For companies and large organizations the computerized support of their business processes becomes increasingly important. Examples of such business processes include leasing contracts, customer orders, and healthcare processes. For traditional application systems (e.g., ERP systems) as well as for rapidly evolving e-business applications (e.g., e-procurement, supply chain management, web services) a comprehensive process support is strongly desired by users.
A promising technology for automating business processes is offered by Workflow Systems. Business processes are usually described at a high semantic level, containing all different kinds of information necessary for the operating departments. In order to automate business processes within a Workflow System, as first step, it is necessary to "translate" a business process into something executable, i.e., the corresponding workflow. Workflow Systems, therefore, usually enable the definition of executable workflows based on workflow description languages with execution semantics (e.g., Petri Nets, WS-BPEL, WSM Nets), mostly by providing a graphical workflow editor. After deploying the workflow description to the workflow engine, the engine actively coordinates the execution and monitoring of workflows, integrates distributed application components in a robust and secure manner, provides work lists to authorized users, and enables the proper documentation of the workflow execution.
The WST research group focuses on three enabling technologies for process-aware applications: flexible workflow systems, computing workflows, and service-oriented architectures. Flexible workflow systems support the ad hoc modification of running workflows in order to react on exceptional situations as well as the evolution of entire workflow types which becomes necessary, for example, due to new legal regulations or process optimizations. Computing workflows enable the implementation of workflows at a high level and are suited to support, for example, scientific workflows. The vision is to become able to use workflows as utilities (utility workflows). In order to support future workflow scenarios such as workflow choreographies, the WST group also elaborates on workflow technology based on service-oriented architectures (SOA).
These enabling technologies build up the basis for research challenges that are crucial in the context of almost any workflow scenario: compliance, intelligence, and security. Business Process Compliance refers to the integration, verification, and adaptation of semantic rules imposed on business processes. Intelligence subsumes the adequate support of workflow users, workflow analysis, and continuous workflow optimization. Security covers basic requirements such as proper authorization, but also considers novel research questions such as control of change effects. Altogether, the Workflow Systems and Technology Group has a strong research focus in Computer Science, but also offers a broad range of application fields (e.g., healthcare, finance, automotive domain). A current project of the WST group that spans the bridge between research and practice is the research cluster together with the Medical University of Vienna focusing on skin cancer treatment processes.