Understanding and defining a workflow
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Process design perspective provides a visual modeling environment to create a workflow that is seamlessly linked with the data model and user interfaces. The advanced workflow features can be used to perform branching, routing, association of various forms and users (statically or dynamically) to activities, and link the routing logic with the complex business rules.

What is a business process? What is it for?

A business process can be defined as a set of interrelated tasks that when combined accomplish a given business objective. Business processes have starting points and ending points, and they are repeatable. For example, applying for a loan, hiring a new employee, and submitting a patent are all examples of business processes.

What is a workflow? Is it different from a business process?

A workflow can be thought of as the implementation of the answers to the questions Who? What? When? in a business process. Applying workflow to a business process brings the details of that process into focus. Simply put, it is the way work gets from start to finish. There are three important components that are required to implement a workflow for a business process in process design perspective.
  • Who? Activity owners/participants: More entities than just people can be workflow participants. Organizations, applications, employees, Web services, and other workflows can be answers to the Who? question. Abstracting participants into roles makes a workflow more robust. In other words, an activity owner is the participant that has the authority to declare an activity complete, thus forwarding the work to the next activity in the process.
  • What? Activities: A task that forms one logical step that can be automated or manual. A common type of automated activity is notification, which can automatically send a reminder message or trigger an escalation procedure if a work item fails to be completed by a prescribed deadline. It must be noted that a task may or may not change the workflow state.
  • When? Constraints and routing logic: Decisions are made at various control points to determine whether or not to continue processing, whether or not the current activity is finished and the process may continue, whether or not an error has occurred, and so on.

Here are some of the questions that could be asked to identify the activities, activity owners, constraints and routing logic to create the workflow!

  • Who are the participants involved in the flow of the business process?
  • What roles do they play?
  • How are they organized?
  • Are the groupings flexible and dynamic?
  • Or more fixed and static?
  • What is it that the participants do?
  • How do they do what they do?
  • Do they approve things?
  • Do they perform transactions?
  • How do participants know when to start?
  • When is the work finished?
  • In what order do participants do their tasks?
  • Do they do them sequentially or in parallel?
  • If only sometimes, under what conditions?
  • How long should each task take?
  • Are there hard deadlines or not?

  What's Next?

In the next section, we will review the process design implementation of the customer model in the template application.