The research group distinguishes itself in the Information Systems discipline by its fundamental focus on modelling, understanding, analyzing, and improving processes. Essentially, every time two or more activities are performed to reach a certain goal, fundamental principles of processes apply. Processes take place on the level of individual actors, groups of actors, entire organizations, and networks of organizations. Processes, in one form or another, can be seen everywhere:
In traditional workflow management settings, the idea behind a process is that there is a single notion of a “case” flowing through a “process” according to a pre-defined route, i.e. a “process model”. However, the notion of processes and the principles behind them are much broader. In many situations, processes are not explicitly defined (there is no procedure for a customer clicking through a website) or are highly flexible (typically in knowledge intensive processes such as designing products or deciding about visa and immigration). Also, many processes have interactions with other processes: for example, there are many interlinked processes behind every patient in a hospital or behind the supply chain of any multi-national manufacturer. There is a growing concern within organizations, governments, and society as a whole that processes need to be governed properly and efficiently. The availability of large amounts of data on the one hand and a fundamental understanding of the process notion on the other shape the opportunity for researchers in our group to contribute to this societal challenge.
Background: Business Process Management
Within organizations, the management of processes has been an important topic since the introduction of conveyor belts in the early 1920’s. From 2000, business process management is the research field focusing on agility in organizations and continuous (business) process improvement through a BPM life-cycle of designing, modelling, execution, monitoring and optimizing processes.
Lately, there is growing attention in the field of business process management for the embedding of process analytics into (process aware) information systems, i.e. BPM provides the context in which our analytics are being developed.
Fundamental to the research group at the Eindhoven University of Technology is the choice for Petri nets as the language to precisely describe process dynamics also in complex settings at a foundational level. The choice for this language is what distinguishes our research group from research groups in more industrial engineering oriented information systems groups.
One of the foundations of computer science today is data. The omnipresence of increasingly large volumes of data has become a key driver for many innovations and new research directions in computer science. Specifically in information systems, data – and the analytics developed on top of this data – have transformed the field from expert-driven to evidence-based, which in turn massively broadens the applicability of results to more and larger contexts. Many advanced process analysis tools and techniques exist today in over 25 commercial packages that were developed in the PA (formerly AIS) group over the last 15 years.
The research in the our group continues to expand outward from a “classical” situation of data with clear case notions in the context of explicitly structured processes to a broad, multi-faceted field, where processes are less structured or consist of many interacting artifacts and where case notions in data become more fluid or are complex, multi-dimensional networks.
The figure above shows this research field of process analytics.