The Scientific Roots of ACM

The idea that a predefined flowcharted processes needs to be continuously adapted by users or the software has been there since before 1995. I started to develop the Papyrus Platform in 1997 with the premise of a fully adaptive application. Before that also formal research took place by for example by Manfred Reichert and Peter Dadam and others at the University of Ulm, as well as Christian W. Günther and Wil M.P. van der Aalst at the Eindhoven University of Technology. While Reichert and Dadam focused on user-interactive flowcharts with their ADEPT system, Günther and Aalst searched for the holy grail in process mining from enactment logs.

ADEPT1 from 1998 mainly focused on ad-hoc flexibility and distributed execution of processes, plus process schema evolution, which allows for automatic propagation of process changes to already running instances. With ADEPT2, processes are modelled by applying high-level change operations starting from scratch. These change operations with pre- and post-conditions try to ensure the structural correctness of the resulting process graph. While that enables syntax-driven modeling and guidance to the process designer, it does limit (by design) the functionality of the result. ADEPT2 also uses a formally independent data flow. Data exchange between activities happens by global process variables stored as different versions of data objects. That leads however to  different versions of a data within AND-Split and XOR-Join. While that can cause issues, it is required for correct rollback of process instances when activities fail. ADEPT2 offers a usable solution for process flow improvement, but it is built on a purely academic process theory that leaves many aspects of real-world business needs – such as resources – in the dust.

Process Mining in ADEPT2 (Source: Van der Aalst)

Concepts of ADEPT2 can be found in some BPMN based systems as well as in Papyrus, particularly the object data model and the model preserving approach. I see however a process as state/event driven by its data objects, content and activities and the flow being just one way to look at it. I do not see the need for a formally error free process, because exceptions can happen at any point in time and their resolution is a normal activity, typically executed by a superuser or expert. They could immediately improve the process template if necessary. I also see rules as essential to map controls across multiple processes, while ADEPT2 only uses normal decision gateways. In ADEPT2 each task will have a fixed state engine, while I see a state engines as a freely definable object property. That points to another major difference in my research to the one of the ADEPT2 team, because I built the data elements and the process execution ON TOP of the same freely definable object model. That means further that all data and process objects have a visible existence OUTSIDE the process and can for example be linked into several cases and their state changes will influence multiple task states. Object integrity can always be ensured through transaction locks.

ADEPT2 is also available as a commercial product.

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About Max J. Pucher

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of ISIS Papyrus Software, a medium size software company specializing in communications and process management. I wrote several books and hold a number of patents. My quest is to bring common sense to IT, mostly by focusing in human quality issues rather than cost saving, outsourcing and automation. I am also Chief Architect at VIPorbit software which provides mobile relationship management.
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