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Towards a methodology for business process revision under norm and outcome compliance


Simone Scannapieco



Business Process Management approach allows an organisation to control every aspect of its internal processes (also called business processes) to improve them continuously, and to achieve at the same time the organisational objectives (or goals) business processes are built for. When the enterprise is seen as an entity embedded in an environment regulated by norms, the concept of norm compliance comes into play. Norm compliance is the alignment of the formal specifications of a (set of) business process(es), and the formal specifications of the set of norms governing the surrounding environment. While this topic gave rise through the years to an entire research field (Business Process Compliance), to the best of our knowledge little attention has been given on how enterprises should behave in case of normative changes, or what are the actual implications on regulatory compliance in case of deliberatory process changes. In this situation, organisations have to face important questions. Are business processes still compliant with the normative? And if not, is it possible to recover compliance? How to revise business processes and adjust their behaviour with respect to these changes?

Another significant aspect to take into consideration is that the concept of compliance – intended as compliance with respect to a normative system – is not sufficient when we have to revise an internal process. In fact, the revision process has to take care both of the achievement of the objectives an organisation aims at (goal compliance) and the norms in force in the environment (norm compliance), and must satisfy both compliances at the same time. In this direction, negligible efforts have been spent on formalising a framework where norm and goal compliance are equally treated as fundamental parameters of a business process.

This is the first contribution of the present dissertation. We propose a logic formalisation that models organisations as rational agents equipped with three kind of knowledge: (i) the beliefs of the agent, that is to say, a set of statements describing how the agent perceives the surrounding environment, and how the agent is able to interact with the environment based on her capabilities, (ii) the norms the agent must obey based on several contexts, and (iii) her objectives, that is to say, a list of desired purposes the agent is willing to commit. In the literature of agent systems, agents are driven by several goal-like attitudes, such as desires, goals and intentions; these attitudes affect the way an agent behaves and modifies the environment. In our framework, the interactions between beliefs, norms, and goal-like attitudes are modelled by following a brand new idea: goal-like attitudes are deemed as different facets of the same phenomenon, namely an outcome, which is defined as something (typically, a state of affairs) that an agent expects to achieve or that can possibly occur. Goal-like attitudes are then defined through a filtering mechanism of outcomes with respect to norms and beliefs. In this way, each single goal-like attitude is defined by means of the others, and the entire deliberative process of the agent consists of computing what are the goal-like attitudes that hold in a specific scenario. The benefit offered by our solution is twofold. First, the logic we propose is able to fully formalise the intuitions of being compliant with a set of norms and a set of outcomes. Second, norm and outcome compliance are efficiently determined by exploiting the inferential mechanism of such a logic.

The second contribution of this dissertation regards the problem of finding automatic methodologies to revise a non-compliant business process in case of breach of norms or not fulfilment of some internal outcomes, in order to obtain a process that agrees with the normative regulation in force and joins the business objectives once the revision process ends. This research challenge is justified by several motivations. Above all, nowadays compliance revision is mainly a manual work and poorly supported by ad-hoc software or automatic procedures, and thus extremely costly in terms of time and money.

A first step towards automatic compliance recovery consists in identifying all admissible instances of the business process revision problem in the framework we provide. Our analysis tackles two major issues. The first one regards how to determine conditions for the existence of solutions for each problem instance. We address the problem by exploiting proof tag analysis. Proof tag analysis is a proof-based analysis which efficiently describes properties (relevant for compliance management/revision) of elements inside a theory in our framework. The second issue considers the computational aspects of the problem instances. In this respect, we determine the complexity boundaries of a specific problem instance among those isolated.

BibTeX Entry

    school           = {Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems, Griffith Sciences Group, Griffith University and
                        the Department of Computer Science, University of Verona},
    author           = {Scannapieco, Simone},
    month            = {dec},
    year             = {2014},
    keywords         = {business process management, business process compliance, business process revision, non-monotonic
                        reasoning, defeasible logic, multi-agent systems},
    title            = {Towards a Methodology for Business Process Revision Under Norm and Outcome Compliance},
    type             = {{PhD} Thesis},
    address          = {Brisbane, Australia and Verona, Italy}