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3.3.2. Executing business processes 3.3.2.1. The orchestration of activities Once modeling has been completed, the described sequences must be executed: launching each activity in the defined order; recovering the results of each step; applying the rules for chaining depending on the results observed; ensuring that the successive activities are input with the data or the events that they require; posting information to the supervision system; managing each step of the process, omitting none, over the whole of its life span. As part of an integration project, all of these actions must be carried out on heterogenous, distributed platforms, which poses the problem that is often the most difficult to resolve. These functions are performed by the process execution engine, which automatically executes the business processes defined during modeling. To do this, it implements the modeled objects via: process instances, each one comprising one occurrence of the defined business process; activities instances, for each occurrence of the activity in the process, one of: - work units, for each of the occurrences of manual activities, - application instance, for each occurrence of an automatic activity. Figure 3.41 illustrates the relationships between the objects described in the modeling phase and the execution phase. From the graphical description in BPMN, on the modeling station for processes, it must be possible to generate a description of the process expressed in an execution language usable by the execution engines, and to deploy this description on the platforms which host those engines. The process execution language that, on current trends, looks increasingly established today is the BPEL standard from OASIS.
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At the origins of this standard are IBM and Microsoft, each of whom had already defined their own execution language, respectively WSFL and XLANG. IBM and Microsoft have decided to combine these two languages to define BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services). In April 2003, BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Siebel Systems submitted BPEL4WS V1.1 to OASIS to have it adopted as standard. BPEL4WS (since abbreviated to BPEL) describes the process in an XML format by utilizing a certain number of other standards as XPath and WSDL (refer to section 4.5.3.1). However, in the current state of the BPEL standard, this description, in the form of structured blocks imposed by the use of XML, does not cover all the representations of processes authorized by the graphically oriented BPMN. From this fact, for the moment, an inconsistency exists between what we are capable of modeling with BPMN and what can be executed by a BPEL engine.
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Figure 3.41. Relationship between business process modeling and execution
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3.3.2.2. The execution of business rules In addition to the execution engine of the processes, an execution engine for the business rules (Business Rules Engine, or BRE) is also required to describe and execute the rules that will guide the process through the various possible paths in the model. This is a fundamental element in the automation of processes, since it allows
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the coding rules for the applications to be externalized, and therefore, from this fact, avoids modifying the applications in case of a change to the business rule, a determinative factor for IT agility. In addition, another advantage is to be able confer on business management the responsibility for developing and refining rules and thus lightening the workload for the development teams. The definition of these rules could be (and sometimes is) performed directly during the modeling by using a programming language such as Java in the description of the process. However, for graphical or natural-language definition of these rules, it is preferable to use an external rules engine. This avoids modifying the modeling of the process in case the rule needs to be modified. All that is needed is to modify and redeploy the rule, with no impact on the logic of the process. The use of such an engine makes possible the management of extremely elaborate rules: for example, in the case of a resupply process during an out-ofstock, we do not have to be content with just specifying backup suppliers in case the principal supplier fails. We could also associate periods when different rules will be applied, along with a collection of other parameters that help optimize the costs of resupply during such an operation. It is not always easy to make the distinction between rules and processes. The distinguishing points often concern their updating: with generally different periodicities; dynamically or not; by distinguishing the profiles authorized to manage one or the other. The example of the process for subscription of a contract with an insurance company is quite explicit: the process allows management of the contract request; it calls rules to evaluate the risks that the client presents (scoring). 3.3.3. Supervising business processes The supervision of business processes consists of ensuring the correct sequence of the various applications or tasks that comprise the process. Moreover, with process execution coming between the levels of adapting and transporting information, it is up to supervision to provide a global view of all these operations.
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