A Process that Took 90 Years to Complete

A Business Process that gives the reward to the person who proved that the "Fermat's last theorem" is true.

Hi there!


Do you know “Fermat’s Last Theorem”?


Even though I don’t want to talk about the details of “Fermat’s Last Theorem” (more like I am unable to do so), it is a very famous theorem among mathematicians. It is very difficult to prove so it has defeated the efforts made by many mathematicians for about 300 years.




There was a person who said he “Will give a lot of money (reward) to the person who proves that this theorem is true!”.


The man’s name was Paul Wolfskehl. He was also one of the many obsessed with Fermat’s Last Theorem. He bequeathed to reward most of his assets to the first person who could prove the theorem.


The process to win the prize was announced in 1908, after the death of Wolfskehl. After hearing this, I asked myself if I could be able to manage the process with BPM system or not.

When Somebody Proves “the Fermat’s Last Theorem”


Wolfskehl Prize is a prize of 100000 German marks (equivalent to 1,000,000 pounds back in 1997) offered for the first valid proof of Fermat’s last theorem. 100000 German marks for the prize were entrusted to Göttingen Academy of Sciences, and determined to be offered in the following approximate procedure. It is exactly a business process that can be referred as “Fermat’s last theorem proof review process”.


  1. The applicant (self-proclaimed certifier at this stage) submits proof to the Göttingen Academy.
  2. The Göttingen Academy accepts the proof after checking if it meets the acceptance conditions.
  3. Göttingen Royal Society selects the examiner members.
  4. A panel of judges, which consists of members who have been selected at step #3, review the submitted proof.
  5. When the proof has been reviewed and found that it in fact proves the Theorem, the examination results are announced and accepts the claim for the prize.
  6. The rebuttal period is two years, after which, if the result was not changed even after being challenged, a presentation of the applicant as a person who proved the Fermat’s Last Theorem (= prize winner) is undertaken.
  7. The Göttingen Academy pays the prize to the winner = the applicant.


Making the above mentioned procedure into a Business Process Diagram, would look like the image below.



I drew this Business Process Diagram using “Questetra BPM Suite“, which is a Business Process Management (BPM) system that we are developing. As a matter of fact, you can manage the progress of “Fermat’s last theorem proof review process” precisely, as long as the data items to be handled and the person and organizations that appear in the Process are properly configured.


If I were a staff at The Göttingen Academy 100 years ago when the Wolfskehl prize was established, and if a BPM system “Questetra BPM Suite” was around, would I manage this Business Process using “Questetra BPM Suite”?


The answer is NO.


Business Process that is Used Only Once


The reason why I wouldn’t use “Questetra BPM Suite” for visualizing the progress of Issues in “Fermat’s last theorem proof review process”, is because this Business process is going to be used only once. (To be clear … It would be frequently used until the the step for judgement for acceptance. But the complete flow from the start until the last step, would be carried out only once.)


BPM (Business Process Management) is an activity meant to continuously improve target business operation visualization in three aspects.
* Three aspects: Business rules, Business progress, Business results
* Referrence: Three Aspects of Business Visualization


You are not able to perform a BPM activity on a business operation you do only once, since improvement cannot be iterated.


A BPM System, as the name suggests, supports BPM activities, so it is useless where BPM activity is not carried out. (You can use it though…but it doesn’t make sense)


Thus, I would never use “Questetra BPM Suite” for the “Fermat’s last theorem proof review process”.


“Fermat’s last theorem proof review process” was announced in 1908. This theorem was not solved for a long time, but finally in 1993, a British mathematician named Andrew Wiles completed the proof.


And, immediately, the review process started. However, only two months after, it was pointed out that there was a flaw in the proof. Wiles struggled for 14 months after that to fill the hole in the proof, and at last, he published a perfect proof in May, 1995.


Reviewing resumed, and it was found to be a perfect proof, at that time. And in 1997, the prize was given to Wiles. 90 years after “Fermat’s last theorem proof review process” was established, all of its Steps were completed eventually.


Nobel Prize should be Managed in BPM System


In the “Fermat’s Last Theorem proof review process” “Questetra BPM Suite”, a BPM system, does not have a use other than to write the Business Process Diagram. Whereas, it has great uses for the Nobel prize, Academy award, etc. which are awarded every year.


According to Wikipedia, the selection process for nominees is a secret. So, although I had to use my imagination, it should be a flow as the one below.


  1. Selecting-team creates a list of nominees.
  2. Members of the Nominee assessment team is selected.
  3. Nominees assessment team assesses the activities of each nominee.
  4. Prize-awarding institution determines the laureate or laureates, and announces the results.


Making the above mentioned basic flow into a Business Process Diagram, would be like the following.



The laureates of Nobel prizes are announced every year. Therefore, business Issues will flow in the “Nobel prize laureate selection process” every year. As with proceeding business on a Process every year, problems and challenges will be somewhat recognized, so that the review of the Business Process will be conducted little by little.


Such activity is exactly what BPM activities are, and BPM system is used to proceed this activity.


By using a BPM system for “Nobel prize laureate selection process”, all the matters that must be done, such as creating the nominees list complying with the rules, or assessing each nominee, or selecting laureates, will be proceeded with clear records. Since the progress of operations in each category (6 in total) will be visualized, it will be clear if the works in which category are proceeding well or delaying.




In this post, I tried to describe that the activities of BPM are worth doing to business operations which are iterated daily. For people who are somewhat aware of the worth of BPM, I suggest you to try working on BPM activities on your daily work which you are managing with Excel and emails.


Back to “the Fermat’s Last Theorem”, there is a book titled the same. In my opinion, this book is the most exciting among the books I read in the last decade. I recommend you to read if you are interested about it.




That’s it, for today!



About YAHAGI Hajime

幸せを生み出すITを追求するクエステトラの一味です。 国産の BPM ソフト Questetra BPM Suite で日本・世界を幸せにしたい。
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