The Application of Activity Theory to Dynamic Workflow Adaptation Issues

Adams, Michael J., Edmond, David, & ter Hofstede, Arthur H.M. (2003) The Application of Activity Theory to Dynamic Workflow Adaptation Issues. In The 7th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS 2003), 10-13 July 2003, Adelaide, Australia.


Workflow Management Systems (WfMSs) are implemented to support the modelling, analysis and enactment of rigidly structured business processes. However, they typically have difficulty supporting unexpected or developmental change occurring in the work practices they model, and are unable to provide adequate support for exceptions, or deviations from the process model, even though such deviations are a common occurrence for almost all processes. These limitations mean a large subset of business practices do not easily translate to the inflexible modelling frameworks imposed by WfMSs, and so has inhibited their wider acceptance.

Workflow modelling frameworks are usually based on software programming principles and proprietary formats, which may not be the most ideal base for the support of flexible work practices. A better approach may be to develop a WfMS based on accepted ideas of how people actually work. This paper derives a set of principles for work practice from a sound theoretical base called "Activity Theory". These grounded principles are then applied to a set of criteria that a WfMS must meet if it is to provide adequate support for flexible work methods. Commercial workflow products, and some research trends, are discussed in relation to the criteria specified.

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ID Code: 7983
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Workflow, Workflow Management, Activity Theory
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > INFORMATION SYSTEMS (080600) > Information Systems not elsewhere classified (080699)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Deposited On: 06 Jun 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 12:58

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