Business processes are commonly defined as a set of related activities directed at producing an outcome. In bureaucratic case processing, the outcome is typically a decision, which is documented in a case file and communicated using e.g. formal letters. For the management, improvement and automation of some of these processes, BPM and workflow systems are adequate. Knowledge intensive processes like engineering, design, and construction, however, produce outcomes that are far more complex. To manage, improve, and automate such processes, we must design product models and process models in parallel, with evolving product structures as the core and foundation. This post presents a case from oil&gas field development, outlines why a product-driven business process management approach is needed, and how it is applied. Read the rest of this entry »

A previous post outlined some reasons why we think data modeling and semantic approaches are poorly suited for developing common data models across applications, disciplines, functions, and organizations. In particular, we argue that formal, precise representations makes it difficult to discuss terms before we have agreed upon a common language. Another problem is class hierarchies, which typically are local to a community. Enforcing a single classification structure in a common model can alienate stakeholders who have a different way of seeing things. Finally, visual models are preferred over textual representations because they more easily work as a neutral common ground, avoiding terminology wars.

This post introduces a modeling methodology that utilizes knowledge architectures to arrive at integrated information and data architectures. By following this approach, you create a conceptual knowledge model, which is suitable for interdisciplinary, cross-functional and cross-organizational communication. The methodology outlines the steps involved in creating common understanding, and some modeling principles that should be followed.

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An integrated data model can connect the applications, functions, and disciplines of a company. It can be a foundation for service oriented architectures, business process automation, and master data management. The process towards establishing an integrated model can be long and winding. While data modeling methodologies are suitable for documenting the end result of this process, they may hinder more than facilitate its progress. In particular, prematurely introducing a precise common representation, may alientate groups of stakeholders, leading to a “common” model with a bias towards a few perspectives. An approach more adjusted to group dynamics and social learning is needed. Physical data models and logical information models should be complemented by conceptual knowledge models. This post presents some of the challenges involved, while a later post outlines a knowledge architecture approach to integrating data models. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovative design is the most important competitive factor for global engineering and manufacturing. Critical challenges include cutting lead times for new products, increasing stakeholder involvement, facilitating life-cycle knowledge sharing, service provisioning, and support. Current IT solutions for product lifecycle management fail to meet these challenges because they are built to perform routine information processing, rather than support agile creative work.

Active knowledge modeling is a family of methodologies that address this situation, utilizing model-driven application platforms. This post presents an overview of different methodologies applied to implement pragmatic and powerful design platforms, by building and utilizing active knowledge architectures (AKA).

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Several languages have been proposed for business process modelling. Though most of them follow the conventional representation of processes as a series of steps, they emphasize different aspects of processes and related structures, such as organizations, products, and data. Consequently, they are suited for different kinds of processes. Even if you are determined to use a particular technique, knowledge of alternative approaches can still guide the modelling, by surfacing complementary points of view. In addition to the common transformational process models, this post discusses block structured languages, storytelling, and process modeling languages that are hierarchical, flow-oriented, role-oriented, communication-oriented, declarative, goal-oriented, timelines, product and document state machines etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Active knowledge modeling and business process management are two approaches for executing models of business processes. In its most recent reincarnation, business process management deals with composition, choreography and orchestration of web services. It includes mapping of data between the services, but compared to earlier workflow management systems, BPM standards such as BPEL is weak in the area of user involvement. Mechanisms for to-do-lists, progress monitoring, and manual exception handling are lacking(cf. BPEL4People, and human interaction management).
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