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General concepts


In any company trying to digitize, two major players are working to achieve the objectives.

But what do we call business processes? according to Wikipedia:

A business process is a collection of related and structured activities or tasks that in a specific sequence produces a service or product (meets a particular business objective) for a particular customer or customers.

  • To help us to be more specific, let's give several examples: A customer is interested in one of our products and fills out a form on our website. The first step our company has to take is to register this new customer in our CRM. Afterward, an email is sent to the customer thanking him for his interest in our product and giving him indications of the next steps. The user is registered in the demo platform and the credentials are sent to the user. After 7 days, an email is sent to the user asking him how it went and if he needs any help. If the customer shows interest in buying our product, a personalized quote is sent. And so forth until the customer's onboarding is complete.

  • An employee of our company has, every Monday, to use an application to obtain some reports that he then has to send by email to his boss. To do this, he accesses the application and after many search combinations, he can obtain the data. He exports them in an excel file and finally sends them by email.

  • An employee of our company requests authorization to take a trip. He indicates in the request the trip data and sends it to his manager. The manager approves the trip and returns the request to the employee. The employee sends the request and the authorization to the administration department to purchase the airline tickets and book the hotel. The administration department makes the purchases and reservations and returns the information to the employee. The employee, upon returning from the trip, submits the expense tickets for the trip to the administration department. Administration reviews the tickets and updates the payroll application to add the ticket amounts to their next payroll. Administration informs the employee that the ticket amounts will be credited to their next paycheck.

  • Monthly, a supplier of ours has to send us the results of a survey. Once received, we need to process, transform and store these data in a database. We then need to obtain a detailed report from the data and finally, send it by email to the marketing manager.

These are all examples of business processes, sequences of tasks that need to be performed for the daily operations of our company. But the way to implement these processes can vary significantly: they can be carried out manually, where each person has to know what to do; you can have a tool that coordinates the tasks that have to be done, even if each task is performed by a human; or you can automate the tasks to minimize human intervention.


Humans do tasks; some tasks consist of acting on the physical environment; other tasks may involve instructing systems to perform some action. In either case, a human task is something that a person has to do proactively and explicitly.

But humans not only do their tasks, but they also have to get information from what other humans are doing or what systems are doing. Traditionally this information comes through emails, through conversations between humans, through reports that are received periodically. When these means are not sufficient, they have to access specific systems to obtain this information.

Sometimes, the information to be disseminated has a traceability purpose, to explain what has been done. On other occasions, it is information explicitly directed to a human for a specific purpose.

With all this, we have elaborated a model of interaction between humans and the rest of the actors in the organization:

  • Execute human tasks. It could be "send a letter by post" or "send a letter by email" or anything else. What these tasks have in common is that a human has to be aware that he has to do it and proactively perform it, regardless of the tools he uses to do it.

  • Consult information. Humans in many cases need to consult the information that has been generated by another human or some system. Such information is needed to perform some tasks or to be able to make some data-driven decisions. For example, an employee may need to consult information from a company to generate an invoice. In general, the human who needs to consult information does it through some system.

  • Receive notification. If a human or a system needs to inform another human about something specific, it can send a notification. Notifications are addressed to specific humans and they have to acknowledge that they have been notified. For example, if a customer has registered in a company's customer portal, the system has to notify the customer when the registration is complete, indicating the relevant information.


Systems are any computer application used by the organization in its daily operations. Below we show the different interaction patterns in which a system is involved:

  • Human-system interaction. In this case, a human interacts directly with the system through a user interface. The purpose of the interaction can follow any of the patterns in the previous section: to execute a task, to consult information, etc. In case the purpose is to execute a task, we model it as a human task because it is a human who receives the task and who has to complete it.

  • Send command. This occurs in the case where a source system wants another target system to do something and cause changes in the information it manages. For example, if a source system wants the CRM (target system) to register a new customer.

  • Send query. In this case, the source system wants to retrieve information from a target system. For example, the company's billing system needs to obtain the customer's billing address data from the CRM to issue an invoice.

  • Send event. The last pattern occurs when a source system wants to inform any other system in the organization that an event has occurred in its system. For example, if an employee leaves the company, the human resources system could send an event so that the other systems can terminate that employee in their systems.


Some definitions speak of a process as a series of tasks that need to be performed to achieve a result. But to that, we must add that these tasks are performed in a certain order following defined rules. Those rules and that order are what is defined in a workflow.

The implementation of a workflow can take different forms: it can be defined ad-hoc in a specific application or service, or it can make use of some kind of workflow engine. In any case, the workflow is in charge of the orchestration of the different tasks to be carried out by humans and systems.


A process is therefore composed of a set of tasks. Some tasks are intended for humans to instruct them to do some action (human task) or to inform them. Other tasks are intended for systems (activities). The execution of all these tasks is organized according to a logic implemented in a workflow.

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