What Is Process Data?

To configure business process models you need to understand process data and associated concepts.

Process data is data related to a business process that accumulates, according to configured instructions in the BPML, in an XML document during the life of the process. Business process writers use process data to enable manipulation of pieces of information that are crucial to completing the activities in the process, as follows:

  • The BPML structure of business process models always includes a placeholder (root node) for process data.
  • The creator of a business process model configures services and activities to put information in process data, and also configures services to access and use that data to complete the process activities. For example, a step in a process may pull a routing number from the primary document and add it to the process data, to be accessed by a subsequent step in the process that is configured to act using that information (the primary document is the core document in a business process, such as a purchase order).
  • Exactly how these activities take place depends on the particulars of the configuration.
  • The data that processes through a service in a step is always a combination of process data and the primary document.

The type of information a service places in process data is variable from service to service according to the service configuration and the task being completed. And some services operate solely on the primary document and never use process data at all. Both the process data and primary document may change during processing through a service.

Process data is likely to include:

  • Information extracted from a document that is used for determining, from multiple choices, what the next step will be
  • Information assigned in a process' BPML configuration to be used by a service in the business process, such as a map name or extract directory, which helps the service do its job but is not part of the primary document
  • Information about the document or the processing of the document, placed by a service – such as a content type indicator or sender information, which helps a service do its job and is specific to the document

Because process data is XML, you can use XPath in your process models to access information within it. You can use an XPath statement to refer to primary document content even when the primary document is not in XML (see XPath and Process DataXPath and Process Data). Another benefit is that you can represent complex hierarchical data directly in the process data.

Ideally, services are configured to access the primary document, bypassing the need for process data in a step, however, complex processes generally require the use of process data to most efficiently obtain the desired results.

In your day-to-day monitoring activities, you can view process data for individual steps in a process, should you need to check the particulars of how the step uses process data. View the data through the Business Process Detail page (from the Administration menu, select Business Processes > Current Processes > ID of the selected process > info [in the Instance Data column for a step]).

If you need technical information about configuring business process models with regard to process data, you may find the rest of this topic useful. It assumes basic knowledge of BPML.