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Semantic Business Process Management

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by Sebastian Stein in ARIS BPM Blog posted on 2008-07-14

Business process management (BPM) is now getting adopted by many companies. In itself, BPM provides many possibilities to improve business processes, customer orientation, aligning business and IT, and increasing the flexibility of an enterprise. Still, we at IDS Scheer already try to envision what might come next. Here, the usage of Semantic Web technologies like reasoners, ontologies, and mediators promises boosting business process management to a completely new level of possibilities. This approach is known as semantic business process management (SBPM).

Imagine you are a company in the food domain and a new regulation is established by the EU Commission or some other governmental organisation. The new regulation defines that certain kinds of vegetables must be sold within a shorter time period than before. Of course you have to comply with this regulation, so you start digging into your business processes to find all business functions handling this kind of vegetable. If you have documented your business processes in a BPM repository like ARIS, this task is supported by visual navigation and search functionalities. Still, it is the business expert performing this analysis.

In semantic business process management, the above mentioned scenario is simplified, because now the business processes as well as the new regulation are defined in a way that a machine is able to understand them. Therefore, no manual work is needed to verify that your business processes handling the vegetable comply with the new regulation. It allows removing manual work, while moving from the business to the technical process perspective as illustrated in the following figure.

This might sound like magic! Well, behind the scene advanced technologies are applied. Those technologies like reasoners, ontologies, and mediators were developed in the past years for the so called Semantic Web. It is the aim of the Semantic Web to enable machines to understand the content of the Internet.

from the business to the technical process perspectiveOf course semantic business process management is still research in progress. For example, there is a big public research project called SUPER, which is supported by the EU Commission. In the SUPER project, well known companies like SAP, IBM, and IDS Scheer are working together with leading research institutes from all over Europe to achieve the vision of semantic business process management. If you are interested in what might be the next big wave of business process management, you can check SUPER’s website, follow SUPER's Blog or join the SUPER tutorial during the upcoming Business Process Management conference. The SUPER tutorial will give you an overview of the technology behind, but it will also showcase prototypes of semantic business process management tools. We would be happy to discuss with you the vision of semantic business process management. What are your thoughts about Semantic BPM?

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