Frank's Blog

What I Do 


This time something tagged "research". One condition of handing in a PhD thesis at my university is a generally understandable abstract. In the last hour I've got an inspiration on that. Nothing spectacular, but before I'm removing it from the final version for some reasons yet unknown to me (maybe my Prof knows), I'm giving you a clue on what I'm doing. Further reading is available here. So enjoy page one of my work:

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This thesis deals with a fundamental question of each scientific discipline. The question that is asked is nothing less than the very how does it work? The scientific discipline investigated is Business Process Management (BPM). In a nutshell, BPM provides concepts and technologies for realizing digitalized enterprises. This includes, but is not limited to, capturing, analyzing, deploying, running, monitoring, and mining business processes. Business processes in all flavors. Ranging from ad-hoc arrangements of simple activities over production workflows up to distributed, interacting services. This thesis focuses on how to capture -- formally -- data, processes, and interactions that make up the core of BPM.

The theory that is applied to build the formal models is called the pi-calculus. This calculus supports a simple idea inherently found in any real BPM application, that has yet been overlooked. Imagine a person called Steve. Now imagine the formal model of Steve. Let's call it S. In existing theoretical approaches to BPM, S had fixed connections to all other objects or subjects he could interact with. In the real world, Steve doesn't. Now image Steve would like to to call another person called Mary. However, there's one problem. Steve doesn't have Mary's phone number. Instead, he has the phone number of the directory assistance. The assistance can handle him the number of Mary. And Steve then can directly talk to her. Image the formal model again. S has a fixed connection to the directory assistance, called A. A in turn has knowledge of all currently registered phone numbers. When A handles the connection to M, that's the formal model of Mary, to S, an interesting thing happens. The topology of the connections is changed. S gains knowledge of M. During the course of the action, a connection between S and M is established that has formerly not existed. That's called link passing mobility.

While link passing mobility seems evident, and furthermore builds the very foundation of the Internet, its theoretical treatment in the area of BPM has long been neglected. That is where this thesis hooks into. It provides an in-deep analysis on the formal representation of data, processes, and interactions based on accredited pattern catalogues. Algorithms for mapping graphical notations to the pi-calculus. Extensions for dynamic binding in graphical notations. Two new kinds of soundness and a new behavioral equivalence criterion. Proof theories therefore. And a prototypical tool chain for investigating the practical feasibility of the results.

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