Agent-Oriented Software Engineering: The Gaia Methodology
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Unit of AssessmentComputer Science and Informatics
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Computation Theory and Mathematics, Computer Software, Information Systems
Summary of the impact
This case is based on economic impact. It shows how research by Professor
Michael Wooldridge at the University of Liverpool on the Gaia Methodology
for agent-oriented software engineering improved the performance of the
Swiss company Whitestein Technologies AG and of international users of its
key product. Specifically, the research enabled Whitestein to develop its
business process management system (BPM) Living Systems Process Suite
which delivers several million pounds per year of revenues, corresponding
to 50% of their total business revenues. Users of Whitestein's Living
Systems Process Suite since 2008 include Daimler AG, Transcor Astra Group,
Vienna Insurance Group, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2010
Gartner, the world's leading IT advisory company, recognized the impact
and innovation of the Living Systems Process Suite by naming Whitestein a
Cool Vendor in BPM.
Between 1998 and 2005, Wooldridge (Professor at the Department of
Computer Science at University of Liverpool between 2000 and 2012)
investigated the possibility of using the agent metaphor in the
development of complex distributed systems. The key idea was to design a
distributed system as a society of cooperating agents. The central design
principle was that there was no centralised control, with agents acting as
semi-autonomous, independent decision-makers. At the time, the idea of
agent-oriented software engineering was entirely new, and Wooldridge was
one of the key proponents of this emerging paradigm.
It rapidly became clear that existing software engineering methodologies
and modelling frameworks were entirely unsuitable for developing
agent-oriented systems, and so Wooldridge began to develop such
methodologies, based on his experience working with Mitsubishi Electric
Plc on cooperating information systems. The result was the Gaia
methodology for agent-oriented analysis and design: it is this methodology
that forms the basis of this impact case study. A key principle of the
Gaia methodology is designing independent decision-making entities that
will nevertheless, through their interaction, achieve the design goals of
The Gaia methodology was deliberately intended to be accessible for
software engineers versed in current state-of-the-art software engineering
practice. The methodology proposed a set of models, together with
associated semi-formal notation, that go from requirements capture and
system analysis through to system design.
The requirements are captured in a roles model and an interactions model.
The roles model identifies a number of abstract organisational roles,
which agents in the system play. These roles are, in turn, defined with
respect to the responsibilities, permissions/resources, activities, and
protocols with which they are associated. Responsibilities and permissions
relate to the obligations that the role entails, and the resources and
rights available to an agent for fulfilling the role. A notation is
provided to capture these. Responsibilities in Gaia are directly derived
from system-level goals as described in a system requirements statement.
They provide a transparent and explicit goal-oriented view of the software
requirements. Finally, a protocol model identifies in a high-level,
black-box manner, the way in which agents occupying roles might interact.
These three models together map distinct roles into agent types, identify
the services that agents provide to one another, and thus provide a
template for the design of the resulting software system. The Gaia
methodology additionally provides guidelines and techniques to develop
Gaia was essentially the first coherent and complete methodology to take
the idea of agent-oriented software engineering seriously, and to attempt
to communicate the ideas of multi-agent systems to non-specialist software
engineers. The scientific influence of the Gaia methodology has been
significant. For example, the two key publications on this work (see
below) have accrued in total more than 3600 citations on Google Scholar
(see http://tinyurl.com/d9y73zj). Research on the Gaia methodology
continues to this day, with many refinements and extensions being proposed
over the past decade.
References to the research
• F. Zambonelli, N. R. Jennings, and M. Wooldridge. Developing Multiagent
Systems: The Gaia Methodology. In ACM Transactions on Software Engineering
Methodology, 12(3):317-370, July 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/958961.958963
• M. Wooldridge, N. R. Jennings, and D. Kinny. The Gaia Methodology for
Agent-Oriented Analysis and Design. In Journal of Autonomous Agents and
Multi-Agent Systems. 3(3):285- 312. 2000. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1010071910869
• F. Zambonelli, N. R. Jennings, A. Omicini and M. Wooldridge.
Agent-Oriented Software Engineering for Internet Applications. 326-346 In
A. Omicini, F. Zambonelli, M. Klusch and R. Tolksdorf, editors,
Coordination of Internet Agents, Springer Verlag. 2001
• M. Wooldridge and P.Ciancarini. Agent-Oriented Software Engineering:
The State of the Art. In P. Ciancarini and M. Wooldridge, editors,
Agent-Oriented Software Engineering. Springer- Verlag Lecture Notes in AI
Volume 1957, January 2001.
Interaction between Professor Wooldridge and Whitestein was enabled by
European Co-ordination Actions:
Agent Link 2 (2000-2003, EUR 800K, Liverpool PI Wooldridge) and Agent Link
3 (2004-2005, EUR 1.1M, Liverpool PI McBurney).
Details of the impact
In the early years of this century, a number of international companies
were interested in commercialising the then-nascent area of software agent
technologies, with the goal of obtaining competitive advantage in the
fiercely complex area of distributed software systems. Whitestein
Technologies AG was one such company. Based in Switzerland, with offices
in Zürich, Stuttgart, Luxembourg, and Bratislava, Whitestein is a software
solutions provider, operating in the domains of financial services,
logistics, and telecommunications, both in the private and public sector.
Founded in 1999, Whitestein aimed to develop a robust,
industrial-strength suite of software development tools and techniques,
which would leverage the advantage that they perceived the agent paradigm
would gain in the complex software systems marketplace. To this end,
Whitestein developed an Agent Modelling Language (AML), which was
essentially a UML-adapted instantiation of the Gaia methodology. In the
words of Whitestein's current Chief Operating Officer:
"Gaia directly influenced, and indeed inspired, the development of our
Agent Modelling Language (AML)." (16 March 2012)
This is borne out by the standard reference on AML:
R. Cervenka and I. Trencansky, The Agent Modeling Language - AML: A
Comprehensive Approach to Modeling Multi-Agent Systems, Birkhäuser
which both cites Gaia preeminently among agent-oriented methodologies
(page 4), and offers Wooldridge's work as the rationale for the
development of AML (page 6).
The AML was in turn used as the basis for Whitestein's GO-BPMN language.
GO-BPMN (Goal- Oriented Business Process Modelling Notation) is a
proprietary extension of the Object Management Group's Business Process
Model and Notation (OMG BPMN 1.2/2.0 - see http://www.bpmn.org/).
This extension makes it possible to specify objectives (goals) directly in
a process model. The GO-BPMN language is the centrepiece of Whitestein's
Living Systems Process Suite for business process management (BPM) which
is the major commercial offering by Whitestein.
The chief advantage brought by the Gaia/agent approach over alternative
BPM approaches is its goal-orientation, both at the model level (notation)
and at the execution level. The execution level has a goal-oriented engine
wherein every process instance is managed by an agent. Process goals are
explicitly represented within the agents, which then reason about the
optimal path of execution for the process in real time. The goal-oriented
view is significant in that it allows businesses to abstract away from the
specific processes used to achieve business goals, and to reason instead
about business goals, the relationships between them, and the overall
processes and plans that can be used to achieve these goals. Competing BPM
frameworks tend to focus instead on procedures, rather than on goals.
In addition to his direct influence on the development of Whitestein's
Living Systems Process and AML via the Gaia Methodology, between 2000 and
2005 Wooldridge also interacted with Whitestein employees through the
AgentLink EC-funded Network of Excellence for Agent-Based Computing, which
Wooldridge founded in 1997. A key mission of AgentLink was to foster links
between academic providers of new technologies and systems and industrial
consumers of such technology.
Evidence for the impact and innovation of Whitestein's Living Systems
Process Suite since 2008 is provided by reports from three internationally
leading IT advisory companies. First, Gartner Inc. named Whitestein a Cool
Vendor in BPM in 2010 (see  in Section 5). Gartner defines a cool
vendor as a company that offers technologies or solutions that are innovative
(enable users to do things they couldn't do before) and impactful
(have, or will have, business impact - not just technology for the sake of
technology) and states in its report:
"The concept and architecture behind Whitestein's Living Systems Process
Suite is unique because it leverages a multiagent approach to create
self-adaptive behavior in a proactive and reactive manner."
Second, international analyst and consultancy firm Ovum Ltd. states in
its report from 2011 (see  in Section 5):
"The Living Systems Process Suite stands out because of its goal-oriented
structure, which delivers adaptive case management capabilities as a
seamless extension of dynamic BPM."
Third, European IT advisory firm MWD confirms in 2010 (see  in Section
"Many BPM technology vendors talk about being able to support continuous
process improvement and dynamic process optimization, but with an approach
that uses goals as a first-class design citizen rather than being an
add-on specified in a monitoring tool, the Living Systems Process Suite
truly delivers on that promise."
Whitestein's Living Systems Process Suite delivers several million pounds
per year of revenues, which corresponds to 50% of their total business
revenues. Whitestein now has more than 50 employees (figures accurate as
of March 2013). Customers of Whitestein's BPM technology since 2008
include the following:
- Daimler Benz AG has used Whitestein's BPMS since 2009. It has been
deployed to over 12, 000 users in Daimler engineering centres worldwide
(see  in Section 5).
- Global energy commodity trader Transcor Astra Group uses Whitestein's
BPMS since 2011 for commodity and financial instrument trading processes
(see  in Section 5).
- Vienna Insurance Group uses Whitestein's BPMS since 2011 to gain
operational agility in damage assessment (see  in Section 5).
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs are using Whitestein's BPMS for
automated claim processing. Here, Whitestein's Living Systems Process
Suite is at the core of an automation project that was nominated by PEX
Week Orlando 2013 as one of four finalists for the 2013 Best BPM Project
award (see  in Section 5).
In summary, the Gaia methodology provided the foundation upon which
Whitestein developed tools and services that provide the core of their
successful continuing business. The approach provides clear advantages for
Whitestein and their customers in an important marketplace.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Chief Operating Officer of Whitestein Group can be contacted to
corroborate the influence of Gaia on AML and the use of Whitestein's
BPMS by Daimler, Transcor Astra Group, Vienna Insurance Group, and US
Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Whitestein's main web site: http://www.whitestein.com/.
- The article on Leading
Industry Analyst Firm: Whitestein Technologies a `Cool Vendor' in
Business Process Management (BPM) provides information about
Gartner's report about Whitestein's Living Systems Process Suite.
Ltd's report about Whitestein's Living Systems Process Suite.
report about Whitestein's Living Systems Process Suite.
- The article on
"Whitestein Technologies to Provide Daimler with Novel Suite for Agile
Business Process Management (BPM)" provides evidence of the use of
Whitestein's BPMS at Daimler AG.
- The article on AOT
Trading Selects BPM Solution provides evidence of the use of
Whitestein's BPMS at Transcor Astra Group.
- The article on Slovexperta
Selects BPM Solution from Whitestein to Reduce Total Claims Cost and
Gain Operational Agility provides evidence of the use of
Whitestein's BPMS at Vienna Insurance.
of the use of Whitestein's BPMS at US Department of Veterans Affairs.