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Expiration Spheres in Workflow Management Systems

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000014952D
Original Publication Date: 2001-Jun-15
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-20
Document File: 6 page(s) / 143K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

1. Introduction

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Expiration Spheres in Workflow Management Systems

1. Introduction

    Workflow management systems [1] support the definition and 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 connectors are represented as arrows; the head of the arrow describes the direction in which the flow of 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.

    Dependent on the implementation of an activity, several activity types are differentiated: process activities are implemented via a sub-process, or program activities via executables, such as programs or DLLs. Information activities have no implementation at all; they are just used to convey some information.

    When an activity is processed in the course of navigating through the process, the workflow system generates work items for selected users. These work items are made available

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to those selected users via a graphical end user interface. When a user selects such a work item, the appropriate activity implementation is invoked. For a program activity the appropriate executable is invoked, for a process activity the specified sub process is started, and for an information activity the appropriate information is displayed.

    When the user does not complete the assigned activity in a specified time, two options exists to cope with the situation: notification and expiration. Notification means that if the specified time is exceeded, a notification is sent to a desginated person; it is then up the person receiving the notification to take appropriate actions. Expiration means that processing of the activity is no longer required and the activity is treated as expired, which causes navigation to continue; that means the next activity is selected.

    Figure 2 shows a business process where an activity is no longer of interest after a certain time frame or when the other parts of the process have completed.

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Figure 2 Expiration Ex...