container of an activity and the input container of another activity, however, generally have different data structures, for example contain different data fields. Therefore, a container map is provided which defines which data fields of the output container of the activity A are copied into which data fields of the input container of the activity B.

    It should be noted that the process itself has an input container and an output container. All the data in the input and output containers of activities and processes as well as other properties associated with the process, such as process instanc...