A framework for the normative analysis of workflow loops

Hans Weigand, Aldo de Moor
2001 ACM SIGGROUP Bulletin  
The goal of this paper is to make the communication norms underlying various LAP workflow loop models (DEMO, ActionWorkflow) explicit and to contrast them with auditing norms. We conclude that the OER-paradigm embedded in DEMO and the customer satisfaction orientation of Action Workflow lead to norms which resemble the ones required by internal control, but there are some important differences. We propose a framework for the normative analysis of workflow loops in which customer relations and
more » ... ency relations are distinguished. Whereas most LAP approaches do not take agency relations explicitly into account, the extended workflow loop model allows us to analyze the effects of delegation on communicative structures. the modelling is based on the notion of a speech act. Moreover, the modelling method imposes a certain structure on the communication processes. In the case of DEMO, this is the transaction paradigm, in the case of ActionWorkflow, the ActionWorkflow loop. This imposed structure excludes certain "ill-formed" processes. Data-oriented approaches do not impose much: it is not difficult to draw a use case that is syntactically correct, but does not make any sense as communication. Some process-oriented approaches in business process modelling are based on Petri Nets. Petri Nets have the advantage that formal verification techniques can be used to test certain properties. However, a Petri Net in itself does not impose more communication structure to the process than a data-oriented approach. A major advantage of the LAP approaches -the structure they impose -is sometimes also a point of criticism. According to some researchers, the workflow loop is too restrictive [Suchman, 1994] . It is said that in practice the analyst is confronted with situations that do not adhere to the workflow loop principle. The crucial question is not whether such situations occur, but whether such a deviation is ok or bad. If the deviation is OK, then apparently, LAP is too restrictive. If the deviation turns out to be a distorted communication process, then it is an advantage that the LAP model indicates how this process must be redesigned. However, in order to make a strong case for the advantage of such a prescriptive application of the model, it is essential that the normative principles underlying it are explicated. The objective of this paper is to explicate the norms inherent in the LAP models, in particular, DEMO and ActionWorkflow. Section 2 introduces the notion of norm-based analysis based on Stamper's semiotic approach. Section 3 provides a brief overview of the mentioned LAP models. In section 4, an overview is given of communication norms derived from the internal control theory used in accountancy. In Section 5, we make the norms underlying LAP workflow models explicit and compare them with internal control norms. Section 6 introduces our framework for the normative analysis of the workflow loop paradigm, combining elements from the approaches discussed. The role of norms in workflow modelling Today's Internet-age information systems are much more communication than computation systems. There are many applications that support complex communication processes, like discussion and group decision making, and many kinds of collaborative work such as group authoring. The semiotics of these systems are often much more complex than of traditional information systems, particularly because the intended semantics and pragmatics are not under the control of one single organization, and therefore often remain un(der)defined. This
doi:10.1145/605676.605682 fatcat:63ewxmgstjhbxia7z6oue6tqva