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SE Radio 198: Wil van der Aalst on Workflow Management Systems

Recording Venue: WebEx
Guest: Wil van der Aalst
Robert Blumen interviews Professor Wil van der Aalst of the Technical University of Eindhoven, one of the world’s leading researchers in business process management and workflow systems. Professor van der Aalst leads off with an overview of the main concepts in the field business processes, business process management, and workflow management systems. The guest and host then compare implied processes to explicit representations, in which the process is a first-class citizen. The advantages of explicit representations include a number of analytical possibilities. The conversation turns to the techniques and technologies for expressing process definitions. This is done graphically or with a domain-specific language. The guest provides insights into the pros and cons of various representational models. The host and guest cover the history of workflow patterns, which serve a similar role to that played by design patterns in conventional programming. Van der Aalst explains how the patterns movement has influenced commercial and open source workflow software, and describes patterns to support parallel execution of tasks within a process. The discussion then turns toward the run-time engine, which is something like an interpreter or a virtual machine for the execution of workflows. The discussion of run-time includes integration APIs between the workflow and business services, transactionality, and alternatives to transactions such as undo and compensating actions. The guest explains the importance of process mining for the discovery and correct definition of processes. Moreover, Van der Aalst emphases the importance of relating event data and process model for performance improvement and conformance checking. The interview wraps up with a discussion of the YAWL open source project and other web sites published by the guest.

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