Characterizing Process Variation

Borislava I. Simidchieva and Leon J. Osterweil
University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

A process model, namely a formal definition of the coordination of agents performing activities using resources and artifacts, can aid understanding of the real-world process it models. Moreover, analysis of the model can suggest improvements to the real-world process. Complex real-world processes, however, exhibit considerable amounts of variation that can be difficult or impossible to represent with a single process model. Such processes can often be modeled better, within the restrictions of a given modeling notation, by a family of models. This paper presents an approach to the formal characterization of some of these process families. A variety of needs for process variation are identified, and suggestions are made about how to meet some of these needs using different approaches. Some mappings of different needs for variability to approaches for meeting them are presented as case studies.