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Subject: RE: Syntax Free Models

Martin et al,

I re-read the paper at http://www.sgml.u-net.com/neutral.htm.
Thanks for posting it on the Web.

You did clarify that "Different industries will have different chains 
of business processes, and different organizations within a particular 
industry may require their own definition of their business processes."

That helps me to reconcile your ideas to my experience of real
business processes.   However, in operation, the process chains
are even more variable than that: they vary by individual product and 
even by individual event.

If you look at the REA ontology which I described for the ebXML BP
group at http://homepage.interaccess.com/~linkage/REA4ebXML.htm,
you will find three layers of classes:  
* Type, or knowledge infrastructure
* Commitment, or operational plans and agreements
* Event, or actual consumption, production and transfer of resources.

The process chains you describe might live at the highest Type level,
as generic scripts for process chains across companies.

But the process chains you describe are analogous to manufacturing
routings, spread out across multiple companies (an idea I heartily
endorse).  And routings vary by product:  e.g. some products may be
go through distribution centers, some delivered directly from
manufacture to retail or customer.

Likewise at the commitment level, when operational plans are made,
for example replenishing retail stocks based on point of sale events:
the demand flow travels backward along the process chain for the
product-to-be-replenished until it (possibly) hits some inventory-on-hand
sufficient to satisfy the demand - possibly at a distribution center.
In this case, the replenishment process chain starts at the 
distribution center.

You may have these levels of variation in  mind as well.  
I'd be interested to know.

On another topic, I am still having difficulty believing the message
interactions.  I think one problem is the mixing up of material flow
processes with message-interaction processes.  For example,
the same material flow process (e.g. manufacture-distribute-retail)
might be use a variety of message conversations, depending on
any number of variations in the situation.  I do not think it is wise
to mix the two.  In particular, the material flow processes do form
chains, the message conversations go back-and-forth usually
between two stations in the material process chain.

>I still have doubts about the relevance of using state to record the
>relationship between information units, as [Keith Finkelde] propound[ed].

Keith and I may have different ideas about state in this context -
mine comes from material flow processes, Keith's comes from
workflow.  But my idea would be similar to the name of the
last material flow process the material went through.  That
is an oversimplification, because the state might be something
like "off spec", too.  But the state tells the next processing
agent what needs to happen next, without getting into the
details of the previous process inside some other company.

I would be interested to hear from Keith if his idea of state
is compatible with above (assuming I have explained clearly...)

Bob Haugen

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