Luise Pufahl

Modeling and Executing Batch Activities in Business Processes

Business process automation improves organizations' efficiency to perform work. Therefore, a business process is first documented as a process model which then serves as blueprint for a number of process instances representing the execution of specific business cases. In existing business process management systems, process instances run independently from each other. However, in practice, instances are also collected in groups at certain process activities for a combined execution to improve the process performance. Currently, this so-called batch processing is executed manually or supported by external software. Only few research proposals exist to explicitly represent and execute batch processing needs in business process models. These works also lack a comprehensive understanding of requirements.

This thesis addresses the described issues by providing a basic concept, called batch activity. It allows an explicit representation of batch processing configurations in process models and provides a corresponding execution semantics, thereby easing automation. The batch activity groups different process instances based on their data context and can synchronize their execution over one or as well multiple process activities. The concept is conceived based on a requirements analysis considering existing literature on batch processing from different domains and industry examples. Further, this thesis provides two extensions: First, a flexible batch configuration concept, based on event processing techniques, is introduced to allow run time adaptations of batch configurations. Second, a concept for collecting and batching activity instances of multiple different process models is given. Thereby, the batch configuration is centrally defined, independently of the process models, which is especially beneficial for organizations with large process model collections. This thesis provides a technical evaluation as well as a validation of the presented concepts. A prototypical implementation in an existing open-source BPMS shows that with a few extensions, batch processing is enabled. Further, it demonstrates that the consolidated view of several work items in one user form can improve work efficiency. The validation, in which the batch activity concept is applied to different use cases in a simulated environment, implies cost-savings for business processes when a suitable batch configuration is used. For the validation, an extensible business process simulator was developed. It enables process designers to study the influence of a batch activity in a process with regards to its performance.