Basic concepts of iPB

iPB is a process-oriented tool: with its help you create an executable process definition that can be, on one hand, presented in a “human-friendly” form and, on the other hand, interpreted by a computer in real-time.

The “human-friendly” presentation of process definitions facilitates discussions of business processes, business needs, and requirements with business folk during the development project. After the project has been finished, the “human-friendly” presentation serves as an interactive WEB-based documentation of processes, requirements, or systems/services.

The computer-based interpretation of process definitions constitutes a run-time environment where the processes can be run (executed) according to definitions. This environment facilitates simulation under the development project, and constitutes a platform for running a definition as a system/service after the development process has been finished.

The basic concepts on which the iPB is built are somewhat abstract, their more concrete interpretation depends on the project for which iPB is employed, and is left to the developers’ imagination. Below we lists the basic concepts alongside with their definitions/explanations:

Process – something that develops in time, has well defined start and finish, and can be described in a form of a ”flow”, for example:

  1. flow of operations/work (workflow)
  2. flow of an object through a logistical net
  3. information flow during information processing
  4. flow of changes of some object,
  5. flow of screens in a man-machine dialog
  6. etc.

Process definition – (semi)formal specification that defines behavior of processes of a given type.

Process type – a set of possible processes with similar behavior (flow)

Process map – essential part of process definition in form of a drawing. In iPB, a process map is a diagram representing process flow as a sequence of steps started and finished in some natural order. Natural order is considered from top to bottom, then from left to right.

Process step – an elementary unit of a process map that represents a phase in the process development. For example, a step can represent a work package (in workflow), movement of an object from one point to another, essential change introduced in reality, information processing of inputs to outputs. Interpretation dependents on what the process flow represents.

Business rules – constrains on the process flow that are not represented explicitly in the process map. In iPB, business rules describes relationships between process steps and they are specified in the form of a matrix, in which rows as well as columns represent steps. A cell of such a matrix represents a relationship between the row and column steps.

eForm (electronic form) – information structure with two-dimensional layout. Elements of the structure are called fields. In iPB, layout is specified by a matrix the cells of which contain fields. Fine grain details of the layout are defined by the geometrical properties of the fields included in the matrix. In iPB each step has a eForm attached to it. eForm attached to a step can be used to

  • represent information needs for completing the step,
  • specify what kind of results are expected by the end of the step,
  • define a layout of a screen with which the end-user will interact
  • etc.

Note that forms attached to two different steps may share fields (i.e., information structures).

Field – an elementary unit of information structure with layout properties. Field has a name and a set of possible values. In iPB, a field always belongs to some field type. Field type defines which possible values the field may have and which kind of layout properties

Field type
– and abstract entity that defines a set of possible fields to be included in eForms. Field type restricts which values a filed may have, and defines its shape in the eForm layout.

Business object – an abstract representation of objects from the business world, people, organizations, etc. iPB includes field types that refer to business objects. Placing a field of a business object type on an eForm creates a reference (link) to an object of this type.

Profile – a set of rules that describe a position (business role) that a person participating in processes can hold. It describes what a person who holds the position (plays the role) can/should do in each step of each of the processes.