Building and Exploiting a Business Process Model for Lobbying: Experience Report

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The paper describes a project in the domain of business process modeling that concerns loosely-structured business processes, i.e. processes for which it is difficult to establish an order of activities. The process in focus is the lobbying process, i.e. a process aimed at influencing decisions of others, e.g. politicians. The project was carried out at a non-profit interest organization, and the paper describes the project's motivation, structure, methodology, results, and how the results were exploited, including a short description of an IT system built to support the lobbying process. As the commonly spread workflow technique is not particularly suitable for loosely-structured business processes, the project exploited an original state-flow technique for developing a model of the lobbying process. The state-flow technique is based on the state-oriented view on business processes that has been used as a foundation for building the support system. The paper reports a number of problems encountered during the introduction of the system into operational practice. These problems led to the needs of reducing the level of details initially introduced into the system; they will be reintroduced at the later stage when the users become more accustomed to work in the process-oriented manner. In the conclusion, the paper discusses success factors important for modeling projects, and pros and cons of the modeling method used, as well as a broader research context of which the work presented in the paper is a part.

INTRODUCTION

The category of "Experience Report" is unusual for a research conference category. Therefore, we will begin by explaining our understanding of the category. In our opinion, an experience report is about a project that:

(a) had practical motivation and achieved practically useful results,

(b) is representative for some class of tasks/projects that are of interest for practice and/or research in general, and

(c) belongs to a class of tasks/projects that are not adequately represented in the literature.

This paper reports on a project at a non-profit interest organization of building and exploiting a model for a lobbying process. A lobbying process is a process aimed at influencing decisions of others, e.g. politicians, managers, etc. Though the business process literature is vast, the examples of business process discussed, as a rule, belong to the domain of relatively well-structured, production-like processes. The most often cited examples are production, order processing, and processing of insurance claims, see, for example (Aalst & Hee, 2002; Grover & Kettinger, 1995; Jablonsky & Bussler, 1996; Sheer, 1998).

Lobbying (Jokinen, 2000) belongs to the domain of loosely-structured processes. Business processes of this kind have received less attention in the literature, see, however, (Aalst & Berens, 2001; Bernstein, 2000). By loosely-structured, we mean processes for which it is difficult to pre-determine the order of activities. This term has a connotation with the concept of ill-defined problems in AI, see, for example (Simon, 1973), and with such terms as ad-hoc, emergent and dynamic workflows, as discussed in (Bernstein, 2000; Jorgensen & Carlsen, 1999).

Considering loosely-structured processes is very important for today's business practice. To survive and grow in the global economy, companies and other organizations need to take measures aimed at increasing their efficiency. One way to increase efficiency is via lowering operational costs, and such costs may be roughly divided into two categories: production costs, and administrative costs. Many production processes nowadays are highly automated, and the use of robots in industry is growing. In our view, there are fewer opportunities to gain significant savings through lower production costs. Therefore, companies and other organizations turn their attention to achieving higher efficiency in administration and management, the areas where loosely-structure processes are the rule, rather than exception. …