Parameterising a theory of software and systems problem solving

Topic Description

In Design research, design is considered as the fundamental process through which real-world problems are addressed via the invention, assembly and adaptation of technologies, and which involves much planning and decision making, as well as the concrete realisation of artefacts. From this perspective, software and systems engineering/development processes can be regarded as problem solving processes, which begs the question of whether this perspective may lead to useful theories to help us characterise, assess, select, adapt and predict the behaviour of such processes within their specific organisational, cultural and product development contexts.  
This research will focus on a theory for engineering as problem solving called Problem Oriented Engineering (shortly POE, [5]). Over the past decade POE has been applied in a wide range of real-world engineering and development contexts, from safety and mission critical systems development to change management, with empirical evidence leading to the formulation of a problem solving unit of composition named the POE Process Pattern (PPP, [4]).
The aim of this research is to investigate algebraic and stochastic interpretations of the PPP for application to real-world processes. The hypothesis is that, given suitable parametrisation, the PPP is able to capture and predict salient features and behaviours of problem solving processes, including the impact of a development team’s problem solving ability on the accumulation of developmental risk and their use of resources. The project will include both theoretical and empirical research.

Skills Required:

This project will suit someone with a theoretical background, including an understanding of basic algebra and statistics, and who likes exploring the application of practical theories. You may also need to work with people and teams and get them to do, what they may think are silly things. Ideally you should have a degree in Mathematics/Computer Science/Software Engineering/Information Systems, possibly with a Masters level qualification or equivalent professional experience. Previous experience of academic research would be advantageous. 

Background Reading:

[1] Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti. Parameterising a theory of software problem solving. In Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Theory-Oriented Software Engineering (TOSE),  2016.

[2] Dariusz Kaminski and Jon G. Hall. Towards process design for efficient organisational problem solving. In Proceedings of BUSTECH 2015, 2015. 

[3] Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti. Towards a design theoretic characterisation of software development process models. In Proceedings of the 4th SEMAT Workshop on General Theories of Software Engineering, 2015.

[4] Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti. Assurance-driven design in Problem Oriented Engineering. International Journal On Advances in Systems and Measurements, 2(1):119–130, 2009.

[5] Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti. A design theory for software engineering. Technical Report TR2016/01, Department of Computing and Communications, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, 2016.

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Jon Hall


Lucia Rapanotti