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Inter-Enterprise Collaborative Business Process Management

Chen, Qiming; Hsu, Meichun


Keyword(s): Cooperative Process Management

Abstract: Conventional workflow systems are primarily designed for intra-enterprise process management, and they are hardly used to handle processes with tasks and data separated by enterprise boundaries, for reasons such as security, privacy, sharability, firewalls, etc. Further the cooperation of multiple enterprises is often based on peer-to-peer interactions rather than centralized coordination. As a result, the conventional centralized process management architecture does not fit into the picture of inter- enterprise business-to-business E-Commerce. We have developed a Collaborative Process Manager (CPM) to support decentralized, peer-to-peer process management for inter-enterprise collaboration at the business process level. A collaborative process is not handled by a centralized workflow engine, but by multiple CPMs, each represents a player in the business process. Each CPM is used to schedule, dispatch and control the tasks of the process that the player is responsible for, and the CPMs interoperate through an inter-CPM messaging protocol. An XML based Collaborative Process Definition Language, CPDL, extending the process definition language (PDL), is developed for specifying collaborative business processes. We have implemented CPM and embedded it into a dynamic software agent architecture, E-Carry, that we developed at HP Labs, to elevate multi-agent cooperation from the conversation level to the process level for mediating E-Commerce applications. We have also integrated E-Carry with E-Speak, an inter- enterprise communication infrastructure product developed at HP. In general, our approach represents a shift from centralized process management to decentralized, collaborative process management. We believe that CPMs will be the basic building blocks for a scalable, dynamic, inter-enterprise middleware framework. The feasibility and practical value of this approach have been demonstrated by the prototypes implemented at HP Labs.

18 Pages

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