We address one of the challenges in developing solutions based on multiagent systems for the problems of cross-organizational business processes and commerce generally. Specifically, we study how to gather and analyze requirements embodied within business contracts using the abstractions from multiagent systems.
Commerce is driven by business contracts. Each party to a business contract must be assured that the contract is robust, in the sense that it fulfills its goals and avoids undesirable outcomes. However, real-life business contracts tend to be complex and unamenable both to manual scrutiny and domain-independent scientific methods, making it difficult to provide automated support for determining or improving their robustness. As a result, establishing a contract is nontrivial and adds significantly to the transaction costs of conducting business. If the adoption of multiagent systems approaches in supporting business interactions is to be viable, we need to develop appropriate techniques to enable tools to reason about contracts in relation to their robustness.
To this end, we propose a powerful approach to assessing the robustness of contracts, and make two main contributions. First, we demonstrate a novel conceptual model for contracts that is based on commitments. Second, we offer a methodology for (i) creating commitment-based models of contracts from textual descriptions, and (ii) evaluating the contract models for robustness. We validate these contributions via a study of real-world contracts.