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What is a process?

 
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What is a process? What do we mean when we say business-process? I hope this is not something from developer's perspective like... "any program in execution is called a process..."
 
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We talk about process here mostly as a Software Development Life Cycle process, or we use the words method or methodology. It's a description of how individuals or teams work from an idea for a software system to a running system. Maybe one person writes down the ideas, another writes software designs, another writes code, another runs tests.

Nowadays there seems to be a line drawn between "prescriptive" methods that try to plan out everything to be done in great detail and then stick to the plan vs. "adaptive" methods that start with a vision but work out the details as they go, expecting a lot to change on the way. You'll find us talking more about the latter "Agile" style. And my example of different people doing the different steps above is kinda the opposite of Agile.

"Business process" is also about people, responsibilities, steps and such but at the level of ongoing business activities that may or may not use computer systems. Think about what goes on in a mail-order shop: one person opens the mail, another checks inventory, another pulls items, another ships them. That's a process.

Did that answer the right question?
 
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I like the wikipedia description (found by googling for "define: process"):

Process (lat. processus - movement) is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of operations or events, possibly taking up time, space, expertise or other resource, which produces some outcome.



It could be argued that the term "Agile process" actually is an oxymoron. Well, at least the first line of the Agile Manifesto states "[we value] People and their interactions over processes and tools".
 
Akhilesh Trivedi
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Stan and Ilja!
Thanks for your inputs.
The root of the this question lies in the following paragraph that I happen to read on an article.

"Developing the web services and exposing the functionalities is not sufficient. We also need a way to compose these functionalities in the right order � a way to define business processes which will make use of the exposed functionalities. We would obviously prefer a relatively simple and straightforward way to define such processes , particularly because we know that business processes change often, therefore we would like to modify them easily. "



I was trying to understand the context of process, if it is a web-aaplication or design/development process or... Stan! after your inputs i believe, here "Business process" is about people, responsibilities, steps and such but at the level of ongoing business activities that are using computer systems. And it is these activities that are being compueterized/automated through some sort of web-serivces (I am yet to explore this one). Is that right?

and as per Ilja, these processes should sure mean sequence, may be not at software development but at some business activity.
[ July 25, 2007: Message edited by: Akhilesh Trivedi ]
 
Ilja Preuss
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In this case, "business process" simply means "how the web service will be used, and what sequence of calls to the service that results in". Or something like that...
 
Stan James
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That may be Business Process as in BPEL (Business Process Execution Language). That's a standard for specifying and running "workflow" scripts. A process in that context might be as simple as "debit the first account, credit the second one, show the new balances" or as complex as steps executed by different people on different systems at different times.

Other buzzwords for this level of task management are orchestration and, um, there must be more. There are any number of tools in this market space that promise to make it easy to assemble existing services into new processes.
[ July 25, 2007: Message edited by: Stan James ]
 
Akhilesh Trivedi
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Thanks Stan! You got the context right, it was pertaining to BPEL article only... understood process.
 
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