Collaborative Process Assistant - An introduction of the CoPA prototype

Thomas Burkhart; Dirk Werth; Peter Loos(2010)
In: 9th International Conference on Business Process Management (BPM 2011), Clemont-Ferrand, France, 08/2010, Springer, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-23059-2

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The Collaborative Process Assistant (CoPA) represents a flexible process support system tailored for Small and Medi-um-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Utilizing the large impact of e-mail communication for today’s businesses, CoPA turns the existing e-mail-system into a structured process man-agement framework. Each incoming e-mail is autonomously matched to the corresponding business process and enhanced by proactive annotations. These context-sensitive annotations include recommendations for the most suitable following process steps. An underlying, self-adjusting recommendation model ensures most appropriate recommendations by observing the actual user behavior. This implies that the proposed process course is in no way obligatory. To provide a high degree of flexibility, any deviation from the given process structure is allowed. For the purpose of initial process schema definitions, an easy to use web-interface is part of CoPA. Patterns for the detection of process steps in incoming e-mails as well as process types being a sequence of process steps can be defined there via drag and drop. Since emphasis is laid upon process interoperability, collaborative business processes among multiple enterprises can also be defined here in par-ticular. Companies of any sector can benefit from CoPA since e-mail is an omnipresent business medium. Large enterprises can utilize the ERP-connectivity of the system to transfer e-mail-inherent knowledge to ERP as well as incorporating information from ERP into incoming e-mails automatically. Still, CoPA is most favorable for SMEs. Considering the low costs, the simple configuration and usage as well as the high flexibility, the special characteristics of SMEs are comprehensively addressed by the CoPA approach. The frequently occurring collaborations among SMEs are taken into account by the possibility of easily defining business-spanning process chains. The proposed demonstration will feature all stages of the system usage. Starting from the definition of an individual process type, especially the annotated and classified e-mails will be in the field of interest. Therefore, two showcase scenarios consisting of common business e-mail exchanges will illustrate the capabilities of the system. One scenario demonstrates the handling of an order processing from the first customer request up to the shipping. The second scenario, illustrating the process of customs clearance for exporting goods, shows the extensibility of the modular structured system since a connector to the EDIFACT-based customs system is included here. During the process demonstrations, deviations from the usual process will be performed to show the flexibility and adaptation capabilities of the system. Furthermore, a recently developed RFID-extension will demonstrate an automated triggering of e-mail sending and process step initialization by RFID-chips, which offers numerous interesting fields of application.