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SAP Research investigates applicability of semantic technologies in BPM

SUPER logoIn addition to internal research on business process management that some of the readers my be aware of through other bloggers, SAP Research is also involved in research cooperation with other organizations. Such cooperation can take many different forms. One of the dominating forms is participation in consortia sponsored by the European Commission as part of Research Framework Programmes, the most recent being FP7.

SAP researchers take part in many research projects funded under the framework, but in this post I am going to focus on an overview of one such project, SUPER, explaining you the general ideas behind the project. I am also going to dive in to some specific areas of SUPER work in future posts, so that after getting an overall picture of the research in SUPER, you will see more details of work done by SAP.

So, what’s so SUPER?

A couple of years ago, a few researchers and industry representatives met and started to wonder what happens if we take semantic web and process management, put them into one box, and shake well.

Process management has been becoming more and more important in enterprise scenarios, and at the same time the control over it is still not in hands of people that should have the control (we call it the business – IT gap). On top of that, process management proved to be effective in high scale repetitive processes, where models are created once and rarely modified. In the world of today, this is not the only way to go anymore. With ever changing environment, business agility becomes a key requierment. Ability to quickly define, implement, and execute new processes, ability to query the process space using layman’s terms (“Do we have a cost approval process for items below $200?”), ability to integrate publicly available services in internal processes are becoming standard requirements. And this are the areas the researchers involved in SUPER want to contribute to.

In short, the goal of SUPER is to bring back business process management to business professionals. Right now we are trying to do that by taking semantic web technologies and process management technologies, and seeing how the mix (shaken, not stirred) of the two can help.

The SUPER way

The way that partners in SUPER decided to tackle the problems mentioned above is by addressing the four standard elements of a process lifecycle (modelling, configuration, execution, and analysis). Since we believe semantics is an important enabler of the “new” BPM, it all stands on ontological foundations and leads to a new approach in strategic semantic business process management.


The theoretical research would not make much sense without verifying it in real life. In SUPER, we cooperate with a number of industrial partners in order to test the research results. We focus on the telco domain, however some partners investigate applicability of our work in other domains as well. The choice of the telecommunication sector was consciously made, as that sector is most visibly suffering from current limitations of BPM.

The project is in its maturity phase, and we are getting closer to achieving the planned results. In particular, gains from this project will consist of:

  • further automation of the business process life cycle’
  • adding a layer designed for business professionals to handle the BPM on their own,
  • demonstration of successful deployment both of SWS and SBPM in industrial-strength applications applied repetitively in the field of telecommunications.

In the upcoming posts I am going to elaborate a bit more on selected topics of research in SUPER and their applicability in the real world. I will show you how that work can influence the product base of SAP and the world of BPM in general. Stay tuned!

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