Go With the (Work) Flow

Process automation is the cornerstone of second generation EAI systems. It is important to distinguish between a workflow and a process. Workflows have typically been used to model the document flow and human interaction with that document flow. An example of a workflow is an auto insurance claim. The workflow has contact points with automated systems, but human actors invoke system behavior as part of their tasks. A workflow identifies the contact points for invocation of process automation.

An automated process is a standalone process that automates some business process as fully as possible via EAI software. The process requires no human interaction. An example of an automated process is the spinning of nylon threads from plastic pellets. The process is fully automated and requires human operators only to monitor the process and intervene in case of failure. Another example is producing phone bills from call records in telephone switches. Such a process could be automated with a set of rules that trigger specific automated actions.

The workflow needs to be translated into a series of steps that invoke specific tasks and activities. The tasks can be manual or automated. The definition of a workflow chain of events goes something like this:

  1. An actor initiates the workflow step (initiator).
  2. An input adapter is identified to receive the step event.
  3. The …

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