Why is workflow Management still unattractive

Hector Chapa Sikazwe
Newcastle Upon Tyne 2012

Why is workflow Management still unattractive Constraints, challenges and successes The Misapplication of the technology Hector Chapa Sikazwe Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012

Keywords Workflow management, Workflow, Architecture, Processes, business environment, competition, market advantage, competitive concepts, planning, Workflow engines, Software environment, consultancy, tools, paradigms, work, tasks, information, processed data, Re-engineering

Abstract In the simplest terms, Workflow management deals with Workflows. A Workflow, seen from the most primitive position is a collection of tasks organized to accomplish some business process. It also defines the order of task invocation or conditions under which a task must be invoked, task synchronization is achieved, and how information flow is eventually accomplished. Workflow Management Systems (WFMSs) facilitate the definition of structure and decomposition of business processes and assists in management of coordinating, scheduling, executing and monitoring of such activities. Most of the current WFMSs are built on traditional relational database systems and/or using an object-oriented database system for storing the definition and run time data about the workflows. However, a WFMS requires advanced modelling functionalities to support adaptive features, such as on-line exception handling. Incidentally, research on specification and scheduling of workflows has concentrated on temporal and causality constraints, which specify existence and order dependencies among tasks. However, another set of constraints that specify resource allocation is also equally important. This paper limits the definition of resources within the context of a work environment to include agents such as people, machines (Computers), software, etc. that facilitate the execution of planned tasks. The paper also supports the empirical fact that the execution of a task has a cost and this may vary depending on the resources allocated in order to execute that task. Resource allocation constraints define restrictions on how to allocate resources, and scheduling under resource allocation constraints provide proper resource

allocation to tasks. In this paper, an architecture to specify and to schedule workflows under resource allocation constraints as well as under the temporal and causality constraints is suggested and provided as a possible solution to the architectural environment that supports workflow management theories and applicability. In the millennium, there has been much talk about a “Workflow management system revolution”. The revolutionary part is about this new category of software known as the “Workflow engine architecture” that promises solution to poor business process environments. In basic language, the evolutionary part is about using workflow management systems (WFMSs) to exploit existing business and technology assets in a way that creates new value and meaning to business processes. Unfortunately, along with any revolution comes confusion. What exactly is WFMSs? Isn’t it just workflow technology, which has been in use for twenty years, plus Web services? Why don’t we describe what is going on today as the “new workflow revolution,” a subtle extension of workflow systems? To seek answers to these questions, this paper explores the foundations of the workflow paradigm, and describe the paradigm shift in technology that is needed to overcome limitations of workflow systems to build and deploy robust business process management systems whilst unmasking the kind of information systems that businesses now demand as new sources of competitive advantage in an ever more uncertain and complex global economy. The use of unnecessary technical jargon and workflow language that mystifies the technology has played a major role in boomeranging attractions that the technology initially invoked in the early 1990s. Studies in workflow management systems have been intensive and widely spread without clinical evaluation of the impact of the technology on the business environment it meant to service. This paper suggests that using simple language, basic software application and joining the dots of the different nodes of workflow achievements over the years would create rejuvenated attraction in the technology as was once seen when it rivalled other technologies like business process reengineering (BPR) and business process modelling (BPM) that are now almost becoming white elephants in the business environment as

new web based technologies are developed as solutions to profit, processes, competition and human and business cravings. With all the hype about governments wanting to cut costs in establishments and the stepping backwards in the ding-dong of bank bonuses, it is amazing to see that simpler ways of “talking with technology” are avoided. Working smart, whilst using basic day to day knowledge of how things should be done have been complicated in the way things are explained resulting in many corporations running away from basic technology that would have provided solutions to the problem at hand. Current solutions presented by many proposals demanding employee layoffs and cutting down operations is very disheartening when the solution can be found in simply working smarter and simpler without even using complex computer systems. The author proposes: “Recognising that things go wrong because procedures are not followed or adhered to strictly is the source of many woes in organisations or individual lives” Workflow solutions would help in putting the stop-plug in the leakage of resources. Workflow is concerned with the automation of procedures where documents, information or tasks are passed between participants according to a defined set of rules to achieve, or contribute to, an overall business goal. Whilst workflow may be manually organised, in practice most workflow is normally organised within the context of an IT system to provide computerised support for the procedural automation. For instance, it is common knowledge that one does not put his shoes on and then followed by his socks, or one does not put on warm coat on and then the shirt or dress over it! It is common knowledge that one does not put a tea bag in a mug full of cold water and later boil it! It is knowledge of what comes first, then second, then third etc that will help many organisations and individuals to attain better results in even basic operations in business and individual lives. The fear of technology has been exaggerated by those who thrive on the shortcomings of the systems and like exploiting the status quo because it makes them seem more valuable

and non-expendable. If technology is regarded as being a complex issue, think about what is actually happening in real life. Consider the 7 year old child who has learnt to use the X-box, play station, surf the internet and in some extreme cases use a mobile phone. Think of the complex games that Sony and Microsoft have peddled on the market that teenagers spend precious man hours attempting to complete in record times! Teenagers today spend record production man-hours completing complex games that demand a lot of complex brain use than most technology enthusiasts would like to admit.

Smart phones like IPhones, HTC series or Samsung phones on the market are now found on the remotest parts of poverty ravaged third-world Countries and are used effectively for communication, social networking like Facebook, email and even business transactions. The idea that technology is complex is hence defeated by such examples of how easily humans adapt to the introduction of new things. Therefore, it is not factual to claim that technology is complex but rather that it is simply misunderstood to mean something else when in fact, it is in use in our daily lives from when we wake up to when we lay down to rest. The Workflow management community has attempted to simplify the essence of procedures being the major culprit of poor results if not adhered to. The use of computers has simply enhanced the argument that if procedures are followed with particular order whilst using enhanced help from computer systems, then the results that are attained bring about higher productivity and quality results required in these dreary economic circumstances. In surmising, Workflow Management at its simplest is the movement of documents and/or tasks through a work process. More specifically, workflow is the operational aspect of a work procedure: how tasks are structured, who performs them, what their relative order is, how they are synchronized, how information flows to support the tasks and how tasks are being tracked.

As the dimension of time is considered in Workflow, Workflow considers "throughput" as a distinct measure. Organisations need to understand that without the use of common sense in work procedures, there will always be the fear of failure that is exaggerated and peddled by dinosaur employees and Corporations that are on their way out.

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