ERCIM News No.21 - April 1995 - CLRC

HICOS - Hierarchical Integrated Case Processing System

by Ken Robinson
This project is funded under the EC's ESPRIT III Programme, project number 6657. It addresses the area of business case processing (sometimes known as workflow), where a process which is frequently undertaken within an organisation requires information to be passed between staff in the organisation. Examples might be handling a claim from a client under a car insurance policy in an insurance company, or processing an application for a loan in a banking environment.

HICOS provides IT support for the complete spectrum of business process requirements (see Figure 1):

a) Case analysis: analysis, scoping and outline design of a new or existing case.

b) Case design: detailed design or re-design of an existing case by a domain expert, not a programmer.

c) Case execution: provision of the necessary information to clerks to enable them to decide which steps of the case should be undertaken next; a range of platforms has to be supported, including portable machines which require support for disconnection and reconnection.

d) Relation to existing systems: the vast software investment in existing organisations means that it is totally impractical to suggest that these be replaced. Instead HICOS offers a "wrapping" for these systems, allowing use of the installed software, and providing a mechanism for migration to future technology bases. Examples of current systems that can be exploited by HICOS include legacy software (via an object-oriented encapsulation), organisation models, and existing database systems.

e) Showcases for the complete system are under development in both insurance and banking companies

RAL's involvement is in the provision of the case design tool - the Case Builder Tool (CBT). This offers a user-natural graphical interface, and is targeted for use by the domain expert, using concepts and constructs that are familiar. To help cope with the complexity of many business cases, a variety of features is offered, including multiple views of the partly designed case (see Figure 2). Another facility is the capability of simulating the case within the CBT, prior to completing the case definition; this enables the case designer to evaluate the impact of his design on the end users. Once the design is complete, a reasoning module checks various aspects of the case design, increasing further the confidence of the designer in his design. Since the designed cases are often fundamental to a company's business, it is essential to have designed cases which have a high level of validation.

Current status: the system is now well into its implementation phase, with the Showcases planned to go live in June this year.

Partners on the project are: empirica, CLS, O:DAV, SVI, Winterthur, BISS (Germany), Promind (France), RAL (UK)

Please contact:
Ken Robinson - RAL
Tel: +44 1235 44 6491
E-mail: kr@inf.rl.ac.uk

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