one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural
rules” . In simple words, one can interpret this definition as a
backing to the earlier argument of workflow as automation software
packages, enabling the office documents and business transactions to
go from stage to stage of a business process in a “paperless“ fashion.
In a highly-cited review paper on workflow management systems
n 1995, Georgakopolous et al. [ 6] describe how workflow facilitates
business enterprises’ dealing with global competition, reduction of
costs, and the rapid development of new services and products by
“providing methodologies and software to support (i) business
process modelling to capture business processes as workflow specifications, (ii) business process reengineering to optimize specified
processes, and (iii) workflow automation to generate workflow
implementations from workflow specifications.” The list of features
in Georgakopolous et al.’s workflow is shown in Figure 3.
advancement and organization theories, being careful not to view
workflow management as a poor cousin of business process. Furthermore, workflow remains a useful word and is, in fact, more expressive than the term business process management . Rather, we
should view business process management as a progressive extension
of the workflow management scope.
In recent years, I have observed that many software vendors have
updated their products’ names from “WfM” to the more contemporary “BPM.” One example is Metastorm’s product name change from
Metastorm E-Work version 6 to Metastorm BPM version 7 in 2005
[ 22]. Noticeably, the change of name was not accompanied by a
maturity of the diagnosis portion of its suites (i.e., WfM to BPM).
Instead, the visible changes from version 6 to 7 are its system’s adaptation of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, the obsolescence of simulation
features, and an aesthetically appealing GUI. In my work experience
and observations from technical forum contributors, many of these
WfMS-turned-BPMS have yet to offer rich diagnosis features.
Although many software suites offer business activity monitoring
(BAM) dashboards (i.e., ready-made user interface programs), the
creation of useful audit trails and the churning of meaningful reports
displaying process trends still requires external specialized reporting
tools, such as Microsoft Reporting Server or Crystal Reports.
Figure 3: The workflow umbrella [ 6].
Table 1 shows another viewpoint by van der Aalst et al. is that the
eatures stated in WfM, as defined by , are a subset of BPM, as
defined by , with the diagnosis stage of the BPM life cycle as the
main difference. To my best knowledge (and industrial experience),
many BPMS are still very much workflow management systems
(WfMS) and have not yet matured in the support of the BPM diagnosis. From the above categorizations in Table 1 and Figure 4 below,
it is now obvious that workflow management is a logical subset of
business process management.
Figure 4: Van der Aalst et al.’s use of the BPM life cycle to compare
workflow management and business process management .
In order to ascertain the differences between WfM and BPM, one
must always take into context the historical developments of IT
Limitations of “Workflow”
So why is the term “workflow” no longer in fashion in the industry?
Across most arguments [ 13, 22, 36, 38], WfMS are viewed to have the
best ability to increase the efficiency of business processes in a confined domain (e.g., within a company) and have traditionally been
based on the WfMC’s idea of a centralized enactment engine.
However, this architecture restricts the integration capabilities of
workflow systems across companies, or even across sites of a multinational company. This inability to provide an easily integrated solution to the urgent needs of an Internet-savvy and globalized business
climate proved costly, and WfMS soon lost favor to BPMS, many of
which capitalize on the contemporary distributed environments of
Web services and service-oriented architectures (SOA).
Another main gap in the workflow technology was the overlook-ng of the diagnosis portion in the entire BPM cycle. Despite their
robust centralized engines and ease-of-use in their business process
designers, many WfMS packages in the industry (e.g., Metastorm e-Work, Savvion, Ultimus, etc.) often lack inherent reporting and diagnostic tools that enable analysts to churn real-time reports in order
to pinpoint process bottlenecks and business process flaws.
With new research interests in the BPM diagnosis sub-topics
business process analysis (BPA) and BAM, the diagnosis component
of the BPM life cycle is starting to gain more attention from software
vendors. This paves the way for the development of “true” BPM.
BPM Life Cycle Stage
Workflow Management (WfM)
Table 1: WfM and BPM compared.
Business Process Management (BPM)
So far, the definitions of BPM by
[ 4, 8, 13, 22, 26] have empha-
sized on operational processes
and not on strategic-, tactical-,
or collaboration-level processes.