Exploring the notion of Variability in Business Process Modeling (and its relationship with Goals)

Student: Dean Shaft

Supervisor: S. Liaskos and Y. Lesperance


Business Process Modeling (BPM) notations are an increasingly popular subject of investigation in the analysis and design of Information Systems. Such notations allow analysts to represent different ways by which actors of a domain can collaboratively perform tasks in order to meet certain business goals. The diagrammatic result allows understanding of the involved activities at various levels of abstraction each being useful for different stakeholders, such as business versus technical ones. It also provides a basis for further formalization and analysis of the modeled business process or its translation into implementation models such as service composition programs. Several BPM languages have been introduced, most prominent being the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN).

Variability occurs in business processes, in that the same business process may need to either be reused in a different context (e.g. a different organization) or adapt to changing requirements or environmental constraints. Thus, each variation of the business process is applicable to a different situation affects specified customization criteria in a different way. Such criteria may include high-level qualities or non-functional goals e.g. such as key performance indicators (KPIs) or operational constraints that prescribe patterns which the business process must follow. To some extend BPMs offer constructs for modeling such variability. However, both the problems of modeling customization criteria and that of using them to derive business process variations that best satisfy them have not enjoyed significant attention in the literature.

In this project we shall investigate ways of modeling and reasoning about business process variability. We will pick a BPM, possibly BPMN, and explore different ways by which variability can be expressed. Then we will look at criteria that define variant selection and how such can be represented as well. Through possible formalizations in specification frameworks that are used in AI such as Situation Calculus or planning definition languages, the problem of automatically selecting variants of interest in order to meet certain customization criteria shall be studied. In the end we are hoping to develop a concrete framework for representing and reasoning about business process variability in light of high-level goal-based customization criteria.