Abstract: In this competitive business era, efficient resource utilization is the priority for a business for their long term survival. This is achieved by an efficient management of business processes using various techniques and methods. The process support paradigm consists of a set of methods and techniques for the management of business processes. On the spectrum of process structuredness, a business process can be broadly categorised as structured and unstructured. Structured business processes are sets of ordered activities that are repetitive and predictable while the activities of unstructured business processes are context dependent, which make them hard to predict.
Management of structured business processes is the topic of research for both academia and industry, where academia focuses on the development of methods and techniques while industry focuses on the development of tools. However, with the shift from routine to knowledge work, the focus on management of unstructured business processes is increasing. Moreover, unstructured processes are goal-oriented and require flexibility during their execution. Therefore, this research is aimed to investigate the techniques to model and manage unstructured processes without limiting their run-time flexibility.
To achieve the goal of the research, process support paradigms, i.e. business process management and case management, are assessed on the basis of their support to manage unstructured business processes. These process support paradigms are analysed with the help of software tools, Bizagi and Cognoscenti, by implementing an unstructured business process and evaluating it using process management aspects such as process modelling, data modelling, user roles, and business rules specifications. Furthermore, the capabilities of Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN) is analysed by modelling an unstructured business process. This has enabled us to identify limitations of BPMN and CMMN. For example, BPMN does not provide the run-time flexibility for process execution, while the CMMN is unable to depict the structured process. This analysis led us to define requirements for the modelling of unstructured business processes.
BPMN Plus is an extension of BPMN standard that is proposed in this research on the basis of the requirements set for the modelling of unstructured business processes. BPMN Plus provides a set of concepts and constructs that are aimed to model unstructured processes without limiting their run-time flexibility. The use of BPMN Plus is demonstrated with the help of an example of a knowledge-intensive admission process.
BPMN Plus and the unstructured business process modelling requirements are validated using semi-structured qualitative interviews with the three experienced practitioners of business processes management. They were asked about the usefulness, correctness, ease of understanding, and applicability of BPMN Plus. Interviewees found the BPMN Plus a useful extension to BPMN, which provide many easy to use modelling concepts and constructs. As future research, the evaluation of BPMN Plus with real-world case studies and experiments is recommended.
Recommended citation: Allah Bukhsh, Zaharah. “BPMN Plus: a modelling language for unstructured business processes.” Master’s thesis, University of Twente, 2015.