Let’s share an example of business process integration, the material in this article is fictional. However, the described example is a simplification of a integration problem is quite typical of modern enterprises. In particular if we consider big data driven solutions.

In order to set up the mood for this exercise I recommend you to watch the following video:

Your Mission: Business Process Integration
BPI Business Process Integration. Example of Business Process Integration

The rest of this article share with you the current situation of you mission (should you chose to accept it) and is structured as follows: First (section 1), the background is introduced. Then, the case study (Section 2) is briefly described and the interview that you had with various stakeholders (section 2.1 and 2.2) are articulated. Finally (Section 3) presents the details of your tasks.

1 – What happen before: the background story

The University of Nowhere made an agreement with a popular web based social network[1], named ACME Social, in order to share its information about its students and its lecturers.

The business agreement is on the line of what follows: “we will provide you the information that you require and, if one of your customers, would like to use these information you will pay us 10% of your sale”.

The legal department of the University of Nowhere validated this agreement. They decided to amend the subscription of each students with offering the possibility to opt out for preserving their privacy. However, if the student do that he/she will not be able to subscribe to the exams (i.e. he will never graduate!).

Student associations have been consulted and they do not see any difference from how this information are currently handled by popular eCommerce websites[2]. Consequently, they decide to support this initiative. Possible reasons for giving their support includes: (i) a potential (but not certain) reduction in the tuition costs of all the students and (ii) a share of the 1% (this is certain) of the revenue that the University of Nowhere will make. It will be transferred to the bank accounts of the associations that will support the initiative (and only to them).

Now that the various business agreements are in place, the rector magnificus has decided to investigate on the real possibility to implement what has been promised to ACME Social (really!?!? Not before!?!?). In his infinite wisdom, he decided to appoint you as his adviser and he is expecting concrete and actionable insights in order to move forward this initiative.

2 – BPI: The Case Study

You did not waste your time and you immediately started working on it. After all this is real life, not just an example of Business Process Integration. You see this as a fantastic opportunity for advancing your studies in the right way. Clearly a lot of professors of the Department of Impossible Computing are looking at what you are doing and, if successful, you will probably have the luxury of choosing your mentor for the master thesis freely. In addition, he/she will help you in securing a state of the art internship that will boost your future career.

You identified the IT department and ACME Social as your core stakeholders. After all, the various divisions of the university agreed to support this initiative and they all use the IT department for storing their information. Therefore, in principle, the IT is the gatekeeper of all the information of the University of Nowhere.

You did a few meetings with:

  • ACME Social: in order to understand what kind of information they want and how and when they would like these data. In other words what kind of format they would like to process and how they envision the transferring of /accessing to these data.
  • The IT department: in order to understand what information are available and what systems are involved.

The following subsections describe the outcome of these meetings.

2.1 Minute of the Meeting with ACME Social

ACME Social would like to enrich its data with a precise location of the students. After all, the university is a “very compact environment” where different students coexists. They initially thought about using GPS coordinates from the mobile phones of the students. Unfortunately, the precision, in particular if inside a building, is not accurate enough. Consequently, they would like to combine the GPS information with additional information. In particular they would like to leverage the fact that students follow classes. By combining them they would be able to achieve a more precise geo-location insight the campus.

Some of the functionalities that they would like to implement are:

  • Retrieve a list of unique ID of the students
  • Retrieve the email(s) of each student
  • Get the class that the student is supposed to follow
  • Retrieving the exact coordinates of the location of a given student according to the University of Nowhere.

Note that in a real case the information that ACME Social would like to acquire will be much more. However, for the purpose of this exercise we will limit to these four.

2.2 Minute of the Meeting with the IT Department

You had a very, very, very long discussion with the IT department and you analyzed 15-een possible systems that may provide the information that you are seeking.  You noticed that most of the systems collect redundant information and one is actually from 1980. Nobody actually knows how it works and what exactly is doing. What is clear is that if they try to turn it off, 50% of their systems stop working.

You manage to restrict the list to two systems that may provide the relevant information to you. Proper access to the data need to be programmed as there is not an existing module that is capable to do what you are envisioning. By the way, the IT Department thinks that it is not a particularly difficult task (really?!? Mmmm sound suspicious).

The systems are, University of Nowhere Student CRM that offer the following information:

  • Retrieve the list of Unique ID (ANR) of all the students
  • Retrieve the email associated to a particular Unique ID (ANR). All the information related to a student’s profile (address, phone number etc etc) are there as well.

And the system, University of Nowhere ACME digital learning with the following information:

  • Retrieve the list of classes that are currently offered by the university
  • Retrieve the list of students (with their unique ID or ANR) that are following a particular class

3 – The Mission of the Business Process Integrator

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to understand and model the needs of University of Nowhere. You will give to all the stakeholders (students, professors, ACME Social) what they need for implementing the foreseen business agreement. In addition, the rector magnificus need a clear road map to present the board for securing the budget for the project. Due to your extensive experience in Business Process Integration you know what the stakeholders need. You intend to produce is a document that summarizes the state of the art the the planned actions. In particular the document should contains :

  • One or more Use Case diagrams that describe the functionalities of the BPI solution that the University of Nowhere should support. You also count of the fact that you can explain each Use Case using natural language (English) to make them simple and more readable. They key challenge in this task is to try to identify all the actors involved.
  • One or more Activity Diagrams for illustrating the dynamic of the Use Cases and model the overall end-to-end process. This Diagram will give you the possibility to specify the internal and external systems involved as well as their interactions. 
  • An UML class diagram describing all the concepts used among all the selected processes and systems. Once you will be able to specify all the attributes and the methods of the classes they IT Department will know exactly what to do.
  • A set of Sequence Diagrams that leverage the Use Cases and the Class Diagram in order to clearly specify: (i) how the system interacts and (ii) how your solution will implement the process as defined by the business requirements.

Take home message for this example of business process integration

This is just an example of business process integration with a “big data flavor”. It is fictional and represent a simplified use case. Nevertheless is not trivial and still represents relatively well a real cases. You can have a look at the syllabus of BPI for more information.

More information regarding the diagrams that we envision is available at this link.

[1] Possible (but this is fictional) real life examples include: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Academia, Researcher

[2] Possible (but this is fictional) real life examples include: Bol or Amazon or eBay