Is there a Need for Agent-based Modelling and Simulation in Business Process Management?



Background and Purpose: Agent-based modelling and simulation (ABS) is growing in many areas like, e.g., man­agement, social and computer sciences. However, the similar trend does not seem to occur within the field of busi­ness process management (BPM), even though simulation approaches like discrete event simulation or system dy­namics are well established and widely used. Thus, in our paper we investigate the advantages and disadvantages of agent-based modelling and simulation in the field of BPM in simulation experiments.
Design/Methodology/Approach: In our research, we investigate if there is a necessity for ABS in the field of BPM with our own simulation experiments to compare traditional and ABS models. For this purpose, we use simulation framework MAREA, which is a simulation environment with integrated ERP system. Our model is a complex system of a trading company selling computer cables. For the verification of our model, we use automated process discovery techniques.
Results: In our simulations, we investigated the impact of changes in resources’ behavior on the outcome of com­pany’s order to cash process (O2C). Simulations experiments demonstrated that even small changes might have statistically significant effect on outcomes of the processes and decisions based on such outcomes. Simulation experiments also demonstrated that the impact of randomly distributed fluctuations of well-being have a diminishing tendency with the increasing number of sales representatives involved in the process.
Conclusions: Our research revealed several advantages and disadvantages of using ABS in business process modelling. However, as we show, many of them were at least partially addressed in the recent years. Thus, we believe that ABS will get more attention in the field of BPM similarly to other fields like, e.g., social sciences. We suggested areas in BPM simulations, e.g., modelling of resources, be it human or technological resources, where there is a need for ABS.
Keywords: Agent-based modelling and simulation; business processes; business process management; process mining

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