Munindar P. Singh
Prof., North Carolina State University
Time: Tuesday, 1 September 2015, 9:20 – 10:30
Session Chair: Matthias Weidlich
Business and business processes are centuries old social constructions that underlie human society. Business process management or BPM is a modern construction in information technology. The objective of BPM is to support business processes: it has partially succeeded, especially in regards to improving the efficiency of process enactment.
However, BPM embodies a number of restrictive assumptions treated as dogma in current research that limit its applicability. First, BPM is almost entirely characterized in operational and usually procedural, though occasionally declarative (temporal logic) terms. The underlying modeling primitives are little different from the primitives of any programming language. Second, BPM is usually treated from a central viewpoint even when physically distributed. That is, BPM’s focus is on technical rather than business aspects. In essence, BPM does not so much support a business process as redefine it in operational terms. That is, it omits a standard of correctness but provides a means to an implementation. Although this formulation has been effective in IT practice, I claim that it has run its course.
I argue that BPM is inadequate for dealing with modern challenges such as processes that incorporate humans and organizations as well as diverse services and devices that reflect the autonomy of humans and organizations. If we rethink of business processes from first principles, we would understand them as social constructions just as they are. We would establish new computational foundations for business processes that place them as elements of a sociotechnical system; specify them via normative (not operational) standards of correctness independent of implementation; describe how to verify various correctness properties of specifications and evaluate implementations with respect to specifications; and enact and govern them in a decentralized manner. I term this latter perspective NoBPM.
NoBPM brings forth a number of major research questions. What does it mean for a normative process specification to be sound? How can we learn such specifications from observations of humans and organizations and their services and devices? What does it mean for an autonomous participant to comply with a normative process specification? How can we define and ensure a suitable notion of alignment of the various parties involved in a business process?
I describe recent and ongoing research that hints at how we may approach the above questions. I offer some suggestions for how the considerable research strength of the BPM community can be directed toward these questions and invite researchers to participate in NoBPM.
Munindar P. Singh is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. Munindar’s research interests include service-oriented computing, security, and social computing. He addresses the challenges of trust, norms, requirements modeling, service ecosystems, and business processes and protocols in large-scale open environments.
Munindar is the editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions on Internet Technology; from 1999 to 2002, he was the editor-in-chief of IEEE Internet Computing. His other current or recent editorial activities include membership on the editorial boards of IEEE Internet Computing, Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, IEEE Transactions on Services Computing, ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, and the Journal of Trust Management. Munindar previously served on the founding board of directors of IFAAMAS, the International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and MultiAgent Systems.
Munindar is a Fellow of the IEEE. His research has been recognized with awards and sponsorship by (alphabetically) Army Research Lab, Army Research Office, Cisco Systems, Consortium for Ocean Leadership, DARPA, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, the National Science Foundation, National Security Agency, and Xerox. Twenty students have received PhD and 27 students MS degrees under Munindar’s direction.