Computing the Expected Execution Time of Probabilistic Workflow Nets

Philipp J. Meyer, Javier Esparza, Philip Offtermatt

Free-Choice Workflow Petri nets, also known as Workflow Graphs, are a popular model in Business Process Modeling. In this paper we introduce Timed Probabilistic Workflow Nets (TPWNs), and give them a Markov Decision Process (MDP) semantics. Since the time needed to execute two parallel tasks is the maximum of the times, and not their sum, the expected time cannot be directly computed using the theory of MDPs with rewards. In our first contribution, we overcome this obstacle with the help of "earliest-first" schedulers, and give a single exponential-time algorithm for computing the expected time. In our second contribution, we show that computing the expected time is #P-hard, and so polynomial algorithms are very unlikely to exist. Further, #P-hardness holds even for workflows with a very simple structure in which all transitions times are 1 or 0, and all probabilities are 1 or 0.5. Our third and final contribution is an experimental investigation of the runtime of our algorithm on a set of industrial benchmarks. Despite the negative theoretical results, the results are very encouraging. In particular, the expected time of every workflow in a popular benchmark suite with 642 workflow nets can be computed in milliseconds.

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