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Thesis Defense - Cook

Process Discovery and Validation through Event-Data Analysis
Computer Science PhD Candidate

Software process is how an organization goes about developing or maintaining a software system. It is the methodology employed when people use machines, tools, and artifacts to create a product. Recent work has applied formal modeling to software process, with the hope of reaping the benefits of unambiguous and analyzable formalisms. Yet industry has been slow to adopt formal model technologies. Two reasons are that it is costly to develop a formal model and, once developed, there are no methods to ensure that the model indeed reflects reality.

This thesis develops techniques for process event data analysis that help solve these two problems, which are termed process discovery and process validation.

For process discovery, event data captured from an on-going process is used to generate a formal model of process behavior. To do this, results from the field of grammar inference are applied, and a new method is also developed. The methods are shown to be efficient and practical to use in an interactive tool that is developed in the course of this work.

For process validation, event data is used to measure the correspondence between existing process models and the actual process, yet allowing discrepancies to exist. A paradigm based on string distance metrics is developed, and several validation metrics in this paradigm are described. How these metrics can be calculated is then shown, and a tool set for doing process validation is provided.

In implementing these methods, a framework is developed, called Balboa, for managing process data and facilitating the construction of analysis tools. This framework serves to unite the variety of collection mechanisms and tools by providing consistent data manipulation, management, and access services, and assistance in tool construction.

Finally, the techniques developed in this thesis are applied in an industrial study. This study provides concrete results showing that one can relate the quality of a process as prescribed by a model to the quality of the product. In doing so, it also shows that the discovery and validation techniques are able to capture important aspects about software process, and can be applied in the real world.

Committee: Alexander Wolf, Assistant Professor (Chair)
Clarence (Skip) Ellis, Professor
Dennis Heimbigner, Assistant Professor
Benjamin Zorn, Assistant Professor
David Rosenblum, University of California, Irvine
Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:20)