The USC ATRIUM Laboratory Home Page

What is the ATRIUM Laboratory? The ATRIUM laboratory is designed as an Advanced Technology Resource for Investigating and Understanding Management and managed processes. The laboratory was located within the USC Marshall School of Business, IOM Department. It now operates as a virtual research enterprise.The laboratory also engages in joint research projects with the USC Center for Software Engineering, directed by Prof. Barry Boehm.

The ATRIUM laboratory space is designed as a rapidly reconfigurable workspace populated with a local-area network of Unix workstations and Windows-based PCs. This computers are also connected to an overhead video projector and multi-channel audio system, as well as to wide-area information networks and services. This allows various teamwork configurations to be setup or experimentally manipulated. These computers operate a variety of advanced information systems technologies (ISTs) that are either locally developed or (soon to be) commercially available. These ISTs in turn are specialized to support emerging problems in (re)engineering complex business processes, and they have been successfully applied in a small number of high-technology businesses.

This laboratory is focused on establishing a unique world-class facility for faculty and doctoral students to investigate topics in the production, operation, and evolution of large-scale business processes and services, and how advanced information systems and technologies can contribute.

As every large corporation or business is increasingly dependent on the development, use, and upkeep of information systems which support business processesin their daily operations, then such a laboratory is aimed at examining topics of concern to a substantial audience. In this regard, the ATRIUM laboratory represents a new kind of organizational unit that modern businesses will seek to replicate and implement as an in-house organizational testbed for new business processes or services.

Research Capabilities

For an overview of our current research efforts in the development of a knowledge-based process engineering environment, you can proceed directly to an interactive presentation that provides descriptions of key concepts, reports on experiences gathered so far in using this technology, GIF format screendumps that display corresponding environment functionalities, and links to relevant research papers describing these items in greater detail. Otherwise, you can read on to find out other information about this research.

Using the ISTs in the ATRIUM, it is possible for us to model, analyze, and simulate business processes associated with either production, operations, or IST development. Accordingly, our corporate sponsors have found that we can help them to rapidly discover shortcomings or oversights in their efforts to understand their business processes, as well as to suggest opportunities for continuous improvements when redesigning these processes. Similarly, it is also possible for us to rapidly prototype AIS applications, such as those that utilize multi-media capabilities, wide-area information services, legacy systems, heterogeneous information repositories, or other forms of corporate memory. Using these capabilities, it is possible to demonstrate new forms of AIS applications that can directly execute new or reengineered business processes. To better explain this, consider the following scenario:

A report (in Postscript format) that describes this scenario in more detail, can be found at Alternatively, an expanded report (in HTML) on a similar application can be found at
While such capabilities are not trivial for us to implement, they are representative of what we have accomplished on other sponsored projects in a timely manner. Thus, we welcome the opportunity to work with companies that seek to dramatically improve the effectiveness of their core business processes.

Selected Research Papers (in Postscript, HTML, or PDF format) and Interactive Presentations (in HTML format)
Need a Postscript viewer and printing utility? Get a Postscript viewer and print utility for MS-Windows and OS/2 systems called GSview.

Collaborating USC Faculty and Researchers

Dr. Walt Scacchi is director of the ATRIUM Laboratory. Over the past eight years, his research team has developed an advanced knowledge-based environment for modeling, analyzing, simulating, and enacting both "as-is" and "to-be" business processes. With sponsorship from companies including Andersen Consulting, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard, McKesson Water Products Co., Northrop, Pacific Bell and others, Prof. Scacchi's research team has applied their environment to assist these companies in analyzing and redesigning their business processes.

Beyond this, there are of course a number of research efforts in the IST and Operations Management (OM) areas in the USC Information and Operations Management department which can and/or do overlap with the preceding efforts.

Prof. Omar El Sawy is interested in extending his research into the development of theories for business process redesign based upon virtual workflows. In this regard, the ATRIUM provides advanced technology resources for investigating, understanding, and redesigning both real and virtual process workflows, whether in traditional or internetworked (virtual) organizations.

Prof. Alexander Hars has joined the faculty in the Fall of 1994, bringing his expertise in advanced techniques for enterprise and product modeling, natural language processing, and knowledge management to the ATRIUM, thereby complementing other Laboratorty efforts that focus on organizational process modeling.

Prof. Sulin Ba joined the faculty in Fall 1996, bringing her expertise in electronic commerce, intranets, and knowledge-based decision support systems. During the Fall 1996 semester, she taught the Electronic Commerce course here at the USC School of Business Administration. She is also involved in an effort to develop a new MBA core course on the Electronic Economy.

Finally, Prof. Ramnath Chellapa joined the faculty in Fall 1997, bringing his interest and expertise in prototyping networked information systems for electronic publishing of research journals, for MIS collaboratories, and for related applications for Electronic Commerce.

On the OM side, Prof. Richard Chase, Director of the Center for Service Excellence (CSE) has pioneered the concept of a "service factory" which seeks to bring together the best ideas in service provision and manufacturing to develop customer-driven production systems. The ATRIUM Laboratory can be seen as a kind of service factory: one that is focused on the production and support of large-scale ISTs for high-technology organizations. However, Prof. Chase's service factory concept suggests many new and provocative ideas which a new laboratory housing an IS-service factory might showcase and further explore as well as providing the venue for empirical study and training.

Elsewhere, Prof. Ann Majchrzak, joining the IOM Dept. in 1997, has interests in understanding the human dimension of complex information systems, including CAD/CAM and Concurrent Enginering Environments. She also is interested in taking the results of empirical studies of the users and use of complex information systems into automated support systems which can help in the design of appropriate organizational structures and workflows.

Prof. Richard McBride is engaged in studies that seek to develop and apply new algorithms and techniques for scheduling large-scale production and operational processes. Since scheduling problems are critical to all large-scale IS development projects, there is an opportunity to bring these new techniques to this area as well.

Finally, Prof. Ravi Kumar, has been investigating the role of prototyping, order fulfillment and distribution management techniques in supporting the local or global development of new products.

ATRIUM Laboratory Alumni

Dr. Peiwei Mi, now at Vigilance Inc.

Prof. Mark Nissen, now at Systems Management Dept, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA.

Dr. John Noll, now at Computer Science Dept, University of Colorado, Denver, CO

Research Sponsors and Collaborators

Recent sponsors and collaborators of research projects within the ATRIUM include the following: All the support, energy, and encouragement provided by collaborators in these organizations is greatly appreciated.

Online Course Materials

In conjunction with the research projects being conducted at the ATRIUM laboratory, there is also an educational effort underway. During the Spring 1997 academic semester, we will offer a course at the USC Graduate School of Business Administration in the Information and Operations Management Dept. (IOM540) on Network Information Systems: Analysis, Design and Implementation. This course focused on business uses of the Internet, Corporate Intranets, and Electronic Commerce over the Internet. During the Spring 1996 semester, we offered a new version of the IOM536 course on Decision Support and Expert Systems. This course focuses on techniques and tools for supporting complex decision-making processes within or across organizations, using Internet-based information systems when appropriate.

Contact Information

To ISWorld Net

To Social Informatics Home Page

The USC Home Page

This page is maintained by Walt Scacchi who can be reached at the e-mail address noted above. This page was last updated on 16 January 1999. Also, for those who did not notice, the image at the top of this page is a single-image random dot stereogram. Can you figure out what's there?