Using Workflow Systems for Managing Business Processes Efficiently*

Dr. Divyakant Agrawal**

Department of Computer Science
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

The plethora of powerful desktop computers and availability of communication networks that connect these machines has created an ideal environment for automating "work" in business enterprises. In this talk, I will begin with a brief overview of a workflow system called FlowMark*** that has been developed at IBM to manage complex business processes in large enterprises. In particular, I will describe the modeling capabilities and overall system architecture of FlowMark. At IBM Almaden, research is underway to incorporate advanced features into workflow systems. The Exotica project**** is looking at the issues related to reliability and scalability of workflow systems, using advanced transaction models to handle semantic failures in long-running activities, and to deal with disconnected operations of workflow clients. The current architecture of FlowMark is relatively centralized and may suffer from single-point of failures. We are investigating alternative architectures for workflow systems that do not suffer from such problems. I will conclude this presentation with some of the open problems system architects confront when dealing with heterogeneous databases and legacy systems.

*    Work done in collaboration with: Gustavo Alonso, Amr El Abbadi,
     Roger Gunthor, Mohan Kamath, and C. Mohan.
**   Currently on sabbatical at IBM Almaden Research Center.
***  FlowMark is a registered trademark of IBM Corporation.
**** IBM Almaden Research Center's Exotica project aims at incorporating
     advanced capabilities in IBM's products and prototypes. Even though
     we refer to specific IBM products in this presentation, no conclusions
     should be drawn about future product plans.