Sie sind auf Seite 1von 399

Business Systems Analysis with Ontologies

Peter Green University of Queensland, Australia Michael Rosemann Queensland University of Technology, Australia

IDEA GROUP PUBLISHING


Hershey London Melbourne Singapore

Acquisitions Editor: Development Editor: Senior Managing Editor: Managing Editor: Copy Editor: Typesetter: Cover Design: Printed at:

Rene Davies Kristin Roth Amanda Appicello Jennifer Neidig Dawne Brooks Kristin Roth Lisa Tosheff Yurchak Printing Inc.

Published in the United States of America by Idea Group Publishing (an imprint of Idea Group Inc.) 701 E. Chocolate Avenue Hershey PA 17033 Tel: 717-533-8845 Fax: 717-533-8661 E-mail: cust@idea-group.com Web site: http://www.idea-group.com and in the United Kingdom by Idea Group Publishing (an imprint of Idea Group Inc.) 3 Henrietta Street Covent Garden London WC2E 8LU Tel: 44 20 7240 0856 Fax: 44 20 7379 3313 Web site: http://www.eurospan.co.uk Copyright 2005 by Idea Group Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without written permission from the publisher. Product or company names used in this book are for identification purposes only. Inclusion of the names of the products or companies does not indicate a claim of ownership by IGI of the trademark or registered trademark. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Business systems analysis with ontologies / Peter Green and Michael Rosemann, editors. p. cm. Summary: "This book shows systems analysts and business analysts how ontological thinking can help them clarify requirements analysis tasks in business systems"--Provided by publisher. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-59140-339-1 (h/c) -- ISBN 1-59140-340-5 (s/c) -- ISBN 1-59140-341-3 (ebook) 1. Industrial management--Data processing. 2. Information resources management. 3. Ontology. I. Green, Peter, 1958- II. Rosemann, Michael, 1967HD30.2.B879 2005 658'.001--dc22 2004029772 British Cataloguing in Publication Data A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library. All work contributed to this book is new, previously-unpublished material. The views expressed in this book are those of the authors, but not necessarily of the publisher.

Business Systems Analysis with Ontologies


Table of Contents
Preface ............................................................................................................. vi Peter Green, University of Queensland, Australia Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Introduction: Setting the Scene ................................................................. xii Yair Wand, The University of British Columbia, Canada Ron Weber, Monash University, Australia Chapter I Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques: Experiences and Proposals for an Enhanced Methodology .................... 1 Peter Green, University of Queensland, Australia Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Chapter II Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices: Composites, Things, Properties ...................................................................................................... 28 Graeme Shanks, Monash University, Australia Jasmina Nuredini, Monash University, Australia Ron Weber, Monash University, Australia Chapter III Ontological Analysis of Reference Models .............................................. 56 Peter Fettke, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany Peter Loos, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Chapter IV Thinking Ontologically: Conceptual vs. Design Models in UML ........ 82 Jrg Evermann, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Chapter V Template-Based Definition of Information Systems and Enterprise Modelling Constructs ............................................................................... 105 Andreas Opdahl, University of Bergen, Norway Brian Henderson-Sellers, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia Chapter VI A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology: The System Modeling Building Blocks ................................................. 130 Iris Reinhartz-Berger, University of Haifa, Israel Dov Dori, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Israel Chapter VII Ontology-Driven Method Engineering for Information Systems Development .............................................................................................. 174 Roland Holten, University of Frankfurt, Germany Alexander Dreiling, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Jrg Becker, European Research Center for Information Systems, Germany Chapter VIII Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology: Making Data Models Better Map the World .............................................................................. 218 Ed Kazmierczak, The University of Melbourne, Australia Simon Milton, The University of Melbourne, Australia Chapter IX Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method to Measure the Suitability of Ontologies .............................................................................................. 249 Asuncin Gmez-Prez, Politcnica University of Madrid, Spain Adolfo Lozano-Tello, Extremadura University, Spain

Chapter X A Twofold Approach for Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms ............................................................................... 270 Benoit A. Aubert, HEC Montreal and CIRANO, Canada Aymeric Dussart, Robichaud Conseil and CIRANO, Canada Michel Patry, HEC Montreal and CIRANO, Canada Chapter XI Methodological Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques .................................................................................... 305 Andrew Gemino, Simon Fraser University, Canada Chapter XII Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design: Extending the Scope of the Discussion ................................... 322 Boris Wyssusek, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Helmut Klaus, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Chapter XIII Some Applications of a Unified Foundational Ontology in Business Modeling ..................................................................................................... 345 Giancarlo Guizzardi, University of Twente, The Netherlands Gerd Wagner, Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Germany About the Authors ..................................................................................... 368 Index ............................................................................................................ 377

vi

Preface

Ontologies are not a philosophical topic only anymore. For more than 10 years now, researchers in different streams related to information technology have been interested in applying sound ontological foundations to their work. An increasing number of special issues of journals, conference sessions and workshops have been dedicated to the application of ontologies in information systems (IS) and computer science. The best paper at the International Conference of Information Systems (ICIS) 2002 applied an ontology to UML and established academic events such as CAiSE and the ER-Conference include a significant number of papers related to ontologies now. This immense popularity of ontologies hopefully will further contribute to the theoretical foundations of the disciplines of information systems and computer science. However, the popularity also means that we have to be even more careful with our references to ontologies. Already, the type of research work that is conducted under the umbrella term ontologies varies significantly. Academics working on the semantic Web, knowledge management, E-business or natural language processing develop, compare, and apply ontologies. However, the understanding of the characteristics of ontology in terms of its scope, details or purpose varies significantly. In 2004, we guest-edited a special issue of the Journal of Database Management titled, Ontological Analysis, Evaluation and Engineering of Business Systems Analysis Methods. It covered the applications of ontologies in the context of methods, techniques and grammars for the purposes of business and systems engineering. Business systems analysis (BSA) grammars were deemed to include data modelling, process modelling and object-oriented modelling techniques. Ontologies are seen as a promising theoretical platform that might be able to provide a valuable reference for the evaluation of the tremendous number of grammars that have been already developed. In that special issue, we were very interested in new results of ontological analyses of different BSA

vii

grammars. Other areas of interest were further theoretical guidance for the process of ontological evaluations of BSA grammars, documentation of ontologies with relevance to the BSA community, or the selection of appropriate ontologies in the first place. Our call for chapters for that special issue received in excess of 15 full chapters from authors in nine different countries. Because of the obvious interest and sound, diverse work in the area, we decided to extend the concept of the special issue and approach Idea Group Publishing about producing an edited research book pulling together more fully the excellent work that is being done by colleagues worldwide in the areas of ontological comparison, evaluation and analysis. We have titled this book Business Systems Analysis With Ontologies. This title reflects the profound influence that the science of ontological analysis and evaluation is having on the development of the grammars, techniques and tools being used by academics and practitioners alike in business systems analysis. We are excited that two of the thought leaders in the development and application of an IS-related ontology provided insights into their current perspective on this topic in the introduction of the book. Yair Wand and Ron Weber outline in Setting the Scene how and why they see theories of ontology being important to the information systems field generally, and particularly, to the area of modelling. Moreover, Wand and Weber are enthused by the work in the area when they maintain, in the introduction of this book, Conceptual modelling is not a defunct, arcane activity. Rather, in our view it remains a vibrant, central element of information systems development and implementation work. In Chapter 1, Green and Rosemann reflect on their experiences with the application of the BWW models. Their chapter discusses typical problems in the use of any ontology in the context of business systems analysis. Furthermore, it expands particularly on the problems involved in the process of ontological analysis. The authors propose an enhanced procedural model for the ontological analysis based on the use of meta-models, the involvement of more than one coder and metrics. An overview about previous ontological evaluations of BSA grammars also demonstrates the scope of the related research. Chapter 2 by Shanks, Nuredini, and Weber provides an excellent summary of three years worth of experimental work into how alternative conceptual modelling representations affect end-user understanding of these representations. The researchers find evidence to support better end-user understanding when part-whole relations, things, and properties of things are represented in an ontologically-sound manner. Furthermore, they use a process-tracing technique to explain why the ontologically-sound representation of things and properties is more easily understood. Fettke and Loos, in Chapter 3, begin demonstrating how widely ontological analysis can be applied in the general area of business systems analysis. These authors turn their minds to the analysis of reference models. Reference models

viii

are commonly provided, for example, in enterprise resource package software to provide a starting point by which businesses can understand the business processes that are presumed in the software. Accordingly, their chapter focuses on evaluation of reference models based on a sound theory, namely the ontology proposed by the BWW model. They apply their approach to some parts of Scheers reference model for production planning and control. The results demonstrate that the modelling grammar used to represent the reference models has ontological deficiencies. These deficiencies lead to several problems in the reference model, for example the meaning of some modelling constructs is vague and some aspects of a reference model are redundant. In Chapter 4, Evermann explores the idea that languages such as UML currently used for conceptual modelling possess no real-world business or organizational meaning. His chapter discusses how such meaning can be assigned to languages like UML. It provides an example that demonstrates the differences between a software design model and a conceptual model in UML. He demonstrates how ontology can assist the modeller to not confuse software aspects with aspects of the real world being modelled. Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers have used an ontology, the BWW representational model, as a basis for developing a template for defining enterprise and IS modelling constructs in a way that facilitates language integration. In their Chapter 5, they have clarified the template further by formalising the meta-model through semi-formal constraints expressed in the object constraint language (OCL) and by populating the meta-model with definitions of example constructs from the UML version 1.4. The purpose was to make the template easier to understand, to validate the template, to pave the way for stronger tool support for the template, and to further our work on providing a complete, template-based definition of the UML. The authors of Chapter 6 focus on the ontologically complete object process model (OPM) for conceptual modelling. A comprehensive reflective meta-model of OPM is presented, using a bimodal representation of object-process diagrams and object-process language paragraphs. The meta-model of the UML industry standard depicts only the language part, leaving the (software or any other) system development processes informally defined as a unified process. In sharp contrast to this, OPM, being an object-process approach, enables reflective meta-modelling of the complete methodology, including its language (with both its conceptual-semantic and notational-syntactic aspects) and the OPM-based system development process. This ability to create a reflective meta-model of OPM is indicative of OPMs expressive power, which goes hand in hand with OPMs ontological completeness according to the Bunge-WandWeber (BWW) evaluation framework. Holton, Dreiling, and Becker, in Chapter 7, have used several philosophical and linguistic foundations, such as Kamlah and Lorenzens language critique approach, Morris findings on semiotics, de Saussures findings on signs, and

ix

Bunges research in ontology to produce an ontology-driven method for information system development. The authors show that ontologies are created and maintained by language communities using linguistic actions and how new concepts can be created to handle new situations. Furthermore, they demonstrate their ontology-driven method to information systems development by introducing an ontology for the domain of management information systems. Chapter 8 begins work on the vexed question of which ontology to use as a basis for the analytical and evaluative work on business systems analysis grammars. Only a few ontologies that tend to be more general in nature are popular in the analysis of business systems analysis grammars. One of these ontologies comes originally from the work by Chisholm and it forms the reference for the study by Kazmierczak and Milton. Their chapter and the work reported in it are driven by an interest in the fundamental nature of data modelling languages. In this research, the ontology helps us to understand, compare, evaluate, and strengthen data modelling languages. This work on which ontology to use is continued in Chapter 9 by Gmez-Prez and Lozano-Tello. Many researchers tend to select a familiar ontology rather than carefully evaluating different ontologies. ONTOMETRIC is an adaptation of the AHP method to help knowledge engineers to choose the appropriate ontology for a new project; in order to do this, the engineer must compare the importance of the objectives, and study carefully the characteristics of ontologies. The framework provides a useful schema to carry out complex multicriteria decision-making. However, the evaluators need to specify in detail the aims of their analysis. Aubert, Dussart, and Paltry, in Chapter 10, demonstrate another area of application of ontology within business systems analysis: the semantic specification of inter-organizational workflow. Moreover, their chapter aims at determining if the ontological validity of available formalisms is sufficient to represent workflows crossing organizational boundaries. A review of several formalisms reveals that the UML fulfils essential representation criteria related to B2B workflows. Moreover, it possesses several extension possibilities that make it a powerful and popular language for business modelling. Andrew Gemino, in Chapter 11, provides a refreshing and contrasting point-ofview on the question of the effectiveness of the ontology selected and used as the analytical basis. He reverts to tried and tested economic theory espoused by Friedman to advocate that the first test of any ontology or meta-model is logical completeness and consistency. This should be a relatively objective exercise. Once an ontology or meta-model has passed this logical test, it can then be used to identify differences among modelling techniques. The impact that these differences have on participants can then be hypothesized using cognitive theory and eventually tested empirically. The ontology (meta-model) that is better is the ontology that provides us with differences that lead to useful empirical results.

The researchers in Chapter 12, Wyssusek and Klaus, take a very philosophical reflection on the process of using an ontology as a basis for analysis, evaluation and development of information systems. The authors try to establish that when dealing with fundamental issues of theory and practice it is advisable to create an awareness of the potential and limitations of our knowing and doing. This entails considering marginalised positions in a critical discussion of approaches toward information systems analysis and design. Finally, in Chapter 13, Guizzardi and Wagner attempt to draw on all the previous research in the area of ontological foundations to produce a unified foundational ontology UFO 0.2. They have stratified UFO into three ontological layers in order to distinguish its core, UFO-A, from the perdurant extension layer UFO-B and from the agent extension layer UFO-C. The researchers claim that, although there is not much consensus yet in the literature regarding the ontology of agents, such an ontology is needed for building the foundation of conceptual business process modelling. We hope that you will enjoy this research book as much as we have enjoyed the work involved in preparing it. May this book and the work reported in it be of guidance and stimulation for your own research.

Peter Green UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Australia Michael Rosemann Queensland University of Technology, Australia

xi

Acknowledgments

The fact that this book is able to provide a comprehensive, detailed, and current overview about the utilization of ontologies in the context of Business Systems Analysis is due to the excellent contributions we received by academics who are globally perceived as the thought-leaders in this area. We are very grateful to those authors who were willing to revise, update, and extend their papers as they were published originally in our Special Issue (Vol. 15, Nr. 2, 2004) for the Journal of Database Management. Moreover, we are thankful to those authors who followed our invitation and submitted a book chapter. Each chapter in this book has been evaluated by at least two experienced reviewers and carefully revised based on these comments. We are indebted to our international and national colleagues who selflessly provided comprehensive and insightful reviews through which the contributing authors could improve their chapters. We acknowledge the related workloads of all concerned and we believe that this rigorous process contributed significantly to the overall quality of this publication. A particular note of thanks must go to Ron Weber and Yair Wand. Without their original ideas, unflagging support, and exemplary academic professionalism, we would not have been inspired to start and complete this project. Furthermore, we like to express our appreciation for the excellent support we received from IDEA Publishers. It has been a well-managed process that kept the entire endeavor on track at all times. Finally, we like to take the opportunity to dedicate this book to our families, to Barbara, Brendan and Daniel, to Louise, Noah and Sophie, who carry too often the burden of two easily over-committed academics. Peter Green & Michael Rosemann

xii

Setting the Scene

Introduction:

Ontology is the branch of philosophy that deals with theories about the structure and behaviour of the worlds that humans perceive. Ontologists seek to articulate the fundamental types of phenomena that exist in the world and the relationships that can arise among these different types of phenomena. Ontologies can be proposed at various levels of abstraction. At the most-general level, an ontology articulates the fundamental constructs we need to be able to describe any phenomenon in the world. At any intermediate level, an ontology articulates the constructs needed to describe particular types of phenomena that occur in some domain for example, architecture, law, nursing, and carpentry. At lower levels, ontologies articulate the constructs needed to describe specific worlds for example, the world faced by a particular business as it attempts to survive in a particular context. Why are theories of ontology relevant to the information systems field? The answer is that the essence of an information system is that it is intended to be a faithful representation of a world that a human or group of humans perceives. Theories of ontology provide us with an artifice for describing a perceived world. Our descriptions will only be as good as our ontologies. Accordingly, our information systems will only be as good as our ontologies. In the mid-1980s, we happened on the field of ontology by chance. We were seeking to identify the core the essence of an information system and to determine whether we had any theories of this core (whatever the core might be). After substantial discernment, we had concluded the core pertained to representation of some world. Thus, we began to seek theories that would account for the nature of good and poor representations. In part, work that had been done by semantic modelling researchers seemed relevant. We found this work inherently unsatisfying, however, because it was not grounded in rigorous theory, nor did it seem complete. One of us (Weber) was visiting the University of British Columbia on sabbatical leave at the time. I (Weber) had been allocated an office next to professor Richard Mattesich, who is both an eminent

xiii

accounting researcher and philosopher of science. During a conversation with Mattesich where I explained the fundamental problem that Wand and I were addressing, he simply went to his bookshelf, selected the two volumes of Mario Bunges Treatise on Basic Philosophy that deal with ontology, handed them to me, and suggested I read them. A new world began to unfold for us. We first tried to apply Bunges ontological model to the formal analysis of control and audit procedures in information systems. As our work progressed, we realised ontological theories could be used in several ways. First, ontology provides a set of benchmark concepts to evaluate models used in systems development notably, conceptual models of some application domain. Second, ontology provides a set of concepts to model systems and reason about their characteristics (this was our first use of Bunges ontology). Third, a specialised ontology can be used to define the meaning of information that will be available in an information system. In this latter role, ontologies often have been used in the artificial intelligence and (recently) semantic Web contexts. Since the early 1990s, we are delighted to see that a growing number of researchers have started to use ontological theories as a basis for their work on conceptual modelling. Much has been done. In our view, however, much still remains to be done. For instance, witness the problems currently being faced by researchers who are trying to find ways to model the world that will allow information systems interoperability to be achieved. Indeed, we are convinced that we have only commenced to scrape the surface of an immense, difficult research area. In terms of theory, for example, it is clear that even well-developed ontologies like Bunges need considerable extension and refinement to address the needs of information systems scholars and practitioners. For instance, Bunges ontology provides only a small number of constructs to describe processes albeit fundamental constructs. In contrast, information systems scholars have devised much more-extensive ontologies to describe process phenomena. Unfortunately, these latter ontologies are not always rooted in a sound foundation of more fundamental constructs like things and properties. In short, we see substantial opportunities for philosophers interested in ontology and information systems scholars to work together to develop high-quality, comprehensive ontological theories. In this regard, information technology and its applications have taken the development of ontological theories from an abstruse, esoteric pursuit to an activity with important, high-value practical applications. Theories of ontology also have a curious status. Conventionally, theories provide a means to explain or predict some phenomena. For the most part, however, theories of ontology provide a means of describing rather than explaining or predicting some phenomena. In this light, they function more like a taxonomy than a conventional theory because they provide a set of constructs for classifying and relating phenomena in the world rather than predicting or explaining them. Nonetheless, they still have predictive and explanatory overtones. They

xiv

imply that describing phenomena in the world via the constructs they provide somehow has value. Presumably, if phenomena are classified correctly according to the theory, humans will be better able to understand and predict the phenomena and thus work more effectively and efficiently with the phenomena. This assumption underlies the work we have undertaken to map between ontological constructs and the constructs provided in different conceptual modelling grammars. Our motivation was the recognition that most modelling methods have emerged (and continue to emerge!) without much theoretical grounding. We believe this situation has been a major reason for the proliferation of modelling methods (a phenomenon given the pejorative nickname YAMA yet another modelling method). To the extent a one/one mapping exists between ontological constructs and grammatical constructs, the implication is that conceptual models will somehow be better. For instance, users of conceptual models will be better able to understand them and work more effectively and efficiently with them. In the interests of parsimony, for the most part we have eschewed employing sophisticated psychological and social theories to provide an account of why a one/one mapping between ontological constructs and grammatical constructs is desirable. Like many economic theories, we simply employ broad assumptions about human behaviour in the hope that detailed, complex accounts of why ontological theories are useful can be avoided. Thus, it is an empirical question whether the explanations and predictions we make based on the (usually implicit) assumption that a given ontology reflects the way humans perceive reality are valid. In terms of practice, we have barely begun to explore the implications of ontological theories for how we undertake conceptual modelling work. In this regard, the chapters of this research book provide excellent examples of the sorts of work that might be done. Ultimately, our concern is to build better conceptual models and devise better tools to assist our conceptual modelling work. In our view, to date ontological theories have shown the most potential for informing practice and the design of conceptual modelling tools. For too long, we have proceeded without the benefit of theory. We have designed and built conceptual modelling tools and undertaken conceptual modelling work using too much of a pure engineering strategy construct the artifact and, if we have time, test the artifact. In the absence of good theory, however, we have been unable to predict the likely strengths and weaknesses of our conceptual modelling tools and practices. As a result, we have a mishmash of views of what constitutes good conceptual modelling tools and practice. We also have a large number of different conceptual modelling grammars that have been devised, and the relationships among these grammars are unclear. For instance, if UML is a comprehensive modelling grammar, why is the W3C developing the Web ontology language called OWL? Is UML deficient in some way? If so, how is it deficient? Long ago, many scholars in the conceptual modelling area deplored this

xv

state of affairs and underscored the need for good theory to inform our work. We believe that finally we are starting to see theory-driven conceptual modelling work, primarily via the articulation of ontological theories. Recently, we have encountered colleagues who argue that work on conceptual modelling (and thus ontologies) is no longer important. With the development of and widespread deployment of enterprise systems and their embedded bestpractice business models, why, they ask, would we bother to build conceptual models of some domain? These arguments are reminiscent of those made about the principles of good programming when fourth-generation languages first appeared. Structured programming precepts, for instance, allegedly were no longer important when fourth-generation languages were used to develop programs. Of course, the disasters that ensued with fourth-generation languages when good programming principles were ignored were an acid reminder that good theory transcends technologies. So it is, we believe, with good conceptual modelling principles, especially in the complex environments of enterprise systems. In such environments, conceptual models enable us to represent both the business and the software in a common way and to compare them. The extent to which misfits arise between the business models employed by an organization and the business models engaged within an enterprise system seems to be a good predictor of the likely success that an organization will enjoy when it implements an enterprise system. Conceptual modelling is not a defunct, arcane activity. Rather, in our view it remains a vibrant, central element of information systems development and implementation work.

Yair Wand The University of British Columbia, Canada Ron Weber Monash University, Australia

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

Chapter I

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques:


Experiences and Proposals for an Enhanced Methodology
Peter Green, University of Queensland, Australia Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Abstract
For many years in the area of business systems analysis and design, practitioners and researchers alike have been searching for some comprehensive basis on which to evaluate, compare, and engineer techniques that are promoted for use in the modelling of systems requirements. To date, while many frameworks, factors, and facets have been forthcoming, most of them appear not to be based on a sound theory. In light of this dilemma, over the last 10 years, attention has been devoted by researchers to the use of ontology to provide some theoretical basis for the advancement of the business systems modelling discipline. While the selected ontologies
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

2 Green & Rosemann

are reasonably mature, it is the actual process of an ontological analysis that still lacks rigour. The current procedure leaves room for individual interpretations and is one reason for criticism of the entire ontological analysis. This chapter proposes an enhanced procedural model for the ontological analysis based on the use of meta-models, the involvement of more than one coder and metrics. This model is explained with examples from various ontological analyses.

Introduction
As techniques for conceptual modelling, enterprise modelling, and business process modelling have proliferated over the years (e.g., Olle et al., 1991), researchers and practitioners alike have attempted to determine objective bases on which to compare, evaluate, and determine when to use these different techniques (e.g., Karam & Casselman, 1993; Gorla, Pu, & Rom, 1995). Throughout the 80s, 90s, and into the new millennium, however, it has become increasingly apparent to many researchers that without a theoretical foundation on which to base the specification for these various modelling techniques, incomplete evaluative frameworks of factors, features, and facets would continue to proliferate. Furthermore, without a theoretical foundation, one framework of factors, features, or facets is as justifiable as another for use (e.g., Bansler & Bodker, 1993). Ontologies and ontological engineering have received much attention in the business systems analysis and design literature over the last decade. Ontology is a well-established theoretical domain within philosophy dealing with identifying and understanding elements of the real world and their meaning. Given that IS professionals create computer systems that depict a portion of the real world, IS professionals might look to ontology to provide the conceptual underpinning that has been missing for so long from the IS modelling discipline. Wand and Weber (1989, 1990a, 1993, 1995) have adapted an ontology proposed by Bunge (1977) in order to provide a foundation for understanding the process in developing an information system. A popular application area of this ontology has been conceptual modelling. Today however, interest in, and the applicability of, ontologies extend to areas far beyond modelling. As Gruninger and Lee (2002) point out, a Web search engine will return over 64,000 pages given ontology as a keyword the first few pages are phrases such as enabling virtual business, gene ontology consortium and enterprise ontology (p. 13). The usefulness of ontology as a theoretical foundation for knowledge representation and natural language processing is a fervently debated topic at the present time in the artificial intelligence research community (Guarino & Welty, 2002).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

Accordingly, this chapter has two main objectives (Rosemann, Green, & Indulska, 2004). First, we aim to identify comprehensively the shortcomings in the current practice of ontological analysis. The identification of such shortcomings will provide a basis upon which the practice of ontological analysis can be improved. Second, we want to develop several propositions and methodology extensions that enhance the ontological analysis process by making it more objective and structured. There are several contributions that this chapter aims to make. They are based on previous experiences with ontological analyses as well as observations derived from published analyses. First, the work presents a detailed analysis of the actual process of performing an ontological evaluation. The presented work identifies eight shortcomings of the current ontological analysis process that is, lack of understandability, lack of comparability, lack of completeness, lack of guidance, lack of objectivity, lack of adequate result representation, lack of result classification and lack of relevance. Each of the identified shortcomings is classified then as belonging to one of three phases of analysis that is, input, process and output. Second, the chapter presents recommendations on how each of the shortcomings in the three phases can be overcome. The recommendations, among other things, include an extended methodology for the improvement of the objectivity of the analysis, as well as a weighting model that aims to improve the classification of the results of any ontological analysis. This chapter unfolds in the following manner. The next section provides an overview about the basic concepts of applying ontologies for the purposes of evaluating modelling techniques and the related work. The third section identifies eight current shortcomings of ontological analyses of modelling techniques that are classified with respect to the three phases of analysis that is, input, process and output. The fourth section provides recommendations concerning how to overcome the identified shortcomings in each of the three phases. The final section provides a brief summary of this work and outlines future research in this area.

Ontological Analysis of Modeling Techniques


The ontological analysis of modelling techniques is a popular application of ontologies in information systems. The aim of these analyses is to evaluate the goodness of representations that can be produced by a particular modelling technique from the viewpoint of a selected ontology. The ontology forms in this process the benchmark against which the constructs of the modelling techniques are evaluated.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

4 Green & Rosemann

Weber (1997) distinguishes the following two major situations that may occur when a modelling technique is analysed in such a way. After a particular modelling technique has been analysed, predictions on the modelling strengths and weaknesses of the technique can be made according to whether some or any of these situations arise out of the analysis. 1. 2. Ontological completeness exists if there is at least one modelling grammatical construct for each ontological construct. Ontological clarity is determined by the extent to which the modelling technique does not exhibit one or more of the following deficiencies:

Construct overload exists in a modelling technique if one grammatical construct represents more than one ontological construct. Construct redundancy exists if more than one grammatical construct represents the same ontological construct. Construct excess exists in a modelling technique when a grammatical construct is present that does not map into any ontological construct.

The popularity of using ontologies as a basis for the analysis of Business Systems Analysis techniques has been growing steadily. The Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) ontological models (Weber, 1997), for example, have been applied extensively in the context of the analysis of various modelling techniques. Wand and Weber (1989, 1990b, 1993, 1995) and Weber (1997) have applied the BWW representation model to the classical descriptions of entity-relationship (ER) modelling and logical data flow diagramming (LDFD). Weber and Zhang (1996) also examined the Nijssen Information Analysis Method (NIAM) using the ontology. Green (1997) extended the work of Weber and Zhang (1996) and Wand and Weber (1993, 1995) by analysing various modelling techniques as they have been extended and implemented in upper CASE tools. Furthermore, Parsons, and Wand (1997) proposed a formal model of objects and they use the ontological models to identify representation-oriented characteristics of objects. Along similar lines, Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2001) have used the BWW representation model to examine the individual modelling constructs within the OPEN Modeling Language (OML) version 1.1 based on conventional objectoriented constructs. Green and Rosemann (2000) have extended the analytical work into the area of integrated process modelling based on the techniques presented in Scheer (2000a). The BWW models also have been applied in the context of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems. Sia and Soh (2002) utilise the BWW models to propose

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

a theoretically grounded framework for assessing the severity of ERP misalignment in organisations. The authors demonstrate the application of the proposed framework by applying it to a hospital case study, in which significant ERP misalignment is identified as a result. Shanks, Tansley, and Weber (2003) utilise the application of the BWW model in order to investigate the representation of part-whole relationships in conceptual modelling grammars. The authors use the BWW model to support their argument for representation of part-whole relationships as entities as opposed to relationships or associations. Their argument is further supported by an empirical study that concludes that using entities to represent part-whole relationships leads to an improvement in the level of the users understanding of the domain. Davies, Green, and Rosemann (2002) demonstrate the potential usefulness of meta-models for comparing and evaluating ontologies.1 The authors focus on the analysis of the meta-models of the BWW representation model and Chisolms Ontology, concentrating on ontological equivalence, depth of structure, and comprehensiveness of scope of the models. The findings of the work revealed that the two models were not completely ontologically equivalent, with the BWW model being more comprehensive in scope and Chisolms Ontology having a deeper structure than that of the BWW model. Davies, Green, Milton, and Rosemann (2004) extend the work to include a detailed discussion of the benefits of the use of meta-models for evaluating ontologies. Fettke and Loos (2003) discuss the process of BWW ontological evaluation of reference models and identify a number of possible application areas. The authors suggest that the proposed method may be used for evaluation of reference models, comparison of two or more reference models, representation of reference models in model repositories, and describing the key characteristics of reference models in order to facilitate selection of appropriate models in specific situations Most recently, Green, Rosemann, Indulska, and Manning (2004) have extended the use of this evaluative base into the area of enterprise systems interoperability using business process modelling languages like ebXML, BPML, BPEL4WS and WSCI. Table 1 provides an overview of the related work performed to date involving the Bunge-Wand-Weber models. Indeed, much of this work has involved evaluations based on Webers (1997) two situations. A mismatch between ontological and modelling constructs however does not necessarily indicate weaknesses of the target modelling technique. Rather, as Rosemann and Green (2002) point out, it could indicate misspecification in the ontology used for the evaluation.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

6 Green & Rosemann

Table 1. Ontological analysis of modelling techniques using the BWW models


Business Systems Analysis Grammar Study Wand & Weber (1989) Wand & Weber (1993, 1995) Weber (1997) Sinha & Vessey (1995) Weber & Zhang (1996) Green (1997) Parsons & Wand (1997) Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers (1999) Wand, Storey & Weber (1999) Rosemann & Green (2000) Green & Rosemann (2000) Bodart et al (2001) Green & Rosemann (2002) Sia & Soh (2002) Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers (2002) Rosemann & Green (2002) (UML) (ARIS & UML Class) (ARIS) Traditional Structured DataCentred (LDFD) (ER) (ER) (Relational) (OML) Ontological Ontological Empirical Tests Other Purpose O-O Process Completeness Clarity

(Enterprise Interoperability) (ERP Systems) (ActivityBased Costing)

Davies, Green & Rosemann (2002) Shanks et al (2003) (UML Class)

(Other Ontology)

Davies et al. (2004) Fettke & Loos (2003) Green, Rosemann, Indulska & Manning (2004)

(Other Ontology) (Reference Process Models) (Interoperability Standards)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

It could be that the ontology is over-engineered. The ontology may include constructs that are not relevant. The ontological analyses of various modelling techniques to date have consistently identified certain ontological constructs that do not have representations in the grammars examined, for example, conceivable state space, conceivable event space and lawful event space. The ontological analyses to date in themselves form an empirical study around this possibility of over-engineering. One conclusion then could be the identification of the need for a reduction in the number of constructs thought to be sufficient and necessary in the ontology. Even if the ontology is not over-engineered, most modelling techniques usually focus on modelling particular aspects of the real-world, for example, statics, dynamics, processes, data, actors, actions, goals and the like. Apparently, the objectives of the modelling grammar need to be taken into account during the ontological analysis. Such work suggests a need for individualization of the ontology by means of not only designing subsets but also specializations of the ontology a focused ontology. Finally, there may be a need for extending the ontology. Weber (1997), for example, has already extended the understanding of the ontological construct, property, by explaining the various types of property, for example, property in general, property in particular. The growing importance of strategic enterprise modelling might lead to the explication of the BWW model to incorporate for example business objectives, strategies, goals or knowledge.

While there may be misspecification in ontologies, such a problem cannot be verified without substantial empirical research based on the theory being performed. In any case, ontology is seen as a potential fruitful theoretical basis on which to perform analyses of modelling techniques. However, while ontological analyses are frequently utilised, particularly in the area of analysing conceptual modelling techniques, the actual process of performing the analysis remains problematic. The current process of ontological analysis is open to the individual interpretations of the researchers who undertake the analysis. Consequently, such analyses are criticised as being subjective, ad hoc, and lacking in relevance. There is a need, therefore, for the systematic identification of shortcomings of the current ontological analysis process. The identification of such weaknesses, and their subsequent mitigation, will lead to a more rigorous, objective and replicable analytical process.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

8 Green & Rosemann

Shortcomings of Current Ontological Analyses


An ontological analysis is in principle the evaluation of a selected modelling grammar from the viewpoint of a defined and well-established ontology. The current focus of ontological analyses is on the bi-directional comparison of ontological constructs with the elements of the modelling technique that is under analysis. Weber (1997) defines ontological clarity and completeness as the two main perspectives of an ontological analysis. Though this type of ontological analysis is widely established, it still has a range of issues. These issues can be categorised into the three main phases of an ontological analysis that is, preparation of the input data, the process of conducting the analysis and the evaluation and interpretation of the results. The first two identified shortcomings refer to the quality of the input data.

Lack of Understandability
Several ontologies that are currently used for analysis of modelling grammars have been specified in formal languages. While such a formalisation is beneficial for a complete and precise specification of the ontology, it is not a very intuitive specification. An ontology that is not clear and intuitive can lead to misinterpretations as the involved stakeholders might have problems with the specifications. Furthermore, it forms a hurdle for the application of the ontology as it requires a deep understanding of the formal language in which it is specified. Moreover, it is not only the meta-model and the notation that is used for the specification of the ontology, but also the selected terminology. In our own applications, for example, we realised that elements of the BWW model such as conceivable state space are not self-explanatory to members of the modelling community.

Lack of Comparability
The specification of an ontology requires typically a formal syntax that allows the precise specification of the elements and their relationships of the ontology. Consequently, textual descriptions of the ontology in plain English often extend the formal specification. However, even if an ontology is specified in an intuitive and understandable language, the actual comparison with the selected modelling grammar remains a problem. Unless the ontology and the grammar are specified in the same language or a precise mapping of the two languages exists, it will be up to the
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

coder to mentally convert the two specifications into each other, which adds a subjective element to the analysis. Different languages can also lead easily to different levels of detail and further complicate the analysis. In any case, they make a more automated comparison practically impossible. This situation is typical in many previous analyses. The further three shortcomings identified below are related to the process of the ontological analysis and refer to what should be analysed, how it should be analysed, and who should conduct the analysis.

Lack of Completeness
The first decision that has to be made in the process of an ontological analysis is the scope and depth of the analysis. Even if most ontologies have been discussed for many decades, they still undergo modifications and extensions. It is up to the researcher to clearly specify the selected version of the ontology and the scope and level of detail of the analysis. In our work in the area of Web services standards, for example, it was often not clear what constructs form the core of the selected Web services standard. Two researchers, who conducted independent analyses of the same Web services standard, selected consequently a different number of constructs. Moreover, many ontological analyses solely focus on the constructs of the ontology and the constructs of the grammar, but do not sufficiently consider the relationships between these constructs. The difficulty in clearly specifying the boundaries of the analysis, as well as the limited consideration of relationships between the ontological constructs, lead to a potential lack of completeness.

Lack of Guidance
After the scope and the level of detail of the analysis have been specified, it is typically up to the coder to decide on the procedure of the analysis that is, in what sequence the ontological constructs and relationships will be analysed? Currently, there are hardly any recommendations on where to start the analysis. This lack of procedural clarity underlies most analyses and it has two consequences. First, a novice analyst lacks guidance in the process of conducting the ontological evaluation. Thus, the application of ontological analyses is potentially limited to experts in both the selected ontology and the modelling technique. Second, the procedure of the analysis can potentially have an impact on the results of the analysis. Consequently, it is possible that two analyses that follow a different process may lead to different outcomes.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

10 Green & Rosemann

Lack of Objectivity
An ontological analysis of a modelling technique requires not only detailed knowledge of the selected ontology and technique, but also a good understanding of the languages in which the ontology and the grammar are specified. This requirement explains why most analyses are carried out by single researchers as opposed to research teams. Consequently, these analyses are based on the individual interpretations of the involved researcher, which adds significant subjectivity to the results. This problem is further compounded by the fact that, unlike other qualitative research projects, ontological analyses typically do not include attempts to further increase the validity of the results. The five shortcomings identified above have a common flavour in that they heavily depend on the researcher conducting the ontological evaluation. Three further shortcomings have been identified that is, lack of result representation, lack of result classification and lack of relevance. These shortcomings are detailed below and refer to the outcomes of the analysis.

Lack of Adequate Result Representation


The results of a complete ontological analysis that is, representation mapping and interpretation mapping, are typically summarised in two tables. These tables list all ontological constructs (first table) and all grammatical constructs (second table) and the corresponding constructs. Such tables can become quite lengthy and are typically not sorted in any particular order. They do not provide any insights into the relative importance of identified deficiencies. Furthermore, the findings are not clustered typically allowing related deficiencies to appear more apparent. In doing such clustering, the relative importance of the related deficiencies is made clearer as well.

Lack of Result Classification


It is common practice to derive ontological deficiencies based on a comparison of the constructs in the ontology and the modelling technique. Ontological weaknesses are identified when corresponding constructs are missing in the obtained mapping between the ontology and the technique, or 1-many (or many1 or even many-many) relationships exist. Such identified deficiencies are the typical starting point for the derivation of propositions and then hypotheses. In general, the ontological analysis does not make any statements regarding the relative importance of these findings in comparison with each other. Though this seems to be the established practice, it lacks more detailed insights into the
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

11

significance of the results. It is expected, however, that the missing support for a core construct of an ontology can be rated higher than a missing corresponding construct for a minor ontological construct or a relationship. This lack of a more detailed statement regarding the significance of a potential shortcoming makes it difficult to judge quickly the outcomes of the results of two different sets of analyses, for example, an ontological analysis of ARIS in comparison with an ontological analysis of UML.

Lack of Relevance
Finally, the results of an ontological analysis should be perceived as relevant by the related stakeholders. However, if an ontological analysis leads, for example, to the outcome that entity relationship models do not support the description of behaviour, then such an outcome needs a clarification. It seems that an ontological analysis has to consider the purpose of the grammar as well as the background of the modeller who is applying this grammar. The application of a high-level and generic ontology does not consider this individual context and there is a danger that the outcomes can be perceived as trivial or non-relevant.

A Reference Methodology for Conducting Ontological Analyses


The shortcomings identified above motivated the development of an enhanced methodology for ontological analyses. The main purpose of this methodology is to increase the rigour, the overall objectivity and the level of detail of the analysis. The proposed methodology for ontological analyses is structured in three phases that is, input, process and output.

Input
The formal specification of ontologies, together with the differences in the languages used to specify the ontologies and the grammars under analysis, have been classified as issues pertaining to the lack of understandability and comparability. In order to overcome this shortcoming, we have worked on converting existing specifications for our selected ontology to a more commonly used language that is, to a more intuitively understandable meta-model. There are several
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

12 Green & Rosemann

motivations for converting current specifications of ontologies into meta-modelbased specifications. First, the development of a meta-model that describes and clarifies the current understanding of the ontological constructs facilitates the use of ontologies in other related areas such as information systems education. Second, a formal meta-model that clearly describes the elements and relationships within an ontology can help to identify inconsistencies and anomalies in an ontology itself. Third, it can be used for the ontological analysis of modelling techniques (grammars) that are specified in the same metalanguage. In this case, the analysis turns into a pattern matching exercise. Fourth, a meta-model can be used to improve existing techniques and derive new modelling techniques (i.e., ontology-based method engineering). Fifth, it can also be applied for the comparison of different ontologies, if they are specified in the same metalanguage (Davies et al., 2002). Finally, based on the outcomes of the evaluation and comparison of ontologies, a meta-model can be used to develop and specify a new ontology. Figure 1 outlines these application areas for a meta-model of ontological constructs. In order to overcome the lack of understandability and comparability, the first step is to convert the ontology, as well as the selected modelling grammar, to meta-models using the same language (e.g., ER models or UML class diagram). This conversion facilitates a pattern-matching approach towards the ontological analyses of completeness and clarity of a grammar. We converted the BungeWand-Weber ontology into an ER-based meta-model. This meta-model includes 50 entity types and 92 relationship types. It has clusters such as system, property or class/kind. Such a meta-model explains, in a language familiar to the information systems community, the core constructs of the ontology. It also highlights the underlying focus of the ontology. In the case of the BWW model, for example, the visual inspection of the meta-model indicates that the ontology is centred around the existence of a thing, which is the central entity type in the meta-model. Figure 2 provides, as an example, an impression of the size and complexity of the meta-model for the BWW ontology. We used a modern version of the entity relationship (ER) language as the metamodelling language. The version of the ER approach used in our work is based on the original ER specification from Chen (1976) with extensions made by Scheer (2000a). This version is called the extended ER model. This selection was made for the following reasons: 1. Since Chen (1976) introduced the original ER approach, it has undergone intensive discussions and further developments. It is realistic therefore to expect that solutions for special methodological problems that could occur during the process of designing the meta-model are already available in most cases.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

13

Figure 1. Application areas of a meta-model for ontological constructs

1a) Facilitates communication about the ontology 2) Clarifies inconsistencies and anomalies

1b) Simplifies teaching the ontology 5) Streamlines the comparison of ontologies


Ontology B

Q
Meta Model for ontological constructs

3) Streamlines the ontological analysis of grammars


Grammar A

Ontology C

Grammar B

4) Enables ontology-based method engineering


New Grammar

6) Enables ontology

engineering
New Ontology

Figure 2. The BWW meta-model


B W W m eta m o de l v e r4 - 2 3 /9 /20 0 2 A ut ho r : Is la y D a v ie s
m ade up of R eal W o r ld 1,n

SYS TE M

T H I N G / C L A S S / K IN D
as s o c i a te d i n to 2,n 0,n C o m p o s i te Th i n g 0,n

P R O P ER TY

has

0,n

S y s te m S t r u c tu r e

1,n has

d,t 1,n S im p l e Th i n g 0,n obs erv ed as d,t P r op e r ty i n general 0,n

1,n

is subset of P r op e r ty i n p a r t ic u la r ca u s e s

0,1

c on t ain s i nit ia t e d by 1,n is n o t i n c l d e d in u 0,n 1,n 1,n a ffe c t e d by

in h e re n t ly p o s se s s e s

1,n I n tr in si c P r op e r ty

n,p

has

S y s te m E n vi ro n m e n t

has

2,n 2,n s hares M u tu a l P r op e r ty d,t B in d in g M u tu a l P r op e r ty

1,n

1,n 1,n

0,n

i n te r a c ts w it h 1,n U n s ta b l e S ta t e 1,n 1,n oc c urs on d,t 1,n 1,n

not a ffe c t e d by H e r e d it a r y P r op e r ty 1,n

2,n N o n - b in d in g M u tu a l P r op e r ty

is subset of

0,n E x te r n a l E ve n t

1,n

0,n E mer gent P r op e r ty 1,n 0,n bel ongs to

i n h e ri te d by

is subset of

d oe s n o t o c cu r o n remai ns d,t x1 + x 2 = 1 ; x1 , 2 i s e le m e n t o f { 0 , 1 } produc es x1,n x2,n S ta b l e S ta t e 1,n

bel ongs to

i nit ia t e d by 1,n 0,n x6,n 0,n generat es 0,n has S y s te m C o m p o s i ti o n 1,n has 0,n I n te r n a l E ve n t 1,n oc c urs on 0,n is i n c l d e d in u 1,n 1,n 0,n 2,n x5,n 0,n x5 + x 6 = 1 ; x5 , 6 i s e le m e n t o f { 0 , 1 } m akes up

m akes up

2,n

K in d

2,n

2,n

0,1

2,n

assum es

C la s s

1,n

1,n c h ar a c te r iz e d by

di s p la y s

c on t ain s is subset of

assum es

1,1 S y s te m 0,1 1,1 1,n 1,1 1,1

x3 + x 4 = 1 ; x3 , 4 i s e le m e n t o f { 0 , 1 } 0,n 0,n 2,n i s d e fin e d as x4,n x3,n 0,n 0,n 1,1 0,n 0,n 0,n 0,n 0,n C oupl ng i 0,n Th i n g 0,n 0,n 0,n 1,n 1,n 1,1 0,n 0,n 0,n 0,n 1,n

c h ar a c te r iz e d by

di s p la y s

0,n 2,n 1,n 0,1 L e ve l S t r u c tu r e f o rm e d by I n te r n a l C oupl ng i d,t

0,n 0,n

0,n

0,n

decom posed i n to

p a r t ia l o r d e r d e f in e d in

1,n

1,n

1,n

P r op e r ty 0,n

1,n 1,1 0,1 1,1 S ub s y s t e m

1,n 1,n

E x te r n a l C oupl ng i

m o d e ll e d as

E V E N T / T R A N S F O R M A T IO N

E ve n t

1,n 1,1 1,n can occur on 1,1

oc c urs on 1,1 2,2

ST A TE

1,n p o s se s s e s 0,n

0,n 0,n

r e p r e s e n te d by

A tt ri b u te

1,n

C ro s s P ro d u c t

1,1

f orms c o n t a in e d in

c o n t a in e d in 'h a s ' r e la t io n s h i p = 'se t o f in d i vid u a l s t a te f u n c ti o n s '

0,n

0,n 1,n

K EY : M o d el o b je c ts :

L a w fu l E ve n t S pace

1,1

is subset of

0,1

C o n c e iva b le E ve n t S pace

0,n

com posed of

1,n

has

0,n V a lu e

f orms c o n s is ts of c o n s is ts of 0,n 0,n 0,n 0,n T r a n s fo r m a t io n 1,1 can assum e 0,n rec orded in c o n t a in e d in assum es 'a s s u m e s ' r e la t io n s h ip = 't o t al s t a t e f un c t io n ' 1,n 1,n 1,1 0,1 1,1 0,1 oc c urs at 1,n Ti me I n s ta n t

1,n

= B W W co re co n s tr uct s

is

0,n 1,n prec edes 1,n 0,n a f fe c t s 0,n

0,n

has

S ta t e

K now n S ta t e

= o th e r B W W c o ns tru c t s

1,n n,p H is t o ry 0,n o rd e r e d by

P re d i c ta b l e S ta t e s uc c e e d s 0,n 0,n

= no n -B W W - co ns t ru c t e nt ity ty p es
W e l l- d e fi n e d E ve n t 1,n is

0,n

0,n

c o n t a in e d in d,t

= n o n - BW W -co n st r uc t r e la t io ns h ip t y p es
P o o rl y -d e fin e d E ve n t 1,n is not 1,n L a w fu l S ta t e S pace 1,1 0,n is subset of 0,n C o n c e iva b le S ta t e S pace 1,n

= int r o du c e d c o n ce p ts o r ter m s n o t e x plic it ly s t a te d in W e be r ( 1 9 9 7) o r G r e en & R o se m a n n ( 2 0 0 0 ) , w h ic h h a v e be e n a d d ed in o r d er to fu lly de sc ri b e th e B W W c o n s tr u c ts w ith in th e c o n s tr a in ts o f eE R m o de lling

is a r e q u ir e s

c o n t a in e d in

0,n 0,n

1,n

C ro s s P ro d u c t

0,n

G e ne r a liza tio n /Sp e c ia liza t io n: d = d is jo in t (X O R ) n = n o n -d is jo in t (in clus iv e O R ) t = to t a l (a ll s ub ty p es w h ic h e x is t a r e dip ic t ed ) p = p a rtia l (fu rt he r su b t y p es n o t de p ict e d in th e m o d el e x is t)

0,n T r a n s fo r m a t io n L aw 0,n a l lo w e d by 1,1

1,n 1,n 0,n enabl es 0,n

1,n 0,n enabl es 0,n

1,1 a l lo w e d by 0,n

V a lu e C hange 1,n

S ta t e L aw 0,n

d,t

N a tu r a l L aw

0,n

1,1

speci i ed f by 1,n H uman L aw

C o rr e c t iv e A ct io n 1,n

in s ti g a te d by 1,n 1,1 speci i es f 0,n S t ab i lit y C o n d it io n 0,n 0,n speci i ed f in speci i es f speci i ed f in

L a w fu l T r a n s fo r m a t io n 1,1

0,n

1,n

is subset of

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

14 Green & Rosemann

2. 3.

Even though many potential meta-languages are available, the ER approach is widely accepted as a de facto standard for (data) modelling. Several meta-models based on the ER approach are already available (e.g., ARIS [Scheer, 2000b]) and object-oriented schemas).

The obtained meta-model can be used now for a variety of ontological analyses. Moreover, it allows a critical review of the BWW model by a wider community. The approach, however, is not without its limitations. Commonly used modelling techniques, such as ER or UML, are often widely accepted, but they have not been designed for the purposes of meta-modelling. Thus, they occasionally lack the required expressiveness. While an ER-based meta-model helps to overcome issues related to the understandability of an ontology, a corresponding meta-model of the analysed grammar is required to deal with the lack of comparability issue. Many popular modelling techniques (e.g., ARIS or UML, and also interoperability standards such as ebXML) are already specified in meta-models using ER-notations or UML class diagrams. If the meta-models for the ontology and the modelling technique are specified in the same language, the ontological analyses turns into a comparison of two conceptual models. As part of the analyses, corresponding entity types and relationship types in both models need to be identified. It also becomes immediately obvious whether the focus of the analysed grammar differs from the ontology. In the case of ARIS or many Web services standards, for example, the meta-models are centred around functions or activities instead of being centred around things. As an example of constructs from a particular ontology, Table 2 provides some core ontological constructs defined in plain English and adapted to the IS discipline by Wand and Weber (1995). An extract of the meta-model for a set of selected BWW constructs is described in Figure 3. All object types in this model described as nouns correspond with constructs in the BWW representation model. The basic elements in the BWW representation model are things and their properties. Every thing possesses at least one property and every property belongs to at least one thing. Consequently, a mutual existential dependency exists. Things often consist of other things or they are part of other things. These composite things can be depicted by a recursive relationship type. While thing, composite thing, and property exist in the real world, for modelling purposes, it is necessary to define ways of concentrating the focus in order to reduce complexity. Things together with their properties can be classified in classes by identifying a characteristic property that all the involved things have in common. Each class has at least one relationship to a thing-property couple. Classes (e.g., human beings) may possess subtypes (e.g., man and woman)
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

15

Table 2. Core ontological constructs in the BWW representation model


Ontological Construct THING* Explanation A thing is the elementary unit in the BWW ontological model. The real world is made up of things. Two or more things (composite or simple) can be associated into a composite thing. Things possess properties. A property is modelled via a function that maps the thing into some value. For example, the attribute weight represents a property that all humans possess. In this regard, weight is an attribute standing for a property in general. If we focus on the weight of a specific individual, however, we would be concerned with a property in particular. A property of a composite thing that belongs to a component thing is called an hereditary property. Otherwise it is called an emergent property. Some properties are inherent properties of individual things. Such properties are called intrinsic. Other properties are properties of pairs or many things. Such properties are called mutual. Non-binding mutual properties are those properties shared by two or more things that do not make a difference to the things involved; for example, order relations or equivalence relations. By contrast, binding mutual properties are those properties shared by two or more things that do make a difference to the things involved. Attributes are the names that we use to represent properties of things. The vector of values for all property functions of a thing is the state of the thing. A transformation is a mapping from one state to another state. A stable state is a state in which a thing, subsystem, or system will remain unless forced to change by virtue of the action of a thing in the environment (an external event).

PROPERTY*: IN GENERAL IN PARTICULAR HEREDITARY EMERGENT INTRINSIC NON-BINDING MUTUAL BINDING MUTUAL ATTRIBUTES

STATE* TRANSFORMATION* STABLE STATE*

Figure 3. Thing, property, class, kind, attribute


T h in g 1 ,n C la sse p ossess s 0 ,n 1 ,n P rop e rty 0 ,n

0 ,n

0 ,n C o m p osite T h in g C h ara cte ristic P rop e rty is m o d elle d as

1 ,n K in d 1 ,1 is a 0 ,1 C la ss

1 ,n A ttrib u te

called kinds. Through attributes the context-relevant properties can be modelled and they become more easily understood. In contrast, an attribute requires the existence of at least one property, as it cannot exist on its own. The development and applicability of the full meta-model is reported in Rosemann and Green (2002).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

16 Green & Rosemann

Figure 4. Comparison of the BWW meta-model and the ARIS meta-model


BWW Model 0,n

precedes

0,n 0,n

Transformation 0,n

State

succeeds

ARIS 0,1

precedes

0,1 0,1

Function

0,1

Event

succeeds

Figure 4 depicts an example that shows how meta-models can facilitate the ontological analysis of a modelling grammar. The excerpt of the BWW metamodel depicts the dynamic part that constitutes a process in which states and transformations are strictly alternate. Both constructs together form, in the terminology of the BWW models, an event. The bottom portion of Figure 4 includes the corresponding part of the meta-model of the Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS). In the modelling technique, eventdriven process chains (EPC), of ARIS, each process consists of an alternate sequence of events and functions. Thus, functions (events) of the EPC modelling technique can be mapped to the transformations (states) of the BWW models. Corresponding mappings are possible for the relationship types. Such a model comparison allows an objective ontological analysis and easily facilitates the identification of weaknesses such as ontological overlap, excess or redundancy (Green & Rosemann, 2000). Furthermore, this approach helps to identify synonyms (e.g., function and transformation) as well as homonyms (e.g., event).

Process
Issues related to the process of conducting an ontological analysis have been described as lack of completeness, lack of guidance and lack of objectivity. Based on the assumption that corresponding meta-models for the ontology and the analysed grammar are available, it is possible to clearly specify the scope of an analysis using those meta-models. Such a selection of clusters, entity types and relationship types would define all elements that are to be perceived of relevance for a complete analysis. An analysis of an ER-based notation, for example, could be focused on the BWW clusters thing, system, and property

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

17

and could exclude the more behavioural-oriented clusters event and state. Such boundaries of an analysis could be easily visualised in the meta-model and would provide a clear description of the comprehensiveness of the analysis thus, mitigating the completeness criticism. The existence of two corresponding meta-models and a clear definition of the scope of the analysis are necessary, but not sufficient, criteria for a well-guided process. Further guidelines are required regarding the starting point of such a process and the actual sequence of activities. Based on our experiences, we recommend starting with the representation mapping that is, selecting the meta-model of the ontology and subsequently identifying the corresponding elements in the modelling grammar. The first construct to be analysed should be the most central entity type that is, in the case of the BWW models the entity type thing. Our previous work provides a strong argument that this analysis should be followed by a cluster-by-cluster approach. Starting with the core constructs in a cluster, this approach allows a more structured and focused analysis of the completeness of a modelling grammar. The analysis of the entity types is followed by the relationship types and the cardinalities. Constructs in the meta-model that only have been introduced for the correctness of the metamodel, but that do not reflect ontological constructs are excluded from the analysis. The representation mapping is followed by an analysis of the clarity that is, the interpretation mapping. In this case the meta-model of the grammar under analysis is the starting point. The general procedure is similar. A main advantage of a cluster-based analysis is that the structure of the two metamodels provides valuable input for the ontological analysis. In addition to the cluster-based analysis, a further guideline in the process relates to generalisation-specialisation relationships in the meta-model of the grammar. We propose to classify ontologically the super-type first and then to inherit this ontological classification to all sub-types. These guidelines streamline the process of the analyses and increase the consistency. The lack of objectivity issue, on the other hand, stems frequently from the analysis being performed by a single researcher. The situation results in an analysis that is almost certainly biased by the researchers background as well as their interpretation of the specification of the grammar. In order to improve the validity of the analysis, a research methodology can be adopted that undertakes individual analyses of a particular grammar by at least two members of a research team, followed by consensus as to the final analysis by the entire team of researchers. The methodology consists of three steps: 1. Using the specification of the grammar in question, at least two researchers separately read the specification and interpret, select and map the ontological constructs to candidate grammatical constructs to create individual first drafts of the analysis.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

18 Green & Rosemann

2.

The researchers involved in step 1 of the methodology meet to discuss and defend their interpretations of the modelling technique analysis. A concurrence score is determined then from their initial analyses. This meeting leads to an agreed second draft version of the analysis that incorporates elements of each of the researchers first draft analyses. The overlap in the selection of the constructs and in the actual ontological analysis can be quantified by concurrence/agreement scores that are used in content analysis and other more qualitative research. The second draft version of the analysis of the modelling technique is used as a basis for defence and discussion in a meeting involving the entire research team. The outcome of this meeting forms the final analysis of the grammar in question.

3.

Such a methodology was employed in a project that sought to apply the BWW representation model analysis to a number of the leading potential Web service standards that is, ebXML, BPML, BPEL4WS, and WSCI. The project team was composed of four researchers and the standards were analysed in the order: ebXML BPML BPEL4WS WSCI. Two researchers were involved in steps 1 and 2 of the methodology that is, the individual analysis of a standard followed by a meeting of the two researchers in order to obtain an agreed mapping. This phase was followed by a meeting of the entire team in order to discuss the mapping and arrive at the final analysis. The process was performed for each of the four standards. Table 3 shows the recorded agreement statistics at the second step of the applied methodology, while Table 4 shows the recorded agreement statistics at the third step of the methodology. Meta data of the ontological analysis such as the mapping ratio provides valuable information in addition to the actual outcomes of the analysis. In the case of the analysis of the Web services standards, for example, these figures give insight into how difficult or easy these standards are to understand. The adoption of such a methodology is seen to have improved significantly the objectiveness of the analyses.

Table 3. Summary of step 2 mapping agreement between both researchers


Web Service Language ebXML BPML BPEL4WS WSCI Representation Mapping agreed upon by both researchers 43 36 30 39 Total number of specification constructs identified 51 46 47 49 Mapping ratio

84% 78% 63% 79%

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

19

Table 4. Summary of step 3 mapping agreement


Web Service Language ebXML BPML BPEL4WS WSCI Representation Mapping agreed upon by the team 49 41 42 46 Total number of specification constructs identified 51 46 47 49 Mapping ratio

96% 89% 89% 94%

Output
The three main shortcomings related to the outcome of an ontological analysis have been characterised as the lack of adequate result representation, lack of result classification and the lack of relevance. The meta-models that have been used as input for the ontological analyses are also an appropriate medium to visualise the outcomes of the entire analysis process. In our work on the analysis of ARIS, we derived a meta-model of the BWW model that highlighted all constructs of the ontology that do not have a corresponding construct in the grammar under analysis that is, we visualised incompleteness in the model using simple colour coding. In a similar way, we derived three ARIS meta-models that highlighted excess, overload and redundancy in ARIS. Such models form a very intuitive way of representing the identified ontological shortcomings. The underlying clustering of the models also helps to quickly comprehend the main areas of shortcomings. At the present time, the process of an ontological analysis results in the identification of ontological incompleteness and ontological clarity through the identification of missing, overloaded or redundant grammatical constructs. While the end result identifies such problems, it fails to account for their relative importance. For example, thing is one of the fundamental constructs of the BWW model. The lack of mapping for the construct should, therefore, be considered more important than the lack of mapping for the well-defined event construct for example. There is a need for the development of a scoring model that enables the calculation of the goodness of a grammar with respect to the ontology. In such a scoring model, each of the ontological constructs has a value assigned to it that reflects the relative importance of the construct in the ontology. Core constructs would therefore have high weightings whereas less important constructs would attract lower values of weightings. Following an ontological analysis of a particular grammar, the weighting of all missing constructs would be calculated to arrive at one value that generally reflects the outcome of the analysis.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

20 Green & Rosemann

An example for such a classification could have for example the following structure. All core constructs of an ontology (and the modelling grammar) would get the value 1. All other constructs represented as an entity type in the metamodel of the ontology would receive the value 0.7, and all remaining constructs get the value 0.3. Such a weighting would then be applied to the outcomes of the ontological analysis. The scores would be aggregated across the ontology and modelling grammar. They also would be calculated separately for completeness, excess, overload and redundancy. Furthermore, they could be aggregated per cluster that allows a more differentiated view on the particular strengths of a modelling grammar. Though the consolidated score of such an evaluation should not be overrated, it provides better insights into the characteristics of the ontological deficiencies and provides a first rating of the significance and importance of the identified shortcomings. It can also be used for the design of the subsequent empirical studies. Apart from the lack of result classification that is addressed by the scoring model, another problem with the outcome of the analyses has been the perceived lack of relevance. The merit of a foundational ontology that is, its generic nature and its completeness, can also be seen as a shortcoming the ontology might cover more than what one single modelling technique can support and its level of abstraction is too high in order to form a specific benchmark. Thus, three activities seem to be required in order to convert foundational ontologies into focused ontologies.

First, since most modelling grammars concentrate on modelling a sub-set of the phenomena that occurs in the real world, it would follow that not all constructs of an ontology are necessary in order to analyse such a grammar. If the full ontology is used in the analysis, the result may identify potential problems that would not, in reality, occur, because the modelling grammar is not used to model any phenomena described by the missing constructs. Consequently, a focused ontology can be derived by deleting constructs from the selected ontology. Indeed, the outcomes of the ontological analyses of different modelling grammars to date appear to support the need for a focused ontology that consists of different subsets of the ontological constructs for different domains. The analyses of process modelling grammars consistently show that the constructs conceivable state space, conceivable event space and lawful event space, for example, have no representation constructs in the grammars. Such missing constructs, if identified to be unnecessary for the particular domain, can be ignored leading to a simpler analysis that does not consider phenomena that are deemed to be outside of the scope of the domain.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

21

Second, there may also be a need for specialisation of some of the ontological constructs in order to enhance analysis of a grammar pertaining to a particular domain. For example, our analyses of Web services standards such as ebXML, BPEL4WS or BPML included the mapping of various activity types to the ontological construct transformation. Such findings could motivate the derivation of relevant sub-types of transformation when it comes to the context of business process management. Third, the derivation of a focused ontology will require adapting the terminology of the analysed domain for two reasons. On the one side, the terms of the ontology might not be intuitive (e.g., conceivable state space within the BWW ontology). On the other side, the analysed domain might have its own established terminology. An example is the area of workflow modelling techniques, in which the Workflow Management Coalition had a significant impact with its glossary.

The argument for a focused ontology might be quite convincing and even seen as trivial. However, the development of focused ontologies faces a major challenge. The decisions about deleting constructs, adding sub-types and renaming constructs have to be based on a substantial number of ontological analyses before they can be justified. Thus, such focused ontologies are not readily available. In general, current ontological analyses focus on the selection of an adequate ontology and the evaluation of modelling grammars against that ontology. Ontological weaknesses are often interpreted as a weakness of the ontology or a weakness of the analysed grammar. It might be however a weakness of the comparison as the ontology and the analysed grammar do not fit. This situation can be explained by the highly interdisciplinary history of most ontologies and it has motivated our extension of the process of ontological analysis by adding a dimension that expresses the relevance of the results. The main advantages of this kind of analysis are that the identified weaknesses are relevant weaknesses and that the focused ontology is based on a well-discussed ontology with philosophical foundations. This use of the focused ontology in an analysis integrates the type of user and his/her relevant purpose. The purpose describes the objectives of the modelling tasks and is used to focus the modelling process at an early stage. For example, many workflow management systems include their own approach to describing the workflows. They are designed for exactly one purpose the design and support of the execution of workflows. Nevertheless, a traditional ontological analysis would identify certain weaknesses. Possibly however, the developer and the ensuing users of this particular workflow modelling language

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

22 Green & Rosemann

Figure 5. An extension of ontological analysis through the use of focused ontologies


Chosen Ontology Focused Ontology Modeling Grammar

Elimination and Specialization

Focused Ontological Analysis

do not care about such weaknesses, and never intended to provide a language that covers all constructs of the ontology. Besides the purpose, the type of user impacts the requirements of a situation. The user can be classified principally by their role within a modelling project, their role within the modeled domain, their knowledge of the domain, their experience with modelling, and/or their position in the organization. So far, we have only focused on the relevant purpose aspect. To this end, we have examined activity-based costing (ABC) (Rosemann & Green, 2000) and interoperability standards (Green & Rosemann, 2002; Green et al., 2004). We have used ABC (in its classical specification) first to develop a focused ontology because it is now well known and well specified in the business costing literature. One of our near-future directions for research is to test this focused ontology with ABC users to determine if the focused ontology better explains the constructs really required in the target technique.

Lessons Learned
There has been a marked increase in the popularity of the application of ontologies for the purposes of modelling grammar analysis. For example, a literature review identified more than 25 papers that applied the Bunge-WandWeber ontology for the analysis of modelling grammars such as ER (e.g., Wand & Weber, 1989, 1993, 1995), OMT, UML (e.g., Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2002; Shanks et al., 2003), Petri-Nets, ARIS (e.g., Green & Rosemann, 2000, 2002; Rosemann & Green, 2002) or Web services standards such as ebXML, BPEL4WS, BPML or WSCI (e.g., van der Aalst, Dumas, ter Hofstede, & Wohed, 2002; Wohed, van der Aalst, Dumas, & ter Hofstede, 2003; Green et al.,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

23

2004). Over the last five years, our understanding of ontologies and the contribution that they can make to requirements modelling and conceptual modelling has increased greatly. We have learned a number of important lessons. 1. The understandability and the applicability of the selected ontology must be clear for IS professionals otherwise they will find it difficult to see the net benefits in the use of the analytical work. Accordingly, we have focused our efforts on developing a more intuitive meta-model for our preferred ontology and using this meta-model as the basis for explaining and applying the constructs of the ontology. Hypothesized weaknesses in a particular target modelling technique may not be in fact weaknesses of the technique but rather a misspecification in the adaptation of the preferred ontology to the IS modelling discipline. The adapted ontology may be over-engineered, under-engineered, and/or misspecified. In our work over the last five years in using our preferred ontology to analyse a range of techniques, we have noted on several occasions a core of ontological constructs whose representations in the target techniques have been absent. It would appear that our preferred ontology might be over-engineered in some respects. That is, the benefits of having representations in the target techniques for these particular ontological constructs do not appear to outweigh the costs of providing those representations irrespective of the type of user or business purpose of the modelling. We have perceived the need for a focusing of the ontology dependent on the type of user and the relevant business purpose. Accordingly, as an initial attempt in this direction, we have selected activity-based costing as a relatively well-defined business purpose and we are developing a focused ontology for this technique.

2.

3.

In general, selected ontologies and their interpretations, from an information systems viewpoint, are reasonably advanced. However, the actual process of conducting an ontological analysis is still rather premature. At this stage, the process is focused on the identification of the cardinality of the relationships between corresponding elements in the ontology and the modelling grammar under analysis. In total, eight shortcomings of the current process of ontological analysis have been identified and categorised into issues related to the input, process and output of the analysis. This chapter proposed to enhance further the current methodology of ontological analyses. The objectives of such a methodology are:

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

24 Green & Rosemann

To provide guidance for researchers who are interested in conducting ontological analyses. To add rigour to the entire process and reduce the dependence on the subjective interpretations of the involved researcher. To increase overall the credibility of the ontological analysis.

Examples from our ontological analyses of ARIS and various Web services standards have been used to exemplify this methodology. As a consequence, we hope that the presented more rigorous process will increase the overall acceptance of using ontologies for the analysis, comparison and engineering of various grammars. Our future work is continuing and developing in four principal directions. First, we are converting our meta-model to a UML-based definition. In this way, where there are UML-based meta-models for other grammars, we can make our analyses more objective. Second, we are using our meta-model work to provide a basis on which to compare ontologies. In this way, we can provide some theoretical guidance for the selection of an ontology for an evaluative/analytical task. Third, we continue to investigate different business purposes for the production of relevant focused ontologies for the evaluation/engineering of modelling methods that are popularly used in that area. For example, we are currently working on a focused ontology for business process management that will be derived from the BWW ontology. Finally, we continue to empirically test the predictions of our ontologically based evaluations. In this way, we can contribute to the development of the BWW theoretical foundation for business and information systems modelling techniques.

References
Bansler, J. P., & Bodker, K. (1993). A reappraisal of structured analysis: Design in an organizational context. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 11(2), 165-193. Bunge, M. (1977). Treatise on basic philosophy: Volume 3: Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Boston: Reidel. Burton-Jones, A., & Meso, P. (2002). How good are these UML diagrams? An empirical test of the Wand and Weber good decomposition model. In L. Applegate, R. Galliers & J. I. DeGross (Eds.), Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2002), Barcelona, 15-18 December, (pp. 101-114).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

25

Chen, P. P-S. (1976). Entity-relationship model: Towards a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems 1(1), 9-36. Davies, I.G., Green, P., Milton, S., & Rosemann, M. (2004). Analysing and comparing ontologies with meta-models. In J. Krogstie, T. Halpin, & K. Siau (Eds.), Information modeling methods and methodologies (pp. 116). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Davies, I., Green, P., & Rosemann, M. (2002). Facilitating an ontological foundation of information systems with meta models. In A. Wenn, M. McGrath, & F. Burstein (Eds.), Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS 2002), Melbourne, 4-6 December, (pp. 937-948). Fettke, P., & Loos, P. (2003). Ontological evaluation of reference models using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. In Proceedings of the 9th Americas Conference on Information Systems, Tampa, (pp. 29-44). Gorla, N., Pu, H. C., & Rom, W. O. (1995). Evaluation of process tools in systems analysis. Information and Software Technology, 37(2), 119126. Green, P., & Rosemann, M. (2004). Applying ontologies to business and systems modelling techniques and perspectives: Lessons learned. Journal of Database Management, 15(2), 105-117. Green, P., Rosemann, M., Indulska, M., & Manning, C. (2004). Candidate interoperability standards: An ontological overlap analysis. Submitted to Data & Knowledge Engineering, April, 2004. Green, P. F. (1997). Use of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in combination in upper CASE tools An ontological evaluation. In Proceedings of the 2nd CaiSE/IFIP8.1 International Workshop on the Evaluation of Modeling Methods in Systems Analysis and Design, Barcelona, (pp. 1-12). Green, P. F., & Rosemann, M. (2000). Integrated process modelling: An ontological evaluation. Information Systems, 25(2), 73-87. Green, P. F., & Rosemann, M. (2002). Perceived ontological weaknesses of process modeling techniques: Further evidence. In Proceedings of the 10th European Conference on Information Systems, Poland, (pp. 312321). Green, P. F., & Rosemann, M. (2002). Usefulness of the BWW ontological models as a core theory of information systems. In Proceedings of Workshop on Information Systems Foundations: Building the Theoretical Base, Australian National University: Canberra, (pp. 147-164). Gruninger, M., & Lee, J. (2002). Ontology: Applications and design. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 39-41.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

26 Green & Rosemann

Guarino, N., & Welty, C. (2002). Evaluating ontological decisions with OntoClean. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 61-65. Karam, G. M., & Casselman, R. S. (1993). A cataloging framework for software development methods. IEEE Computer, 34-46. Olle, T. W., Hagelstein, J., Macdonald, I. G., Rolland, G., Sol, H. G., Van Assche, F. J. M., & Verrijn-Stuart, A. A. (1991). Information systems methodologies: A framework for understanding. Wokingham, England: AddisonWesley. Opdahl, A. L., & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2001). Grounding the OML metamodel in ontology. Journal of Systems and Software, 57(2), 119-143. Opdahl, A. L., & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2002). Ontological evaluation of the UML using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. Software and Systems Modeling Journal, 1(1), 43-67. Parsons, J., & Wand, W. (1997). Using objects in systems analysis. Communications of the ACM, 40(12), 104-110. Rosemann, M., & Green, P. F. (2000). Integrating multi-perspective views into ontological analysis. In W. Orlikowski, S. Ang, P. Weill, H. Krcmar, & J. deGross (Eds.), Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Information Systems, Brisbane, 10-13 December, (pp. 618-627). Rosemann, M., & Green, P. F. (2002). Developing a meta model for the BungeWand-Weber ontological constructs. Information Systems, 27(2), 75-91. Rosemann, M., Green, P. F., & Indulska, M. (2004). Towards an enhanced methodology for ontological analyses. In J. Grabis, A. Perrson, & J. Stirna (Eds.), Proceedings of the CAiSE 04 Forum, Riga, June, (pp. 112-121). Scheer, A. W. (2000a). ARIS Business process modeling. Springer: Berlin. Scheer, A. W. (2000b). ARIS Business process frameworks (3rd ed.). Berlin: Springer. Shanks, G., Tansley, E., & Weber, R. (2003). Using ontology to validate conceptual models. Communications of the ACM, 46(10), 85-89. Sia, S. K., & Soh, C. (2002). Severity assessment of ERP-organization misalignment: Honing in on ontological structure and context specificity. In L. Applegate et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of 23rd International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS2002), Barcelona, December. (pp. 723729). van der Aalst, W. M. P., Dumas, M., ter Hofstede, A. H. M., & Wohed, P. (2002). Pattern based analysis of BPML (and WSCI) (Technical report No. FIT-TR-2002-050). Brisbane, Australia: Queensland University of Technology.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques

27

Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. D. Falkenberg & P. Lindgreen (Eds.), Information system concepts: An in-depth analysis (pp. 79-107). Amsterdam, Netherlands: North-Holland. Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (1990a). Mario Bunges ontology as a formal foundation for information systems concepts. In P. Weingartner & G. J. W. Dorn (Eds.), Studies on Mario Bunges Treatise (pp. 123-149). Atlanta: Rodopi. Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (1990b). An ontological model of an information system. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(11), 1281-1291. Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3(4), 217-237. Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (1995). On the deep structure of information systems. Information Systems Journal, 5, 203-223. Wand, Y., & Weber, R. (2002). Information systems and conceptual modelling: A research agenda. Information Systems Research, 13(4), 363-376. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological Foundations of Information Systems (Monograph No. 4). Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne, Vic., Coopers & Lybrand and the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand. Weber, R., & Zhang, Y. (1996). An analytical evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Information Systems Journal, 6(2), 147-170. Wohed, P., van der Aalst, W.M.P., Dumas, M., & ter Hofstede, A. (2003). Analysis of Web service composition languages: The case of BPEL4WS. Proceedings of 22 nd International Conference on Conceptual Modelling (ER) (pp. 200-215), Chicago, October.

Endnote
1

In [5] a meta-model can be distinguished from a grammar, for the purposes of this work, as a model of how the constructs of a grammar are related.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

28 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Chapter II

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices:


Composites, Things, Properties
Graeme Shanks, Monash University, Australia Jasmina Nuredini, Monash University, Australia Ron Weber, Monash University, Australia

Abstract
This chapter examines how ontological theory can be used to predict how alternative conceptual modelling representations affect end-user understanding of these representations. Specifically, it examines how ontological theory can be used to show how part-whole relations (composites) and things and properties can be best represented to enhance understanding of these real-world phenomena. We report the outcomes of two experiments that provide evidence to support the ontologically sound representation of part-whole relations and things and properties. We also discuss the outcomes of a cognitive process tracing study that explains why the ontologically sound representation of things and properties is more easily
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

29

understood. In essence, our empirical research provides evidence to support the use of ontology as a theoretical basis to guide conceptual modelling practices.

Introduction
The representation of real-world phenomena as conceptual models has been a concern of information systems practitioners and researchers for some time. For example, Wand, Storey, and Weber (1999) have sought to build a rigorous ontological theory to provide a model of the structure and dynamics of some facets of the real world in general. Their goal has been to provide a theoretical basis for evaluating conceptual modelling practices. Their theory is an adaptation and extension of an ontological theory proposed by Bunge (1977). Bunges theory was selected because of its rigour and comprehensiveness. It provides thorough articulation of constructs such as things (entities), properties of things, states of things, and compositions of things phenomena that are of major interest to conceptual modelling practitioners. In this chapter, we focus on two features of the real world that conceptual modellers encounter namely, the existence of things that are part of another thing and the distinction between things and properties. The notions that one thing may be part of another thing (e.g., a wheel is part of a bicycle) and the distinction between things and properties (e.g., a person is a thing with properties such as height and weight) are fundamental to the way people perceive and understand the world. In the context of conceptual modelling, these notions are problematic because alternative representations have been proposed and substantive theoretical issues remain unresolved. To illustrate, Rumbaugh, Jacobson, and Booch (1999, p. 146) state: The aggregation (part-whole) relationship is transitive and antisymmetric across all aggregation links, even across those from different aggregation associations, yet Winston, Chaffin, and Herrman (1987, pp. 431432) argue that not all part-whole relations are transitive. Furthermore, composite things are sometimes represented explicitly as entities (e.g., Kilov & Ross, 1994, pp. 96-97) and sometimes implicitly as relationships between the components of the composite (e.g., Chen, 1976, p. 31). In terms of distinguishing between things and properties, proponents of the object-role approach to conceptual modelling claim the distinction is unimportant (Halpin, 1995). They model things and properties of things using the object symbol in a conceptual schema. In the entity-relationship model (Chen, 1976), however, things are represented as entity types, and properties are represented as attribute types. In our view, conceptual models should be used to discover and document stakeholder perceptions of a domain to provide a basis for informed discernment
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

30 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

about how phenomena should be represented in an information system (Hischheim, Klein & Lyytinen, 1995) rather than being driven by database design considerations (Simsion & Witt, 2001, p. 101). For this reason, we argue that the representation of part-whole relations and things and properties in conceptual models should be based on a sound underlying theory of how the world is structured. To the best of our knowledge, however, no rigorous empirical evaluation of alternative representations of part-whole relations and things and properties has been undertaken. In the absence of such research, we undertook to empirically evaluate alternative representations. Our research had several motivations. First, the cost of fixing errors increases the later they are discovered in the system development process (e.g., Boehm, 1981). Because, conceptual modelling work is undertaken early in the system development process, improvements in conceptual modelling practice potentially will lead to high payoffs (Moody & Shanks, 1998). Second, we sought to test prior theoretical work undertaken to predict how well different types of representations facilitate or inhibit human understanding of real-world phenomena. If accurate predictions about the types of conceptual modelling practices that are likely to be effective can be made, the high cost of learning the strengths and weaknesses of different practices through experience can be avoided. Third, we seek to improve user understanding of conceptual models. When conceptual models are prepared initially (e.g., by systems analysts), the users of an information system are asked to validate them to determine how accurately and completely the models represent their perceptual worlds. Finally, we sought to contribute to improved conceptual modelling practice. Numerous varying and sometimes ambiguous guidelines for representation of part-whole relations and things and properties exist in the literature. These guidelines tend to confuse rather than assist practitioners (Simsion & Witt, 2001). We aim to help practitioners by developing improved conceptual modelling rules for part-whole relations and things and properties. In this chapter we report the results of three empirical studies we undertook to examine user understanding of conceptual models. We used ontological theory to predict how part-whole relations and things and properties are best represented to enable user understanding of these phenomena. We also discuss the research and practical implications of our findings as well as future work that might be undertaken.

Theoretical Background
Little theory exists that can be used to predict or explain why any particular conceptual modelling notation or representation is better understood by end
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

31

users. Furthermore, there is no empirical evidence to explain which representation of part-whole relations and things and properties is better. In this light, we relied on Wand et al.s (1999) arguments about which representation is better. They use Bunges (1977) ontological theory as the basis for their analysis. In brief, their arguments run as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. The world is made of things that possess properties (p. 497). Things and properties are the two atomic constructs needed to describe the world. Every thing in the world possesses one or more properties (there are no bare things). Properties themselves cannot have properties. Moreover, properties cannot exist by themselves. They must attach to some thing. Two types of properties that exist in the world are intrinsic properties, which depend on one thing only, and mutual properties, which depend on two or more things. Two things interact (are coupled) when a history of one thing (manifested as a sequence of the things states) would be different if the other thing did not exist. The existence of a mutual property between two things can indicate that they interact with each other. Mutual properties that manifest interactions between two things are called binding mutual properties. Two things may associate to form another thing. A thing is a composite if and only if it is formed from the combination of at least two other things. Otherwise, it is a simple thing. (p. 504). Every composite thing possesses emergent properties properties that are not possessed by the components of the composite. (p. 504).

5.

6.

7.

8.

In the context of Bunges (1977) ontological theory, a composite can not be represented as a relationship because a) relationships themselves represent mutual properties and b) every composite must possess at least one emergent property. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate an example of how part-whole relations may be represented in a UML diagram. Figure 1 depicts an association between student, subject and term. An enrollment associates a student with a subject in a term; therefore, each separate enrollment must contain a student, a subject and a term. In Figure 2, the example is expressed as a part-of association between student, enrollment, subject and a term. Here, enrollment is represented as an object, where it is strongly aggregated with student and term and weakly aggregated with subject. If the ontological principles are contravened and composites are represented as relationships, the resulting conceptual schema diagram is limited. Users will
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

32 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Figure 1. UML association class


Student Student
1..1 1..1

Enrollment Enrolment

Subject Subject

1..1

Term Term

Figure 2. UML entity class


Student
1..* 0..*

Enrollment Enrolment
0..* 1..*

0..*

1..*

Subject Subject

Term Term

employ tacit knowledge to determine whether the relationship represents a composite thing or a mutual property of two or more things. For example, in Figure 1, enrollment could be interpreted as a mutual property or relationship (association) between student, term, and subject classes. If intrinsic and/or mutual properties were attached to the relationship, it would be unclear whether the properties were intended as properties of the relationship or properties of the composite. Also, in the context of Bunges (1977) ontological theory, a property cannot be represented as an entity type because construct (semantic) overload will arise. This outcome occurs when the same grammatical construct (entity type symbol) is used to represent two ontological constructs (things and their properties). Figures 3 and 4 demonstrate how entities and properties may be represented in ER models. Figure 3 shows things represented as entity types (student, address) and properties as entity types (student address). Figure 4 shows an alternative representation that we propose where things are represented as entities and properties are represented as attributes. If the ontological principles are contra-

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

33

vened and properties are represented as entities, the conceptual schema model becomes limited. Users will resort to tacit knowledge to determine whether the entity type represents a thing or a property. For example, in Figure 3, student address may be interpreted as a thing when instead it is a mutual property of student and address. In addition to Bunges theory, this research relies on theoretical work on cognition. Extensive research reveals that humans cognitively cluster phenomena that they perceive to be related (e.g., Bousfield, 1953). Clustering appears to provide a means for humans to deal with the complexity they often encounter in their perceptual worlds (Miller, 1956). By focussing on clusters, they reduce cognitive load and enhance their abilities to understand the world. Properties of things naturally cluster with the things to which they belong. Perceiving the world in terms of things and their properties, therefore, helps humans to mitigate the cognitive problems they experience when they perceive phenomena to be complex. To maximise our contribution to conceptual modelling practices, we based our empirical studies on the widely used UML and ER modelling notations. Part-

Figure 3. Practice student address ER model

Student Student Number Student Name Student DOB

has

has

Address Address Number Street Number Street Name Suburb Country Post Code

Student Address Student Number Address Number From Date To Date

Figure 4. Ontologically sound student address ER model

Student Student Number Student Name Student DOB {Address Number From Date To Date}*

has

Address Address Number Street Number Street Name Suburb Country Post Code {Student Number From Date To Date}*

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

34 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

whole relations feature in object-oriented conceptual modelling approaches (e.g., Rumbaugh et al., 1999); therefore, we used UML to test the representation of part-whole relations (Appendices A and B). Part-whole relations also feature in the ER modelling notation (Simsion & Witt, 2001). Entity and attribute types are fundamental constructs in ER modelling approaches; therefore, we used ER modelling to test the representation of things and properties (Appendices C, D, E, and F). Things and properties also appear in the UML modelling notation. We contend that the choice of representation in conceptual modelling is important in terms of users ability to elicit the meaning of the phenomena described via the representation. Hence, the following propositions motivate the two experiments we undertook:

Proposition 1: Conceptual models that use entity class constructs to represent composites will enable users to better understand the semantics associated with the composite than conceptual models that use a relationship class construct. Proposition 2: Conceptual models that use an attribute construct to represent properties will enable users to better understand the semantics associated with the model than conceptual models that use an entity class construct.

In order to better understand the outcomes of our second experiment, we undertook an exploratory cognitive process tracing study motivated by the following proposition:

Proposition 3: Cognitive behavior patterns of users explain the differences in their ability to understand conceptual models with different representations of things and properties.

Representing Part-Whole Relations


The first experiment investigated user understanding of the representation of part-whole relations and was reported in detail in Shanks, Tansley, Nuredini, Tobin, and Weber (2002). A summary of the design and outcomes follows.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

35

Research Method and Design


Design and Measures
The experiment was conducted in a laboratory setting to allow for control of external factors that might confound the results. One between-groups factor was used. This factor, type of representation, had two levels: the ontologically sound level which had both composites and components in part-whole relations represented as entity classes, and the ontologically unsound level which had composites represented as relationship classes. Both levels were represented in a UML class diagram. The dependent variable was the performance of on problem-solving questions. This variable was selected to evaluate how well participants in the experiment understood the project-planning domain represented in the UML class diagram. It is deemed to provide a better indicator of deep understanding (Mayer, 1989; Bloom, 1956), and it has been used before in the information systems field (Geminio, 1999; Bodart, Sim, Patel, & Weber, 2001). Performance on problem-solving questions was measured according to solution accuracy and time taken.

Materials
Four sets of materials were used in the experiment namely, a summary of the UML symbols with definitions, two UML class diagrams, eleven problemsolving questions, and a personal profile questionnaire. The symbol summary was designed to inform participants of the meaning of each symbol used in the experimental diagrams. One model, the ontologically sound model (Appendix A), had both components and composites represented explicitly as entity classes and were linked via associations. The other model, the ontologically unsound model (Appendix B), showed components as classes whereas composites were implied via the links between component classes. A set of problem-solving questions was also developed to encourage participants to use the UML class diagrams and to avoid use of tacit knowledge. Finally, participant demographic data was collected using a personal profile questionnaire.

Participants
Participants were selected based on their ability and experience to act as surrogate end users. Thirty took part in the study, all of whom were working in non-technical roles and had little or no modelling experience.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

36 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Procedures
Participants were run individually through the experiment to enable detailed observation of their problem-solving behavior. They were assigned randomly to one of the two treatments. They also signed a consent form and provided demographic and experiential information about themselves. Next, they were given symbol summary of UML notation that they retained and could refer to during the experiment. They were then given either the ontologically sound or ontologically unsound UML class diagram together with the problem-solving questions. Participants were asked to speak aloud as they worked through each question so that their utterances could be audio recorded and documented. The time taken to answer each question was recorded, and we made notes on their reactions and queries in relation to each problem-solving question.

Outcomes
To evaluate the results of the experiment, we analysed both the scores for problem-solving questions and the transcriptions of the audio recordings.

Quantitative Analysis
The scoring of the problem-solving task was calculated as follows:

Answer where one mark was given if the answer (possible or not possible) was correct; zero was given if the answer was incorrect. Explanation where a judgment was made based on the participants explanations, researchers notes, and the audio recording. Clear explanations supporting an answer were awarded one mark, and moderately clear explanations were awarded a half mark. If explanations were unclear, zero marks were awarded. Interpretation where a judgment was made using participant explanations, notes, and audio recordings. Clear interpretations of the domain received one mark, while moderately clear interpretations received a half mark. Any unclear interpretations were awarded zero marks.

Table 1 presents the statistics for the total accuracy, total time and t-tests. These figures suggest that participants who received the ontologically sound model scored much higher in terms of accuracy than those who received the ontologically

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

37

Table 1. Problem solving summary statistics


Group / Measure Sound Model Unsound Model Accuracy (percentage) t=7.450, df= 28, p<0.001 Mean Std. Dev. 74.33 18.24 32.42 11.82 Time taken (minutes) t=-1.166, df= 28, p=0.253 Mean Std. Dev. 33.24 11.46 38.99 15.26

unsound model. Although they also managed to take less time on average, the difference was not as significant.

Qualitative Data Analysis


To obtain a deeper understanding of participants thought processes as they answered the problem-solving questions, a qualitative analysis was undertaken. Participants protocols were selected randomly for analysis until we were no longer learning anything new. Saturation occurred after analysing data from 10 participants (five with the ontologically sound treatment and five with the ontologically unsound treatment). A set of problem-solving phases that we thought participants would most likely traverse was derived iteratively. The seven phases were:

Phase 1: Can I understand the problem posed? Phase 2: What are the key real-world concepts in the problem posed? Phase 3: Can representations for key real-world concepts be found in the diagram? Phase 4: Can I identify clearly the subset of the model on which I should focus to answer the question asked? Phase 5: Can I articulate the semantics of the subset of the model that is the focus? Phase 6: In the context of the model semantics, can I solve the problem asked? Phase 7: Phase change this represents the sequence and iteration undertaken by participants between phases 1 and 6.

The two of us who were present at each experiment examined each participants utterances for statements of concern that indicated the participant was having difficulty answering the question. Participants statements were then coded

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

38 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

according to the phase we believed they were traversing. For each participant and each problem-solving question, the statements of concern were then classified into phases and recorded in a table. Table 2 shows a summary of the number of different statements of concern. Participants who received the ontologically sound treatment had sparse entries with no statements of concern for phase 2 and questions 1 and 5. Additionally, one participant completed the entire problem-solving task without uttering a single statement of concern. Across all questions and phases, the average number of statements made by each participant with the ontologically sound model was 5.8. For phase 5 alone (our primary focus), participants made an average of 1.4 statements. These results suggest that participants who used the sound model found the problem-solving tasks to be relatively straightforward. They progressed somewhat effortlessly through all phases. By comparison, participants who received the ontologically unsound treatment had more difficulties progressing through the questions. They made significantly more statements of concern. The least number of statements made was in phase 4, whereas the largest number of statements made was in phase 5 (total of 65). The average number of statements of concern per participant was 29.6, and every question and phase had at least one statement of concern. One participant in particular made nine statements for phase 5 in relation to a single question. These results suggest that participants with the ontologically unsound treatment had greater difficulty responding to the problem-solving questions.

Table 2. Summary of the number statements of concern


Question / Phase 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Question / Phase 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 3 4 1 5 SOUND 6 7 1 8 1 9 10 11

2 3 2 1 1 6 1 12 4 3 7 1 4 4 1 2 1 1 1 UNSOUND 6 1 1 2 2 2 2 5 6 4 7 8 1 1

3 1

4 3 1 6 5

10 1 3 1 4 3 2

11 1

1 11 7 6 4 1 1 2 2 1 11 5 2

2 4 1

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

39

Representing Things and Properties


The second experiment investigated user understanding of the representation of things and properties and was reported in detail in Shanks, Nuredini, Tobin, Moody, and Weber (2003). A summary of the design and outcomes follows.

Research Method and Design


Design and Measures
This experiment was conducted in a laboratory setting to allow for control of extraneous factors. A four-group, post-test only experiment was designed with one active between-groups factor, type of representation. It had four levels. The first was the entity only, similar to object-role modelling (Halpin, 1995), representing both things and properties as entity types. The second level represented mutual and intrinsic properties as entity types. It was termed the practice level as it is commonly used by practitioners (Simsion & Witt, 2001). The third was the partially ontologically sound level where things and mutual properties (properties of n-tuples of things) were represented as entity types. All the intrinsic properties (properties inherent to individual things) were represented as attribute types. Finally, the ontologically sound level represented things as entity types and properties as attribute types in an ER diagram. Participants performance was evaluated using a series of comprehension and problem-solving questions. The comprehension task aimed at determining how well users understood surface-level features of a domain. The problemsolving task challenged users deeper understanding of the domain (Mayer, 1989). Both comprehension and problem-solving performance were measured using accuracy, time taken, and normalised accuracy. Accuracy was expressed as the percentage of questions correctly answered by each participant. One mark (accuracy) was awarded for each comprehension question and three marks (one for accuracy and two for explanation) were awarded for each problem-solving question. Time was the total time expressed in minutes, taken by each participant to answer each question for each task. Normalised accuracy was defined as the number of questions answered correctly per hour (calculated by dividing the number of correctly answered questions by the time taken to complete each task in hours).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

40 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Materials
Materials consisted of a symbol summary, four models representing a sales order domain, comprehension questions, problem-solving questions, and a personal profile questionnaire. The symbol summary defined and explained with examples the ER symbols used in the experiment. The four models were ER instantiations of the four levels of the type-of-representation factor (Appendices C to F). In addition to the symbol summary and models, ten comprehension and ten problemsolving questions were prepared. The comprehension questions tested participants ability to access and navigate the model for simple tasks, requiring responses of either yes, no, or not sure (to minimise guessing). The problem-solving questions encouraged participants to use the ER diagrams and to provide explanations on how they worked out their answers. This ensured answers were derived from the model and allowed further examination of areas prone to difficulty. Question responses were possible, not possible, or not sure (to minimise guessing) with a brief explanation. Finally, a personal profile questionnaire solicited information on a participants qualifications and experience.

Participants
Eighty participants acted as surrogate end users in the experiment. Each either worked in industry or was studying a postgraduate course. The former did not play information technology roles and had no information systems/technology qualifications. All had at least a bachelors degree, and a few had minimal exposure to data models.

Procedures
Participants were assigned randomly to one of the four treatments (20 per treatment) and run through the experiment either singly or in small groups. They were first informed of the experiments purpose and requirements and asked to complete a consent form and the personal profile questionnaire. They were then given the symbol summary, and a brief explanation of the symbols was given. They retained the summary throughout the experiment. When participants indicated they were comfortable with the symbol summary, they were given one of the four diagrams (entity only, practice, partially sound or ontologically sound), together with the comprehension and problem-solving questions. During the experiment, participants times were recorded, and notes were made based on their queries, reactions, and approaches. Upon completion of the experiment, participants were paid $25 for their time and an additional $5 if travel was required.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

41

Outcomes
Comprehension and problem-solving questions were scored and analysed statistically. The scoring for the comprehension task was as follows:

Answer where one mark was given if the answer (possible or not possible) was correct, and zero was given if the answer was incorrect or not sure was selected.

For the problem-solving task, marks were awarded in two parts:

Answer where one mark was given if the answer (possible or not possible) was correct, and zero was given if the answer was incorrect or not sure was selected. Explanation where two marks were given based on the participants written explanations. Clear explanations supporting an answer were awarded one mark, and moderately clear explanations were awarded a half mark. Unclear explanations were awarded zero marks.

Comprehension Task
Table 3 presents statistics for the comprehension task. The accuracy scores are reasonable (50.5 percent to 74.5 percent), while the time ranged from 6.7 minutes to 12.88 minutes. The ontologically sound model scored best out of the four models for all three measures as participants were able to score higher in less time, averaging 97.2 correct answers per hour. Participants who received the entity only model on the other hand appeared to have the most trouble with accuracy (50.5 percent), whilst those that received the ER required the longest period of time (12.88 minutes). Table 4 shows the results of significance testing between the four groups using a one-way analysis-of-variance test. The ontologically sound group significantly outperformed the entity only (all p values <0.005). It also outperformed the practice ER group in terms of both time and normalised accuracy and the partially sound group in terms of time. In essence, we found that the ontologically sound representation significantly improved comprehension performance.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

42 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Table 3. Comprehension: Descriptive statistics


Group / Measure Entity-only model Practice ER model Partially sound model Ontologically sound model Accuracy Mean 50.50 66.00 62.50 74.50
(percentage)

Time taken Mean 11.40 12.88 8.11 6.70


(minutes)

Normalised Accuracy Mean 29.4 37.2 55.2 97.2


(correct answers per hour)

Std. Dev. 23.70 19.80 15.55 16.40

Std. Dev. 4.71 5.24 3.53 2.89

Std. Dev. 17.4 19.2 27.0 99.6

Table 4. Comprehension: Differences between groups


Model ER Part Entity 0.059 0.204 0.938 ER Part

Accuracy

Sound 0.001 0.501 0.204

Model ER Part Entity 0.683 0.71 ER 0.003 Part

Time

Sound 0.004 0.000 0.003

Model ER Part Entity 0.970 0.426 0.700 ER Part

Normalised Accuracy

Sound 0.001 0.003 0.071

Problem-Solving Task
Table 5 shows the mean and standard deviation for each type of model for problem-solving scores. Overall, the accuracy scores were lower than the comprehension scores, ranging from 58.67 percent to 68.17 percent. The time taken is also considerably longer, indicating that problem solving is a more cognitively difficult task. Again, the ontologically sound group scored best on almost all three measures, with higher average accuracy scores (68.17 percent) and less time taken (29.27 minutes). Table 6 shows the results of significance testing. The ontologically sound group significantly outperformed the practice ER group for normalised accuracy. Table 5. Problem solving: Descriptive statistics
Group / Measure Entity-only model Practice ER model Partially sound model Ontologically sound model Accuracy Mean 58.67 60.00 60.17 68.17
(percentage)

Time taken Mean 31.92 36.40 28.05 29.27


(minutes)

Normalised Accuracy Mean 36.0 32.4 41.4 51.6


(correct answers per hour)

Std. Dev. 13.83 15.27 12.3 14.73

Std. Dev. 11.46 13.10 8.17 13.87

Std. Dev. 13.2 10.2 13.2 33.6

Table 6. Problem solving: differences between groups


Accuracy Model ER Part Entity 0.991 0.987 1.000 ER Part Sound 0.152 0.265 0.282 Model ER Part Entity 0.632 0.731 0.125 ER Part

Time

Sound 0.894 0.236 0.988

Model ER Part Entity 0.929 0.873 0.524 ER Part

Normalised Accuracy

Sound 0.929 0.020 0.380

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

43

Therefore, taking into account the compromise in accuracy for speed, participants using the ontologically sound model answered more questions correctly per hour than those using the practice ER model.

Cognitive Process Tracing


The cognitive process tracing study investigated the cognitive behaviour patterns of users understanding of conceptual models with different representations of things and properties and was reported in Shanks, Nuredini, Tobin, and Weber (2003).

Research Method and Design


Design and Measures
A verbal protocol technique, which requires participants to verbalise their thoughts (Ericsson & Simon, 1984), was used to collect the thought processes of participants performing comprehension and problem-solving questions. We used two of the representations described above: the ontologically sound level and the practice ontologically unsound level. Verbal protocols are a recognised data gathering method used in cognitive psychology. Inherent to defining a problem is the supposition that participants faced with problem solving do not function automatically but consciously construct a representation of the problem and detailed solution strategies. With this foundation, it is possible to access these strategies to the extent that they are partly explicit and under the individual control of the participant. A frequently-used procedure is concurrent verbal reports, where participants are asked to think aloud during the course of the task, therefore allowing direct access to their thought processes (Newell & Simon, 1972; Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1984). Using thinking-aloud protocols provides a means to trace cognitive processes step by step, instead of relying solely on information about outcomes or querying participants retrospectively about their cognitive processes. In this study, we examined cognitive processes using comprehension surface level questions and complex problem-solving deeper analysis questions (Mayer, 1989). The focus was on obtaining an understanding of the cognitive behaviour of participants during these tasks to explain why the outcomes in the second experiment occurred. The coded protocols were used to analyse the behaviour of participants.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

44 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Materials
Four sets of materials were prepared for the study: a symbol summary, two ER diagrams, five comprehension questions, five problem-solving questions and a personal profile questionnaire. The symbol summary explained the ER notation. The diagrams consisted of two ER models of a sales order domain. One was the ontologically unsound practice model, and the other was the ontologically sound model. Five comprehension questions from the thing-property study detailed previously were used with a new set of complex problem-solving questions. Finally, a personal profile was created to obtain demographic data on their backgrounds.

Participants
Twelve participants took part in the study, all of whom had at least three years industry experience. Participants were selected on the basis that they would act as surrogate end users. They did not play an information technology role in their organisation, and they had no previous data modelling experience.

Procedure
Participants were assigned randomly to one of the two models and alternating task sequences (comprehension task followed by problem-solving task or vice versa). All participants completed a consent form and the personal profile questionnaire when they arrived. They were then run singly through the experiment. The nature of the experiment and the necessity to verbalise was first explained to them. A camcorder mounted on a tripod was positioned so that the model and any hand movements were visually recorded in conjunction with all the verbalisations. Next, participants were given the symbol summary, which they discussed with the researchers. Once they were comfortable with the symbols and notation, they were presented with either the ontologically sound or the ontologically unsound model. They were then given either the comprehension task or the problem-solving task and prompted to speak out loud as they read the questions and attempted each task. Where periods of silence occurred, participants were asked to explain their cognitive behaviour as best they could. Once the first task was completed, the second task (either comprehension or problem solving) was given. Finally, when both tasks were completed, the participants were thanked and given $30 for their time.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

45

Outcome
All the verbal data on the videotapes was transcribed and analysed based on a coding scheme that was established using the problem-solving literature (e.g., Newell & Simon, 1972) and similar previous studies of data modelling (e.g., Batra & Davis, 1992; Chaiyasut, 1994; Shanks et al., 2002). This coding scheme comprised five cognitive categories:

Understanding Question: includes reading the question, seeking clarification, identifying assumptions and constraints, and recognizing the problem posed. Identifying Model Segment: includes locating appropriate parts of the model and matching them against key concepts in the question. Articulating Model Semantics: includes verifying semantics of symbols in the model and rereading the symbol summary. Preparing Solution: includes developing solutions and simulating and revising solutions against the question. Evaluation: includes selection of alternative answers and developing justifications.

Episodes in the transcribed data were independently assigned to the above categories with start and end times (using video data) by two of us. Differences between the two of us who undertook the coding were later reconciled.

Comprehension Task
Figure 5 shows the average time that participants spent in each category. Participants who received the sound model on average took 6.61 minutes to complete all five comprehension questions, while those who received the unsound model on average took 7.68 minutes to complete all five comprehension questions. For both models, participants spent the same average time preparing the answer. The unsound model participants spent more time identifying the model segments and articulating the semantics than the sound model participants. Time spent understanding, identifying, and evaluating was also better balanced for the sound model participants. It was more scattered for the unsound model participants who devoted more time to identifying areas, which suggests that they experienced navigation difficulties.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

46 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Figure 5. Comprehension average time for the sound and unsound model
A ve ra g e Ti m e S p e n t i n E a ch Ca te g o ry- S o un d M od e l
Ev a luating

Av e ra ge T i m e S pe nt in Ea c h C a te g ory - Un sou nd M o d e l
Ev a luating

22.4 9% 32.65% 5.3 2% 19.69% 19.84%


5.00% 10.00 % 15.00 % 20.0 0% T im e ( % ) 25.0 0% 30.00% 35.00%
Cat eg o ry

14 .02% 3 2.6 5% 7.2 1% 31.30% 1 4.83 %


5.00% 10.00 % 15.00 % 20.0 0% T im e ( % ) 25.0 0% 30.00% 35.00%

Preparing
Cat e go ry

Prepar ing

A r tic ulating

A rtic ulating

Identif y ing

Identif y ing

Under s tan ding 0.00%

Unders tan ding 0.00%

Figure 6 shows the proportion of time spent in each behaviour category for each of the 10 time segments. Participants who used the sound model had more linear behavioural patterns than those who used the unsound model. The sequence was also more logical for participants who used the sound model. They first peaked with understanding, then identifying, then articulating, then preparing, and finally evaluating. Participants who used the sound models also performed these categories at earlier times than those who received the unsound model. Unsound model participants had more of an overlap in categories with later peaks. Figure 7 shows sequential dependencies between the five behaviour categories. The numbers above the dependency arrows are the total number of transitions between two categories. The thickness of the arrows indicates the intensity of the dependency. For both models, the most common sequence for participants was to understand the question and to either identify the area in the model or directly prepare the solution before their final evaluation of the answer. Overall, unsound-model participants had fewer phase changes (a total of 99 instances) than sound-model participants (a total of 105 instances).

Figure 6. Comprehension behaviour categories for the sound and unsound model
C T C a te go ry B e h av iou r o v er T im e - S o u n d
100 % 90% 80% 70% 60%
T im e ( % ) T im e ( % )

U nde rs ta nding Iden tify in g A rtic ulat ing P repari ng E valuat in g


80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 100% 90%

C T C ate g o ry B e h av io ur o v e r T ime - U n so un d

U nd ers tand ing Ide ntify ing A rtic u la ti ng P repa ri ng E val uati ng

50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

0% 0% 1 2 3 4 5 6 T im e Se g m e n t 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
T im e S e g m e n t

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

47

Figure 7. Comprehension sequential dependencies for the sound and unsound model
Comprehension Sound Phase Changes
2 Under standing 19 5 Identifying 1 3
Articulating 5.32%

Comprehension Unsound Phase Changes


Under standing

21 5

Identifying 31.30% 3 1

Articulating 7.21%

19.84%
8

19.69%
1 16 12 5 2

14.83%

12 4 3 16 1
Evaluating 14.02%

Preparing 32.65%

Preparing 32.65%

21 Evaluating 2

22.49%
7

11

Problem-Solving Task
Figure 8 shows the average time spent in each behaviour category for the problem-solving task. Sound-model participants averaged 37.13 minutes to complete all five problem-solving questions, while unsound-model participants averaged 39.23 minutes to complete all five problem-solving questions. Almost a quarter of both groups time was spent understanding the question, with most of their time spent in solution preparation. The unsound-model participants spent more time identifying model semantics, while the sound-model participants focused more on articulating the semantics. Figure 9 shows the behaviour categories traversed over time for the problemsolving task. The time spent understanding was similar for both models. In the identifying category, however, the unsound-model participants had additional peaks. Although the sound-model participants appeared to spend more time articulating, they only peaked once when they were halfway through their Figure 8. Problem-solving average time for the sound and the unsound model
PS
Ev aluating

A ve r a g e T im e S p e n t P e r C a te g o r y - S o u n d M o d e l

P S A ve r a g e T i m e P e r C a te g ory - Un sou nd M od e l
Ev a luating

22.96% 34.90%
Cat eg o ry

17 .8 3% 39 .5 2% 6.34 % 13 .4 2% 22.9 0%
0% 5% 1 0% 15 % 20 % 25% 30% 35% 40% 45%

Prep aring
Cat ego ry

Pr epar ing

A rtic ulating

10.02% 8.87% 23.2 4%


0% 5% 10% 15% 20% Tim e ( %) 25% 30% 35% 4 0%

A r tic ulating

Ide ntify ing

Identif y ing

Und ers tanding

Unders tan ding

T im e (% )

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

48 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Figure 9. Problem-solving behaviour categories for the sound and the unsound model
P S C a teg o ry ov e r Tim e - S o u nd
1 00% 90% 80% 70% 60%
Tim e (% )

U nde rs ta nding Iden tify in g A rtic ulat ing P reparing E valuat in g


9 0% 8 0% 7 0% 6 0%
T im e ( % )

P S C a tego ry o ver T im e - U n s o un d
10 0%

Un derst an din g Id ent ifying A rtic ulat ing P rep arin g E va lua ting

50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tim e Se g m e n t

5 0% 4 0% 3 0% 2 0% 1 0% 0% 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

T im e S e g m e n t

problem solving. Unsound-model participants peaked twice during the fourth and seventh segments. The preparing category was similar for both models. In the evaluating category, however, the sound-model participants became confident in their solutions earlier than the unsound-model participants. Figure 10 shows sequential dependencies between the behaviour categories. Sound-model participants began with understanding, then moved to identifying, then moved to preparing solutions, then moved back to understanding and solution preparation before moving to evaluating. Unsound-model participants followed a similar pattern with fewer transitions to and from understanding and preparing. The high number of transitions around understanding the question reflects the complexity of the problem-solving questions. Overall, the soundmodel participants had more phase changes (261 instances) than the unsoundmodel participants (231 instances).

Figure 10. Problem-solving sequential dependencies for the sound and unsound model
Problem Solving Sound Phase Changes
Under- 13 standing 23.24% 38 12 9 30
Identifying 8.87%

Problem Solving Unsound Phase Changes


6

6 3

Articulating 10.02%

Under- 2 standing 22.97% 10


24

30
Identifying 13.42%

8 4

1
Articulating 6.34%

19

11

10 33 28 11

46 16

Preparing 34.90%

17 3 22 Evaluating

Preparing 39.52%
4

34 Evaluating 7 17.83% 8 2

22.96% 10

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

49

Discussion
The empirical studies conducted supported the use of ontology as a theory to explain and predict how end-user understanding can be enhanced with both partwhole relation and thing-property representations. We believe we have strong support for our proposition that composites should be modelled explicitly as entity classes and not implicitly as association classes or relationships. If composites are modelled explicitly, the model becomes syntactically more complex because it contains more elements. In the context of problem-solving performance, however, our results suggest that the additional semantics contained in an ontologically sound diagram overcome the disadvantages associated with its higher syntactic complexity. These results are consistent with those obtained by Gemino (1999) and Bodart et al. (2001) on the efficacy of problem-solving tasks as a means of testing how well conceptual models communicate the semantics of a domain to users. With respect to distinguishing between things and properties, the chunking mechanism that humans appear to use to deal with complexity (e.g., Miller, 1956; Cofer, 1965; Baddeley, 1994) explains why the ontologically sound model improves comprehension performance more than problem-solving performance compared to the other representations. Problem-solving tasks require deepstructure understanding. Thus, humans have to engage long-term memory. Long-term memory is less affected by complexity and is not subject to the information processing limitations of short-term memory. On the other hand, comprehension tasks rely more on users perceptions of the model and processing in short-term memory. Unlike the problem-solving task, no reasoning occurs in long-term memory. Thus, complexity affects comprehension performance more. The cognitive process tracing study sought to explain the outcomes of the thingproperty study. Analysis of the comprehension task clearly identified the difficulties participants had with the unsound representation. Their cognitive processes overlapped and forced them to spend more time identifying and articulating specific areas of the model. Participants using the ontologically sound representation had more linear cognitive processes because they were able to identify and grasp the semantics quicker and focus on preparing the solution. Although similar patterns occurred with the problem-solving task, the distinction was not as clear. The major limitation of our three studies is the laboratory context and materials that are limited in scope and somewhat artificial. Nonetheless, our tasks have enough realism that our results should be robust in other settings involving thingproperty and part-whole relation representations.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

50 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Future Work
Ontological theory can be used to predict the strengths and weaknesses of other conceptual modelling practices. For example, various approaches to modelling the dynamics of a domain can be evaluated to determine how well they enhance or inhibit user understanding. Additional studies could also include in-depth field research on various uses of conceptual models. In this respect, much scope exists to establish links between ontological theory and practice. Further work is also required to develop better measures of users understanding of the semantics of a domain. As described above, our research used comprehension and problem-solving measures to test our propositions. Although these measures seem valid and reliable, it is unclear whether the results hold generally or reflect the idiosyncrasies of our research. Furthermore, it would be of great benefit if the measures took into account that users create their worlds (Hirschheim, Klein, & Lyytinen, 1995) and have different interpretations and meanings.

Conclusion
In acknowledging the need for better representation of conceptual models, this research adopted Bunges (1977) theory to predict the strengths and weaknesses of several conceptual modelling practices. Our research produced the following results:

Part-whole relations are more easily understood when a composite is represented as an entity class, rather than an association or relationship. Distinguishing between things and properties has a significant impact on user comprehension of conceptual models. The distinction appears to have less impact, however, on user problem solving based on conceptual models.

References
Baddeley, A. (1994). The magical number seven: Still magic after all these years? Psychological Review, 101(2), 353-356.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

51

Batra, D., & Davis, J. (1992). Conceptual data modelling in database design: Similarities and differences between novice and expert designers. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 37, 83-101. Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans. Bodart, F. M., Sim, M. Patel, A., & Weber, R. (2001). Should optional properties be used in conceptual modelling? A theory and three empirical tests. Information Systems Research, 12(4), 384-405. Boehm, B. (1981). Software engineering economics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Bousfield, W. A. (October 1953). The occurrence of clustering in the recall of randomly arranged associates. Journal of General Psychology, 49, 229240. Bunge, M. (1977). Treatise on basic philosophy: Volume 3: Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Boston: Reidel. Chaiyasut, P., & Shanks, G. (1994). Conceptual data modelling process: A study of novice and expert data modellers. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Object-Role Modelling, Magnetic Island, Australia, July, (pp. 310-333). Chen, P. P. S. (1976). The entity-relationship model: Toward a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 1(1), 9-36. Cofer, C. N. (April 1965). On some factors in the organisational characteristics of free recall. American Psychologist, (pp. 261-272). Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1980). Verbal report as data. Psychological Review, 87(3), 215-51. Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1984). Protocol Analysis: Verbal Report as Data. Cambridge, MA: MIT PRESS. Gemino, A. (1999). Empirical methods for comparing system analysis modelling techniques. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of British Columbia. Halpin, T. A. (1995). Conceptual schema and relational database design: A fact-oriented approach (2nd ed.). Sydney, Australia: Prentice-Hall. Hirschheim, R., Klein, H., & Lyytinen, K. (1995). Information systems development and data modelling: Conceptual foundations and philosophical foundations. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Kilov, H., & Ross, J. (1994). Information modelling: An object-oriented approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

52 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Mayer, R. E. (1989). Models for understanding. Review of Educational Research, 59, 43-64. Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 8197. Newell, A. C., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. Rumbaugh, J., Jacobson, I., & Booch, G. (1999). The Unified Modelling Language reference manual. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Shanks, G., Nuredini, J., Tobin, D., Moody, D., & Weber, R. (2003). Representing things and properties in conceptual modeling: An empirical evaluation. Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems, Naples, Italy, June. Shanks, G., Nuredini, J., Tobin, D., & Weber, R. (2003). Representing things and properties in conceptual modeling: Understanding the impact of task type. Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems, Seattle, December, (pp. 909-913). Shanks, G., Tansley, E., Nuredini, J., Tobin, D., & Weber, R. (2002). Representing part-whole relationships in conceptual modelling: An empirical evaluation. Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems, Barcelona, Spain, December, (pp. 89-100). Simsion, G., & Witt, G. (2001). Data modelling essentials: Analysis, design and innovation (2nd ed.). Arizona: Coriolis. Wand, Y., Storey, V., & Weber, R. (1999). An ontological analysis of the relationship construct in conceptual modeling. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 24, 494-528. Winston, M.E., Chaffin, R., & Herrman, D. (1987). A taxonomy of part-whole relations. Cognitive Science, 11, 417-444.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

53

Appendices
Appendix A. Ontologically sound UML class diagram
Diagram 1 "ET Technologies"

Client

- Client # - Address - Contact Phone # - Budget # - Budget Description - Budget Version #

0..1 Requests 0..* Team 0..* Responsible For - Team # - Team Name - Team Size 1..* - Date Formed 0..* Team Member 0..* Phase 0..* Require 0..* Consumable 1 Ordered Via 0..* Project 1 - Project # - Project Description - Required Completion Date - Actual Completion Date 1 Has 0..* Project Plan 1 - Project Plan # - Project Plan Version # 1

0..1

Budget

1..* 1

0..1

Scope

- Scope # - Scope Description - Scope Version #

Team Leader

- Quantity 0..*

- Purchase Header # - Date of Requisition - Total Value of Requisition Requisition Header 1

Requisition Line 1..*

Employee

0..* Belong To 1 Department

- Employee # - Employee Name - DOB - Internal Phone # - Skill Level - Qualification Level

1 - Phase # - Phase Description - Phase Goal - Work Hours Required - Priority Level Assigned To

- Consumable # - Consumable Description

Purchase Requisition 1..* Sent to

1 - Purchase Requisition #

0..* Key Deliverable - Deliverable # - Deliverable Name - Date Due

1 Supplier

- Department # - Department Name

- Supplier # - Supplier Name - ABN - ACN - Address - Contact Phone #

Appendix B. Ontologically unsound UML class diagram


Diagram 2 "ET Technologies"

Client

- Client # - Address - Contact Phone #

0..1 Requests 0..* 0..* 0..* 1 Budget

- Budget # - Budget Description - Budget Version #

Project

Project Plan - Scope # - Scope Description - Scope Version #

Team 0..1 0..* Team Member

0..* - Project # - Project Description - Required Completion Date - Actual Completion Date

Scope

Team Leader

- Consumable Type # - Quantity - Employee # - Employee Name - DOB - Internal Phone # - Skill Level - Qualification Level 0..* 1 0..*

- Purchase Header # - Date of Requisition - Total Value of Requisition

Phase

Consumable

Ordered Via

Requisition Line

Requisition Header

Employee

0..* Belong To 1

- Consumable # - Consumable Description 0..* Key Deliverable - Deliverable # - Deliverable Name - Date Due

1..* Purchase Requisition

Department

- Department # - Department Name

1..* Supplier

- Supplier # - Supplier Name - ABN - ACN - Address - Contact Phone #

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

54 Shanks, Nuredini & Weber

Appendix C. Entity only ER model


Contact Number Type Description Apply Customer Contact Type Identify Customer Contact Number Recognise Apply Address Street Name Address Type Customer Industry Type Description Apply Customer Industry Type Classify Customer Industry Belong To Customer Contact Person Classify Address Occupancy Number Classify Apply Situate Address Type Name Region Description Region Name Postal Area City Supplier Name Identify Supplier Have Supplier Contact Person Nominate Supplier Contact

Identify Region

Postal Area State Has Has Has Postal Area Suburb Require Delivery Instructions Postal Area Country

Has

Contact Provide Supplier Contact Number Product Source Start Product Item Source Product Source End Product Current Cost Price Has Date

Postal Area

Customer Contact Name

Classify Has Address Actual Delivery Delivery Belong To Customer Name Has Sales Order Confirmation Registered Customer Has Manage Customer / Employee Assignment Place Sales Order Customer Location Require Delivery Require Delivery Date Distribute

Deliver Delivery Quantity Delivered Have

Contact

Identify

Product Name

Accepted Include Sales Order Item Has Belong Sales Order Item Cost Price Sales Order Item Selling Price

Categorise Offer

Product

Apply

Have

Product Description Product Quantity on Hand

Date Has Categorise Customer Credit Limit Customer Credit Terms

Assignment Start Assignment End

Date

Accept

Contain

Has

Employment Start Be Customer Segment Employee Qualification Apply Achieve Employee Qualification Type Have Identify Employee Name Employee Delegate

Sale Order Item Quantity Requested Employee Position Title Employee Telephone Extension Product Price History Minimum Quantity

Group Contain Posses

Product Re Order Level Product Category Name

Product Price History Termination Date

Product Category

Identify Apply

Contact

Apply

Apply

Apply

Include Include

Product Price History Product Price History Selling Price

Include

Customer Credit Terms Description

Customer Segment Description

Employee Qualification Year

Employee Qualification Description

Product Category Description Level 0

Appendix D. Practice ER model


Level 1 Customer Contact Type Customer Contact Type Code Customer Contact Type Description Classify Classify Address Type Address Type Code Address Type Name Postal Area Belong To Region Region Code Region Name Region Description Supplier Contact Have Supplier Number Supplier Contact Person Supplier Contact Number Supplier Supplier Number Supplier Name

Possess

Customer Contact Person

Customer Contact Name Customer Contact Number Customer Number Customer Contact Type Code

Postal Area Code Postal Area Suburb Postal Area City Postal Area State Postal Area Country Situate Region Code

Customer Industry Type

Contact

Customer Location

Belong To

Address

Actual Delivery

Delivery Delivery Number Delivery Date Delivery Instructions Delivery Quantity Delivered Distribute Sales Order Number Address Code

Product Source Product Number Supplier Number Product Source Start Date Product Source End Date Produce

Customer Industry Type Code Customer Industry Type Description Classify

Address Type Code Address Code Customer Number Has

Address Code Address Occupancy Number Address Street Name Postal Area Code Request Delivery

Customer Industry

Categorise Customer Place Sales Order Include Sales Order Item Belong Product

Customer Industry Type Code Customer Number Offer Customer Credit Terms Customer Credit Terms Code Customer Credit Terms Description

Customer Number Customer Name Customer Registered Date Customer Credit Limit Customer Credit Terms Code Customer Segment Code Manage

Sales Order Number Customer Number Sales Order Date Accepted Sales Order Confirmation * Employee Number Accept Address Code Employee Qualification

Sales Order Number Product Number Sales Order Item Quantity Requested Sales Order Item Sale Selling Price Sales Order Item Sale Cost Price

Product Number Product Name Product Description Product Category Code Product Current Cost Price Product Quantity on Hand Product Re Order Level

Group

Contain

Product Category

Categorise Customer / Employee Assignment

Has

Customer Segment Customer Segment Code Customer Segment Description

Be

Employee

Employee Qualification Code Product Category Code Employee Number Product Category Name Employee Qualification Year Product Category Description Has

Product Price History

Customer Number Customer/Employee Assignment Start Date Customer/Employee Assignment End Date * Employee Number

Employee Number Employee Name Employee Telephone Extension Employee Position Title Employee Start Date

Employee Qualification Code Product Number Employee Employee Qualification Description Product Price History Termination Date Qualification Type Product Price History Minimum Quantity Product Price History Selling Price

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Conceptual Modelling Practices

55

Appendix E. Partially ontologically sound ER model


Supplier

Have

Supplier Number Supplier Name { Supplier Contact Person Supplier Contact Number } *

Customer Location Address Code Customer Number Address Type Name Has

Belong To

Address

Actual Delivery Address Code Address Occupancy Number Address Street Name Postal Area Code Postal Area Suburb Postal Area City Postal Area State Postal Area Country Region Name Region Description Include Sales Order Number Customer Number Sales Order Date Accepted Sales Order Confirmation * Employee Number Address Code

Delivery

Product Source Product Number Supplier Number Product Source Start Date Product Source End Date *

Request Delivery

Distribute

Delivery Number Delivery Date Delivery Instructions Delivery Quantity Delivered Sales Order Number Address Code

Produce

Customer

Manage

Place Customer Number Customer Name Customer Date Registered Customer Credit Limit Customer Segment Description Customer Credit Terms Description { Customer Contact Name Customer Contact Number Customer Contact Type Code Customer Contact Type Description } * { Customer Industry Type Code Customer Industry Type Description } * Be

Sales Order

Sales Order Item

Belong

Product

Accept

Sales Order Number Product Number Sales Order Item Quantity Requested Sales Order Item Sale Selling Price Sales Order Item Sale Cost Price

Customer / Employee Assignment

Employee Employee Number Employee Name Employee Telephone Extension Employee Position Title Employee Start Date { Employee Qualification Code Employee Qualification Description Employee Qualification Year } *

Product Number Product Name Product Description Product Current Cost Price Product Quantity on Hand Product Re Order Level Product Category Name Product Category Description { Product Price History Termination Date Product Price History Minimum Quantity Product Price History Selling Price } *

Customer Number Customer/Employee Assignment Start Date Customer/Employee Assignment End Date * Employee Number

Level 2

Appendix F. Ontologically sound ER model


Has Address Actual Delivery Address Code Address Occupancy Number Address Street Name Postal Area Code Postal Area Suburb Postal Area City Postal Area State Postal Area Country Region Name Region Description { Customer Number Address Type Name } * Delivery Delivery Number Delivery Date Delivery Instructions Delivery Quantity Delivered Sales Order Number Address Code Supplier

Request Delivery

Supplier Number Supplier Name { Supplier Contact Person Supplier Contact Number } * { Product Number Product Source Start Date Product Source End Date } * Produce

Distribute Customer Place Customer Number Customer Name Date Registered Customer Credit Limit Customer Segment Description Customer Credit Terms Description { Customer Contact Name Customer Contact Number Customer Contact Type Code Customer Contact Type Description } * { Customer Industry Code Customer Industry Type Description } * { Address Code Address Type Name } * { Customer/ Employee Assignment Start Date Customer/ Employee Assignment End Date * Employee Number } * Sales Order Belong Sales Order Number Customer Number Sales Order Date Accepted Sales Order Confirmation * Employee Number Address Code { Product Number Sales Order Item Quantity Requested Sales Order Item Sale Selling Price Sales Order Item Sale Cost Price } Product Product Number Product Name Product Description Product Current Cost Price Product Quantity on Hand Product Re Order Level Product Category Name Product Category Description { Product Price History Termination Date Product Price History Minimum Quantity Product Price History Selling Price } * { Sales Order Number Sales Order Item Quantity Requested Sales Order Item Sale Selling Price Sales Order Item Sale Cost Price } * { Supplier Number Product/Supplier Start Date * } *

Accept

Manage

Employee

Employee Number Employee Name Employee Telephone Extension Employee Position Title Employment Start Date { Employee Qualification Code Employee Qualification Description Employee Qualification Year } * { Customer Number Customer/ Employee Assignment Start Date Customer/ Employee Assignment End Date *} *

Level 3

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

56 Fettke & Loos

Chapter III

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models


Peter Fettke, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany Peter Loos, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Abstract
Within the information systems field, reference models have been known for many years. A reference model is a conceptual framework and may be used as a blueprint for information systems development. Despite the relevance of reference model quality, little research has been undertaken on their systematical analysis and evaluation. In this chapter, we describe how reference models can be analyzed from an ontological point of view. Such an analysis consists of four steps: 1) developing a transformation mapping, 2) identifying ontological modeling deficiencies, 3) transforming the reference model, and 4) assessing the results. The usefulness of our method will be demonstrated by analyzing Scheers reference model for production planning and control. Although our approach is based on sound theory, we argue that this approach is not inherently superior to other approaches of reference model analysis and evaluation.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 57

Introduction
Within the information systems field, information modeling is a vital instrument to develop information systems (Frank, 1999; Mylopoulos, 1998; Scheer & Hars, 1992; Wand & Weber, 2002). However, the modeling process is often resource consuming and faulty. As a way to overcome this failures and to improve and accelerate the development of enterprise-specific models, the concept of reference modeling has been introduced (Mertins & Bernus, 1998; Miic & Zhao, 2000; Scheer & Nttgens, 2000). We assume the empirical thesis that the effectiveness and efficiency of the application of a reference model is strongly determined by the quality of the model. However, the quality of a reference model comprises several aspects, for example from a user-oriented point of view, a reference model should be flexible and adaptable, so the fitness for its application is very high. From an enterpriseoriented point of view, the purchase and usage of a reference model should make the development of enterprise systems more efficient and so forth (Fettke & Loos, 2003b). In other words, there exist some trade-offs between different quality dimensions. This research addresses the question of how the quality of reference models can be determined. The main objective of this chapter is to describe a method for analyzing reference models from an ontological point of view. Furthermore, we will show an application of this method by analyzing Scheers reference model for production planning and control systems (PPC) (Scheer, 1994). Right at the beginning, we point out that an ontological analysis is not able to capture all quality characteristics of a reference model but some necessary characteristics. Further quality criteria are needed, for example, additional criteria may be derived from theories in the area of economic or cognitive psychology. The research method of this study is construction-oriented: after analyzing the fragment of knowledge that is relevant for our research question, we construct a method for the analysis and evaluation of reference models. To justify this method, some application examples are presented. The main contributions of this chapter are a new method for analyzing and evaluating reference models. Furthermore, we elaborate on some quality aspects of Scheers reference models. The chapter unfolds as follows. After this introduction, the studys theoretical background is discussed. The third section introduces the method for the ontological analysis of reference models. Some examples of this method are explored in the following section. Finally, conclusions and limitations of this study are discussed. Also, we point to some further research directions.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

58 Fettke & Loos

Theoretical Background
Terminology
There is a great deal of terminological confusion in the modeling literature. For example, the term model is often used for different purposes. To avoid confusion, we use the following definitions: a grammar provides a set of constructs and rules that show how to combine the constructs to model realworld domains (Wand & Weber, 2002, p. 364). In the remainder of this chapter, we always refer to analysis grammars, for example the Entity-Relationship Model (ERM) or the Unified Modeling Language (UML). And while modeling method provides procedures by which a grammar can be used (Wand & Weber, 2002, p. 364), scripts are the product of the modeling process. Each script is a statement in the language generated by the grammar (Wand & Weber, 2002, p. 364). A script is a representation of a real-world domain using a particular grammar. A reference model is a script representing a class of domains. It is a conceptual framework which could be used as the blueprint for information system development (Kruse, Hars, Heib, & Scheer, 1993, pp. 48f.). Reference models are also called universal models, generic models, or model patterns. To use reference models, they must be adapted to the requirements of a specific enterprise. We refer to such an adapted model as an application model. Concrete instances of reference models are, for example, Scheers reference model for PPC (1994), Hays data model patterns (1996) or Fowlers analysis patterns (1997). An overview of reference models is given by Fettke and Loos (2003a) and van Belle (2003).

Bunge-Wand-Weber Model
In this subsection we introduce some concepts that are useful for the remainder of our analysis and justify the chosen ontology. Green and Rosemann give a solid overview of the BWW model at the beginning of this book (see also Wand & Weber, 1990a, 1993, 1995; Weber, 1997, for the original introduction of the BWW model). The term ontology always refers to the ontology defined by the BWW model. In the following, for reasons of clarity, each term of the vocabulary of the BWW model is used with a BWW prefix. Every BWW term refers to a construct of the ontology. In addition, we use the terms ontological model and construct of an ontological model. An ontological model is a set of constructs of an ontology that represents reality as perceived by an observer. The term construct of an ontological model refers to a specific construct of the ontology used in the ontological model.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 59

We chose the BWW model as a basis for analysis for a number of reasons:

It is well formalized in terms of set theory. It has been successfully adapted to information systems modeling (Table 1). Empirical studies show the usefulness of this ontology (see Table 1).

Prior Work
An in-depth discussion of prior work on analyzing and evaluating reference models is presented by Fettke and Loos (2003b). There exists several approaches to conceptual (data) models quality in general, for example (Krogstie, 1995; Lindland, Sindre, & Slvberg, 1994; Moody & Shanks, 2003). However, the reference models quality in particular is just discussed by some work: Schtte (1998) proposes six so-called principles for reference modeling.1 Each principle can also be used to conduct an ex-ante analysis of a reference model. However, we are not aware of such investigations. An alternative framework for reference modeling evaluation is proposed by Miic and Zhao (2000). Their framework is influenced by Lindland et al. (1994) and founded in semiotic theory. The usefulness of this framework is demonstrated by the analysis of reference models for electronic commerce. Several criteria for the analysis and evaluation of reference models are introduced by Fettke and Loos (2003a). Using these criteria, the authors characterize several reference models. However, usefulness and purpose of the criteria proposed are not discussed in detail. Van Belle (2003), constructs a framework for the analysis and evaluation of reference models (a prior version of his framework is discussed by van Belle & Price, 2000). This framework is applied to several reference models. One characteristic of this framework is that the proposed metrics are to a large operationalized. The interpretation and meaning of specific metrics is sometimes unclear, for example both SAPs and Baans reference models genericity is measured as 16 (van Belle, 2003, p. 258). For the user, the practical meaning and consequences of this measurement are not straightforward.

A Method for Ontological Analysis


Overview of Method
This section introduces our approach to the ontological analysis and evaluation of reference models. The main idea of our approach is the ontological normalCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

60 Fettke & Loos

ization of a reference model. An ontological normalization is comparable with the normalization of a database schema. The objective of both techniques is to represent the domain of interest in a normalized way by applying specific transformation patterns. Normalization of a database schema aims at eliminating problems of information representation and processing in database management systems (e.g., avoiding data redundancies, update anomalies, etc.). In contrast, the ontological normalization aims to achieve a unified representation of facts represented by a reference model with respect to the structure of reality. Compared to other representations such as UML or ERM, an ontological representation of a reference model has the advantage that it is more general and not influenced by technical aspects. The ontological normalization of a reference model consists of four steps: 1. 2. 3. 4. Developing a transformation mapping. Identifying ontological modeling deficiencies. Transforming the reference model. Assessing the results.

The following subsections discuss each step in more detail. Applications of an ontological analysis are discussed in the last subsection.

Developing a Transformation Mapping


Until now, various grammars have been used to represent reference models. For instance, Scheer (1994) uses the Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS) (Scheer, 1998a, 1998b), Hay (1996) employs some kind of an ERM, and Fowler (1997) uses an object-oriented approach. In the first step of our method, it is necessary to develop a transformation mapping for the grammar used for representing the reference model. This transformation mapping allows us to map the constructs of the used grammar onto the constructs of the BWW model. The term construct of a grammar refers to for example a relationship type when using the ERM or a class when using the UML. The first step is based on the method for ontological evaluation of grammars proposed by Wand and Weber (1993). The transformation mapping introduces an ontological meaning for each construct of the grammar used by the reference model. The explicitly ontological definition of the transformation mapping has a beneficial effect on the objectivity of the evaluation. Without this definition it would be impossible to criticize in an intersubjective way a particular evaluation of a reference model conducted.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 61

The transformation mapping consists of two mathematical mappings: first, a representation mapping describes whether and how the constructs of the BWW model are mapped onto the grammatical constructs. Second, the interpretation mapping describes whether and how the grammatical constructs are mapped onto the constructs of the BWW model. With respect to both mappings, four ontological deficiencies can be distinguished (Figure 1):2

Incompleteness: Can each ontological construct be mapped onto a construct of the grammar? A grammar is incomplete if the representation mapping is not defined in total. Otherwise a grammar is complete. Redundancy: Can each ontological construct be mapped onto exactly one or onto more than one grammatical construct? A grammar is redundant if the representation mapping is ambiguous. Excess: Can each grammatical construct be mapped onto an ontological construct? A grammatical construct is excessive if it cannot be mapped onto an ontological construct. A grammar is excessive if at least one of its constructs is excessive. Overload: Can each grammatical construct be mapped onto exactly one or onto more than one ontological construct? A grammatical construct is overloaded if it can be mapped on more than one ontological construct. A grammar is overloaded if at least one of its constructs is overloaded.

We refer to the term grammar as ontologically clear if it is neither incomplete nor redundant. A grammatical construct is adequate if it is neither excessive nor overloaded, so that it is defined unambiguously with respect to the interpretation mapping. A grammar is adequate if each of its grammatical constructs is adequate. The first evaluation step just refers to the grammar used and, therefore, is independent of the reference model being evaluated. This allows such evaluations to be carried out in advance and to reuse the developed transformation mappings for ontological evaluations of various reference models. This chapter does not aim to propose transformation mappings for known grammars and to identify their ontological deficiencies. Instead, we refer to the approaches of ontological evaluations of grammars found in literature: Table 1 summarizes transformation mapping for several modeling grammars. The fact whether a grammar has ontological deficiencies is independent of the ontological evaluation of the constructs used in the reference model. In other words, the first evaluation step analyzes the used grammar in general. In the second step of the evaluation the used constructs of the reference model are analyzed with respect to the grammatical evaluation in particular.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

62 Fettke & Loos

Figure 1. Possible ontological deficiencies


mapping characteristics partial representation mapping ambiguous

mapping direction

incompleteness

redundancy

interpretation mapping

excess
ontological construct

overload
grammatical construct

Legend:

Identifying Ontological Modeling Deficiencies


To prepare the ontological normalization of the reference model, all ontological deficiencies of the reference models have to be identified. This is the objective of the second step. The second step is based on the previously constructed general transformation mapping. It is possible that one ontological deficiency is resolvable in various ways or even not resolvable at all. Hence, it is useful to separate the identification of ontological modeling deficiencies from the transforming step of the reference model (the next step). To identify the ontological deficiencies of the reference model all constructs of the reference model must be reviewed. Each construct of the reference model must be examined with respect to whether the construct is used correctly regarding the interpretation mapping. One of the following situations can arise:

Adequacy: the grammatical construct is ontologically adequate. Nevertheless an ontological deficiency can emerge by applying the grammatical construct to build the reference model. Therefore it must be examined whether the construct of the reference model is used correctly with respect to the interpretation mapping. The construct of the reference model is used adequately if it is used correctly with respect to the interpretation mapping.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 63

Table 1. Transformation mappings


Authors (Wand & Weber, 1989) (Wand & Weber, 1990b) (Weber & Zhang, 1991) (Wand & Weber, 1993) (Wand & Weber, 1995) (Rohde, 1995) (Weber & Zhang, 1996) (Weber, 1996) (Green, 1996) (Wand, Storey, & Weber, 1999) (Green & Rosemann, 2000) (Milton, 2000) (Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2001) (Evermann & Wand, 2001a) (Evermann & Wand, 2001b) (Green & Rosemann, 2001) (Bodart, Patel, Sim, & Weber, 2001) (Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2002) (Fettke & Loos, 2003c) Others NIAM OMT OML ARIS UML ERM SOM DFD Empirical inquiry laboratory exp. survey survey laboratory exp. -

Otherwise it should be marked as inadequate. For instance, a reference model contains an entity-type color. Furthermore, using the ERM, an entity-type should be mapped onto a BWW class regarding to an appropriate interpretation mapping. So, the entity-type color has to be mapped onto a BWW class. But this mapping is inadequate because the entity-type color represents a BWW property and not a BWW class. So, the entitytype color is not used correctly with respect to the interpretation mapping.

Excess: construct excess is a modeling deficiency in general and needs a special handling in the transformation step. So, this construct should be marked as excessive in the reference model. Construct excess occurs if implementation specific aspects are represented in the reference model, for example the technical concepts of message passing or polymorphism cannot be represented with ontological constructs. Overload: construct overload is a modeling deficiency in general and needs a special handling in the transformation step. So, this construct should be marked as overloaded in the reference model. For instance, using UML, a UML object can represent a BWW thing (UML object Mr. Miller is an instance of the UML class customer) or a BWW class (UML objects aclass journal, b-class journal, etc., are instances of the UML class

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

64 Fettke & Loos

journal categories). So, the construct UML object is ontological overloaded. The described step of identification of modeling deficiencies relies on the interpretation mapping. In addition, the representation mapping supports an indirect means to identify modeling deficiencies. Based on the representation mapping it can be decided whether the used grammar is incomplete or redundant. An incomplete grammar leads to inadequate representation of specific facts of reality in the reference model. This deficiency appears in models as representation of facts that cannot be adequately represented, by a grammatical construct, which is inadequate. This case will be illustrated by an example (Wand & Weber, 1993, p. 227): BWW events cannot be represented by grammatical constructs of the ERM. So, persons applying the ERM grammar tend to represent BWW events by using entity-types. This leads to the situation where entity-types are not used adequately with respect to the interpretation mapping.

Transforming the Reference Model


In the third step, the reference model will be transformed to an ontological model. The outcome of this step is an ontologically normalized reference model. More formally, an ontologically normalized reference model is a mapping from the constructs of the reference model to the constructs of an ontological model. While mapping a construct of the reference model onto an ontological construct, four cases can arise:

Adequacy: the construct of the reference model is marked as adequate. It is possible to map this construct in a straightforward way onto a construct of the ontological model. Inadequacy: the construct of the reference model is marked as inadequate. It is necessary to interpret the representation in the reference model in a sensible manner. The result of this interpretation may be that it is possible to represent this construct by a specific construct of the ontological model. Excess: the construct of the reference model cannot be mapped onto a construct of the ontological model with respect to the interpretation mapping. Nevertheless it should be examined whether it is possible to represent this construct by a specific construct of the ontological model in particular.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 65

Overload: the construct of the reference model can be mapped onto several constructs of the ontological model with respect to interpretation mapping. It is necessary to decide which interpretation mapping is preferable regarding to the interpretation of the representation in the reference model. The result of this decision may be that it is possible to represent this construct by exactly one construct of the ontological model.

The resolution of the ontological deficiencies of constructs should be guided by the intension of these constructs. This step relies on the subjects interpretation performing the evaluation. The result of this transformation is an ontological model representing the reference model in an ontologically normalized way. The ontologically normalized model is assessed with respect to different aspects in the next step.

Assessing the Results


In the last step, the reference model can be evaluated with respect to the results of the three steps mentioned previously: 1. 2. 3. Assessing the transformation mapping in general. Assessing the ontological deficiencies of constructs in particular. Assessing the ontologically normalized reference model.

First, the transformation mapping can be assessed in general. Based on the representation and interpretation mappings it is possible to determine the ontological clarity and adequacy of the grammar used. This assessment gives an idea whether or how this grammar is suitable to represent the facts of reality regarding to the intended application in general. Second, the ontological deficiencies of constructs of the reference model can be assessed in particular. While the ontological deficiencies excess and overload have their roots in the definition of the grammar, the cause of an ontologically inadequate construct of the reference model is the specific application of a grammatical construct employed by the person who developed the model. An ontologically adequate construct of the reference model is not equivalent to a correct modeling (in a syntactical sense). Instead, the high usage of inadequate constructs may be a sign of representing a lot of implementation aspects in the reference model. Third, the ontologically normalized reference model can be assessed. In this case, two different evaluation aspects are reasonable:
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

66 Fettke & Loos

a.

Isolated assessment: different metrics can be used for an isolated assessment of the ontological model. Individual and comparative metrics can be distinguished. For reasons of brevity, we give just two examples. First example: the number of BWW things can be used to measure the size of the reference model (individual metric). Second example: the complexity of events can be defined as the number of BWW events in relation to the number of theoretically possible BWW events represented in the reference model (comparative metric). The number of theoretically possible BWW events can be calculated as the square of the number of BWW states represented in the reference model. Formally:
number of BWW events (number of BWW states ) 2

complexity of events =

def

b.

Comparative assessment: comparative evaluations of reference models can be undertaken if further ontological models of the application domain are given. In this manner, it is possible to evaluate a reference model with respect to its completeness. Such an evaluation is possible only with respect to another ontological model.

Overview of Application Areas


The proposed method can be used for several application areas:

Model analysis and evaluation: the method proposed could be used for the ontological analysis and evaluation of reference models. Furthermore, it can be used for evaluating application models in general. For reasons of economic efficiency, we believe this application area is limited because an ontological evaluation is expensive and application models are very specific by definition. Model comparison: two or more models can be compared based on their ontologically normalized models. The compared models can be represented with the same grammar. In addition, the application of the proposed model allows comparison of models that are represented with different grammars. Results of a comparison will be that the compared models are either equivalent, complementary or in conflict. Furthermore, it is possible to introduce a measure of distance that defines the similarity of two models based on ontological constructs. Such a distance measure allows definition of ontological identity of models.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 67

Representation of reference models in model repositories: a reference model library is a software library (Mili, Mili, & Mittermeier, 1998) containing several reference model for reuse. Nowadays modeling tools such as the ARIS toolset (Davis, 2000) use grammatical constructs or some kind of key words to represent models in a library. We propose that the constructs of an ontologically normalized reference model can be used for representing reference models. The advantage of this design is the equivalent representation of reference models independent of the grammar used. Selection of an appropriate reference model: there is a lack of systematical approaches for selecting an appropriate reference model for application. We propose that a user can describe key characteristics of a reference model using the BWW model. For instance, a user is looking for a reference model comprising the BWW event customer placed an order. With this information all ontologically normalized reference models can be analyzed. In a second step, all relevant reference models can be further evaluated.

The next section describes an application of an ontological analysis.

Example
In this section we demonstrate the usefulness of an ontological analysis by applying the method introduced above to Scheers reference model for production planning and control systems (PPC) (Scheer, 1994). We select this reference model as an example for several reasons:

The model is compared to other models detailed and extensive (Scheer & Hars, 1992). Scheer uses different perspectives to describe an enterprise. It can be assumed that the model has a wide national and international distribution. The model is first published in a German book that is in its seventh edition (Scheer, 1997). The English translation of the original book is in its second edition. Numerous courses on information systems application at German Universities teach this model. In addition, according to Scheer (2004), the model has also found many applications in industry. As all reference models, the model does not cover a particular enterprise but a class of similar enterprises.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

68 Fettke & Loos

According to the knowledge of the authors, this is the first analysis of Scheers reference model.

Scheers description of the reference model is based on the Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS) (Scheer, 1998a, 1998b). The modeling grammars used in ARIS have already been ontologically evaluated by Green and Rosemann (2000). Their study primarily focuses on the representation but not on the interpretation mapping. Nevertheless, we use their work as an input for defining an interpretation mapping for those modeling constructs used in Scheers reference model. Scheer uses different modeling languages for each view, namely the entityrelationship model (ERM) for the data view, event-driven process chains (EPC) and process chain diagrams for the control view, function trees for the function view, and organizational unit diagrams for the organization view. First, we will analyze each individual view. Finally, our analysis will focus on some intergrammar issues. For brevity, we cannot provide an in-depth ontological analysis of Scheers reference model, but present some interesting results analyzing the areas primary requirements management and requirements planning (Scheer, 1994, pp. 90-197) which constitute one major part of a PPC. Primary requirements are requirements figures for end products, independently salable intermediate products and spare parts. The objective of the requirements planning is to determine the in-house and outsourced parts needed to satisfy the primary requirements, to manage the inventories and to procure the outsourced parts.

Data View
Figure 2 depicts a reference data model for primary requirements planning. First, an interpretation mapping has to be introduced. We propose to map an ERM entity onto a BWW thing (Wand et al., 1999, p. 506). But we do not follow to map an ERM entity type onto a BWW class as proposed by Wand et al. (1999, p. 506). Instead we apply the interpretation mapping for UML classes proposed by Evermann and Wand (2001b, p. 359) to ERM entity types. According to this argumentation, an ERM entity type is mapped onto a BWW functional schema. We do not discuss interpretation mappings for further constructs of the ERM because our analysis just focuses on entities and entity types. According to the reference model, articles are identified by article numbers (attribute PNO). Note, these article numbers should not be confused with serial numbers or something like that: a serial number allows one to unambiguously identify a single, specific article, for example the CPU with the serial number

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 69

1000 that is bought by customer X. Instead, the entity type article describes a set of articles of a specific type. Possible entities of this type are for example CPU 1GHz, CPU 2GHz, and so forth. Figure 3 depicts this interrelation between the entity type article, its possible instances and substantial articles. In other words instances of the entity type article cannot be interpreted as BWW things, but as sets of BWW things. Hence, instances of this entity type represent specific types of articles. These leads to several implications:

The reference model implies that articles are discrete or at least made in discrete quantities. This assumption may be problematic in process industries (Hay, 1996, p. 187). Specific articles must be grouped into types or classes. This assumption is not problematic in mass production, but may be problematic in customeroriented manufacturing. Specific articles cannot hold specific attributes that must be represented in the information system (e.g., inventory place of a specific article).

Possible entities of the entity type organizational unit are sales planning or production planning. One possible ontological interpretation of the representation chosen is that these entities represent a specific BWW thing of a specific enterprise. For instance, the organizational unit production planning of a specific enterprise may consists of a set of employees, specific machines and other substantial working resources. If this interpretation is agreed upon, then the user of the reference model has to define which things of the enterprise refer to specific entities of this type during the application of the reference model. On the other hand, it can be argued, that these entities do not have a factual reference, but have just a formal character. The ontological ambiguity of the reference model cannot be resolved here in general, but it has important methodological consequences in particular: following the first interpretation, it is possible to conduct empirical investigations (Does the organizational unit production planning consist of machine X, employee Y, etc.?). Such verifications are meaningless if the second interpretation is followed. Possible entities of the entity type time are date stamps which can represent both concrete dates such as 2003-05-20 or specific periods (period 1, period 2, etc.). The entities are not BWW things. Instead, temporal aspects address a different ontological category. We argue that Scheers conceptualization of time is caused by the fact that the ERM grammar does not provide sufficient concepts to represent temporal aspects explicitly. Hence, it may be problematic.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

70 Fettke & Loos

Figure 2. Reference model to determine primary requirements (Scheer, 1994, p. 91)


n Person determing requirements (from)

Organizational Unit

n Person determining requirements (to) FOUNO, TOUNO DATE

OUNO

Primary Requirements Plan

Article

Primary Requirements Item

Time

PNO

FOUNO, TOUNO, SCHEDULINGDATE, PNO, REQUIREMENTSDATE

DATE

Figure 3. Possible ERM entities and possible BWW things


CPU 2GHz #1000 CPU 2GHz #1001

CPU 2GHz #1002

CPU 2GHz

Article type n

Legend:

CPU 1GHz

Article

Entity type Entity (example) BWW-thing (example)

PNO

Organization View
Scheers reference model for organizational units involved in requirements planning is depicted in Figure 4. Each oval in the model represents an organizational unit. The ontological interpretation of an organizational unit is ambiguous (Green & Rosemann, 2000, p. 81). On the one hand, an organizational unit can be mapped onto a BWW thing of a specific enterprise, for example the

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 71

Figure 4. Reference model for organizational units involved in requirements planning (Scheer, 1994, p. 94)
Executive management

Marketing/ Sales Finished goods warehouse Marketing/ Sales planning

Engineering

Production

Purchasing

Personnel

Accounting

Design engineering

Production planning

Inbound warehouse

Intermediate storage

Parts administration

organizational unit production planning of a specific enterprise may consists of a set of employees, specific machines and other substantial working resources (cf. the analysis of the data view previously shown). On the other hand, it can be argued that an organizational unit represents a class of BWW things and, therefore, represents a BWW class. Following the second interpretation, the organizational unit production planning represents all organizational units of an enterprise that are responsible for the planning of the production, for example production planning in plant 1, plant 2, and so forth. These different ways of interpretations have following consequences: organizational charts in conjunction with EPC are used to assign responsibilities to organizational units. So, if the second interpretation is followed, it is not possible to exactly assign some responsibilities to a specific organizational unit, for example the responsibility of the function estimate gross requirements cannot be assigned to the organizational unit production planning in plant 1 because the organizational chart represents classes of organizational units, but not specific instances. We admit that such assignments can be made in further textual descriptions or annotations of the model. But it is not possible to express such assignments using this modeling grammar. Scheer is aware of this interpretation ambiguity and distinguishes organizational diagrams on the type level and on the instance level (Scheer, 1998b, pp. 53f). However, the intended interpretation is not stated explicitly in the reference model and may result in confusion.

Function View
Figure 5 depicts a part of Scheers reference function model for requirements planning. From an ontological point of view, each function can be interpreted as a BWW transformation. However, function trees are only able to define a small
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

72 Fettke & Loos

Figure 5. Part of the reference function model for requirements planning (Scheer, 1994, p. 160)
Requirements planning

Bill of materials management

Primary requirements management

Consumptionbased requirements planning

Requirements explosion

Requirements tracking

Lot sizing

Inventory management

ABC analysis

Time series analysis

Forecast evaluation

Management of forecast models

portion of the semantic of BWW transformations: The domain and co-domain of the BWW transformation, the mapping between domain and co-domain, and the BWW thing to which the BWW transformation belongs are not deducible from the function tree. So, the function model has only a vague ontological meaning. Furthermore, the interrelations between the functions represented in one function tree are unclear. Do the sub-functions of one function complement each other? Or are they substitutable? For example, the functions ABC analysis and time series analysis seem to be substitutable, but the functions primary requirements management and inventory management are clearly not substitutes. For a user of the reference model, this information is quite important because, in a specific implementation environment, it is not necessary to implement all functions of a reference model but rather those functions that are essential for the application intended. This information is not represented in the function tree.

Control View
The control view describes the relationships between the data, function and organization view. Figure 6 depicts an EPC for the requirements explosion process (Scheer omits the relationships to the data and organization view for reasons of clarity). Events of an EPC can be ontologically interpreted as BWW states and functions as BWW transformations (see previous discussion). An ontological analysis of the reference model considered reveals the following deficiencies:

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 73

Figure 6. Reference process for requirements explosion (Scheer, 1994, p. 129)


Consumptionbased requirements forcecast forecast

Primary Primariy requirements planning

Bill of materials management

Purchasing

Production

Occurence of orginal requirement

Scheduled deadline reached

Bill of materials updated

Delivery updated

Plant disruption occurred

Analysis whether net change or optimization Distribution to users Net change chosen
XOR

Reoptimazation chosen

Work load distributed Secondary requirements estimated Estimate gross requirement Estimate secondary requirements

Gross requirement estimated Determine inventory level/ reservation Reservation completed

Estimate net requirement

Forward scheduling

Net requirement estimated Check whether data is in the past

Date is in the past

Scheduling completed

Lot sizing

Order generated

XOR

Release for secondary req. estimates

XOR

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

74 Fettke & Loos

According to the interpretation mapping, events are mapped onto BWW states. By definition, each BWW state consists of a set of values that represent a BWW thing. But a BWW thing is not defined by the EPC, so the ontological meaning of the events defined is unclear. Furthermore, the system and system environment respectively the system boundaries are not clear. Events, which can be interpreted as a BWW stable event, do not exist. So, there is no clear-cut condition when or whether the depicted process terminates. Obviously, some functions require some user interaction, for instance the functions Lot sizing or Forward Scheduling can run interactively (Scheer, 1994, pp. 190f). However, these BWW couplings are not stated in the reference model.

Inter-Grammar Analysis
This subsection analyzes some interrelations between constructs of different grammars used to represent the reference model. First, we focus on interrelations between the data and the organization view. On the one hand, in the data view, Scheer use the entity type organizational unit to represent the organizational structure of an enterprise. On the other hand, organizational aspects are covered by the organizational view. Obviously, the organizational structure of an enterprise is represented redundantly. This redundancy may cause problems, for instance, organizational facts planned in the organizational view lead to imperative changes in the data view and vice versa. Furthermore, there is a subtle difference between the organizational units modeled in the data respectively in the organizational view which should be considered: in the data view, organizational units are represented on the type level, but in the organizational view, organizational units can be represented both on the type and on the instance level. Scheer uses both EPC as well process chain diagrams to represent the reference model (Scheer, 1994, p. 129, 176). Each representation has specific strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, the EPC reference models represent processes in detail but do not define interrelationships between this view and the data and organization views. On the other hand, the process chain diagrams represent such inter-view relationships but these models are not very detailed. Furthermore, the use of two modeling grammars that are almost equally expressive from an ontological point of view causes some inconsistencies, for example some functions in EPC models are not represented in process chain diagrams. This is a clear indication that the principle minimal ontological overlap (MOO) (Green, 1996, pp. 85f) when using several modeling grammars is violated.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 75

Summary
In this section an ontological analysis is demonstrated by applying this method to parts of Scheers reference model for production planning and control. Our analysis focuses on the identification of ontological deficiencies, on possible ways to transform the reference model to an ontological model, and on explicating assumptions of the reference model that are implicitly made by its developer. Because of several ontological deficiencies it is obvious, that it is not possible without making a number of further assumptions to transform the reference model to an ontological model which is Bunge-complete. Furthermore, we did not explicitly introduce an ontological model of the reference model, hence we cannot define some sensible model metrics. Also, we do not compare several ontological models.

Conclusions, Limitations, and Future Research


Within the information systems field, reference models have been known for many years. Despite the relevance of model quality, little research has been done on their systematic analysis and evaluation. In this chapter, we discuss an ontological approach to analyze and evaluate reference models. Our approach allows the evaluation of reference models based on a sound theory, namely the ontology proposed by the BWW model. Furthermore, we demonstrate the applicability and usefulness of an ontological approach by analyzing some parts of Scheers reference model for production planning and control. The results demonstrate that the modeling grammar used to represent the reference models has ontological deficiencies. These deficiencies lead to several problems in the reference model, for example the meaning of some modeling constructs is vague and some aspects of a reference model are redundant. On the other hand, it can be argued that some of the problems noted are intended by the models developer and desirable because reference models do not represent one specific enterprise but a class of enterprises. So, these aspects which we identified as ontological unclear constitute a kind of genericity of the reference model. However, we admit to these arguments but believe that such implicit genericity may be confusing and can cause problems if the user of the model is not aware of it. Hence, we demand that reference models should explicitly represent genericity. Otherwise the meaning of the reference model is ambiguous and its adaptation is not straightforward. Furthermore, we explicate some implicit implications of Scheers reference model. For example, it assumes implicitly an industrial
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

76 Fettke & Loos

company producing large quantities of specific product types, where each product is made in discrete quantities. An ontological analysis is not an objective procedure or an algorithm that can be codified in some program language and processed automatically. Instead, it relies on the reference model analysts interpretation of modeling constructs. This interpretation is to a certain degree subjective. So, it is necessary that the interpretations rationale is made explicit and justified by specific reasons. Because reference models are representations of empirical systems that are not formalized by principle, we believe this limitation is tenable. An ontological evaluation assumes that constructs of a modeling language primarily represent things or properties of things. According to Lyytinen (1985, p. 63), this language view is strongly influenced by the Fregean theory of language. However, there exists other language theories founded on quite different assumptions. For instance, speech act theory assumes that sentences represent specific speech acts such as beliefs, requests, explanations and so forth. This view leads to a different understanding of a conceptual model (Hirschheim, Klein, & Lyytinen, 1995, pp. 154-170; Klein & Lyytinen, 1992). From the speech act theory point of view, an ontological analysis and evaluation does not make sense. Further critiques can be directed to the ontological and epistemological assumptions of this approach (Schtte & Zelewski, 2001, p. 3). This study takes the view that the external world exists autonomously (Bunge, 1977, pp. 16f) and scientific research in particular, reference modeling aims at representing reality. Furthermore, observers perception of the world is limited and can be deceptive, so complete truth is hard to archive (Bunge, 1983, pp. 264-271). This world view (Weltanschauung) can be called scientific realism (Bunge, 1993, pp. 231-232). There exists other world views which can be used as an foundation for conceptual modeling (Schtte, 1999). From other worldviews, an ontological evaluation may be not reasonable. However, the basic steps of an ontological analysis can be performed using other ontological assumptions, for example, the analysis in Milton (2000) uses Chisholms ontology. So, it would be interesting to use different ontological and epistemological assumptions to conduct ontological analysis of reference models and to compare their results. Furthermore, we point out that an ontological evaluation is not inherently superior to other evaluation approaches. This approach implies that the reference model is represented in a (semi-)formal grammar. In addition, there are other evaluation criteria that are not addressed by an ontological evaluation (Frank, 1998, pp. 68). For instance, from a teach- and learn-oriented point of view, facts about enterprises represented in reference models should be understandable, or, from an enterprise-oriented point of view, the purchase and usage of a reference model should make the development of enterprise systems more efficient.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 77

Instead an ontological evaluation focuses on criteria such as completeness, precision, and consistency. So, we believe that reference models should be analyzed and evaluated from different perspectives. We see several areas for further research: first, the proposed method should be applied to analyze and evaluate further reference models. By doing so, models quality can be studied and guaranteed. Second, our approach is based on the BWW model. Further investigations should examine the usefulness of other ontological assumptions. Third, in this chapter we only outline some application areas of an ontological evaluation. These and further areas should be examined in more detail. Fourth, ontological evaluations of reference models should be complemented with evaluation from other perspectives (for established examples see Fettke & Loos, 2003b). To conclude, we believe that this chapter and suggested further research provide a better understanding of reference model quality and insights that lead, in the long-term, to a theory of enterprise modeling.

References
Bodart, F., Patel, A., Sim, M., & Weber, R. (2001). Should optional properties be used in conceptual modelling? A theory and three empirical tests. Information Systems Research, 12(4), 384-405. Bunge, M. (1977). Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel. Bunge, M. (1983). Epistemology and methodology II: Understanding the world. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel. Bunge, M. (1993). Realism and antirealism in social science. Theory and Decision, 35, 207-235. Davis, R. (2000). Business process modelling with ARIS: A practical guide. Berlin: Springer. Evermann, J., & Wand, Y. (2001a). An ontological examination of object interaction in conceptual modeling. Proceedings of the 11th Workshop on Information Technologies and Systems (WITS 2001), New Orleans, December 15-16. Evermann, J., & Wand, Y. (2001b). Towards ontologically based semantics for UML constructs. In H. S. Kunii, S. Jajodia, & A. Slvberg (Eds.), Conceptual modeling ER 2001 20th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling, Yokohama, Japan, 27-30 November 2001, (pp. 354-367). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

78 Fettke & Loos

Fettke, P., & Loos, P. (2003a). Classification of reference models A methodology and its application. Information Systems and e-Business Management, 1(1), 35-53. Fettke, P., & Loos, P. (2003b). Multiperspective evaluation of reference models Towards a framework. In M. A. Jeusfeld & . Pastor (Eds.), Conceptual modeling for novel application domains ER 2003 Workshops ECOMO, IWCMQ, AOIS, and XSDM, Chicago, 13 October 2003, (pp. 8091). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Fettke, P., & Loos, P. (2003c). Ontological evaluation of the semantical object model. In E. J. Sinz, M. Plaha, & P. Neckel (Eds.), Modellierung betrieblicher informationssysteme MobIS 2003 Proceedings der Tagung MobIS 2003, Bamberg, 9-10 October 2003, (pp. 109-129) (in German). Fowler, M. (1997). Analysis patterns: Reusable object models. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley. Frank, U. (1998). Reflections on the core of the information systems discipline (Arbeitsbericht No. Nr. 14). Koblenz: Institut fr Wirtschaftsinformatik der Universitt Koblenz Landau. Frank, U. (1999). Conceptual modelling as the core of the information systems discipline Perspectives and epistemological challenges. Proceedings of the Fifth Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS 1999), 13-15 August 1999, Milwaukee, (pp. 695-697). Green, P. (1996). An ontological analysis of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in upper case tools. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Queensland. Green, P., & Rosemann, M. (2000). Integrated process modeling: An ontological evaluation. Information Systems, 25(2), 73-87. Green, P., & Rosemann, M. (2001). Ontological analysis of integrated process models: Testing hypotheses. Australian Journal on Information Systems, 9(1), 30-38. Hay, D. C. (1996). Data model patterns Conventions of thought. New York: Dorset House. Hirschheim, R., Klein, H. K., & Lyytinen, K. (1995). Information systems development and data modeling Conceptual and philosophical foundations. Cambridge, MA: Press Syndicate for the University of Cambridge. Klein, H. K., & Lyytinen, K. (1992). Towards a new understanding of data modelling. In C. Floyd, H. Zllighoven, R. Budde, & R. Keil-Slawik (Eds.), Software development and reality construction (pp. 203-219). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 79

Krogstie, J. (1995). Conceptual modeling for computerized information systems support in organizations. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Trondheim. Kruse, C., Hars, A., Heib, R., & Scheer, A. W. (1993). Ways of utilizing reference models for data engineering in CIM. International Journal of Flexible Automation and Integrated Manufacturing, 1(1), 47-58. Lindland, O. I., Sindre, G., & Slvberg, A. (March 1994). Understanding quality in conceptual modeling. IEEE Software, 42-49. Lyytinen, K. (1985). Implications of theories of language for information systems. MIS Quarterly, 9(1), 61-74. Mertins, K. & Bernus, P. (1998). Reference models. In P. Bernus, K. Mertins, & G. Schmidt (Eds.), Handbook on architectures of information systems (pp. 615-617). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Mili, A., Mili, R., & Mittermeier, R. T. (1998). A survey of software reuse libraries. Annals of Software Engineering, 5, 349-414. Milton, S. (2000). An ontological comparison and evaluation of data modelling frameworks. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia. Miic, V. B., & Zhao, J. L. (2000). Evaluating the quality of reference models. In A. H. F. Laender, S. W. Liddle, & V. C. Storey (Eds.), Conceptual modeling ER 2000 19th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling, Salt Lake City, Utah, 9-12 October 2000, (pp. 484-498). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Moody, D. L. & Shanks, G. G. (2003). Improving the quality of data models: Empirical validation of a quality management framework. Information Systems, 28, 619-650. Mylopoulos, J. (1998). Information modeling in the time of the revolution. Information Systems, 23(3/4), 127-155. Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2001). Grounding the OML metamodel in ontology. The Journal of Systems and Software, 57(2), 119-143. Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2002). Ontological evaluation of the UML using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. Software and Systems Modeling, 1(1), 43-67. Rohde, F. (1995). An ontological evaluation of Jacksons system development model. Australian Journal of Information Systems, 2(2), 77-87. Scheer, A. W. (1994). Business process engineering Reference models for industrial enterprises (2 nd ed.). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Scheer, A. W. (1997). Information systems Reference models for industrial business processes (7th ed.). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer (in German).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

80 Fettke & Loos

Scheer, A. W. (1998a). ARIS Business process frameworks (2 nd ed.). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Scheer, A. W. (1998b). ARIS Business process modeling (2nd ed.). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Scheer, A. W. (2004). 20 years designing industrial business processes (in German). Industrie Management, 20(1), 11-18. Scheer, A. W. & Hars, A. (1992). Extending data modeling to cover the whole enterprise. Communications of the ACM, 35(9), 166-172. Scheer, A. W. & Nttgens, M. (2000). ARIS architecture and reference models for business process management. In W. van de Aalst, J. Desel, & A. Oberweis (Eds.), Business process management Models, techniques, and empirical studies (pp. 376-389). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Schuette, R. & Rotthowe, T. (1998). The guidelines of modeling An approach to enhance the quality in information models. In T. W. Ling, S. Ram, & M. L. Lee (Eds.), Conceptual modeling ER 98 17th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling, Singapore, 16-19 November 1998, (pp. 240-254). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Schtte, R. (1998). Guidelines of reference modeling Constructing configurative and adaptable models. Wiesbaden: Gabler, (in German). Schtte, R. (1999). Architectures for evaluating the quality of information models A meta and object level comparison. In J. Akoka, M. Bouzeghoub, I. Comyn-Wattiau, & E. Mtais (Eds.), Conceptual modeling ER 99 18th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling, Paris, 1518 November 1999, (pp. 490-505). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Schtte, R. & Zelewski, S. (2001). Epistemological problems in working with ontologies (Working paper No. 13). Essen: Universitt Essen, Institut fr Produktion und Industrielles Informationsmanagement. van Belle, J. P. & Price, B. (2000). A proposed framework for evaluating generic enterprise models. South African Computer Journal, 26, 69-76. van Belle, J. P. W. G. D. (2003). A framework for the analysis and evaluation of enterprise models. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Wand, Y., Storey, V. C., & Weber, R. (1999). An ontological analysis of the relationship construct in conceptual modeling. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 24(4), 494-528. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. D. Falkenberg & P. Lindgreen (Eds.), Information systems concepts: An in-depth analysis (pp. 79-107). North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Analysis of Reference Models 81

Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990a). An ontological model of an information system. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(11), 1282-1292. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990b). Toward a theory of the deep structure of information systems. Paper presented at the International Conference on Information Systems, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 16-19, (pp. 61-71). Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3(4), 217-237. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1995). On the deep structure of information systems. Information Systems Journal, 5, 203-223. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (2002). Research commentary: Information systems and conceptual modeling A research agenda. Information Systems Research, 13(4), 363-377. Weber, R. (1996). Are attributes entities? A study of database designers memory structures. Information Systems Research, 7(2), 137-162. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological foundations of information systems. Melbourne: Coopers & Lybrand. Weber, R. & Zhang, Y. (1991). An ontological evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Paper presented at the International Conference on Information Systems, New York, New York, 16-18 December, 1991. Weber, R. & Zhang, Y. (1996). An analytical evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Information Systems Journal, 6, 147170.

Endnotes
1

This PhD thesis is written in German. An overview of this approach in English is given in Schuette and Rotthowe (1998). For systematical reasons, we introduce these terms in a slightly different manner than in Wand and Weber (1993).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

82 Evermann

Chapter IV

Conceptual vs. Design Models in UML


Jrg Evermann, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Thinking Ontologically:

Abstract
Information systems (IS) are situated in and representations of business and organizational domains. Conceptual models of the real world serve as tools for understanding the business domain. Conceptual modelling is thus an important first step in any IS development project. As no language has been generally accepted for conceptual modelling, researchers have proposed extending the use of widely accepted object-oriented software design languages such as UML for this purpose. A major problem with this is the fact that such languages possess no real-world business or organizational meaning that is, it is unclear what the constructs of such languages mean in terms of the business. This chapter discusses how such meaning can be assigned to languages like UML. It provides an example that demonstrates the differences between a software design model and a conceptual model in UML. This chapter shows that UML is suitable for conceptual modelling but that the modeller must take special care not to confuse software aspects with aspects of the real world being modelled.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

83

Introduction
Information systems (IS) are representations of a real world domain. For example, the software and database structures of an inventory IS should reflect the layout of the warehouses with their aisles, shelves and bins. Changes in the data managed by the inventory IS should mirror actual changes of inventory in the warehouse. The structures of a production planning and control (PPC) system should reflect the type of equipment and material on the factory floor. Changes in the data in the PPC system should mirror actual changes of work items and equipment. Information systems are also situated in and affect the real world domain. The inventory system is used for making decisions about stock levels, purchasing and so forth. It is embedded in and affects the business. The production planning and control system is used to make decisions about production schedules, equipment changes and so forth. It also is embedded in and affects the business. For these reasons it is essential that any IS development project begin by examining the real-world domain represented and affected by the IS. Hence, the first phase of IS development, the analysis phase, is concerned with describing this real world domain through conceptual models. These models are descriptions of the real world independent of any information system or information technology aspect. Their purpose is two-fold: 1) to serve as communication medium for understanding of the domain, and 2) to serve as a guide for IS design (Kung & Solvberg, 1986). The next phase of IS development IS design is concerned with describing the information system through design models. Design models are intended to model the software system. Thus, one of the primary differences between conceptual and design models is the object of modelling. For the former, the object of modelling is the real world, for the latter it is the software system. While this difference is widely recognized, the lack of languages specific to conceptual modelling, combined with the availability of widely used IS design languages has a number of detrimental effects: 1. Many IS development projects begin without explicitly modelling the real world domain that the IS is intended to represent. Instead, different stakeholders and developers may hold implicit assumptions about the domain. Even when the real world organization is explicated, the use of IS design languages for this task without specific guidance can lead analysts to confuse aspects of the IS and the real world. For example, an analyst may talk about jobs in the organization as objects, with the implicit understanding

2.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

84 Evermann

that they will be represented by a specific class in the object-oriented software system. 3. The translation between conceptual and design model is not explicated. This lack of explicit translation can again lead to hidden assumptions made by different stakeholders and developers.

For the IS design phase, the use of object-oriented techniques is well accepted, while no language for real-world conceptual modelling has been generally accepted. Recent work (Evermann & Wand, 2001a, 2001b; Dussart, Aubert & Patry, 2002; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 1999; Opdahl, Henderson-Sellers & Barbier, 1999; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2001, 2002; Parsons & Wand, 1991, 1997; Wand, 1989; Wand & Woo, 1999) has therefore examined the suitability of object-oriented languages for conceptual modelling. The main problem to overcome is the lack of clear business or organizational meaning for language constructs such as object, class, attribute, and operation. As the resulting conceptual models should be usable as input to software design, it is desirable that they also possess meaning in terms of software. Rather than constructing a new language for which both the business and the software meaning must be defined, it appears more economical to use a widespread and widely used software design language such as UML and define business meaning for it, in addition to the software meaning it already possesses. In order to assign such business meaning to a language and its elements, we must first specify what exists in the real-world business domain. To that effect, researchers have employed ontology, the branch of philosophy that deals with what exists in the real world. By interpreting object-oriented constructs in terms of a particular ontology they can be assigned business or organizational meaning. From that, modelling rules and guidelines on the use of such languages for the purpose of real-world conceptual modelling can be derived. This allows the use of a well-known and widely accepted language to explicitly model the business or organization in the first step of an IS project. Such models are understandable both to business staff, as they possess ontological semantics, as well as to IS developers, as they retain their design or implementation meaning. Previous research has examined a number of IS design languages using ontology (Green & Rosemann, 2000; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 1999; Opdahl et al., 1999; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2001, 2002; Wand & Weber, 1993). This research has focused on providing a mapping from ontology to various language such as DFD, UML, OML, and EPC. It has identified specific strengths and weaknesses of these languages for conceptual modelling, by pointing out missing or unnecessary language elements. In general, this past research shows that object-oriented languages such as UML and OML are expressive enough to model a real-world business domain. While this research tells us that these
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

85

languages are able to express real-world business domains, initial research by Evermann and Wand (2001b); Evermann and Wand (2001a) tells us how they should be used, by providing guidelines to the modelling of business and organizations using IS design languages. What has been missing is a demonstration of how this research and these guidelines may be applied, and the differences that can arise by rigorously maintaining a real-world focus, rather than a software focus, in modelling. Such a demonstration can serve to highlight two important results: 1. It shows a clear difference between two very different types of models. On the one hand are models generated with an implicit but not articulated background of IS development. These models are often termed analysis or conceptual models by their developers, but are produced before the implicit background of IS design and implementation. On the other hand are models developed by specifically excluding any IS considerations and critically examining the real world. It shows that proposed ontological semantics and rules are applicable in practice and that they can lead to useful outcomes. Thus, practitioners are able to immediately put this research into practice.

2.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introduction to the process of developing modelling rules and to show their application, without burdening the reader with the technical intricacies of ontological language analysis. Consequently, a number of modelling rules are provided for the reader in the appendix to the chapter, while the remainder of the chapter begins with an introduction to using ontologies for deriving modelling rules. This is followed by an example showing how a focus on the business can be achieved by the application of ontologically derived modelling rules. The example emphasizes the differences between models developed with and without applying ontologically derived rules. The chapter closes with a general discussion.

Assigning Real-World Semantics


In order to describe the real world system in a model, we must specify what exists in this world. This is done by employing ontologies (Sowa, 2000). The term ontology in its original philosophical sense is understood as meta-physics or the philosophy of existence (Angeles, 1981). Adoption of a specific ontology is a fundamental philosophical commitment to the belief in the existence of certain entities in the world, including those in business and organizational domains.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

86 Evermann

In this philosophical interpretation, the choice of any specific ontology is a most fundamental philosophical choice. As such, it cannot be theoretically justified or debated a-priori. The chosen ontology is the framework and foundation that enables one to carry out science and research (Kuhn, 1996) and can only be assessed based on the results of that research. In other words, if the results of the science conducted on the basis of the ontological foundation make sense, the ontological foundation is justified. For example, assuming an ontology in which the business consists of actors with goals and intentions allows one to build models or theories with these concepts. Another ontology of the business may specify it as comprising work patterns, functional units and processes. Which ontology is true is undecidable. Both may be tenable as a matter of their suitability for the purpose of inquiry. This depends on the success of the models built on them. It may turn out that theories built on top of one ontology, for example actors, goals and intentions, are able to explain more phenomena than a competing ontology, for example work patterns, functional units and processes. In this case, there would be good reason to adopt one over the other. However, this can only be decided in light of the research results based on the two ontologies. (It may also be the case that the two ontologies turn out to be a higherlevel and a lower-level one, which can be reconciled and integrated.) This philosophical understanding of ontology contrasts with that in artificial intelligence (AI), knowledge engineering (KE) and computer science research where ontologies are understood in a subjective or constructivist nature (Uschold & Gruninger, 1996; Noy & Hafner, 1997). Ontologies are constructed as needed (Gruninger & Lee, 2002; Holsaple & Joshi, 2002). They are not universal, but can be changed, adapted and customized to fit a specific purpose or domain (Gruninger & Lee, 2002). Specifically, the relation to what might be called real world has been severed: Most of AI chose not to consider the work of the much older overlapping field of philosophical ontology, preferring instead to use the term ontology as an exotic name for what theyd been doing all along in knowledge engineering ... It became correspondingly more remote from anything which might stand in a direct relation to existence or reality. (Smith & Welty, 2001, p. 5) A return to philosophical ontology has been argued for, for example in Guarino and Welty, (2002, p. 61): The computer science use of the term ontology ... is taken as nearly synonymous with knowledge engineering in AI, conceptual

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

87

modelling in databases, and domain modelling in OO design. We believe it is important ... to maintain that ontology is not simply a new word for something computer scientists have been doing for 20 to 30 years; ontology is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old, and there are many lessons learned in those centuries that we may borrow from philosophy along with the terms. Conceptual modelling research (Wand, 1989; Wand & Weber, 1993) has taken up this call and focussed on the use of a particular ontology by Bunge (1977, 1979) and introduced to IS research by Wand and Weber (1990) (called the BWW ontology). This ontology is in line with an old and noble if maligned tradition: that of pre-Socratic philosophers, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, ... Pierce, Russell, and Whitehead and based on the ontological presuppositions of contemporary scientific research, topped with new hypotheses compatible with the science of the day (Bunge, 1977, p. 13). For lack of possible a-priori justification, we advance pragmatic reasons for the adoption of this ontology for the modelling of business and organizational domains. The BWW ontology has been applied in a number of studies related to modelling in IS (Evermann & Wand, 2001a; , 2001b; Opdahl & HendersonSellers, 1999; Opdahl et al., 1999; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2001, 2002; Parsons & Wand, 1991, 1997; Wand & Weber, 1989, 1990, 1993; Wand, Storey, & Weber, 1999). These studies have successfully examined and evaluated modeling languages and the object-oriented modeling approach. More importantly, empirical studies conducted by Bodart and Weber (1996), Bodart, Sim, Patel, and Weber (2001), Cockroft and Rowles (2003), Evermann (2003), Gemino (1999), Gemino and Wand (2001), and Weber and Zhang (1996) have led to useful, sensible, and relevant outcomes. They have validated this ontology in a variety of business domains. The concepts of the BWW ontology are discussed in the introductory chapter to this book and are therefore not repeated here.

Mapping
Assigning ontological or real-world meaning to a language amounts to answering two questions (Wand & Weber, 1993): 1. How can an element of the real-world domain (ontological concept) be represented in the chosen language?

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

88 Evermann

To answer this question we propose a representation mapping from the set of ontological concepts into the set of language constructs, which assigns each ontological concept a language construct with which to represent it. 2. How can a construct of the language be interpreted in terms of a realworld domain (ontologically)?

To answer this question we propose an interpretation mapping from the set of language constructs into the set of ontological concepts, which assigns each language construct an ontological interpretation. Together, these mappings assign real world, ontological semantics to a modelling language. Constructing a model, they inform us how the domain should be represented. Reading a model, they tell us how the model should be interpreted. Mappings of the BWW ontology to UML can be found in Dussart et al. (2002), Evermann and Wand (2001b, 2001a), and Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2002). Generally, these works agree on a common mapping of the basic concepts. For example, BWW things are mapped to BWW objects, BWW properties to UML attributes, and BWW states to UML states. This research shows that overall, UML is a very expressive language that is capable of expressing any type of realworld domain.

Transfer of Assumptions
Once the ontological semantics are assigned that is, language constructs are mapped to ontological concepts, the mappings can be used to transfer ontological assumptions to the language. An ontology may suggest that certain situations are possible in the real world while others are not. By virtue of the mappings, some combinations of language elements may therefore describe possible real world situations while others may describe impossible ones. Thus, if there are rules or constraints that relate ontological concepts, then, in order for the model to describe only possible real worlds, these same rules or constraints must also hold between the mapped language constructs. Hence, the ontological mapping can lead to modelling rules on how to use the language for conceptual modelling. An analysis of UML in this way has begun (Evermann & Wand, 2001b, 2001a) and is being extended to cover all of UML. A number of proposed rules are shown in the appendix to this chapter. For the sake of brevity, the technical intricacies of the analysis are omitted, here we discuss briefly two example rules.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

89

The application of this method has led to two types of rules. Rule 1 is an example of mapping rules, formalizing the mapping of ontological concepts to UML constructs. These rules relate ontological concepts and language constructs. Corollary 2 is an example of language rules. These rules relate two or more language constructs. They are the result of transferring ontological assumptions. For example, an association class is interpreted as a bundle of ontological mutual properties (mapping). Ontological mutual properties cannot effect change, only the things that they are properties of can effect change (ontological assumption). Ontological change is represented by UML methods or operations (mapping). Hence, association classes must not possess methods or operations (transfer of assumption). The remainder of the rules and corollaries in the appendix are derived in a similar fashion. As UML is a multi-perspectival language, each complete UML model consists of a number of diagrams, for example a class diagram and a number of state charts. UML constructs of various diagrams might map into related ontological constructs. Hence, language rules may be intra- as well as inter-diagram rules; the latter ensure the integrity of the different modelling perspectives. The derivation of the rules depends critically on the mapping. This research is based on the mappings proposed in (Dussart et al., 2002; Evermann, 2003; Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2002) which agree for most important concepts. However, once a mapping is assumed as correct, the rules follow directly from it. The mapping itself may be tested by applying the rules and determining their benefits empirically. Hence, this chapter can serve to support the assumed mapping. There are two important things to note. First, the suggested rules and guidelines can serve to reduce semantic ambiguity in conceptual modelling (Wand et al., 1999), but might not be obvious or applicable when the language is used for IS or software design purposes only. They are intended for the business modeller, the software modeller is not constrained by them. Second, it is important to note that such rules do not necessarily guide us how to perceive the world. They will not tell us how to go about identifying entities and features of the business or the organization. However, once they are identified, the rules can tell us how to properly model them.

Scope of Mappings
The mapping of a language to an ontology is arbitrary to a certain degree. Think of natural languages: the French word chien represents the same ontological concept as the English word dog, yet both mappings must be considered

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

90 Evermann

equally correct. One pragmatic criterion that may be applied is the commonly accepted use of the language or language construct. If the word dog were assigned a different meaning, the use of that word would no longer follow generally accepted principles. Similarly, mapping UML states to BWW things is a possible mapping, but not a good one, according to this criterion. When analysts talk about states, they have different concepts in mind than when they talk about things. Hence, any assignment of semantics to language constructs should not be done individually for each construct. Instead, it should be done for the whole language as an interconnected set of constructs, not as a loose set of symbols. Moreover, the interpretation and representation mappings should attempt to preserve the relationships among language constructs, whether they are formal syntactic constraints or exhibited in common usage. For example, consider the UML construct object. UML suggests that each object may have a UML construct state associated with it. Any mapping of object and state should attempt to preserve this relationship between the concepts to which object and state are mapped in the ontology. If necessary, different mapping must be suggested for objects and states in different contexts. The alternative, individual mapping of constructs, disregarding any relationships between them, may lead to simpler representation and interpretation mappings. However, the relationships between the language constructs may not match the relationships between the ontological concepts they are mapped to. Hence, the language must be modified by dropping or altering the relationships between the language constructs. However, a different mapping may exist which preserves the relationships within the language and also matches them with relationships in the ontology. Hence, care must be taken to examine all implications of the mapping, to ensure that the language is not altered more than necessary. It must still retain the original characteristics that IS designers require for software modelling and with which they are familiar with. In summary, ontological semantics may modify the language slightly, not change it beyond recognition. Figures 1 through 4 show a summary of the process of ontological analysis and derivation of rules. First, the relevant ontological concepts and language constructs are identified (Figure 1). As a second step, both representation and interpretation mappings are proposed (Figure 2). Third, relationships between ontological concepts are identified (Figure 3). Fourth and last, these are then transferred to those language constructs that are mapped to the ontological concepts for which these relationships hold (Figure 4), thereby generating modelling rules. These rules constrain the use of the language in such a way as to allow only the modelling of possible real-world situations.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

91

Figure 1. Step 1: Identify ontological concepts and language constructs

Ontology

UML

Figure 2. Step 2: Map ontological concepts to language constructs

Ontology

UML

Figure 3. Step 3: Identify ontological assumptions, relationships, and constraints between concepts

Ontology

UML

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

92 Evermann

Figure 4. Step 4: Transfer ontological relationships by virtue of mappings, thereby deriving modelling rules

Ontology

UML

Example
This section demonstrates the proposed ontological semantics of UML using an example taken from a popular systems analysis textbook. The next paragraph provides the description given in Hoffer, George, and Valacich (2002), followed by an analysis of the given model with respect to the proposed rules. The case is then re-analyzed to derive a conceptual model conforming to the proposed rules and thus possessing ontological semantics and real world meaning.

Description
The following is the description of the case given in Hoffer et al. (2002), leaving room for interpretation: An auto rental company wants to develop an automated system that would handle car reservations, customer billing, and car auctions. Usually a customer reserves a car, picks it up, and then returns it after a certain period of time. At the time of pick up, the customer has the option to buy or waive collision insurance on the car. When the car is returned, the customer receives a bill and pays the specified amount. In addition to renting out cars, every six months or so, the auto rental company auctions the cars that have accumulated over 20,000 miles. (p. 702f)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

93

Figure 5. Car rental example class diagram (Miller, 2002)


Car Customer name address vin make mode l typ e miles Auction Sale 1 0 ..1 sellingPrice

1..*

Reservation pickupDate returnDate locatio n insurance milesTraveled corpCustomer? createBill() Invoice invoiceNumber invoiceDate 0..1 invoiceAmount

The suggested class diagram for this case, taken from Miller (2002) is shown in Figure 5.

Analysis of Rule Conformance


Since invoice and auction sale do not represent substantial things, they violate rule 1. While an actual invoice on paper may be a substantial thing in the sense that it can be physically handled and manipulated, invoices are conveyed by electronic mail, as records in EDI communications, or are conveyed by telephone or fax. In all of these cases, invoicing is an interaction as the result of which money is owed to one party by another. Invoicing and auction sales are therefore events or interactions, not objects, even though there may exist documentation about invoices or auction sales. While the reservation class is a bundle of mutual properties between two things and thus correctly modelled according to rule 3, it violates corollaries 2 and 4 and the method createBill() should be modelled with the class representing the thing that actually does the invoicing, probably an employee or, more general, the rental company (rule 4). From the fact that the attribute corpCustomer? is modelled, it may be assumed that reservations for corporate customers are different from reservations for other that is, non-corporate, customers. Hence, according to rule 6, the corporate customers should be modelled explicitly. The associations between auction sale and car and between invoice and reservation violate rule 13 because they are not association classes.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

94 Evermann

Ontological Analysis
The original case description in Hoffer et al. (2002) does not provide much information about the real world situation. We make reasonable and plausible assumptions as we proceed. The analysis of this example will be driven by examining the interactions. Rules 2, 3, and 5 define the nature of mutual properties as arising out of interaction. Rule 1 defines the possible interacting things. In the real world, a customer interacts, by phone, fax or computer, with some sales employee or sales clerk of the car rental company. While the media for these interactions are things in the ontological sense with properties and so forth, they are not relevant to the business and are therefore abstracted from. In other analysis contexts, they may indeed be relevant, so the analyst is well advised to explicate this abstraction. The customer reserves not a specific car, but a type of car for a certain period. Thus, the event of reservation gives rise to some mutual properties between the customer and the car rental company, or more specifically, the sales employee of the car rental company. This is shown in the class diagram in Figure 6. By rules 9 and 11 there must exist uniquely identifying attributes of the employee and the customer, modelled as name and address or name and employee number. As all action and interaction that is externally induced must be modelled as an operation (rule 14), the actions that the customer and employee carry out are identified as reserving a car and taking a reservation. The customer and the employee share a number of mutual properties that is, the pickup date requested, the return date requested and the pick up location. Specifically, they are not properties of a specific car yet, as it has not been specified. These properties are modelled as attributes of an association class. As part of the activities of taking a reservation, it is now the sales employees responsibility to schedule a specific car and the customers responsibility to pick up the scheduled car. Assume that the employee of the rental company now makes arrangements to schedule a specific car of the proper type to be at the proper pickup location at the requested pickup time. An instance of class car that is scheduled acquires additional properties compared to other cars, mutual properties with the employee that scheduled the car. By rules 6 and 12 scheduled cars must be modelled as instances of a subclass of cars and model an operation to change the class of instances. In most cases the pickup date and location of the schedule match the requested reservation dates and locations by the customer. UML constraints may be used to model this. The customer next interacts with a sales employee for the car pick up. This event gives again rise to mutual properties, between the customer, the car that is picked up and an employee of the company. The car has been picked up on a certain date
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

95

Figure 6. Car rental example: Class diagram, reserving a car


Employee Name Number Take Reservatio n Custome r Name Address ReserveCar

* Reservatio n pickupDate returnDate pickupLocatio n returnLocation

Figure 7. Car rental example: Class diagram, scheduling, and pick-up


Schedule PickupDate ReturnDate PickupLocatio n ReturnLocatio n Employee Name Number TakeReservatio n ScheduledCar 1..n 1 VIN Make Model Type Miles BeScheduled Customer Name Address ReserveCar CarPickUp Date Locatio n Insurance

Car

BePickedUp

RentedCa r MilesOut 1..n 1 BeReturned

and the customer has requested of the sales employee certain insurance coverage for the car (Figure 7). Cars that are picked up form a sub-class of the scheduled cars which can be returned and for which a mileage count is important. The next interaction occurs when the customer returns the car to the rental company. It again gives rise to a number of mutual properties between the customer, the car and the employee, such as the date the car was returned, the number of miles travelled and so forth. This is shown in Figure 8. Note that a returned car is a special instance of cars and not of rented cars. This is because
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

96 Evermann

that car cannot be returned again, therefore it must not inherit that operation from the rented car. We have also renamed the renting customer to RentalCustomer in anticipation of a purchasing customer later in the analysis. The next interaction occurs when an employee provides an invoice to the customer, giving rise to mutual properties such as amount due and so forth. These are captured by the association class invoice as shown in Figure 9. Cars are also sold at auction to customers. Every such sale gives rise to mutual properties between the car rental company (or an employee thereof), the car and the purchasing customer. We model purchasing customers as a different subclass of customers as they have different (mutual) properties. We also include an operation with all customers by which change of classification (qualitative change) can occur. Similarly, an operation is included with all returned cars that expresses the qualitative change of a car when it is sold. Figure 8. Car rental example: Class diagram, returning a car
Car Custome r Name Addres s ReserveCar PickUpCar RentalCustome r Name Address ReturnCar CarReturn Date Locatio n MilesTravelled ReturnedCar 1..n 1 MilesIn VIN Make Mode l Typ e Miles BeScheduled

Figure 9. Car rental example: Class diagram, billing the customer


Reservatio n P\ickupDate ReturnDate PickupLocatio n ReturnLocatio n Invoice InvoiceNumber InvoiceDate InvoiceAmount

Employee Name Numbe r TakeReservatio n 1..n 1..n

RentalCustomer Name Address ReturnCar

Custome r Name Address ReserveCar PickUpCar

1..n

1..n

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

AuctionSale SellingPrice

P:urchasingCustomer 1..n Schedule 0..1

SoldCar

1..n Car ScheduledCar 1..n BePickedUp CarPickUp Date Locatio n Insurance 1 Employee Name Number Reservation TakeReservation VIN Make Model Type Miles BeScheduled

PickupDate ReturnDate PickupLocation ReturnLocation

P\ickupDate ReturnDate PickupLocation ReturnLocation 1..n 1..n

Invoice RentedCar MilesOut 1 BeReturned 1..n 1..n Date Locatio n MilesTravelled CarReturn

Figure 10. Car rental example: Ontological class diagram

InvoiceNumber InvoiceDate InvoiceAmount

Customer RentalCustomer Name Address 1..n ReturnCar 1..n ReturnedCar MilesIn 1 BeSold

Thinking Ontologically

Name Address

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

ReserveCar PickUpCar PurchaseCar

97

98 Evermann

Discussion
The final class diagram in Figure 10 reflects the focus on the real world that was the basis of our analysis. Instead of being guided or influenced by IS requirements, we have examined real world things and real world interactions. The resultant model shows more detail than the initial one in Figure 5. This may be due to the fact that IS models generally abstract away aspects that are not relevant to the purpose of the IS. However, often these abstractions are made implicitly. For example, in our model it is possible to identify the status of a car or the employees responsible for certain actions. The modeller of the original model may or may not have intended to abstract away this information. If intended, such an abstraction should be made explicit. Our analysis of the case also shows that the proposed rules can serve as a rough guide to the analysis of the business or organization, but they do not constitute a process. They constrain, but do not determine, the ontologically valid models for a particular real-world domain. By following these guidelines, the modeller or analyst is forced to discover and explicate certain aspects of the real world and to question his or her understanding of the business or organization: Are certain entities really objects (e.g., is rental really an object? ) or are they interactions? Are certain entities really attributes (is the employee handing over the car really an attribute of rental contract? ), and so forth.

General Discussion
This chapter has shown how languages originally developed for IS design can be applied to the modelling of business and organizational domains. By providing real-world semantics to constructs of such languages, a number of relationships and constraints can be transferred from an ontology to the language, leading to usage rules specific to modelling real-world domains. These rules force the modeller to think ontologically that is, focus on the business and specifically exclude any IS considerations. The rules presented in this chapter only constrain the modelling language, they do not extend it. Consequently, the modelling language, together with the modelling rules, is still fundamentally the familiar UML and retains all objectoriented characteristics. Hence, any model that conforms to the proposed rules remains a valid UML model. This is an important property as it enables assignment of software as well as real-world semantics.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically

99

While the language constructs retain their usual implementation related meaning, they acquire additional real-world semantics. Thus, the same model becomes interpretable by two different audiences: business analysts and management can interpret the model ontologically, while programming staff can interpret the model to derive a suitable software system representing the described business. Improved communication between business and technical staff was one of the main motivations for this research. A conceptual model conforming to ontological rules can further this by being the means for this communication. Business staff and technical analysts can both talk about objects and attributes and associations but with different meaning associated with these terms. To the business person, these mean physical things and their properties, while to the technical analyst they mean certain software or database structures. The example in this chapter shows that different questions need to be asked by the modeller (and answers found) when modelling business domains. The proposed guidelines can encourage this critical examination of the domain and the model. The example in this chapter shows that modelling according to the proposed rules leads to a substantially different model which explicates the often implicit assumptions made by IS development staff. A number of extensions to this research are possible. The proposed rules may be formalized to make them suitable for formal support in CASE (computer aided software engineering) tools. Most modern CASE tools are built on a model repository, which can be thought of as a formal meta-model of the language in question. Rules can be built into such a repository to ensure conformance during the analysis process. Moreover, if it was possible to describe the ontology in the same meta-modelling language used for the formal language meta-model, formal techniques from schema-matching research (Batini, Lenzerini, & Navathe, 1986; Rahm & Bernstein, 2001) could then be applied to identify commonalities and differences and provide a more formal underpinning of the mapping and rule derivation. Finally, the rules proposed here have proven useful for the limited example presented in this chapter. Future research must examine the following two issues: first, it must be ensured that rules are applicable in realistic settings. To this effect, case study research in organizations and system development projects can help to further our understanding about real-world conceptual modelling. Second, the benefit of such modelling rules in terms of the specific advantages of the models must be determined. In the introduction we suggested that one of the purposes of conceptual models is to further domain understanding. This may be examined by controlled experimental studies measuring this specific effect. The ultimate benefit will be the construction of better information systems

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

100 Evermann

systems that reflect the organization and integrate well with their organizational environment.

References
Angeles, P. (1981). Dictionary of philosophy. New York: Harper Perennial. Batini, C., Lenzerini, M., & Navathe, S. (1986). A comparative analysis of methodologies for database schema integration. ACM Computer Surveys, 18(4). Bodart, F., Sim, M., Patel, A., & Weber, R. (2001). Should optional properties be used in conceptual modelling? A theory and three empirical tests. Information Systems Research, 12(4), 384-405. Bodart, F. & Weber, R. (1996). Optional properties versus subtyping in conceptual modeling: A theory and empirical test. Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems, 16-18 December 1996, (p. 450). Bunge, M. A. (1977). Ontology I: The furniture of the world: Volume 3: Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel. Bunge, M. A. (1979). Ontology II: A world of systems: Volume 4: Treatise on basic philosophy. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel. Cockroft, S. & Rowles, S. (2003). Ontological evaluation of health models: Some early findings. Proceedings of the 7th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems, Adelaide, Australia, 10-13 July, (pp. 611-625). Dussart, A., Aubert, B. A., & Patry, M. (2002). An evaluation of interorganizational workflow modeling formalisms. Working paper, Ecole des Haute Etudes Commercials, Montreal. Evermann, J. (2003). Using design languages for conceptual modelling: The UML case. PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, Canada. Evermann, J. & Wand, Y. (2001a). An ontological examination of object interaction in conceptual modeling. Proceedings of the Workshop on Information Technologies and Systems WITS01, New Orleans, December 15-16, 2001, (pp. 91-96). Evermann, J. & Wand, Y. (2001b). Towards ontologically based semantics for UML constructs. In H. Kunii, S. Jajodia, & A. Solvberg (Eds.), Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling ER2001, Yokohama, Japan, 27-30 November 2001, (pp. 354-367).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically 101

Gemino, A. (1999). Empirical comparisons of systems analysis modeling techniques. PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, Canada. Gemino, A. & Wand, Y. (2001). Comparing object-oriented with structured analysis techniques in conceptual modeling. Draft manuscript. Green, P. & Rosemann, M. (2000). Ontological analysis of integrated process modelling. Information Systems, 25(2), 73-87. Gruninger, M. & Lee, J. (2002). Ontology applications and design. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 39-41. Guarino, N. & Welty, C. (2002). Evaluating ontological decisions with ontoclean. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 61-65. Hoffer, J. A., George, J. F., & Valacich, J. S. (2002). Modern systems analysis and design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Holsaple, C. W. & Joshi, K. (2002). A collaborative approach to ontology design. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 42-47. Kuhn, T. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions (3 rd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Kung, C. & Solvberg, A. (1986). Activity modeling and behavior modeling. In T. Olle, H. Sol, & A. Verrijn-Stuart (Eds.), Information system design methodologies: Improving the practice. Amsterdam: Addison-Wesley. Miller, L. (2002). Instructors resource manual for modern systems analysis and design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Noy, N. F. & Hafner, C. D. (1997). The state of the art in ontology design: A survey and comparative review. AI Magazine, 18(3), 53-74. Opdahl, A. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (1999). Evaluating and improving OO modelling languages using the BWW-model. Proceedings of the Information Systems Foundation Workshop 1999, (pp. 217-232). Retrieved from http://www.comp.mq.edu.au/isf99/Opdahl.htm. Opdahl, A. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2002). Ontological evaluation of the UML using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. Software and Systems Modeling, 1(1), 43-67. Opdahl, A., Henderson-Sellers, B., & Barbier, F. (1999). An ontological evaluation of the OML metamodel. In E. Falkenberg & K. Lyytinen (Eds.), Information system concepts: An integrated discipline emerging. Netherlands: IFIP/Kluwer. Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2001). Grounding the OML metamodel in ontology. The Journal of Systems and Software, 57(2), 119-143. Parsons, J. & Wand, Y. (1991). The object paradigm Two for the price of one? Proceedings of the Workshop on Information Technology and Systems WITS 1991, (pp. 308-319).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

102 Evermann

Parsons, J. & Wand, Y. (1997). Using objects for systems analysis. Communications of the ACM, 40(12), 104-110. Rahm, E. & Bernstein, P. A. (2001). A survey of approaches to automatic schema matching. The VLDB Journal The International Journal on Very Large Databases, 10(4), 334-350. Smith, B. & Welty, C. (2001). Ontology: Towards a new synthesis. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Formal Ontology and Information Systems, FOIS01, Qgunquit, Maine, 17-19 October (pp. 34). Sowa, J. F. (2000). Knowledge representation: Logical, philosophical, and computational foundations. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole. Uschold, M. & Gruninger, M. (1996). Ontologies: Principles, methods and applications. Knowledge Engineering Review, 11(2), 93-155. Wand, Y. (1989). A proposal for a formal model of objects. In W. Kim & F. Lchovsky (Eds.), Object-oriented concepts, languages, applications and databases (pp. 537-559). Boston, MA: ACM Press/AddisonWesley. Wand, Y., Storey, V. C., & Weber, R. (1999). An ontological analysis of the relationship construct in conceptual modeling. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 24(4), 494-528. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. Falkenberg & P. Lingreen (Eds.), Information system concepts: An in-depth analysis. North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990). Mario Bunges ontology as a formal foundation for information systems concepts. In P. Weingartner & G. Dorn (Eds.), Studies on Mario Bunges Treatise. Atlanta: Rodopi. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3, 217-237. Wand, Y. & Woo, C. (1999). Ontology-based rules for object-oriented enterprise modelling. Working paper No. 99-MIS-001, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, University of British Columbia, Canada. Weber, R. & Zhang, Y. (1996). An analytical evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Information Systems Journal, 6(2), 147-170.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Thinking Ontologically 103

Appendix
Proposed Modelling Rules
This appendix proposes modelling rules for the use of UML for conceptual modelling of real world domains. The work described here is based on Evermann and Wand, 2001b, 2001a) and Evermann (2003). We cannot provide a complete analysis of UML in this chapter, but instead list the fundamental rules relevant to the example: Rule 1: Only substantial entities in the world are modelled as objects. Rule 2: Ontological properties of things must be modelled as UML attributes. Corollary 1: Attributes in a UML description of the real world cannot refer to substantial things. Rule 3: Sets of mutual properties must be represented as attributes of association classes. Corollary 2: An association class must not possess methods or operations. Rule 4: If mutual properties can change quantitatively, methods and operations that change the values of attributes of the association class must be modelled for one or more of the classes participating in the association, objects of which can effect the change, not for the associations class. Corollary 3: An association class must possess at least one attribute. Corollary 4: An association class must not be associated with another class. Corollary 5: An association class must not participate in generalization relationships. Rule 5: An association class represents a set of mutual properties arising out of the same interaction. Rule 6: Classes of objects that exhibit additional behavior, additional attributes, or additional association classes with respect to other objects of the same class, must be modelled as specialized sub-classes. Rule 7: Every UML aggregate object must consist of at least two parts. Rule 8: Every UML aggregate must possess at least one attribute or participate in an association. Rule 9: All UML classes must possess at least one attribute or participate in an association.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

104 Evermann

Rule 10: Object IDs must not be modelled as attributes. Rule 11: The set of attribute values (representing mutual and intrinsic properties) must uniquely identify an object. Rule 12: A specialized class must define more attributes, more operations, or participate in more associations than the general class. Rule 13: Every ordinary association must be an association class. Corollary 6: Every object must have at least one operation. Rule 14: An object must exhibit additional operations expressing qualitative changes, if a super- or sub-class is defined and instances can undergo changes of class to the super- or sub-class.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

105

Chapter V

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems and Enterprise Modelling Constructs


Andreas Opdahl, University of Bergen, Norway Brian Henderson-Sellers, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Abstract
The chapter reviews and augments a previously proposed template for defining enterprise and information systems (IS) modelling constructs. The purpose of the template is to provide clear and precise definitions of modelling constructs in a common format and, thereby, to facilitate intraand inter-language integration. The template is based on the Bunge-WandWeber (BWW) model of information systems and has been used on several existing modelling languages and frameworks. It is defined by a metamodel expressed as a UML class diagram. The purpose of this chapter is to clarify the template further by formalising the meta-model through semiCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

106

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

formal constraints expressed in the object constraint language (OCL) and by populating the meta-model with definitions of example constructs from the UML version 1.4. The purpose is to make the template easier to understand, to validate it, to pave the way for stronger tool support for the template and to further our work on providing a complete template-based definition of the UML.

Introduction
As pointed out in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004), modelling languages and ontologies for enterprises and their information systems (IS) are becoming increasingly important. New and emerging technologies, such as enterprise application integration, enterprise content management, domain-specific languages, intelligent agents and the semantic web, all rely on models of or ontologies for enterprises. The OMGs model-driven architecture (OMG, 2002) initiative introduces enterprise and IS modelling techniques into the software development field. As more and more enterprise knowledge is captured in models, there is a danger that the knowledge is dispersed into many small isolated islands because it is represented in a variety of different modelling languages. Language standardisation alone is not sufficient to solve this problem, because different modelling domains, modelling problems, user communities, business partners and model-based tools will require their own dedicated modelling languages in the future as they do today. To ensure that knowledge captured in enterprise models can be integrated and made available throughout the organisation, it is therefore necessary to enable organisations to integrate more closely the different modelling languages they use. Philosophical ontology offers a common ground for integrating enterprise and IS modelling languages. According to Weber (1997), philosophical ontology is the branch of philosophy that deals with theories about the nature of things in general, as opposed to theories about particular things. In the IS field, one much used ontological model is the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) model of information systems (e.g., Wand & Weber, 1988, 1993, 1995), which adapts Mario Bunges (1977, 1979) comprehensive philosophical ontology to the IS field. Bunges ontological model is an example of scientific realism, meaning that it identifies reality with the collection of all concrete things ... postulates the autonomous existence of the external world, admits that we are largely ignorant of it, and encourages us to explore it (Bunge, 1999, pp. 240-241). It is therefore well suited for defining and integrating modelling constructs that represent concrete problem domains, constructs that represent physical materials rather than abstract concepts.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

107

This chapter companions an earlier paper (Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers, 2004), which has used the BWW model as a common ground for defining enterprise and IS modelling constructs in a way that facilitates language integration. The earlier paper proposes a standardised template for defining enterprise and IS modelling constructs. Specifically, each modelling construct is defined by the filling in of a fixed set of entries, of which some are complex, some are interrelated and some can be repeated. The template offers several advantages. The standardised definitions become more cohesive and, thus, more learnable, more understandable and more directly comparable to one another. In consequence, they also potentially facilitate language integration. The template is also a contribution to making the BWW model more easy to use for comparing, defining and integrating modelling languages. The standardised definitions become grounded in the BWW model and Bunges ontological model not only generally in terms of whether they represent classes, properties, or other ontological categories but also specifically in terms of which classes and/or properties they represent. The clarity and precision of the definitions is thereby enhanced. By taking constructs from the unified modeling language (UML) as examples, Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004) also contributes to making the UML more clearly and precisely defined. The template has been developed based on practical experience from analysing, suggesting improvements to and providing precise definitions of several fullscale integrated modelling languages and frameworks, as reviewed in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004). Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers also illustrate the template with a meta-model expressed as a UML class diagram. The objective of this chapter is to clarify the template further by:

Formalizing the meta-model through constraints expressed in the object constraint language (OCL) (OMG, 2001). Populating the meta-model with definitions of example constructs from the UML version 1.4.

The next section will introduce the template along with the most relevant concepts from the BWW model. We will then present results of formalising the template and of populating it. Finally, we will point to some future trends and conclude the chapter.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

108

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

Background
This section will review the template presented in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004). Along the way, we will also introduce the most relevant concepts from the BWW model. Table 1 defines all the BWW concepts used. Figure 1 shows the meta-model of the template (slightly revised from Opdahl & HendersonSellers, 2004). The template has four top-level entries, some of them have sub-entries and some of them can be repeated. Together, the top-level entries make up a construct definition.

The Instantiation Level Entry


The instantiation level top-level entry type is used to define whether the modelling construct represents the enterprise at the type level, at the instance level or at either level. This is the simplest type of top-level entry. In relation to the BWW model, the instantiation level defines whether a modelling construct represents BWW things and their particular properties, laws, states, events, processes and histories at the instance level and/or BWW classes and their general properties and laws at the type level. For example, UML objects belong to the instance level and UML types to the type level. In some dialects of traditional dataflow diagrams (DFDs), processes can represent either logical processes at the type level or physical processes at the instance level. Figure 1 shows that a ConstructDefinition has an instLevel as an attribute.

The Class Entry


The class top-level entry type is used to define which class of things (or classes of things) in the enterprise that the modelling construct may represent. Although not all modeling constructs are primarily intended for representing classes, this entry is important because, even when a modeling construct is primarily intended to represent a property, state, event, process or other ontological construct, it may only be intended to represent that property, state, event, process or similar for specific classes. In relation to the BWW model, for a modelling construct at the type level, this entry indicates that the construct may only represent (possibly improper)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

109

Table 1. Basic concepts in the BWW model that are used in this chapter
BWW concept BWW thing BWW property of a thing Concept definition The elementary unit in our ontological model. The real world is made up of things. (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210) Things possess properties (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). We know about things in the world via their properties (Weber, 1997, p.34). One property precedes another if all the things that possess the latter property also possess the former. (Bunge, 1977, p.80). A complex BWW property consists of other properties, which may themselves be complex (Bunge, 1977, pp.82-83). The set of values into which the function that stands for the property of a thing maps the thing (Weber & Zhang, 1996, p.150). A set of things that can be defined by their possessing a particular set of properties (Weber & Zhang, 1996, p.151). 1) A BWW class is defined by a characteristic set of properties. 2) All groups of BWW properties that are possessed by at least one BWW thing define a BWW class. A set of things that can be defined via their possessing the set of properties in a class plus an additional set of properties (Weber & Zhang, 1996, p.151). (Hence, a BWW subclass is itself a BWW class.) A property that is inherently a property of an individual thing (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). A property that is meaningful only in the context of two or more things (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210).

Property precedence

BWW complex property BWW property co-domain

BWW class of things

BWW subclass of things

BWW intrinsic property of a thing BWW mutual property of two or more things BWW state of a thing BWW state law of a thing

The vector of values for all property functions of a thing (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). A property that [r]estricts the values of the property functions of a thing to a subset that is deemed lawful because of natural laws or human laws (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). A change of state of a thing. It is effected via a transformation (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). An intrinsically-ordered sequence of events on, or states of, a thing (Green, 1996). Processes may be either chains or trees of events (Bunge, 1977, p.243). A mapping from a domain comprising states to a co-domain comprising states (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). Events are governed by transformation laws that define the allowed changes of state (Parsons & Wand, 1997, p.105). Wand and Weber (1995, p.210) and other papers on the BWW model instead introduce BWW lawful transformations, which define which events in a thing that are lawful. The term transformation law instead of lawful transformation is chosen here to emphasise that a transformation law like a state law is a property of a particular thing. Properties can be restricted by laws relating to one or several properties (Parsons & Wand, 1997, p.105). A law is either a state law or a transformation law of a particular thing. A composite thing may be made up of other things (composite or primitive) (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). Things can be combined to form a composite thing (Parsons & Wand, 1997, p.105). Any BWW thing that is in the composition of a composite thing. The property of being in the composition of another thing or, complementary, of having another thing as a component (according to Bunge, 1977, p.43). A property of a composite thing that belongs to a component thing (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210).

BWW event in a thing BWW process in a thing

BWW transformation of a thing BWW transformation law of a thing

BWW law property of a thing

BWW composite thing

BWW component thing BWW part-whole relation

BWW resultant property of a composite thing BWW emergent property of a composite thing BWW history of a thing BWW acting on another thing, BWW coupling of things BWW direct acting on, BWW binding mutual property

A property of a composite thing that does not belong to a component thing (adapted from Wand & Weber, 1995, p.26).

The chronologically ordered states that a thing traverses in time (Weber & Zhang, 1996, p.150). A thing acts on another thing if its existence affects the history of the other thing. The two things are said to be coupled (Wand & Weber, 1995, p.210). A thing acts directly on one or more other things when the former thing changes a BWW binding mutual property they all possess. Changing the binding mutual property is an internal event in the former thing and an external event in each of the latter things.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

110

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

Figure 1. A UML class diagram of the template (the top of the diagram represents individual ConstructDefinitions and their entries and subentries, whereas the bottom part represents a common taxonomy of Classes, Properties, States and Events that can be used and reused in the ConstructDefinitions)

subclasses of the specified BWW class. For a modelling construct at the instance level, this entry indicates that the construct may only represent BWW things that belong to the specified class. For example, from the BWW model we can deduce the existence of a BWW class of ActiveThings, defined by the characteristic property of acting on other things. In the UML, the active object and active class constructs are both intended to represent this BWW class. At the instance level, a UML active object can represent only BWW things in the class of ActiveThings, whereas at the type level, a UML active class can represent only BWW subclasses of ActiveThings. Figure 1 shows that a ConstructDefinition contains a RepresentedClass. Because several modelling constructs can be defined in terms of the same BWW class, RepresentedClass is associated with a Class. The idea is that, in a software tool for template-based construct definition, every Class used to

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

111

define a construct is stored in a common taxonomy so that it can be reused to define other constructs later. When a new modelling construct is defined using the template, the tool should let the user browse the already defined Classes in the taxonomy. When reuse is impossible and defining a new modelling constructs necessitates defining a new Class, that Class should be added to the taxonomy. The class entry type can be repeated for modelling constructs that may represent BWW things of several different classes (at the instance level) or subclasses of several different BWW classes (at the type level). For example, although we usually think of a UML aggregation relationship (at the type level) as representing a BWW property (specifically a BWW whole-part relation), the relationship also presupposes the existence of two BWW classes, a composite (or whole) class and a component (or part) class. Whenever a construct definition has more than one class entry, they must have distinct roleNames. Even when the class entry is not repeated, a modelling construct may represent several things (at the instance level) or several subclasses (at the type level) of the same class in the same role. RepresentedClass therefore has minimum and maximum cardinalities, minCard and maxCard, which default to 1. For example, from the BWW model we can deduce the existence of a BWW class of AssociativeThings, defined by the characteristic property of being able to associate.1 In the UML, the link construct is intended to represent two or more things (at the instance level) in this class.2 A UML link is therefore defined by a single RepresentedClass with minCard=2 (because the link connects at least two things) and maxCard= (indicating no upper limit on the number of things).

The Property Entry


The property top-level entry type is used to define which property (or properties) in the enterprise that the construct may represent. Again, although not all modelling constructs are primarily intended for representing properties, this entry is important because, even when a modelling construct is primarily intended to represent a state, event, process or other ontological construct, it may only be intended to represent states, events, processes or similar that involve specific properties. The property entry is also important because, sometimes, different modelling constructs may represent the same class of things but not the same properties of those things. For example, the BWW class of ActiveThings can be represented by UML operations, UML preconditions and UML postconditions, but with each construct representing different (but interrelated) Properties of active BWW things.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

112

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

Figure 1 shows that a ConstructDefinition also contains zero or more RepresentedProperties. Again, RepresentedProperties are associated with the Properties that characterise Classes in the taxonomy and, like Classes, Properties are stored in a common taxonomy so they can be reused later. In the taxonomy, each Class has one or more characteristic Properties. ConstructDefinitions can have zero RepresentedProperties because there may be modelling constructs that do not represent properties at all. As for classes, the property entry type can be repeated for modelling constructs that may represent several properties of BWW things (at the instance level) or several characteristic properties of BWW classes (at the type level). Whenever a construct definition has more than one property entry, they must have distinct roleNames. Because the class entry may also be repeated, each RepresentedProperty has one or more RepresentedClasses to specify exactly to which class each property belongs. Even when the property entry is not repeated, a modelling construct may represent the same property several times in the same role. Each RepresentedProperty therefore has a minimum and maximum cardinality, minCard and maxCard, which default to 1. Together, the class and property entries constitute the core of the template. The two types of entries fit nicely with Bunges view of the world as composed fundamentally of things and properties around which the other BWW concepts are defined.

The Ontological Descriptions of Properties


The BWW model has concepts that describe properties in even greater detail and that are also used in the template. Some of these describe the details of RepresentedProperties in a particular ConstructDefinition. Others describe the details of Properties in the taxonomy. Others still describe the details of Properties or RepresentedProperties in relation to a particular Class or RepresentedClass, and Figure 1 introduces two association classes for such details. In Bunges ontology, one property precedes another if and only if all things that possess the latter property also possess the former. For example, the property of being a mammal precedes that of being a human. In the common taxonomy, Properties are therefore related by a preceding/precedes association. There are also associations to represent sets of and compositions of Properties. The ontological descriptions of properties are explained in more detail in Table 1 and in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

113

Lifetimes
The lifetime top-level entry type is used to define whether the modelling construct represents an event, a state, a process or the whole lifetime of things. In relation to the BWW model, this entry is important because, sometimes, different modelling constructs may represent the same BWW class of things and the same properties of those things but different segments of the lifetimes of those things. For example, one construct may represent an event, another a state, and a third a process although the event, state and process involve the same properties of the same thing. Constructs like UML state and UML event have identical instantiation level, class, and property entries. Both constructs represent the type level, may represent any subclass of the class of ChangingThings, and may represent any non-law properties of those subclasses. However, they have distinct lifetime entries. Figure 1 shows RepresentedSegments of the lifetimes of things and classes. A ConstructDefinition has exactly one RepresentedSegment, which is either the whole lifetime of the thing or class, a process, a state, or an event. RepresentedSegments that are states or events must also have a RepresentedState and/or a RepresentedEvent as parts. A RepresentedState can be expressed as an OclExpression that involve RepresentedProperties. A RepresentedEvent is defined in terms of its from and to states. A RepresentedSegment can also be a chain of alternating States or Events, and that is how to define modelling constructs that represent BWW processes. Figure 1 also shows that States and Events are also stored in a common taxonomy so that they can be reused later.

Formalising the Template


The entries and sub-entries that make up the template have been designed to be as independent of one another as possible, but they are not completely orthogonal. In this section, the meta-model from Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004) is therefore extended with constraints that show how the entries depend on one another. Each constraint is first explained in natural language and then expressed semi-formally3 using the OMGs object constraint language (OCL) (OMG, 2001). The purpose is to validate the template and to pave the way for stronger tool support for the template. The formalisation aids validation by ensuring that the meta-model is adequate for representing all the relevant constraints. It aids

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

114

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

tool development by making the meta-model clearer and providing integrity constraints for a future construct definition database.

Constraints on Names
The first group of constraints is small and simple and ensures that names are unique.

Two distinct ConstructDefinitions cannot have the same constructName.

context cd : ConstructDefinition inv: ConstructDefinition->forAll(cd2 | cd.constructName=cd2.constructName implies cd=cd2) The next two constraints are similar, and we do not write them out in OCL.

Two Classes cannot have the same className. Two Properties cannot have the same propertyName.

In the meta-model, States and Events do not have to be named because a State is fully defined by its invariant and because an Event is fully defined by its from- and toStates. When state- and eventNames are present, however, they must be unique in the same sense as class- and propertyNames.

Two States with non-empty stateNames cannot have the same stateName.

context s : State inv: State->forAll(s2 | s.stateName<> and s.stateName=s2.stateName implies s=s2) The next constraint is again similar and we do not write it out in OCL.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

115

Two Events with non-empty eventNames cannot have the same eventName.

Constraints on Classes and RepresentedClasses


The three constraints in this group deal with the uniqueness of Class roleNames within ConstructDefinitions, with the uniqueness of the set4 of characteristic Properties of a Class and with Class specialisation/generalisation.

If a ConstructDefinition contains more than one RepresentedClass, each of them must have a roleName that is unique to the ConstructDefinition .

context ConstructDefinition inv: representedClass->forAll(rc | representedClass->forAll(rc2 | rc<>rc2 implies rc.roleName<> and rc2.roleName<> and rc.roleName<>rc2.roleName))

Two different Classes cannot be associated with the same sets of characteristic Properties.

context c : Class inv: Class->forAll(c2 | c <> c2 implies c.representedProperty <> c2.representedProperty)

If the set of characteristic Properties of one Class is a subset of that of another Class, the first Class must generalise the second.

context c : Class inv: Class->forAll(c2 | c.characteristic->includesAll(c2.characteristic) implies c.generalisation->includes(c2))

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

116

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

Hence, at the conceptual level described in the meta-model, generalisations are used as an aid to validate partially the sets of characteristic Properties that are associated with each Class. At the implementation level, when managing the taxonomy of Classes, Properties, Events, and States, generalisations can instead be used to limit the number of Properties that have to be explicitly associated with each Class, that is, by not explicitly associating a characteristic Property with a Class whose generalisation already possesses that Property. Otherwise, adding new Classes to the taxonomy would quickly become cumbersome because each new Class would have to be explicitly associated with an unfeasibly large number of characteristic Properties.

Constraints on Properties and RepresentedProperties


The first four constraints in this group ensure that the RepresentedClasses and RepresentedProperties contained in a ConstructDefinition match one another, that is, that all the necessary Classes and Properties are contained in the ConstructDefinition and that the Properties belong to the Classes and vice versa.

If a ConstructDefinition contains a RepresentedClass that has a RepresentedProperty, the ConstructDefinition must also contain the RepresentedProperty.

context ConstructDefinition inv: representedClass->forAll(rc | representedProperty->includesAll(rc.representedProperty))

Conversely, if a ConstructDefinition contains a RepresentedProperty that has a RepresentedClass, the ConstructDefinition must also contain the RepresentedClass.

context ConstructDefinition inv: representedProperty->forAll(rp | representedClass->includesAll(rp.representedClass))

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

117

If a RepresentedClass has a RepresentedProperty, the corresponding Class must have the corresponding Property as characteristic.

context rc : RepresentedClass inv: representedProperty->forAll(rp | rc.class.characteristic->includes(rp.property))

Conversely, if a RepresentedProperty has a RepresentedClass, the corresponding Property must be characteristic of the corresponding Class.

context rp : RepresentedProperty inv: representedClass->forAll(rc | rp.property.class->includes(rc.class)) The next constraint deals with the uniqueness of roleNames of RepresentedProperties.

If a RepresentedClass has more than one RepresentedProperty, each of them must have a roleName that is unique relative to the RepresentedClass.

context RepresentedClass inv: representedProperty->forAll(rp | representedProperty->forAll(rp2 | rp<>rp2 implies rp.roleName<> and rp2.roleName<> and rp.roleName<>rp2.roleName)) The next constraint defines precedence between Properties.

If a Class has a characteristic Property that is preceded by another Property, then the Class must also have the second Property as characteristic.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

118

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

context Class inv: characteristic->forAll(cp | characteristic.includesAll(cp.preceded)) Like Class generalisations, at the conceptual level described in the metamodel, precedence associations are used as an aid to validate partially the sets of characteristic Properties that are associated with each Class. At the implementation level, when managing the taxonomy of Classes and Properties, precedence associations can instead be used to limit the number of Properties that have to be explicitly associated with each Class, that is, by not associating a characteristic Property with a Class when the Class is already associated with another characteristic Property that is preceded the first one.5 The final two constraints in this group together ensure that precedence associations between Properties are acyclic. This first constraint reflects that the precede/preceding association is transitive the second that it is irreflexive.

If a Property is preceded by a second Property and the second Property is preceded by a third, then the first Property must also be preceded by the third Property.

context p : Property inv: Property->forAll(p2 | Property->forAll(p3 | p.preceded->includes(p2) and p2.preceded->includes(p3) implies p.preceded->includes(p3)))

A Property cannot be preceded by itself.

context Property inv: preceded->excludes(self) Together, the two constraints ensure that precedence associations are acyclic because, if there were a cycle of associations, each Property in the cycle would be preceded by itself by the first constraint, thereby violating the second constraint.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

119

Constraints on RepresentedSegments, States, and Events


The final and most complex group of constraints deal with RepresentedSegments and the (Represented-)States and Events they contain. The first constraint reflects that every BWW state must be a state in a particular thing or class.

If a State has a set of Properties, there must be a Class whose set of characteristic Properties is a (possibly improper) superset of the first set.

context s : State inv: Class->exists(c | c.characteristic->includesAll(s.Property)) The following two constraints ensure that ConstructDefinitions that represent States also contain matching Classes and Properties.

If 1) a ConstructDefinition contains a RepresentedSegment and 2) the RepresentedSegment contains a RepresentedState and 3) the corresponding State has a set of Properties, then there must be a Class whose set of characteristic Properties is a (possibly improper) superset of the first set and the ConstructDefinition must contain the corresponding RepresentedClass.

context ConstructDefinition inv: representedSegment.representedState->forAll(rs | Class->exists(c | c.characteristic->includesAll(rs.state.property) and representedClass->exists(rc | rc.class=c)))

If 1) a ConstructDefinition contains a RepresentedSegment and 2) the RepresentedSegment contains a RepresentedState and 3) the corresponding State has a Property, then the ConstructDefinition must also contain a corresponding RepresentedProperty.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

120

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

context ConstructDefinition inv: representedSegment.representedState->forAll(rs | rs.state.property->forAll(rsp | representedProperty->exists(rp | rp.property=rsp))) The next two constraints ensure that all States and Events in the common taxonomy are unique.

Two distinct States cannot have the same invariant.

context s : State inv: State ->forAll(s2 | s.invariant=s2.invariant implies s=s2)

Two distinct Events cannot have identical from- and toStates.

context e : Event inv: Event ->forAll(e2 | e.fromState=e2.fromState and e.toState=e2.toState implies e=e2) The next four constraints restrict which RepresentedStates and -Events that a RepresentedSegment can contain.

If a RepresentedSegment has segmentType=lifetime it cannot contain a RepresentedState or a RepresentedEvent.

context RepresentedSegment inv: segmentType=lifetime implies representedState->isEmpty() and representedEvent->isEmpty() The three other constraints are so similar to this one that we do not write them out in OCL:

If a RepresentedSegment has segmentType=state it must contain one RepresentedState and it cannot contain a RepresentedEvent.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

121

If a RepresentedSegment has segmentType=event it must contain one RepresentedEvent and two RepresentedStates. If a RepresentedSegment has segmentType=process it must contain at least three RepresentedStates and at least two RepresentedEvents.

The next constraint ensures that the States and Events in a RepresentedSegment match.

If a RepresentedSegment contains a RepresentedEvent, then the RepresentedSegment must also contain a RepresentedState so that the corresponding State has the corresponding Event as exitEvent.

context RepresentedSegment inv: representedEvent->forAll(re | representedState->exists(rs | rs.state.exitEvent->includes(re.event)))

If a RepresentedSegment contains a RepresentedEvent, then the RepresentedSegment must also contain a RepresentedState so that the corresponding State has the corresponding Event as entryEvent.

We do not write out this analogous constraint in OCL. The converse of the two previous constraints is not a constraint. Although an Event cannot be specified without its from- and toStates, a State can be specified without its entry- and exitEvents, as indicated by the cardinality constraints. The reason is that whereas a State is fully defined by its association with one or more Properties and by its invariant over those Properties, an Event is defined by its from- and toStates.6 The final constraint in this group cannot be expressed using OCL, because it is a constraint about the OclExpression that defines a State invariant. OCL expressions currently cannot constrain other OCL expressions.

The invariant of a State can only refer to Properties that are associated with the State and it must refer non-trivially to all such Properties. In other words, the invariant of a State 1) can only constrain and 2) must constrain all the Properties that determine the State.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

122

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

By non-trivially we mean that, for each Property of a State, the invariant must disallow at least one potential value for the Property for at least one combination of values of the other Properties of the State.

Populating the Template


Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004) use modelling constructs from the unified modeling language (UML) (OMG, 2001) as examples and present in table form initial template-based definitions of 58 UML construct. The examples and the table are based on Opdahl, Henderson-Sellers, and Barbier (1999) and Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers, (2001, 2002), which have analysed and evaluated the UML and a related language in terms of the BWW model. They have also been inspired by Evermann and Wands (2001a, 2001b) related work. In addition, Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2001) have compared the underlying ontological assumptions of the BWW model with those of object-oriented modelling in general. This section presents more detailed definitions of selected UML construct using the template. The constructs have been selected either because they are central to the UML or because they illustrate important ideas behind the template. The purpose is to make the template easier to understand by providing concrete examples, to validate the meta-model by instantiating it, and to further our work on providing a complete template-based definition of the UML by investigating selected UML construct in more detail. Because the UML has weak semantics in relation to concrete problem domains today, some of the definitions are interpretations and proposals that must be evaluated in further work. Figure 2 shows a UML object diagram of the definition of the UMLs object construct using the template. A UML object is at the instance level and may represent any instance of the class of AssociativeThings, a very general class defined by the characteristic property of being able to associate (Bunge, 1977).7 A few other UML construct have very similar definitions. For example, UML active objects differ from objects only in that they represent instances of the class of ActiveThings. In turn, UML swimlanes differ from UML active objects only in that they represent processes instead of lifetimes, that is, they do not represent active objects from creation all the way to destruction. UML types differ from objects only in that they belong to the type level. Figure 3 shows a UML object diagram of the definition of the UMLs property construct using the template. Even this definition is very similar to the definition of UML objects, but in addition a UML property may represent anyRegularProperty, that is, any intrinsic property that is not a law or a

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

123

Figure 2. A UML object diagram of the template-based definition of UML objects

Figure 3. A UML object diagram of the template-based definition of UML properties

whole-part relation. Whereas all the Properties we have encountered so far have been real properties, that is, properties that belong to real things, anyRegularProperty is abstract in the sense that it is represented in the common taxonomy as a propertySet of setMember Properties. Moreover, anyRegularProperty is not itself characteristic of any Class, it has no precedence associations and it does not determine a State. (Only real Properties can play these three roles in a definition.) The definition of UML properties reuses the Class AssociativeThings and its characteristic

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

124

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

Figure 4. A UML object diagram of the template-based definition of UML multiplicities

Property abilityToAssociate from Figure 2. UML attributes differ from properties only in that they belong to the type level. Figure 4 shows a UML object diagram of the definition of the UMLs multiplicity construct using the template. UML multiplicities differ from UML attributes only in that they may represent different Properties. A multiplicityStateLaw contains three Properties : a minimumCardinality, a maximumCardinality, and anyRegularProperty, indicating that the number of regular properties must be between the minimum and maximum cardinalities. The multiplicityConstraint Property also has a law attribute (left out of Figure 4 for space reasons), which is an OclExpression describing the constraint in detail: minimumCardinality.size()=1 and maximumCardinality.size()=1 and minimumCardinality.value()>=0 and maximumCardinality.value()>=minimumCardinality.value() and

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

125

anyRegularProperty.size()>=minimumCardinality.value() and anyRegularProperty.size()<=maximumCardinality.value() Although the constraint is expressed using the formal OCL syntax, it is used informally here. The reason is that the OCL expresses constraints on UML class diagrams, whereas it is used here to express constraints on UML object instances.

Conclusion
The chapter has reviewed and augmented a template for defining enterprise and information systems (IS) modelling constructs in a way that facilitates language integration. Specifically, integration is aided by breaking down each modelling construct into its smallest parts, detailing each of the classes, properties, states and events the construct is intended to represent and, at the same time, organising these classes, properties, states and events in a common taxonomy. In consequence, for every pair of constructs that are defined using the template, it becomes clear exactly how the two constructs overlap with one another. The template was based on the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) model of information systems and has been used on several existing modelling languages and frameworks. It was defined by a meta-model expressed as a class diagram from the Unified Modeling Language (UML). This chapter has clarified the template further by formalising the meta-model through semi-formal constraints expressed in the Object Constraint Language (OCL) and by populating the metamodel with definitions of example constructs from the UML version 1.4. The purpose was to make the template easier to understand, to validate the template, to pave the way for stronger tool support for the template and to further our work on providing a complete template-based definition of the UML. As a result, the chapter has furthered our work on providing a complete templatebased definition of the UML. Because the UML has weak semantics in relation to concrete problem domains today, some of the definitions are interpretations and proposals that must be evaluated in further work. As another result, the template and associated meta-model as presented in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004) has been improved in several respects. Cardinality constrains have been corrected and new attributes added. However, each change is minor and the formalisation and population in this chapter confirms the correctness and usefulness of the main ideas behind the template.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

126

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

In its current form, the template cannot be used to accurately define intentional modelling constructs, such as goals and strategies, because it does not provide an entry that distinguishes between representing facts about the problem domain itself and representing peoples intentions about the problem domain. Similarly, the template does not provide entries to identify constructs that represent peoples knowledge and beliefs or obligations, recommendations, permissions, and so forth (Krogstie & Sindre, 1996). In further work, the lifetime entry should therefore be generalised into a modality entry. The template is not yet fully formal. For example, it should be possible to express RepresentedProperty laws and State invariants more rigorously. This would require extending the template with a value and type system for Properties. It is possible that the template should not attempt to define laws and invariants in full detail, leaving this to specialised formal languages, for which the template can then act as a front-end for defining and browsing definitions of modelling constructs. The template has been designed to match the facetmodelling framework (Opdahl & Sindre, 1997). Whereas the instantiation level, class and property entries in the template are well understood, the lifetime entry may need to be developed further. For example, the template presently does not support definition of complex events or of parallel processes in different things. This is no surprise as dynamic semantics are inherently difficult to define precisely. Again, it is possible that the template should not attempt to define the dynamic semantics of modelling constructs in full detail. Additional results of providing and using the template are pointed to by Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004). An important outcome of using the template on the UML is that a generalisation hierarchy of BWW classes has emerged from the class entries for the UML constructs we have analysed. The hierarchy shows which BWW classes in concrete problem domains that are recognised by the UML. This type of generalisation hierarchy is a new way of analysing and comparing modelling languages and constructs. It offers both a new way to clarify and explain the semantics of the UML and introduces a new perspective from which the UML can be constructively criticised. An important outcome pointed out by Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004) is that the template encourages thorough analyses and precise definitions of enterprise, IS and other problem domain modelling constructs and languages. In particular, it assists in identifying semantical overlaps (Spanoudakis & Finkelstein, 1998, 1999) at a detailed level between seemingly unrelated modelling constructs and their languages. The template is also useful for identifying constructs that are too complex or too vaguely defined and for avoiding circular definitions (Castellani, 1998). The template demonstrates again the applicability and usefulness of the BWW model as the foundation for work that addresses the semantics of enterprise and
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

127

IS modelling languages. The template also makes the BWW model more applicable and useful in practice, complementing other work that uses the BWW model, for example, Rosemann and Greens (2002) meta-model for the BWW model. Although their model has been developed with slightly different aims than the template meta-model presented here, integrating or unifying the two remains an interesting research topic. These points are elaborated on and paths for further work are suggested in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004).

Acknowledgments
This is contribution number 03/28 of the Centre for Object Technology Applications and Research.

References
Bunge, M. (1977). Treatise on basic philosophy: Vol. 3: Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Boston: Reidel. Bunge, M. (1979). Treatise on basic philosophy: Vol. 4: Ontology II: A world of systems. Boston: Reidel. Castellani, X. (1998). An overview of the version 1.1 of the UML defined with charts of concepts. In P.A. Muller & J. Bzivin (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference on the Unified Modeling Language, <<UML>>98 Beyond the Notation, Mulhouse/France, 3-4 June, (pp. 13-24). LNCS, Springer Verlag. Evermann, J. & Wand, Y. (2001a). An ontological examination of object interaction in conceptual modeling. Proceedings of WITS2001, New Orleans, (pp. 91-96). Evermann, J., & Wand, Y. (2001b). Towards ontologically based semantics for UML constructs. Proceedings of ER2001, Yokohama/Japan, (pp. 354367). Springer. Green, P. F. (1996). An ontological analysis of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in upper CASE tools. PhD thesis, Department of Commerce, University of Queensland. Krogstie, J. & Sindre, G. (1996). Utilizing deontic operators in information systems specification. RE Journal, 1(4), 210-237.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

128

Opdahl & Henderson-Sellers

OMG. (2001). OMG Unified Modeling Language specification, version 1.4. Object Management Group. OMG. (2002). OMG model driven architecture The architecture of choice for a changing world. Retrieved from http://www.omg.org/mda Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2001). Grounding the OML metamodel in ontology. Journal of Systems and Software, 57(2), 119-143. Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2002). Understanding and improving the UML metamodel through ontological analysis. Journal of Software and Systems Modeling (SoSyM), 1(1), 43-67. Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (2004). A template for defining enterprise modeling constructs. Journal of Database Management, 15(2), 39-73. Opdahl, A. L., Henderson-Sellers, B., & Barbier, F. (1999). An ontological evaluation of the OML metamodel. In E. D. Falkenberg, K. Lyytinen, & A. A. Verrijn-Stuart (Eds.), Information system concepts: An integrated discipline emerging (pp. 217-232). Kluwer: IFIP 8.1. Opdahl, A. L. & Sindre, G. (1997). Facet modeling: An approach to flexible and integrated conceptual modeling. Information Systems, 22(5), 291-323. Parsons, J. & Wand, Y. (1997). Using objects for systems analysis. Communications of the ACM, 40(12), 104-110. Rosemann, M. & Green, P. (2002). Developing a meta-model for the BungeWand-Weber ontological constructs. Information Systems, 27, 75-91. Spanoudakis, G. & Finkelstein, A. (1998). A semi-automatic process of identifying overlaps and inconsistencies between requirement specifications. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Object-Oriented Information Systems OOIS 98, (pp. 405-424). Spanoudakis, G., Finkelstein, A., & Till, D. (1999). Overlaps in requirements engineering. Automated Software Engineering Journal, 6(2), 171-198. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1988). An ontological analysis of some fundamental information systems concepts. In J. I. DeGross & M. H. Olson (Eds.), Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Information Systems, Minneapolis, 30 November to 3 December 1988, (pp. 213-225). Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3, 217-237. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1995). On the deep structure of information systems. Information Systems Journal, 5, 203-223.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Template-Based Definition of Information Systems

129

Weber, R. & Zhang, Y. (1996). An analytical evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Information Systems Journal, 6, 147170. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological foundations of information systems: Number 4 in accounting research methodology monograph series. Melbourne, Australia: Coopers & Lybrand.

Endnotes
1 2

In fact, in Bunges ontology, this is the most general of all classes. Again, as for UML aggregation, although we usually think of a UML link relationship as representing a BWW property (specifically a BWW mutual property), the relationship also presupposes the existence of two or more BWW things. Although the OCL resembles a formal constraint language in most ways, it does not have all the characteristics we expect from a full formal language, like decidability. We therefore refer to it as a semi-formal language. In a strict OCL sense, the sets in this section will all be OCL bags, that is, unordered collections possibly with duplicate elements. Otherwise, adding new Classes to the taxonomy would quickly become cumbersome because of the large number of characteristic Properties that each new Class must explicitly be associated with. To an extent this choice is arbitrary: it would have been possible to define States by their entry- and exitEvents and Events by their associations with one or more Properties and by its operation on them (in which case the operation would again be an OclExpression). The chosen solution is simpler because invariants in the OCL tend to be simpler than pre- and postconditions. Bunge (1977) states that all things are able to associate, so the class of AssociativeThings may also be called AllThings, as in Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (2004). Also, this property is described as a BWW state law in Figure 2, because it determines how things associate with one another according to the ontological model, that is, it manifests the three axioms of association from Bunge (1977).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

130 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Chapter VI

The System Modeling Building Blocks


Iris Reinhartz-Berger, University of Haifa, Israel Dov Dori, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology:

Abstract
In this chapter, we introduce a highly expressive, self-contained reflective meta-model of object-process methodology (OPM). OPM enables universal system modeling based on the notions of processes that transform objects. Extending the object-oriented approach, which views processes as residents of objects, OPM provides for the existence of stand-alone processes that can represent transformations in complex systems such as businesses, aircrafts or organisms. A system modeling and development methodology,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 131

which is a combination of a language for expressing the universal (or domain) ontology and an approach for developing systems that uses this language, can be expressed in OPM using objects, processes and links among them. Through the reflective OPM meta-model, we demonstrate the expressive power of OPM and its applicability as a universal tool for architecting systems that involve structure and dynamics in a highly, intertwined manner.

Introduction
A system modeling and development methodology is a combination of a language for expressing the universal or domain ontology and an approach or a protocol for developing systems that makes effective use of this language. Meta-modeling, the process of modeling a methodology, enables building, understanding, comparing, and evaluating methodologies. The meta-modeling process produces a meta-model, that is, a model of the methodology (MetaModel, 2003). We refer to a methodology that can model itself as a reflective methodology, and to meta-modeling of a reflective methodology as reflective meta-modeling. In other words, a reflective meta-model is defined exclusively in terms of the modeled methodology. A reflective methodology is especially powerful since it is self-contained, so it does not require auxiliary means or external tools to model itself. Object-process methodology (OPM), which is a holistic system modeling, development and evolution approach that combines object-oriented notations with process-oriented concepts, is a reflective methodology. As noted, meta-models have become important means for comparing and evaluating methodologies and their supporting CASE tools. By and large, metamodels are structure- or object-oriented, and hence pertain only to the static elements and relations of the methodology. They therefore do not include the procedural parts of the methodology (also known as the software process). Rather, these are usually described loosely and informally in some natural language, most often English. The main reason for this omission of the methodologys process part is the lack of expressive power of the methodology to seamlessly and straightforwardly describe not only objects and structure but also processes and behavior. OPM overcomes this shortcoming by treating objects and processes as two equally important entities rather than viewing object classes necessarily as superiors to and owners of processes. Through the bimodal OPM model presentation of object-process diagrams (OPDs) and object-process language (OPL) sentences, this chapter presents the reflective meta-model of the
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

132 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

language and notation parts of OPM, namely its semantics and syntax. The other part of the reflective OPM meta-model, which specifies OPM-based system development and evolution processes, can be found in Dori (2002, pp. 289-309) and Dori and Reinhartz-Berger (2003). A major significance of this work is that it lays out a comprehensive, generic, and formal definition of OPM that enables domain-independent modeling of complex systems, in which structure and behavior are intertwined and hard to separate. Indeed, real-life systems of interest can almost always be characterized as such. The chapter is structured as follows. First, the main meta-modeling concepts are defined and existing meta-modeling approaches are reviewed. Then, the main concepts of OPM are introduced and exemplified through a business enterprise model that handles customer orders and retailer requests. The main part of the chapter is the OPM reflective meta-model, including all its elements, entities, and structural, procedural, and event links. Finally, the contribution of OPM as a universal business modeling methodology is summarized, emphasizing its role in defining new methodologies.

Reflective Methodologies and Reflective Meta-Modeling


System analysis and design activities can be divided into three types with increasing abstraction levels: real world, model, and meta-model (Van Gigch, 1991). The real world is what system analysts perceive as reality or what system architects wish to create as reality. A model is an abstraction of this perceived or contemplated reality that enables its expression using some approach, language, or methodology. A meta-model is a model of a model, or, more accurately, a model of the modeling methodology (Meta-Model, 2003). Metamodels help understand the deep semantics of a methodology as well as relationships among concepts in different languages or methods. They can therefore serve as devices for methods development, also referred to as methods engineering (Nuseibeh, Finkelstein, & Kramer, 1996; Rossi, Tolvanen, Ramesh, Lyytinen, & Kaipala, 2000), and as conceptual schemas for repositories of software engineering and CASE tools. Meta-modeling is the process that creates meta-models. The level of abstraction at which meta-modeling is carried out is higher than the level at which modeling is normally done for the purpose of generating a model of a system (HendersonSellers & Bulthuis, 1998).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 133

The proliferation of object-oriented methods has given rise to a special type of meta-modeling reflective meta-modeling, that is, modeling a methodology using its own means alone. While meta-modeling is a formal definition of the methodology, reflective meta-modeling can serve as a common way to check and demonstrate the methodologys expressive power. Existing object-oriented languages, notably the standard unified modeling language (UML), have partial reflective meta-models. The reflective UML metamodel in Object Management Group (2001), for example, includes class diagrams; OCL (object constraint language) (Warmer & Kleppe, 1999) constraints, which are added on top of the UML graphics as a textual means to express constraints; and natural language explanations for describing the main elements in UML and the static relations among them. This meta-model is incomplete in more than one way. First, UML is only a notation and not a methodology, so only the language elements are meta-modeled, but not any (object-oriented or other) development process. Second, class diagrams are used to model all 10 UML views (diagram types) and the meta-model does not enforce complete consistency requirements among the various views of a UML system model. Third, most of the meta-model (structural) constraints are expressed in OCL, which is a programming-language-like add-on to UML. The meta object facility (MOF) (Object Management Group, 2003) is a standard metadata architecture whose main theme is extensibility and support of metadata. MOF defines four layers of metadata: information (i.e., real world concepts, labeled M0), model (M1), meta-model (M2), and meta-meta-model (M3). The meta-meta-model layer describes the structure and semantics of meta-metadata. In other words, it is an abstract language for defining different kinds of metadata (e.g., meta-classes and meta-attributes). The meta modeling facility (MMF) (Clark, Evans, & Kent, 2002) provides a modular and extensible method for defining and using modeling languages. It comprises a static, object-oriented language (MML) to write language definitions, a tool (MMT) to interpret those definitions, and a method (MMM), which provides guidelines and patterns encoded as packages that can be specialized to particular language definitions. MOF and MMF have been applied to meta-model UML. Since both are objectoriented, they emphasize UML elements, while the procedural aspects are suppressed. Since OPM combines the object- and process-oriented approaches in a single framework, it can specify system structure and dynamics in a balanced way. In particular, meta-models expressed in OPM capture both the language and the system development approach parts of the modeled methodology.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

134 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Object-Process Methodology in a Nutshell


Object-process methodology (OPM) (Dori, 2002) is a holistic approach to the modeling, study, development, and evolution of systems. Structure and behavior coexist in the same OPM model to enhance the comprehension of the system as a whole. Contrary to UML with its ten diagram types, OPM shows the systems structure and behavior in the same and single diagram type, enabling direct expression of relations, interactions, and effects. This trait reinforces the users ability to construct, grasp, and comprehend the system as a whole and at any level of detail. Moreover, Soffer, Golany, Dori, and Wand (2001) concluded that OPM is ontologically complete according to the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) evaluation framework (Wand & Weber, 1993). The BWW framework aims to be a theoretical foundation for understanding the modeling of information systems. Any modeling language (or grammar) must be able to represent all things in the real world that might be of interest to users of information systems, otherwise, the resultant model is incomplete (Rosemann & Green, 2002). Hence, OPM completeness according to the BWW framework is indicative of OPMs expressive power. Appendix A lists the ontological constructs of information systems, their BWW explanations, and their OPM representation as indicted in Soffer, Golany, Dori, and Wand (2001). Due to its structure-behavior integration, OPM provides a solid basis for modeling complex systems. Indeed, OPM has been extended to support the modeling of common types of systems, including real-time systems (Peleg & Dori, 1999), ERP (Soffer, Golany, & Dori, 2003), and Web applications (ReinhartzBerger, Dori, & Katz, 2002a, 2002b). Three independent experiments showed that OPM is more comprehensible than object-oriented techniques in modeling the dynamic and reactive aspects of real time systems (Peleg & Dori, 2000), Web applications (Reinhartz-Berger & Dori, 2005), and discrete event simulation systems.

OPM Concepts
The elements of OPM ontology are entities and links. Entities generalize things and states. A thing is a generalization of an object and a process the two basic building blocks of any OPM-based system model. At any point in time, each object is at some state, and object states are changed through the occurrence of processes. Analogously, links can also be structural or procedural. Structural links express static, structural relations between pairs of objects or processes. These relations hold for the system regardless of the time dimension. AggregaCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 135

tion, generalization, characterization, and instantiation are the four fundamental structural relations. In addition, general structural relations can take on any semantics, which is expressed textually by their user-defined tags. The behavior of a system is manifested in three major ways: 1) processes can transform (generate, consume, or change) things, 2) things can enable processes without being transformed by them, and 3) things can trigger events that (at least potentially, if some conditions are met) invoke processes. Accordingly, a procedural link can be a transformation link, an enabling link, or an event link. The complexity of an OPM model is controlled through three scaling (refinement/abstraction) processes: in-zooming/out-zooming, in which the entity being refined is shown enclosing its constituent elements; unfolding/folding, in which the entity being refined is shown as the root of a directed graph; and state expressing/suppressing, which allows for showing or hiding the possible states of an object. These mechanisms enable OPM to recursively specify and refine the system under development to any desired level of detail without losing legibility and comprehension of the complete system. Each time a diagram is about to get too cluttered, a new diagram can be spawned. The new diagram is linked to and elaborates upon the ancestor diagram.

The Bimodal Graphic-Text Representation of OPM


Two semantically equivalent modalities, one graphic and the other textual, jointly express the same OPM model. A set of inter-related object-process diagrams (OPDs), constitute the graphical, visual OPM formalism. Each OPM element is denoted in an OPD by a dedicated symbol, and the OPD syntax specifies correct and consistent ways by which entities can be connected via structural and procedural links. The object-process language (OPL), precisely defined by a grammar, is the textual counterpart modality of the graphical OPD set. OPL is a dual-purpose language, oriented towards humans as well as machines. Catering to human needs, OPL is designed as a constrained subset of English, which serves domain experts and system architects. All the stakeholders can use the OPL specification along with the corresponding OPDs to jointly engage in analyzing and designing a system. Every OPD construct is expressed by a semantically equivalent OPL sentence or phrase. Designed also for machine interpretation through a well-defined set of production rules, OPL provides a solid basis for automating the generation of the designed application. According to Mayers cognitive theory (2001), this dual representation of OPM increases the processing capability of humans. Moreover, OPDs constitute a complete and consistent visual formalism that goes hand in hand with the OPL in the following meaning: Anything that is expressed graphically by an OPD is also expressed textually in the corresponding OPL paragraph, and vice versa.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

136 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

OPCAT (Dori, Reinhartz-Berger, & Sturm, 2003), a Java-based object-process CASE tool, automatically translates each OPD into its equivalent OPL paragraph (collection of OPL sentences) and vice versa.

OPM Concepts Demonstrated by an Inventory System Model


Before presenting the OPM reflective meta-model, in this section we explain and demonstrate OPM concepts through an OPM model of a simple business enterprise inventory system that handles orders. This enterprise can get requests for products from individual customers or from retailers. The OPM model of this enterprise, which includes information modeling as well as business process specification, is presented in Figures 1-7 using both OPDs and their corresponding OPL paragraphs. This dual representation increases the model clarity and accessibility, as readers who are familiar with OPM and its graphical notation can use the OPDs, while readers who are new with OPM will probably prefer to start with the OPL paragraphs. Since the graphical and textual notations of OPM are equivalent, and, from a cognitive viewpoint, complementary, the reader can choose the modality (text or graphics) with which he/she is most comfortable and switch between the two at will. Furthermore, the OPL paragraphs are selfdocumented and hence need no further explanations.

OPM Elements
As noted, OPM consists of two types of elements: entities and links. Entities are classified into things and states. A thing is a generalization of an object and a process. Objects are entities that exist, while processes are entities that transform things by generating, consuming, or affecting them. A state is a situation at which an object exists. Therefore, a state is not a stand-alone entity, but rather an entity that is owned by an object. At any given point in time, the state-owning object is at one of its states. The status of an object, that is, the current state of the object, is changed solely through an occurrence of a process. Objects and processes are respectively denoted in an OPD by rectangles (as in class diagrams in UML and earlier notations) and ellipses (as in data-flow diagrams). Following Statecharts (Harel, 1987) notation, the OPD symbol of a state is a rounded corner rectangle within the rectangle of its owning object. In Figure 1, for example, Order, Receipt, Product Catalog, Customer, and Retailer are objects, while Ordering is a process. In Figure 2, created, paid, supplied, and completed are states of the Order Status attribute.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 137

Figure 1. Top level, System Diagram (SD) of the ordering system


Product Catalog is environmental. Receipt is physical. Ordering lasts 1 minute to 5 minutes. Ordering requires 2 Product Catalogs. Ordering yields Order and Receipt. Customer is environmental and physical. Retailer is environmental and physical. Either Retailer or Customer handles Ordering.

Figure 2. SD1, in which Order is structurally unfolded

Order exhibits Order Number, Order Status, Order Date, and Order Price, as well as Printing. Order Number is of type integer. Order Status can be created, which is the default, paid, supplied, or completed. Created is initial. Created lasts 2 seconds to 30 seconds. Paid can be advance paid, which is the default, or completely paid. Advance paid is initial. Completed is final. Order Date is of type date. Order Price is of type float. Order consists of optional Order Lines. Order Line exhibits Product ID and Quantity. Order is placed by either Person or Cooperation. Supplied Order is an Order, the Order Status of which is supplied. Order 123 is an instance of Order, the Order Status of which is paid.

A link is an element that connects two entities to represent some semantic relation between them. Links can be structural or procedural. A structural link is a binary relation between two entities, which specifies a structural aspect of the modeled system, such as an aggregation-participation (whole-part) or a generalization-specialization relation. A procedural link connects an entity with a process to denote a dynamic, behavioral flow of information, material, energy, or control. An event link is a specialization of a procedural link which models a significant happening in the system that takes place during a particular moment and might trigger a process if preconditions are met.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

138 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Links are denoted in an OPD by lines with different types of arrowheads or triangles, as summarized in Appendix B. In Figure 1, for example, Ordering, which is triggered (activated) by either Customer or Retailer, uses Product Catalog as an input, and creates Order and Receipt as outputs. Any OPM element can be either systemic or environmental. A systemic element is internal to the system and has to be completely specified, while an environmental element is external to the system model and may therefore be specified only partially. The OPD symbol of an environmental element differs from its systemic counterpart in that its borderline is dashed. The Product Catalog in Figure 1, for example, is an environmental object; it is external to the system but should be used as an unchangeable input for the Ordering process. In an orthogonal fashion, an OPM element can also be either physical or informatical. A physical element is tangible in the broad sense, while an informatical element relates to information. A physical entity is symbolized in an OPD as a shadowed closed shape rectangle, ellipse, or rounded corner rectangle for a physical object, a physical process, or a physical state, respectively. The Receipt in Figure 1, resulting from the Ordering process, is a systemic and physical object, while the Customer and the Retailer are environmental and physical objects.

OPM Things
As noted, a thing is a generalization of an object and a process. A thing can be simple or complex. A thing is simple if it has no parts, features (attributes or operations), or specializations, and is complex otherwise. An object is a thing that exists, at least potentially, and represents a class of instances that have the same structure and can exhibit the same behavior. The Order in Figure 2, for example, is a complex object which exhibits four simple attributes (each of which is an object in its own right): Order Number, which is of type integer, Order Status, which is of an enumeration type, Order Date, which is of type date, and Order Price, which is of type float. A process is a class of occurrences (or instances) of a behavior pattern, which transforms at least one thing. Transformation can be creation, consumption, or effect (state change) of a thing (usually an object). To carry out the transformation, the process may need to be enabled by one or more things of different types of classes, which are considered instruments (enablers) for that process. An instrument is a non-human object that is not transformed by the process it enables. Analogous to an object instance, a process instance is an occurrence (one-time execution) of the specific process. The execution time of a process can be

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 139

Figure 3. SD2, in which Ordering is in-zoomed

Order exhibits Order Status. Order Status can be paid, supplied, or completed. Paid is initial. Completed is final. Product Catalog is environmental. Receipt is physical. Ordering lasts 1 minute to 5 minutes. Ordering requires 2 Product Catalog. Ordering zooms into Order Creation, Order Verification, Retailer Order Handling, Customer Order Handling, and Receipt Generating, as well as Product Request and Order Type. Order Type can be customer or retailer. Order Creation yields Product Request. Following path individual, Order Creation yields customer Order Type. Following path retail, Order Creation yields retailer Order Type. Order Verification consumes Product Request. Order Verification yields Order. Retailer Order Handling occurs if Order Type is retailer. Retailer Order Handling affects Order. Customer Order Handling occurs if Order Type is customer. Customer Order Handling affects Order. Receipt Generating changes Order Status from either supplied or paid to completed. Receipt Generating yields Receipt. Customer is environmental and physical. Following path individual, Customer handles Order Creation. Retailer is environmental and physical. Following path retail, Retailer handles Order Creation.

constrained by minimal and maximal limits, implying that any process execution can only take a time interval that falls within these time limits. The time limits appear in the OPD as (minimal time constraint, maximal time constraint) within the ellipse representing the process. For example, the specification of the minimal and maximal time limits of the Ordering process in Figure 1 and Figure 3 implies that it must take at least 1 minute and at most 5 minutes. The corresponding OPL sentence is Ordering lasts 1 minute to 5 minutes. Following the UML notation of classes and objects, a thing instance is denoted in OPM by a rectangle or an ellipse within which the class name is written as :ClassName. The identifier of the instance can optionally precede the colon. The OPL syntax for an instance makes use of the reserved word the in an

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

140 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

instance phrase, which is The ClassName InstanceName. For example, suppose in Figure 3 we replace Retailer by Storex, an instance of Retailer. In the object instance box in the OPD we would write Storex: Retailer, and instead of the OPL sentence Following path retail, Retailer handles Order Creation. we would write Following path retail, the Retailer Storex handles Order Creation. If the instance identifier is not explicitly specified, the OPL instance phrase would be The ClassName instance. In our example the sentence would be The Retailer instance handles Order Creation. A process can be atomic, sequential, or parallel. An atomic process is a lowestlevel, elementary action that is not divided into sub-processes, while sequential and parallel processes are refined (usually through in-zooming) into several sequential or parallel sub-processes. The time line in an OPD flows from the top Figure 4. SD2.1, in which Retailer Order Handling is in-zoomed

Order exhibits Order Status. Order Status can be supplied or paid. Paid is initial. Product Catalog is environmental. Order Type can be customer or retailer. Retailer Order Handling occurs if Order Type is retailer. Retailer Order Handling requires 2 Product Catalogs. Retailer Order Handling zooms into Paying and Supplying, which are executed in parallel. Paying changes Order Status to paid. Supplying changes Order Status to supplied.

Figure 5. SD2.2, in which Customer Order Handling is in-zoomed


Order exhibits Order Status. Order Status can be created, which is the default, supplied, or paid. Created is initial. Created lasts 2 seconds to 30 seconds. Paid is initial. Product Catalog is environmental. Order Type can be customer or retailer. Customer Order Handling occurs if Order Type is customer. Customer Order Handling requires 2 Product Catalogs. Customer Order Handling zooms into Paying and Supplying. Paying changes Order Status from created to paid. Supplying changes Order Status from paid to supplied.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 141

of the diagram downwards. Hence, the vertical axis within an in-zoomed process defines the execution order: The sub-processes of a sequential process are depicted in the in-zoomed frame of the process stacked on top of each other with the earlier process on top of a later one. Analogously, sub-processes of a parallel process appear in the OPD side by side, at the same height. In Figure 4 and Figure 5, Retailer Order Handling and Customer Order Handling are respectively in-zoomed, to show their two sub-processes, Paying And Supplying. In the in-zoomed version of Customer Order Handling (Figure 5), Paying And Supplying are executed in a serial order: first, the Customer pays and only afterwards Order is supplied. In the in-zoomed version of Retailer Order Handling (Figure 4), on the other hand, Paying And Supplying are executed independently and may occur in parallel. The default execution order is the sequential one, so only the parallel execution order is specified in OPL using the reserved phrase which are executed in parallel. For example, the in-zooming sentence in Figure 4 is Retailer Order Handling zooms into Paying And Supplying, which are executed in parallel.

OPM States
A state is a situation in which an object can be for some period of time. At any point in time an object is in exactly one of its states. A state can be a value from a continuous or discrete value range, or a finite enumerated set of named states. Order Status in Figure 2, for example, has four possible, top-level states: created, paid, supplied, and completed. A state can be initial, final, or default. Both created and paid are initial states, as denoted by the thick borderline rounded corner rectangle. This implies that Order Status can be generated in either its created or paid states, but not at both, since at any point in time an object is in exactly one of its states. If not otherwise specified, Order will be generated in its created state as denoted by the default mark (the small downward diagonal arrow that points towards the created state). The completed state is the final state of Order Status, as denoted in Figure 2 by the double line rounded corner rectangle. When entering this final state, Order can be consumed (i.e., destroyed or deleted). The reserved OPL phrases that describe initial, final, and default states are is initial, is final, and which is the default, respectively (see Figure 2). Like process durations, state durations can also be limited on one or both sides. For example, the created state of Order Status in Figure 2 has a minimal time limit of 2 seconds and a maximal time limit of 30 seconds, implying that between

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

142 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Figure 6. SD2.2.1, in which Paying of Customer Order Handling is inzoomed

Product Catalog is environmental. Order Status can be created, which is the default, or paid. Created is initial. Created lasts 2 seconds to 30 seconds. Paid is initial. Paid can be advance paid, which is the default, or completely paid. Advance paid is initial. Paying requires 2 Product Catalogs. Paying zooms into Advance Paying and Complete Paying. Advance Paying changes Order Status from created to advance paid. Complete Paying changes Order Status from advance paid to completely paid.

2 to 30 seconds must pass from the moment Order Status enters its created state until it exits this state. Like objects and processes, states can be simple or complex. Complex states recursively contain nested states, and the inner composition of a complex state can be exposed by zooming into it. In Figure 2, for example, in its paid state, Order Status can be at one of two sub-states: advance paid, which is the default of a paid Order, or completely paid. The in-zoomed diagram of Paying (of Customer Order Handling) in Figure 6 shows that Advance Paying first changes Order Status from created to advance paid, and then Balance Paying changes Order Status from advance paid to completely paid.

OPM Links
Links are the glue that holds entities (processes and objects with their states) together and enables the construction of system modules of ever growing complexity. OPM links are classified into two types: structural links and

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 143

procedural links, with the latter specializing into enabling, transformation, and event links.

OPM Structural Links


A structural link denotes a structural, that is, a static, time-independent relation between two elements. It usually connects two objects, but it can also connect two processes. Structural links further specialize into general (tagged) structural links, and four fundamental structural links. A tagged structural link can be unidirectional, graphically symbolized by , or bi-directional, graphically sym. It is usually labeled by a textual forward tag (for the unidirecbolized by tional link) or a pair of forward and backward tags (for the bidirectional link). These tags are set by the system architect to convey a meaningful relation between the two linked entities. In Figure 2, for example, the two objects Order and Person are linked with a general unidirectional, structural link tagged is placed by, connecting an Order with the Person who placed it. Similarly, Order and Cooperation are linked with a tagged unidirectional, structural link that is also labeled is placed by. The four most prevalent and useful OPM structural relations are termed fundamental structural relations and are assigned various triangular symbols placed along the line linking the two things. These symbols are graphically more distinct and appealing to the eye than their text tag counterparts. The fundamental structural links are: 1. Aggregation-Participation denotes the fact that a thing aggregates (i.e., consists of, or comprises) one or more (lower-level) things, each of which is a part of the whole. It is denoted by , an equilateral triangle whose tip is linked to the whole and whose base is linked to the parts. To achieve the same semantics, we could use consists of and is part of as the forward and backward tags of a tagged bi-directional, structural link, respectively, but, as noted, using the black triangle symbol helps distinguish this relation from any other tagged structural relation (and the other three fundamental structural relations). In Figure 2, Order consists of optional (0 or more) Order Lines, as the multiplicity constraint * denotes. Exhibition-Characterization denotes the fact that a link or a thing exhibits, or is characterized by, another lower-level thing. The exhibitioncharacterization symbol is . The exhibitor is linked to the tip of the triangle, while the features (which can be attributes or operations) are connected to its base. In Figure 2, Order exhibits (i.e., is characterized by) the attributes Order Number, Order Status, Order Date, and Order

2.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

144 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Price and the operation Printing, while Order Line exhibits Product and Quantity. 3. Generalization-Specialization (Gen-Spec) is a fundamental structural relation between two entities, denoting the fact that the specialized entities share common features, states, and structural and procedural links with the generalizing entity. The symbol of the gen-spec relation is , a blank triangle whose tip is linked to the generalizing entity and its base to the specialized entities. In Figure 2, Supplied Order defines a subclass of Orders whose status is supplied. Like Order, Supplied Order has its Order Number, Order Status (which is always supplied), Order Date, Order Price, Order Lines, and an owning Person or Cooperation. It can also execute the operation Printing. Classification-Instantiation represents a fundamental structural relation between a class of things and an instance of that class. This type of link is denoted by , a triangle enclosing a solid circle, the tip of which is linked to the class, while its base to the instances. Order 123 in Figure 2 is an instance of an Order whose status is paid.

4.

Structural links of the same type can be connected by OR and XOR logical relations to specify alternative structures. An OR relation is symbolized by a double dashed arc connecting the relevant structural links, while a XOR relation is denoted by a single line, dashed arc. In Figure 2, for example, an Order is placed by either a Person or Cooperation, but not by both. If there were no arcs in that specification, a specific Order would have an owning Person and an owning Cooperation.

OPM Procedural Links


A procedural link represents a dynamic relation between a process and an entity. Procedural links are divided into enabling links, transformation links, and event links. An instrument link is an enabling link that connects a process with an enabler of that process. The enabler is an entity that must be present in order for that process to occur, but it is not transformed as a result of the process occurrence. The instrument link can originate from an object, a process, or a state, denoting that the object existence, the process existence, or the object in the specific state is the enabler, respectively. Graphically, an instrument link is symbolized by , while textually it is represented by the reserved word requires. In Figure 1, for example, Product Catalog is required for the Ordering process. However, the occurrence of Ordering does not affect Product Catalog in any way. Therefore, Product Catalog is an instrument

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 145

of the process Ordering. It is, however, possible that for another process, such as Catalog Updating, Product Catalog would be an affectee, that is, an object affected by Catalog Updating. Hence, being an instrument for a certain process class can be though of as a role of a thing class with respect to that particular process class. A transformation link denotes that a thing is transformed by the occurrence of a process. Transformation is a generalization of consumption, result, and effect. A consumption link is a transformation link that connects an entity to a process that consumes it. A consumption link is denoted by from the consumed entity to the process, while the reserved word consumes represents it in OPL. In Figure 3, for example, Product Request is an object that is internal to Ordering (in object-oriented programming terms it can be thought of as a local variable of the method Ordering) and hence it appears in the in-zoomed frame of Ordering. Product Request is consumed by the process Order Verification. In other words, Product Request, which had existed before an occurrence of Order Verification, was consumed (destroyed or destructed) by the execution of that process, and it no longer exists after Order Verification is over. A consumption link originating from a state of an object means that the process consumes that object only when the object is in that specific state. The corresponding state-specified consumption OPL sentence is Process consumes state Object. A result link is a transformation link that denotes a creation of a process, an object, or an object at a specific state. It is symbolized in an OPD by from the process to the resultant entity, while the reserved word yields denotes it in OPL. In Figure 3, for example, Order Verification, which consumed Product Request, creates an Order. The Order had not existed before the beginning of Order Verification. Rather, it was created during this execution, and it exists as soon as Order Verification is finished. Since a process is a pattern of behavior or execution, it is also possible for a process to generate or consume not just an object but also a process (e.g., when a process generates a computer program that represents a process). To avoid confusion, the arrowhead pointing at the consuming process is , namely solid (black) rather than blank. Hence, means that the right process consumes the left one, while means that the left process yields the right one. An effect link connects a process with a thing that is affected, that is, undergoes a change, during that process. The effect link, denoted in an OPD by where the black arrowhead pointes towards the process and the blank arrowhead points towards the affectee (the affected thing), means that the affectee of the process had existed before the process occurred and it continues to exist after the process was finished, but at least one of its states or features has changed.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

146 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

OPL uses the reserved word affects to represent effect links. In Figure 3, for example, Retailer Order Handling and Customer Order Handling affect Order. Figure 4 refines this effect (state change) by explicitly showing that Paying of Retailer Order Handling changes Order Status from any state to paid and Supplying changes Order Status from any state to supplied. Figure 5 specifies that Paying of Customer Order Handling changes Order Status from created to paid, while Supplying of Customer Order Handling changes Order Status from paid to supplied. These refinements are made possible due to the ability to split an effect link into an input (state consumption) link and an output (state result) link. Overall, the meaning of input and output links can be thought of as the process consumes the input state and yields the output state. However, the object as a whole is neither consumed nor generated it merely changes its state (or its value). Suppressing the objects states is an abstraction that hides the states, while also joining the input and output links to an effect link. Procedural links can have multiplicity constraints like their structural counterparts. For example, in Figure 1, Ordering requires 2 Product Catalogs while yielding one Order (the default, when no multiplicity constraint is indicated) and one Receipt. Like structural links, procedural links of the same type can be grouped by OR and XOR connectors to denote different possible instruments, consumees, resultees, and/or affectees of the same process. In Figure 3, for example, Receipt Generating can change Order Status from either paid or supplied to completed. A procedural link may have one or more path labels. A path label is a character string label on a procedural link that removes the ambiguity arising from multiple procedural links outgoing from the same entity. When procedural links that originate from an entity are labeled, the one that must be followed is the one whose label is identical with the label of the procedural link through which that entity was reached. The path labels in Figure 3, for example, specify two possible scenarios of Order Creation. Symbolized by the path label individual, this process occurs at the Customer request and it creates a temporary Order Type object at state customer. Symbolized by the path label retail, the process occurs at the Retailer request and it creates the temporary Order Type object in its retailer state. The Product Request is generated in both scenarios. The Customer Order Handling and Retailer Order Handling processes occur according to the Order Type, as the conditional enabling links (the instrument links with the letter c inside them) denote. A conditional enabling link specifies a branching control construct. If these links were replaced by regular enabling (i.e., instrument) links, the semantics would be wait until Order Type is in its retailer state and then execute Retailer Order Handling. Afterwards, wait until Order Type is in its customer state and then execute Customer Order Handling.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 147

Any type of procedural link (except for the result link) can be made conditional. Graphically, this is done by adding the letter c to the link symbol, as shown in Appendix B. In OPL, a conditional procedural link is specified by two sentences: one for its procedural aspect (e.g., an enabling sentence: Process requires Object.) and the other is a condition sentence. The two possible condition sentences are a thing condition sentence: Process occurs if Thing exists. and a state condition sentence: Process occurs if Object is state.

OPM Event Links


An event is a significant happening in the system that takes place during a particular moment in the systems lifecycle, and it often triggers some process in the system. An event is represented by an event link, which is a procedural link that connects a source entity with a destination process. Following the EventCondition-Action paradigm, the semantics of an event link is that the source entity attempts to trigger the destination process. The process does not start unless the event link is enabled, that is, the event occurs, and all the process preconditions, represented by the regular (conditional or non-conditional) procedural links, are satisfied. There are five types of event links: 1. Agent link: an agent is an intelligent object, a human or a group of humans, such as a department in an organization, who initiates a process by supplying an input signal (e.g., pushing a button or operating a machine) or supplying control data. An agent link is an event link that connects an agent with the process it triggers. The Ordering process in Figure 1 starts only when one of its agents, the physical and environmental (external) Customer or Retailer, enables its occurrence. The OPD symbol of an agent link is from the agent to the triggered process. In the OPL paragraph, this link is represented by the reserved word handles. State change event links: the fact that an object is at some state is a possible trigger for an event. In a state change event, the actual event can happen at any point in time between entrance to the state and exit from it. A state change event link connects an object state with the process it triggers when entering or exiting the state. An enabling state change link is e . symbolized by e , while a consumption state change link by A state change event has a timing attribute that determines at what point in time the event occurs along the stay of the object at the state. The possible values of the timing attribute are any, entrance, exit, and switch. The any state change event is an event that can occur at any point in time

2.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

148 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

during the stay of the object at the state. The state entrance event occurs upon the object entering the state, while the state exit event means that the event occurs upon the object exiting (leaving) the state. The state switch event means that the event occurs upon the object either entering the state or exiting it. The timing of the event is denoted graphically by the timing bar a small bar perpendicular to the event link, whose location along the link from the triggering state to the triggered process symbolizes the point in time at which the event occurs. Thus, an enabling state entrance event link is symbolized by e , while a consumption state entrance event link is e . An enabling state exit event link is symbolized by e symbolized by e and a consumption state exit event link is symbolized by . Timing bars at both ends of the link denote a switch (entrance or exit) state event link, while no bar at all means a state change event link, where the event can take place at any point in time during the objects stay at the state. In OPL, a triggering sentence is added to the OPL sentence representing the procedural aspect of the link. Archive Updating in Figure 7, for example, is triggered whenever Order Status enters its completed state. Two OPL sentences describe this link: the enabling sentence Archive Updating requires completed Order Status. and the triggering sentence Order Status triggers Archive Updating when it enters completed. For a state exit event link, the OPL sentence would be Order Status triggers Archive Updating when it exits completed. For a state change event link that does not specify whether the event occurs upon entry to or exit from the state, the corresponding sentence would be Order Status triggers Archive Updating when it is completed. For a state switch event link, which specifies that the event occurs either upon entry to or upon exit from the state, the corresponding sentence would be Order Status triggers Archive Updating when it either enters or exits completed. 3. General event links: a general event can be an external stimulus, a change in an object state or value, and so forth. The source of a general event link is a thing (object or process). In Figure 7, for example, a general event link specifies a requirement that the Log Recording process is triggered any time Order Status changes its state. This single link could be replaced by five state entrance event links from each one of the bottom level states of Order Status, but the notation in Figure 7 is more compact. The Log Recording process does not change Order Status, as the enabling aspect (the circle) of the event link, e , denotes. A general event link can e also be of type consumption, symbolized by , or effect, symbolized by e , denoting that the source object or process is respectively consumed or affected by the triggered process. The OPL sentence that specifies the

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 149

triggering aspect of a general event link is Thing triggers Object. (for example, Order Status triggers Log Recording.). 4. Invocation link: an invocation link is a time-delimited event link between two processes an invoking process and an invoked one. As noted, the vertical axis in an OPD denotes the time line within an in-zoomed process. The invocation link is used when this default process sequencing needs to be overridden, as in loops or jumping instructions. Using the timing bar symbol, an invocation link can trigger the invoked process when the invoking process starts, denoted by , ends, denoted by , starts or ends, represented by , or at any time during its execution, represented . Figure 7 specifies that Log Recording is triggered any time by Printing terminates. All the possible OPL invocation sentences are specified in Table 5 in Appendix B. Timeout event link: a timeout event link is a time-delimited link that connects a timed element, which can be a process, a state, or an event link, with a process that is triggered when the element violates its time

5.

Figure 7. SD3, in which Order is unfolded, showing its operations and event triggers

Order exhibits Order Status, as well as Timeout Reporting, Printing, Log Recording, and Archive Updating. Order Status can be created, which is the default, paid, supplied, or completed. Created is initial. Created lasts 2 seconds to 30 seconds. Paid is initial. Paid can be advance paid, which is the default, or completely paid. Advance paid is initial. Completed is final. Order Status triggers Log Recording. Order Status triggers Archive Updating when it enters completed, with a reaction time of 2 seconds to 5 minutes. This link triggers Timeout Reporting when its reaction time lasts more than 5 minutes. Order Status triggers Timeout Reporting when created lasts more than 30 seconds. Timeout Reporting yields Timeout Message. Printing triggers Log Recording when it ends. Log Recording requires Order Status. Log Recording yields Log Record. Archive Updating requires completed Order Status. Archive Updating affects Archive.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

150 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

constraints. The timed element is constrained by minimal and/or maximal time limits. These constraints limit process execution, state duration, or the reaction time between triggering a process by an event link and the actual beginning of the triggered process. The timing bar denotes whether reference is made to the violation minimal, maximal, or either one of the two time constraints. When the timed element (timed process, timed state, or timed event link) violates its minimal time constraint, the minimal timeout , is followed. When the element violates its event link, denoted by , maximal time constraint, the maximal timeout event link, denoted by represents a timeout event link which is is followed. The symbol followed whenever an extreme time constraints is violated, while represents an unspecified timeout violation event. The square head of the timeout event link points towards the triggered process. The created state of Order Status in Figure 7, for example, is specified to last 2 to 30 seconds. If it lasts more than 30 seconds, it triggers the Timeout Reporting process, announcing the occurrence of a timeout error. All the possible OPL timeout sentences are specified in Table 5 in Appendix B. As noted, an event link can have minimal and maximal reaction timeout constraints: if the triggered process does not start within the interval (minimal time constraint, maximal time constraint) after a stimulus occurred, a timeout event occurs. In Figure 7, for example, Archive Updating should be triggered within 2 seconds to 5 minutes after Order Status enters its completed state. If Archive Updating is not triggered within 5 minutes from that event, Timeout Reporting is triggered, announcing the reaction timeout error.

OPM Reflective Meta-Model


Up until now we have presented OPM in a rather informal way and accompanied the introduction with a running example. We devote the second part of this chapter to a formal reflective model of OPM. OPM is itself a complex system that combines language constructs and an approach to use that language. As such, it is amenable to modeling with any modeling language that is sufficiently expressive. In particular, it can be modeled in terms of OPM itself, yielding the OPM reflective meta-model. The rest of this chapter presents the language and notation parts of the OPM meta-model. As noted, the development part of OPM is the focus of Dori and Reinhartz-Berger (2003) and, hence, is not described here.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 151

The Top Level Specification


The system diagram (SD), which is the top-level, most abstract specification of the OPM meta-model, is presented in Figure 8. SD contains OPM and its features, which are the attributes Language and Notation, and the operation System Developing. System Developing, which represents the entire OPM-based set of processes, is handled by the User, who is the agent of System Developing. This User can be the system architect, developer, or any other stakeholder who uses OPM to architect, develop, and evolve a System, as well as a team consisting of these stakeholders. The System Developing process requires OPMs Language and Notation as instruments (unchangeable inputs) to create a new System. OPMs Language encompasses OPM elements, their features, and the structural and procedural links among them, but it does not specify anything about the symbols used to denote them. The Notation represents the Language both visually, through interconnected OPD symbols, and textually, through OPL paragraphs and sentences. Unfolding Notation, SD1 (shown in Figure 9) exposes the detailed relationships between Language and Notation. Notation is characterized by Modality, which has two possible states: graphical and textual. An OPD Symbol is a Notation the Modality of which is graphical, while an OPL Sentence is a Notation the Modality of which is textual. An OPD Symbol graphically represents an OPM Element, the building blocks of the Language, while an OPL Sentence textually represents several Elements. An OPL Figure 8. SD, the top level specification, of the OPM reflective meta-model

OPM exhibits Language and Notation, as well as System Developing. Notation represents Language. System Developing requires Language and Notation. System Developing yields System. User is environmental and physical. User handles System Developing.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

152 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Figure 9. SD1, in which OPM Notation is unfolded

Language consists of Elements. Notation exhibits Modality. Modality can be graphical or textual. Notation represents Language. OPD Symbol is a Notation, the Modality of which is graphical. OPD Symbol graphically represents an Element. OPL Sentence is a Notation, the Modality of which is textual. OPL Sentence consists of at least one OPL Phrase. OPL Phrase consists of optional OPL Phrases and optional Atomic OPL Phrases. Atomic OPL Phrase textually represents an Element. OPL Sentence textually represents at least one Element.

Sentence may consist of several OPL Phrases, each of which can be an Atomic OPL Phrase or a complex OPL Phrase, that is, one that consists of other OPL Phrases. An Atomic OPL Phrase textually represents a single OPM Element.

Element Meta-Model
Figure 10 shows the third OPD of the OPM meta-model, labeled SD2, in which Language is unfolded. It specifies that Language consists of Entities and Links, each of which is an Element. An Entity, which exhibits (i.e., is characterized by) a Name, specializes into a Thing and a State. A Thing further specializes into an Object and a Process. The structural relation between an Object and a State represents that an Object owns some State, while a State specifies the status of an Object. A Link exhibits Homogeneity, which is homogeneous for a Structural Link (that usually connects two Objects or two Processes) and nonhomogeneous for a Procedural Link that usually connects an Object and a Process. The various types of links override this Homogeneity attribute when required. Each Element is characterized by three orthogonal attributes:
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 153

Figure 10. SD2, in which Language of OPM is unfolded

Element exhibits Affiliation, Essence, and Scope. Affiliation can be systemic, which is the default, or environmental. Essence can be informatical, which is the default, or physical. Scope can be public, which is the default, protected, or private Language consists of Entity and Link. Entity is an Element. Entity exhibits Name. Thing is an Entity. Object is a Thing. Object owns optional States. Process is a Thing. State is an Entity. State specifies the status of an Object. Link is an Element. Link exhibits Homogeneity. Homogeneity can be homogeneous or non-homogeneous. Structural Link is a Link, the Homogeneity of which is homogeneous. Procedural Link is a Link, the Homogeneity of which is non-homogeneous. Event Link is a Procedural Link.

1.

Affiliation, which can be systemic (the default) or environmental. An environmental Element is an Element, the Affiliation of which is environmental. An environmental Element is external to the system or only partially specified, while a systemic Element is internal to the system and completely specified. Essence, which can be informatical (the default) or physical. A physical Element consists of matter and/or energy. It can be a physical Object (e.g., a Machine), a physical Process (e.g., Manufacturing), a physical State (e.g., tested), or a physical Link (e.g., a communication line between two remote computers). An informatical Element relates to information. Scope, which can be public (the default), protected, or private. As in object-oriented programming languages, the Scope of an Element can be private (i.e., it can be accessed only by itself), protected (accessible only by itself and its sub-elements), or public (accessible by any element in the system). Unlike the object-oriented paradigm, where a method can

2.

3.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

154 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

affect or access only the attributes of the same class, the default Scope in OPM is public, which implies that any OPM process can use or change all the objects in the model. While seemingly violating the object-oriented encapsulation principle, this provision increases the flexibility of modeling patterns of behavior as OPM processes that involve and cut across several object classes.

Thing Meta-Model
Unfolding Thing of the OPM meta-model, SD2.1 (Figure 11) shows its Perseverance attribute, which can be static or dynamic. An Object is a Thing with static Perseverance, while a Process is a Thing with dynamic Perseverance. In addition to Perseverance, a Thing also exhibits the Concreteness attribute, which determines whether the thing is a class (the default) or an instance. The difference between an Object class Figure 11. SD2.1, in which Thing of OPM Language is unfolded

Timed Element exhibits Minim al Tim e Constraint, Maximal Tim e C onstraint, and an optional D uration Distribution Function. Minim al Tim e C onstraint is 0 by default. Maximal Tim e C onstraint is infinity by default. Duration Distribution Function exhibits Function N ame and optional Param eters. Thing exhibits C oncreteness and Perseverance. Concreteness can be class, which is the default, or instance. Perseverance can be static or dynam ic. Object is a Thing, the Perseverance of which is static. Object exhibits Persistent, Key, optional Indices, and an optional Type. Persistent is of type Boolean. Key is of type Boolean. Index relates to an ordered set of at least one Object. Type can be integer, unsigned integer, short, long, float, double, boolean, char, string, date, or tim e. Process is a Thing, the Perseverance of which is dynam ic. Process is a Timed Element. Process exhibits Execution Order. Execution Order can be atom ic, which is the default, sequential, or parallel.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 155

and an Object instance is similar to the difference between these concepts in the object-oriented approach. A Process instance is an occurrence of the process class, which, as noted, is a behavior pattern that the process instances follow. In programming terms, a Process instance can be thought of as an executable version of code, which can be executed a specified finite number of times, while a Process class is the complete code that can be (re)compiled and executed unboundedly. An Object can optionally exhibit Type (e.g., integer, float, or string), whether it is Persistent (i.e., stored in a database), whether it is Key, and optional Indices. Each Index is an ordered tuple of Objects. Process, which is a Thing with a dynamic Perseverance, is also a Timed Element and as such it inherits Minimal Time Constraint (0 by default) and Maximal Time Constraint (infinity by default). As noted, these constraints limit the Process execution time within the specific bounds. Process also inherits from Timed Element a Duration Distribution Function, which is characterized by Function Name and Parameters. This function specifies the distribution of the process duration that determines how long a process execution lasts and it is most useful for simulation purposes. In addition, Process exhibits Execution Order, which can be atomic, sequential, or parallel. Since a process can be either sequential or parallel (but not both), a zoomed-in process will have sub-processes that are all depicted either stacked or in a row, but not as a mixture of these two modes.

State Meta-Model
A State, which describes a situation at which an Object can be, cannot stand alone, but is rather owned by an object. At any given point in time, an Object can be at exactly one of the States it owns, or in transition between two states. Like a Process, a State is a Timed Element, and as such it exhibits Minimal Time Constraint and Maximal Time Constraint, that is, the minimal and maximal bounds for a continuous stay of the owning Object in that State. As a Timed Element, State also exhibits Duration Distribution Function for simulation purposes. The OPD labeled SD2.2 (Figure 12) specifies that a State has three additional Boolean attributes: Initial, Final, and Default. Initial determines whether the object can be initially (i.e., upon its creation) at this state. Final determines whether the object can be consumed (destroyed) when it is at that state. Default determines whether this state is the default state (or value) of the owning object, that is, the state into which the object enters when there is no specified initial state or more than one initial state. The self aggregation attached to State indicates

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

156 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Figure 12. SD2.2, in which State of OPM Language is unfolded

State is a Timed Element. State exhibits Initial, Final, and Default. Initial is of type Boolean and is false by default. Final is of type Boolean and is false by default. Default is of type Boolean and is false by default. State consists of optional States.

that a state may recursively consist of lower-level States, which are nested substates.

Link Meta-Model
As SD2.3 (Figure 13) shows, a Link exhibits two link ends: Source End and Destination End. Both are specializations of Link End, which is characterized by Participation Constraint (also known as multiplicity). Participation Constraint defines the Minimal Cardinality (with 1 as its default value) and the Maximal Cardinality (also 1 by default). These specify the minimal and maximal number of instances that can be connected by the link at the corresponding (source or destination) Link End. In addition a Link exhibits the Figure 13. SD2.3, in which Link of OPM Language is unfolded

Link End exhibits Participation Constraint. Participation Constraint exhibits Minimal Cardinality and Maximal Cardinality. Minimal Cardinality is 1 by default. Maximal Cardinality is 1 by default. Link End is linked to an Element. Link exhibits Source End, Destination End, and Homogeneity. Source End is a Link End. Destination End is a Link End. Homogeneity can be homogeneous or nonhomogeneous. Structural Link is a Link, the Homogeneity of which is homogeneous. 2 Link Ends of Structural Link are either linked to 2 Objects or 2 Processes. Procedural Link is a Link, the Homogeneity of which is non-homogeneous. Source End of Procedural Link is linked to an Entity. Destination End of Procedural Link is linked to a Process. Event Link is a Procedural Link.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 157

Homogeneity attribute, which has two states: homogeneous and nonhomogeneous. A Link is homogeneous if both its Link Ends, that is, its Source End and Destination End, are linked to Things whose Perseverance value are the same. In other words, a homogeneous Link connects either two Objects or two Processes, while a non-homogeneous Link usually connects an Object to a Process. Structural Links, which denote static, non-temporal relations between the linked Entities, are usually homogeneous Links. Procedural Links, which model the behavior of the system along time and represent flows of data, material, energy, or control between the linked entities, are non-homogeneous Links by default.

Determining Link Attribute Values


The values of the Essence, Affiliation, and Scope link attributes, inherited from Element, are determined according to the corresponding values of the entities the link connects. If the entities have different values, a conflict arises that mandates a decision process based on three rules: the link essence, the link affiliation, and the link scope rules. The link essence rule defines that the Essence value of a link is physical if the Essence of the two Elements it connects is physical. Hence, a physical Link can connect only two physical Elements, as described in Figure 14. The link affiliation rule determines that the Affiliation value of a link is environmental if the Affiliation of the two Elements it connects is Figure 14. SD2.3.1, in which the Link Essence rule is specified

Element exhibits Essence. Essence can be informatical, which is the default, or physical. Physical Element is an Element, the Essence of which is physical. Physical Link is a Link, the Essence of which is physical. Source End of Physical Link is linked to Physical Element. Destination End of Physical Link is linked to Physical Element.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

158 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Figure 15. SD2.3.2, in which the Link Affiliation rule is specified

Element exhibits Affiliation. Affiliation can be systemic, which is the default, or environmental. Environmental Element is an Element, the Affiliation of which is environmental. Environmental Link is a Link, the Affiliation of which is environmental. Source End of Environmental Link is linked to Environmental Element. Destination End of Environmental Link is linked to Environmental Element.

Figure 16. SD2.3.3, in which the Link Scope is specified

Source Element is an Element. Destination Element is an Element. Link exhibits Source End and Destination End, as well as Link Scope Declaring. Source End is linked to Source Element. Destination End is linked to Destination Element. Following path a, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is private and Scope of Destination Element is private. Following path a, Link Scope Declaring yields private Scope of Link. Following path b, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is private and Scope of Destination Element is protected. Following path b, Link Scope Declaring yields protected Scope of Link. Following path c, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is private and Scope of Destination Element is public. Following path c, Link Scope Declaring yields public Scope of Link. Following path d, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is protected and Scope of Destination Element is private. Following path d, Link Scope Declaring yields protected Scope of Link. Following path e, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is protected and Scope of Destination Element is protected. Following path e, Link Scope Declaring yields protected Scope of Link. Following path f, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is protected and Scope of Destination Element is public. Following path f, Link Scope Declaring yields public Scope of Link. Following path g, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is public and Scope of Destination Element is private. Following path g, Link Scope Declaring yields public Scope of Link. Following path h, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is public and Scope of Destination Element is protected. Following path h, Link Scope Declaring yields public Scope of Link. Following path i, Link Scope Declaring occurs if Scope of Source Element is public and Scope of Destination Element is public. Following path i, Link Scope Declaring yields public Scope of Link.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 159

environmental. Hence, an environmental Link can connect only two environmental Elements, as specified in Figure 15. The link scope rule determines the Scope value of a Link as the widest of the Scope values of the two connected Elements, where public, protected, and private are the widest, intermediate, and most narrow Scope values, respectively. Figure 16 specifies a process, Link Scope Declaring, that enforces this rule.

Structural Link Meta-Model


SD2.4 (Figure 17) unfolds OPM Structural Links. A Structural Link is characterized by Orderability, which can be ordered (e.g., an array) or Figure 17. SD2.4, in which Structural Link of OPM Language is unfolded

Structural Link exhibits Orderability. Orderability can be unordered, which is the default, or ordered. Tagged Structural Link is a Structural Link. Tagged Structural Link exhibits Forward Tag and Directionality. Forward Tag is relates to by default. Directionality can be uni-directional or bi-directional. Tagged Structural Link is xor-connected to optional Tagged Structural Links. Tagged Structural Link is or-connected to optional Tagged Structural Links. Bi-Directional Tagged Structural Link is a Tagged Structural Link, the Directionality of which is bi-directional. Bi-Directional Tagged Structural Link exhibits Backward Tag. Backward Tag is null by default. Forward Tag of Bi-Directional Tagged Structural Link is are equivalent by default. Fundamental Structural Link is a Structural Link. Aggregation-Participation Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Aggregation-Participation Link is xor-connected to optional Aggregation-Participation Links. Aggregation-Participation Link is or-connected to optional Aggregation-Participation Links. Exhibition-Characterization Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Exhibition-Characterization Link is xor-connected to optional Exhibition-Characterization Links. Exhibition-Characterization Link is or-connected to optional Exhibition-Characterization Links. Generalization-Specialization Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Generalization-Specialization Link is xor-connected to optional Generalization-Specialization Links. Generalization-Specialization Link is or-connected to optional Generalization-Specialization Links. Classification-Initialization Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Classification-Initialization Link is xor-connected to optional Classification-Initialization Links. Classification-Initialization Link is or-connected to optional Classification-Initialization Links.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

160 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

unordered (e.g., a set) by default. An ordered Structural Link adds the reserved label {ordered} next to the Structural Link symbol. In Figure 11, for example, Object is characterized by optional Indices, each of which is an ordered set of Objects. SD2.4 also unfolds the two types of Structural Links: Tagged Structural Links and Fundamental Structural Links. A Tagged Structural Link exhibits Forward Tag, whose default value is the string relates to, and Directionality. A Bi-Directional Tagged Structural Link, which is a Tagged Structural Link whose Directionality is bi-directional, exhibits in addition Backward Tag, whose default value is null, and the default value of its (inherited) Forward Tag is are equivalent. Fundamental Structural Links specialize into Aggregation-Participation Link, Exhibition-Characterization Link, Generalization-Specialization Link, and Classification-Instantiation Link. Structural Links of the same type can be connected by OR and/or XOR relations. This is specified by the self tagged structural links labeled is or-connected to and is xor-connected to, respectively. SD2.4.1 (Figure 18), which unfolds the Fundamental Structural Links, specifies constraints on the Elements that can be connected by this type of links. Being Structural Links, Fundamental Structural Links connects two Objects or two Processes. There are two exceptions to this simple rule. These exceptions, which override the Homogeneity attribute of Structural Links, are explicitly specified in SD2.4.1: Figure 18. SD2.4.1, in which Fundamental Structural Link of OPM Language is unfolded

Aggregation-Participation Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Exhibition-Characterization Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. Source End of Exhibition-Characterization Link is linked to either Link or T Destination End of Exhibition-Characterization Link is linked to Entity. Generalization-Specialization Link is a Fundamental Structural Link. State Generalization-Specialization Link is a Generalization-Specialization Link. Source End of State Generalization-Specialization Link is linked to State. Destination End of State Generalization-Specialization Link is linked to St Classification-Instatiation Link is a Fundamental Structural Link.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 161

Table 1. Possible structural relations between OPM elements. S and D denote the link source and destination, respectively. + denotes a legal link
Tagged Structural Link / Aggregation-Participation Link Object Process State Link Exhibition-Characterization Link
D S

Object

Process

State

Link

Object + Process + State Link Generalization-Specialization Link S Object Process State Link
D

Object + + + Process + + + State + + + Link Classification-Instantiation Link S Object Process State Link Object Process State Link
D

Object Process State Link

+ -

+ -

+ -

+ -

+ -

1.

An Exhibition-Characterization Link connects a Thing or a Link (as its Source End) and an Entity (as its Destination End). For example, the communication link between remote computers, which is modeled as a Tagged Structural Link, can be characterized by the object Transfer Rate and/or the process Encrypting. A Generalization-Specialization Link can connect, in addition to two Objects or two Processes, two States of different Objects to represent state inheritance. In this type of link, which is called State Generalization-Specialization Link, the inherited state has at least the same structural and procedural links as the inheriting state.

2.

Table 1 summarizes the possible structural relations between OPM elements in a tabular way.

Procedural Link Meta-Model


Any Procedural Link has a Process as its Destination End, while its Source End is connected to an Entity. As shown in SD2.5 (Figure 19), a Procedural Link exhibits three attributes: Link Type, Conditionality, and optional Path Labels. The Link Type of a Procedural Link distinguishes primarily between enabling and transforming Procedural Links. Transforming Procedural Links are further divided into affecting, consuming, and resulting Procedural Links. A conditional Procedural Link, that is, a Procedural Link whose Conditionality is conditional, enables the Process execution only if the condition it symbolizes holds, else the destination Process is skipped and the next
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

162 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Figure 19. SD2.5, in which Procdural Link of OPM Language is unfolded

Procedural Link exhibits Link Type, Conditionality, and optional Path Labels. Link Type can be enabling or transforming. Transforming can be consuming, resulting, or affecting. Conditionality can be conditional or unconditional. Source End of Procedural Link is linked to Entity. Destination End of Procedural Link is linked to Process. Instrument Link is a Procedural Link, the Link Type of which is enabling. Instrument Link is xor-connected to optional Instrument Links. Instrument Link is or-connected to optional Instrument Links. Consumption Link is a Procedural Link, the Link Type of which is consuming. Consumption Link is xor-connected to optional Consumption Links. Consumption Link is or-connected to optional Consumption Links. Result Link is a Procedural Link, the Link Type of which is resulting. Result Link is xor-connected to optional Result Links. Result Link is or-connected to optional Result Links. Effect Link is a Procedural Link, the Link Type of which is affecting. Effect Link is xor-connected to optional Effect Links. Effect Link is or-connected to optional Effect Links.

process in turn is examined for possible execution. With the exception of Result Link, each type of procedural link can be either a conditional Procedural Link or an unconditional Procedural Link. A Result Link cannot be a conditional Procedural Link simply because the Entity which the Process generated upon its completion cannot be a condition for the Process that generated it. Like a Structural Link, a Procedural Link can be connected by XOR and OR relations to other Procedural Links of the same type, as shown by the self tagged structural links labeled is xor-connected to and is orconnected to in SD2.5.

Event Link Meta-model


As noted, an Event Link, which is unfolded in SD2.6 (Figure 20), is a Timed Element. As such, it inherits Minimal (reaction) Time Constraint, Maximal (reaction) Time Constraint, and Duration Distribution Function as its
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 163

Figure 20. SD2.6, in which Event Link of OPM Language is unfolded


Event Link is a Timed Element. Timeout Event Link is an Event Link. Timeout Event Link can be minimum, maximum, extreme, or any. Source End of Timeout Event Link is linked to a Timed Element. Timeout Event Link is xor-connected to optional Timeout Event Links. Timeout Event Link is or-connected to optional Timeout Event Links. Invocation Link is an Event Link. Invocation Link can be process start, process end, process bordered, or any. Source End of Invocation Link is linked to a Process. Invocation Link is xor-connected to optional Invocation Links. Invocation Link is or-connected to optional Invocation Links. General Event Link is an Event Link. Source End of General Event Link is linked to a Thing. General Event Link is xor-connected to optional General Event Links. General Event Link is or-connected to optional General Event Links. State Change Event Link is an Event Link. State Change Event Link can be entrance, exit, switch, or any. Source End of State Change Event Link is linked to a State. State Change Event Link is xor-connected to optional State Event Links. State Change Event Link is or-connected to optional State Event Links. Agent Link is an Event Link. Source End of Agent Link is linked to an Object. Agent Link is xor-connected to optional Agent Links. Agent Link is or-connected to optional Agent Links.

attributes. The Duration Distribution Function of an Event can be used for system simulation to define the distribution of the time that passes from the event occurrence to the start of the corresponding triggered process. SD2.6 also specifies the five types of Event Links: Agent Link; State Change Event Link, which can be entrance State Change Event Link, exit State Change Event Link, switch State Change Event Link, or any State Change Event Link; General Event Link; Invocation Link, which can be process start Invocation Link, process end Invocation Link, process border Invocation Link, or any Invocation Link; and Timeout Event Link, which can be minimum Timeout Event Link, maximum Timeout Event Link, extreme Timeout Event Link, or any Timeout Event Link. An Event Link can be any Procedural Link, except for a Result Link, since the source Entity of a Result Link is created during the Process and, hence, cannot trigger it. An Event Link cannot be a conditional procedural link, since it triggers the process rather than just specifying an execution requirement on it.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

164 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Complexity Management in OPM


As noted, OPM is a comprehensive systems evolution methodology. As such, it comprises not only a modeling language, but also an approach for developing and evolving systems. Enabling both top-down and bottom-up development processes through its built-in complexity management mechanisms, OPM supports middle-out development. Complexity management aims at balancing the tradeoff between two conflicting requirements: completeness and clarity. Completeness requires that the system details be stipulated to the fullest extent possible, while the need for clarity imposes an upper limit on the level of complexity and does not allow for an OPD that is too cluttered or overloaded with entities and links among them. The seamless, recursive, and selective OPM scaling, that is, refinement-abstraction, enables presenting the system at various detail levels without losing the big picture and the comprehension of the system as a whole.

Refinement-Abstraction Mechanisms
OPM features three built-in refinement-abstraction mechanisms, which are inzooming and out-zooming, unfolding and folding, and state-expressing and statesuppressing. In-zooming and out-zooming are a pair of refinement and abstraction mechanisms, respectively, which can be applied to all the three entity types: objects, processes, and states. In-zooming of (i.e., zooming into) an entity decreases the distance of viewing it, such that lower-level elements enclosed within the entity become visible. Conversely, out-zooming (i.e., zooming out) of a refined entity increases the distance of viewing it, such that all the lower-level elements that are enclosed within it become invisible. Figures 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are diagrams which result from in-zooming of different processes in the inventory system. Unfolding/folding is a refinement/abstraction mechanism, which can be applied to things objects or processes. Unfolding reveals a set of lower-level entities that are hierarchically below a relatively higher-level thing. The hierarchy is with respect to one or more structural links. The result of unfolding is a graph the root of which is the thing being unfolded. Linked to the graph are the things that are exposed as a result of the unfolding. Conversely, folding is applied to a tree from which a set of unfolded entities is removed, leaving just the root. Figures 2 and 7 result from unfolding the order object of the inventory system. Unfolding/ folding can be applied fully or partially to any subset of descendants (parts, specializations, features, or instances) of a thing (object or process). State expressing is a refinement mechanism applied to objects which reveals a set of states inside an object. State suppressing is the abstraction mechanism
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 165

which conceals a set of states inside an object. For example, the order status in the inventory system is fully state-expressed in Figures 2 and 7 and only partially state-expressed in Figures 3, 4, 5, and 6. This object is state-suppressed in Figure 1. Two entities in an OPD can be connected by at most one procedural link. While abstracting, a conflict between two competing links arises when an entity in the OPD is abstracted. A typical example is a process with two sub-processes, each of which is linked to the same object by a different procedural link, (e.g. an instrument and a consumption link). When this process is out-zoomed, only one of these links needs to remain, and the question is which one prevails. The link needs to be at least as abstract as the more abstract link of the two competing links, so it may be one of these two procedural links or a third link which is more abstract than either one of them. In Figure 3, for example, the object Order is connected to the three sub-processes of Ordering through three links: a result link (to Order Verification) and two effect links (to Customer Order Handling and to Retailer Order Handling). When out-zooming of Ordering, the result link and the two effect links are replaced by a single result link, as shown in Figure 1. Figure 3 shows that Order Status, which is an Order attribute, is connected to Receipt Generating by two input (consumption) links and one output (result) link. After suppressing the states of Order Status, this object remains connected to Receipt Generating with an effect link. Appendix C summarizes the abstraction order of procedural link by a table. This table defines for each two procedural links a third procedural link which replaces the two when abstracting (folding, out-zooming, or state-suppressing) the two procedural links. This table is the basis for defining the procedural aspects of OPM, which are also essential parts of the OPM reflective meta-model (Dori, 2002, pp. 289-309; Dori & Reinhartz-Berger, 2003).

Summary
A comprehensive reflective meta-model of OPM has been presented, using a bimodal representation of object-process diagrams and object-process language paragraphs. Although there seems to be a consensus among object-oriented languages that a system model should describe not just the structural aspect of a methodology but also its behavioral aspect (e.g., UML interaction diagrams), both the semantics and notations of system dynamics are confusing and incomplete. Furthermore, the meta-model of the UML industry standard depicts only the language part, leaving the (software or any other) system development processes informally as a unified process. In sharp contrast to this, OPM, being an object-process approach, enables reflective meta-modeling of the
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

166 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

complete methodology, including its language (with both its conceptual-semantic and notational-syntactic aspects) and the OPM-based system development process. This ability to create a reflective meta-model of OPM is indicative of OPMs expressive power, which goes hand in hand with OPMs ontological completeness according to the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) evaluation framework (Soffer, Golany, Dori, & Wand, 2001). Besides being the source for OPMs definition, the reflective meta-model of OPM can serve other important goals. It can be used as a basis for a theoretical comparison between OPM and various object-oriented methods. COMMA (the common object-oriented methodology meta-model architecture) project (Henderson-Sellers & Bulthuis, 1998) used meta-modeling to construct metamodels of popular object-oriented methodologies and identify a core that was later used as a basis for OPEN, object process, environment and notation (OPEN, 2003). The OPM meta-model can be compared to these meta-models and an automatic transformation generator can be made between popular objectoriented methodologies, such as UML, and OPM. Indeed, OPCAT, objectprocess CASE tool (Dori, Reinhartz-Berger, & Strurm, 2003), can automatically generate a set of UML views, including use case, class, sequence, activity, Statecharts, and deployment diagrams, from the single OPM model. The reflective OPM meta-model helps also define an implementation generator, which automatically transforms the OPM model resulting from the systems analysis and design into a database scheme and executable code. The benefits of this implementation generation include increasing productivity and quality; enabling mechanical and repetitive operations to be done quickly, reliably and uniformly; and relieving designers from mundane tasks so they can focus on creative tasks that require human intelligence. OPM-GCG (Reinhartz-Berger & Dori, 2004), the generic code generator of OPM, handles dynamic repositories of translation rules from an XML syntax of object-process language to various target programming languages. These translation rules are defined in a separate offline tool and are used by the implementation generator at will. Being based on OPM, OPM-GCG enables the generation of potentially complete application logic rather than just skeleton code. The different OPM system development and evolution processes, as well as the refinement and abstraction mechanisms, provide a theoretical foundation for improving OPCAT to make it a fully Integrated System Engineering Environment (I SEE). OPCAT already supports system simulation during the design phase, OPD generation from an OPL script, OPL generation from an OPD-set, and implementation generation.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 167

References
Clark, T., Evans, A., & Kent, S. (2002). Engineering modeling languages: A precise meta-modeling approach. Proceedings of the 5 th International Conference on Fundamental Approaches to Software Engineering (FASE2002), (pp. 159-173). Dori, D. (2002). Object-process methodology A holistic systems paradigm. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag Press. Dori, D. & Reinhartz-Berger, I. (2003). Reflective meta-model of OPM An OPM-based system development process. Proceedings of the 22 nd International Conference on Conceptual Modeling (ER2003), (pp. 105-117). Dori, D., Reinhartz-Berger, I., & Sturm, A. (2003). OPCAT A bimodal case tool for object-process based system development. Proceedings of the IEEE/ACM 5 th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems (ICEIS 2003), (pp. 286-291). Harel, D. (1987). Statecharts: A visual formalism for complex systems. Science of Computer Programming, 8, 231-274. Henderson-Sellers, B. & Bulthuis, A. (1998). Object-oriented metamethods. New York: Springer Verlag Press. Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press. Meta-Model Web site. (2003). What is meta-modelling, and what is a metamodel good for? Retrieved from http://www.meta-model.com Nuseibeh, B., Finkelstein, A., & Kramer, J. (1996). Method engineering for multi-perspective software development. Information and Software Technology Journal, 38(4), 267-272. Object Management Group (OMG). (2001). UML 1.4 - UML semantics (OMG document formal/01-09-73). Retrieved from http://cgi.omg.org/docs/ formal/01-09-73.pdf Object Management Group (OMG). (2003). Meta object facility (MOF) specification (OMG document formal/02-04-03). Retrieved from http:// cgi.omg.org/docs/formal/02-04-03.pdf OPEN Web site. (2003). Retrieved from http://www.open.org.au Peleg, M. & Dori, D. (1999). Extending the object-process methodology to handle real-time systems. Journal of Object-Oriented Programming, 11(8), 53-58.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

168 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Peleg, M. & Dori, D. (2000). The model multiplicity problem: Experimenting with real-time specification methods. IEEE Transaction on Software Engineering, 26(8), 742-759. Reinhartz-Berger, I. & Dori, D. (2004). Object-process methodology (OPM) vs. UML: A code generation perspective. Proceedings of CAiSE04 Workshops in connection with the 16th Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering (CAiSE2004), vol. 1 (pp.275-286). Reinhartz-Berger, I. & Dori, D. (2005). OPM vs. UML Experimenting with comprehension and construction of Web application models. Accepted to Emprical Software Engineering Journal, 10(1), 57-79. Reinhartz-Berger, I., Dori, D., & Katz S. (2002a). OPM/Web Objectprocess methodology for developing Web applications. Annals of Software Engineering Special Issue on Object-Oriented Web-based Software Engineering, 141-161. Reinhartz-Berger, I., Dori, D., & Katz S. (2002b). Open reuse of component designs in OPM/Web. Proceeding of Computer Software and Application Conference (COMPSAC2002), (pp. 19-24). Rosemann, M. & Green, P. (2002). Developing a meta model for the BungeWand-Weber ontological constructs. Information Systems, 27, 75-91. Rossi, M., Tolvanen, J. P., Ramesh, B., Lyytinen, K., & Kaipala, J. (2000). Method rationale in method engineering. Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences Volume 2, (pp. 20362045). Retrieved from http://www.computer.org/proceedings/hicss/ 0493/04932/04932036.pdf Soffer, P., Golany, B., & Dori, D. (2003). ERP modeling: A comprehensive approach. Information Systems, 28(6), 673-690. Soffer, P., Golany, B., Dori, D., & Wand, Y. (2001). Modelling off-the-shelf information systems requirements: An ontological approach. Requirements Engineering, 6(3), 183-199. Van Gigch, J. P. (1991). System design modeling and meta-modeling. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3, 217-237. Warmer, J. & Kleppe, A. (1999). The object constraint language Precise modeling with UML. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 169

Appendices
Appendix A: BWW Ontological Constructs and Their OPM Representation
Table 2. BWW ontological constructs and their mapping to OPM concepts
Ontological Construct Thing Property Class State State law Event BWW Explanation A thing is the elementary unit in the ontological model. The real world is made up of things. A composite thing may be made up of other things Things possess properties. A property is modeled via an attribute function that maps the thing into some value A class is a set of things that possess common properties The vector of values for all attribute functions of a thing is the state of the thing A state law restricts the values of the properties of a thing to a subset defined by natural or human laws An event is a change of state of a thing, effected via a transformation (see below) OPM Representation An instance An attribute is an object related to another object by a characterization link An object class A state (separately modeled for each attribute) A state law is a specification of the possible states of an object, including distinction of transient and persistent states The event of changing state A to state B is represented by the sequence <State A consumption link process result link state B> A process (class) A set of objects / states linked to a process by a condition / event / effect / consumption / instrument link. The process is linked to another set of objects / states by an effect / result link Object / state event link process Process effect / result link object / state A persistent state, or any other state, which is not unstable (see below)

Transformation Lawful transformation

A transformation is a mapping from one state to another one A lawful transformation defines which events in a thing are lawful

External event Internal event Stable State

Unstable state

An event that arises in a thing, subsystem or system by virtue of the action of some thing in the environment on the thing, subsystem or system An event that arises in a thing, subsystem or system by virtue of lawful transformations in the thing A state in which a thing, subsystem or a system will remain unless forced to change by virtue of the action of a thing in the environment (an external event) A state that will be changed into another state by virtue of the action of transformations in the system

Subclass Composition Decomposition

A subset of a class, defined by a conjunction of properties The things in a composite thing are its composition A decomposition of a composite thing is a set of things such that every component of the composite thing is either a member of this set or is included in the composition of one of the members

State A in the sequence <state A condition / event / consumption link process result link state B> is an unstable state An object class, which is related to another class by a specialization link Composition and decomposition are given by the sequence <object aggregation link set of objects>. The composite thing is linked at the vertex of the aggregation symbol and its components at the bottom

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

170 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Appendix B: OPM Concepts and Symbols


Table 3. Entities: things and states
Entity Type Systemic, informatical object Object Environmental, informatical object Systemic, physical object Environmental, physical object Systemic, informatical process Process Environmental, informatical process Systemic, physical process Environmental, physical process Regular state Initial state Final state Default state Entity Symbol

State

Table 4. Structural relations, their OPD symbols, and OPL sentences


Structural Relation Name
Aggregation-Participation

OPD Symbol

OPL Sentence
A consists of B.

Exhibition-Characterization Generalization-Specialization

A exhibits B.

B is an A.

Classification-Instantiation

B is an instance of A.

Tagged Structural Link XOR relation OR relation

A relates to B. A and B are equivalent. E.g., A relates to either B or C. E.g., A relates to B or C.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 171

Table 5. Procedural links, their OPD symbols, and OPL sentences


Type Link Name Semantics OPD Symbol OPL Sentence

Instrument

The process requires the entity, but does not change it during execution.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Enabling Links Transforming Links Conditional Links Logical Relations

P requires A.

Consumption

The process consumes the entity.

P consumes A.

Result

The process generates (creates) the entity.

P yields A.

Effect

The process changes (affects) the thing.

P affects A.

Instrument

The process occurs if the entity exists (in some state). The process requires the entity. The process occurs if the entity exists (in some state). The process consumes the entity. The process occurs if the thing exists. The process changes (affects) the thing.


c

P occurs if A exists. P requires A.

Consumption

P occurs if A exists. P consumes A.

Effect

P occurs if A exists. P affects A.

XOR relation

E.g., P affects either A or B.

OR relation

E.g., P affects A or B.

172 Reinhartz-Berger & Dori

Table 6. Event links: their semantics and symbols

Event Type Agent

Semantics The process is triggered by the intelligent object. The process is triggered when the object enters or exits the state. The object may be changed. The process is triggered when the object or process is changed or cause external stimuli. The object may be consumed or changed. The process is triggered when the source process starts or ends.

OPD Symbol

OPL Sentence A handles P.

State Change

Enter: Exit: Switch: Any:

e
e

e e

, , , ,

e
e e e

A triggers P when it enters/exists/either enters or exists st. St A triggers P.

General Event

A triggers P.

Invocation

Start: End: Border: Any:

P invokes P1 when it starts/ends/ either starts or ends. P invokes P1. A triggers P when st lasts less than Time/ more than Time/less than Time or more than Time. Timeout of st A triggers P. P1 triggers P when it lasts less than Time/ more than Time/ either less than Time or more than Time. Timeout of P1 triggers P. This link triggers P when its reaction time lasts less than Time/ more than Time/ either less than Time or more than Time. This link timeout triggers P.
E.g., A triggers either P

Minimal or Maximal State Timeout

The process is triggered when the object violates its minimal or maximal time constraints for staying at the state.

Min: Max: Extreme: Any:

Minimal or Maximal Process Timeout

The process is triggered when the process violates its minimal or maximal execution time constraints.

Min: Max: Extreme: Any:

Reaction Timeout

The process is triggered when the event link violates its minimal or maximal reaction time constraints.

Min: Max: Extreme: Any:

XOR relation OR relation

or Q when it changes. when it changes.

E.g., A triggers P or Q

Note: The OPL sentences in this table are for the event aspect of the link. For state change and general event links, an additional OPL sentence, which represents its procedural aspect, should be added.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

A Reflective Meta-Model of Object-Process Methodology 173

Appendix C: Abstraction Order of Procedural Links


Table 7. Abstraction order of procedural links
e
c c
c
e e e e e

e e

e
c c c
c

e e e

e
e e e e e e e e e e

e e
e e
e e e e

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

174 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Chapter VII

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering for Information Systems Development1


Roland Holten, University of Frankfurt, Germany Alexander Dreiling, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Jrg Becker, European Research Center for Information Systems, Germany

Abstract
Information systems development has to deal with evolving technologies and changing environments. Therefore, the engineering of methods as the problem of creating suitable instruments for new situations is critical to information systems development. The failure of IS development projects shows that method engineering is an open field. The question is if and how research on ontology can contribute to overcome the current situation. We show, based on linguistic and philosophical findings, how ontology can be used as linchpin in method engineering. We found that the language critique approach of Kamlah and Lorenzen (1984) provides the means to

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 175

create ontologies by linguistic actions and that ontologies are always related to language communities sharing the knowledge of using a common language in communication processes. We present an ontology-driven engineering method for information systems development. Our method helps to create required language constructs to handle new situations. The ontology-driven engineering method is demonstrated using an elaborate example case.

Introduction
An ongoing discussion on the business value of IT (Hitt & Brynjolfsson, 1996; Im, Dow, & Grover, 2001; Mukhopadhyay, Kekre, & Kalathur, 1995; Subramani & Walden, 2001; Tam, 1998), the role of IT in creating competitive advantage (Johnston & Vitale, 1988), and the perception that IT has changed from a simple administrative support tool to the vital backbone of an organization (Henderson & Venkatraman, 1999; Li & Chen, 2001; Venkatraman, 1994) clearly indicate that the role and impact of IT in contemporary organizations has changed significantly. In order to cope with the increased pressure on IT (Mukhopadhyay et al., 1995) as a result of these developments, the implementation of business solutions needs, more than ever to be effective, that is to meet business requirements exactly. Moreover, it needs to be increasingly efficient, requiring shorter development cycles, increased quality, and lower development costs. However, even if information systems research and practice have reached an advanced stage, there are still serious concerns about the effectiveness and efficiency of IT projects. Keil states that a significant number of IT projects will ultimately escalate and fail, if they have not reached their objectives within predefined time restrictions and allocated resources (Keil, 1995). Empirical results from Keil, Mann, and Rai suggest that 30 to 40 percent of all IT projects are subject to project escalation (Keil et al., 2000). Even if, in this survey, not all projects that exhibited some degree of escalation failed, we can assume that the frequency of IT project failure rates will be not significantly below the statistical average escalation rate, because escalation is not the only reason for project failure. Obtaining an exact frequency of IT project escalation rates is very difficult. The Standish Groups Extreme Chaos research report revealed that only 28 percent of several thousand software development projects were completed on budget, on time, and with all features and functions originally specified (Standish Group International, 2001). Twenty-three percent were never implemented or canceled before the development was completed, 49 percent were completed and operational, but over budget, behind schedule, and with fewer functions and
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

176 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

features than originally specified. Furthermore, the failure rate rises with the complexity of the project (Standish Group International, 2001). Reports from different IS domains suggest, that one of the reasons for the failure of IT projects is inadequate communication between business and IT people. Within the field of data warehousing, Wixom and Watson state that the involvement of management, as targeted users of the system, or management support both contribute to system quality and system success (Wixom & Watson, 2001). If non-IT personnel is to be involved in an IS development project, especially the specification phase is important, because it includes the creation of a catalogue of functions that a future system needs to be able to perform. From an IT perspective, a broad variety of methods, architectures, and applications aim at supporting the IS development process (Hirschheim, Klein, & Lyytinen, 1995). However, the high failure rate especially of complex IT projects, indicates that some so-called best practices for IT development are inadequate. There is a continually increasing need for methodical approaches that are sufficiently theoretically well-founded to handle complex IT projects (Jiang, Klein, & Discenza, 2001). By using approved methods, systems engineers gain several advantages, such as learning effects, through repeated tasks within IT projects, or time reduction corresponding with cost reduction resulting from learning effects (Standish Group International, 2001). On the other hand, technology is continuously evolving, demanding IT project management permanently to deal with new situations. To be in the position of being able to handle new situations requires languages to communicate about these situations. For example, in data warehouse environments a common language of IT and non-IT personnel is required to avoid misunderstandings while specifying the requirements of the system (Holten, 2003a). The methodical problem of creating new languages and methods is crucial for IT project success. In this chapter, we propose a method for engineering information systems featuring the development of an ontology as a core concept. Especially, we show its role during the process of creating a specification language for information systems. Our method integrates well-founded concepts such as meta-models, ontology and language abstraction to increase the probability of successful information systems projects. As an introduction to the topic, we first analyze research positions and provide an overview of related work on information modeling, meta-model-based methods and ontology. The next section gives an introduction to the fundamentals of method engineering to define our ontology-driven method for information systems development. Using our developed method, we present an elaborate example and create an ontology for the specification of information systems for the purpose of analysis, as well as a model of this ontology. In the next section, we introduce a modeling case that describes how managerial objectives can be

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 177

used to derive information models that can be easily transformed into data structures. Finally, a summary and future prospects will conclude the chapter.

Scientific Position and Related Work


In this section, a survey of related work is presented. Contributions on the general topic of information systems and method engineering deal with information modeling, ontology and meta-modeling. First, our scientific position is clarified.

Ontological and Epistemological Position


Our method as well as our research is based on certain assumptions concerning two fundamental questions: 1) Does a world exist (ontological question)? 2) Is objective recognition possible (epistemological question)? The answers to these questions mark the researchers position and limit the interpretability of scientific work. Our position has been described in detail elsewhere (Niehaves, Ribbert, Dreiling, & Holten, 2004; Ribbert, Niehaves, Dreiling, & Holten, 2004). As basis for our argument we first repeat our main assumptions and sketch our position. 1. Existence of a real world. The first epistemological assumption of our research approach is the existence of a real world beyond the realms of pure imagination of a subject. We presume a world that exists independently of cognition, thought and speech processes. Thus, we assume the position of (ontological) realism. Hereby, we refer to ontology as the analysis or the theory of what is and how it is (von Foerster, 1996; Bunge, 1977). Subjective cognition. The second epistemological assumption of our research is concerned with the question whether things in the real world can at least in principle be recognized as objective. This is neglected by constructivists who assume that cognition is subjective (or private). The relationship of cognition to the object of cognition is thus determined clearly by the subject.

2.

Taking into account the first epistemological assumption existence of an objective world and the second epistemological assumption subjective cognition we consider our research approach as belonging to the position of interpretivism (cp. Figure 1) which is to separate from the positivist and radical
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

178 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

constructivist positions (Weber, 2004; Dub & Par, 2003). Due to the high level of subjectivity in the process of cognition, the process of cognition prevails as the (re)construction of reality through (predominantly linguistic) action. The quality of such a (re)construction is determined by the extent to which it can be aligned with the individuals own immediate cognition. The positivists position is popular, for example, in IS case research (Dub & Par, 2003).

Information Modeling
The terms software engineering and systems engineering emphasize engineering-related methods featuring a strong theoretical foundation for developing information systems. Information models can be used as a basis for systems engineering (Kottemann & Konsynski, 1984; Karimi, 1988). In order to develop high quality IT solutions, business requirements need to be identified and modeled from a business perspective. After having defined the business requirements, an information system that can subsequently be implemented must be specified. The Object Management Group (OMG) addresses the problem of information system engineering by proposing the so-called Model Driven Architecture (MDA) (Soley & the OMG Staff Strategy Group, 2000). Various modeling techniques are used to develop vendor- and middleware-neutral information models. In a second step, these information models are used to design middleware concepts. After selecting a language, the implementation of information systems based on the middleware design, can be initiated. The Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS) presented by Scheer (2000), is another approach for specifying information systems. The four

Figure 1. Ontological and epistemological positions, cp. (Niehaves et al., 2004; Ribbert et al., 2004)
Epistemological position with respect to the relationship of cognition and the object of cognition Objective cognition is impossible. A real world is existent. No real world exists. Interpretivism Radical Constructivism Objective cognition is possible. Positivism

Ontological position

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 179

different perspectives of data, functions, organization, and control, each consisting of three layers of conceptual model, technical model, and implementation, can be used to model different aspects of a software system from a business perspective as well as from an IT perspective. All these models correspond with one another. Language constructs from one perspective, can be integrated into models with a different perspective, which ensures that the information models are highly integrated. Furthermore, some perspectives support a certain degree of automation. The data model can be transformed automatically into a relational model from which a physical data warehouse schema can be derived. A shared domain knowledge between business and IT executives, positively influences an improved alignment of business and IT objectives and thus enhances the quality of IT solutions (Reich & Benbasat, 2000). If the business and IT staff can work collaboratively on IT specifications using the same information modeling method, it is a reasonable assumption that the requirements engineering of information systems can be simplified. Information models defined from a business perspective, can be used to specify information systems from a more technical perspective (Holten, 2003b, 2003a; Becker, Dreiling, Holten, & Ribbert, 2003).

Meta-Model-Based Methods
Meta-modeling is a popular approach for analyzing information system methods. Based on models related to real-world objects, meta-models are used to specify modeling languages (Nissen, Jeusfeld, Jarke, Zemanek, & Huber, 1996; Holten, 2000; Strahringer, 1996). Recently, Rosemann and Green presented (2002) a meta-model of the Bunge-Wand-Weber ontology. Meta-models have also been developed within the field of decision support systems (van Hee, Somers, & Voorhoeve, 1991). In the approach by van Hee et al., both the meta-model and language developed, are specified by formal expressions. Modeling techniques using user appropriate concepts and representations, simplify the modeling process and thus help to align further business and IT objectives (Reich & Benbasat, 2000). Based on a thorough analysis of concepts relevant to and used by management, the MetaMIS approach consistently integrates a meta-model and a formal graphic representation, to support the specification of managerial views in information warehouse projects (Becker et al., 2003; Holten, 2003b, 2003a; Holten et al., 2002).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

180 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Ontology in the Information Systems Field


Information modeling as well as meta-modeling are instruments in the IS domain. The analysis of a modeling language and a metalanguage leads to the concept of an ontology. Campbell and Shapiro (1995) explain that an ontology consists of a representational vocabulary with precise definitions of the meanings of the terms of this vocabulary plus a set of formal axioms that constrain the interpretation and well-formed use of these terms. Rosemann and Green (1999) state that ontology is a well-established domain within philosophy dealing with models of reality (p. 41). In accordance with our scientific position (cp. Figure 1) an ontology structures the object of the ontological question (What is reality?) and defines elements of it and relationships between these elements (Uschold, King, Moralee, & Zorgios, 1998). This procedure can be observed in several ontology construction approaches (Bunge, 1977; Green & Rosemann, 2000a; Uschold et al., 1998; Wand & Weber, 1990b). According to Bunge (1977, p. 21), an ontology cannot be tested empirically, because it has a constitutional character. Thus, it is an interpretivist or constructivist approach referring our framework of epistemological positions (cp. Figure 1). From a cognitive perspective, the construction of an ontology could be supported by the repertory grid technique introduced by Kelly (1955), which can be used to visualize cognitive knowledge. Tan and Hunter (2002) stress the relevance of the repertory grid technique for information systems research, describing several approaches where the technique has been applied. They explain further that cognitive knowledge consists of constructs of realworld elements that are connected by certain links. Thus, the repertory grid technique could be used to construct domain elements and their explanation, which could then be labeled unequivocally to define an ontology. The analysis of ontology is popular in the field of IS modeling and development. Based on the work of Bunge (1977), Wand and Weber (1989, 1990a, 1990b, 1993, 1995) introduced the ontological approach to the field of information systems development. The authors defined a set of core concepts that can be used to describe the structure and behavior of an information system (Wand & Weber, 1990b, p.1282). The aim of this systematic definition approach, was to structure the field of information systems and to better understand the static and dynamic properties of information systems (p. 1282). Recently, Wand and Webers work has been applied to the analysis of information system method engineering. Green and Rosemann present an analysis of the ARIS approach using the ontological framework of Wand and Weber (Green & Rosemann, 2000a, 2000b; Rosemann & Green 1999, 2002). Since formal and domain specific languages are the core of IS modeling and development in evolving environments, their creation and maintenance is a methodological

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 181

problem. In the next section we show how linguistic research can help to deal with situations where new concepts are required. Especially the language perspective of Kamlahs and Lorenzens language critique approach can be used to create an ontology. According to this approach language to communicate about an IS domain, needs to be reconstructed critically using linguistic actions. The task of creating an ontology is then to be understood as creating a common understanding of a system of symbols. This approach and required background are discussed in the next section.

Fundamentals of Method Engineering


Whereas a model describes a real-world object, a meta-model is usually referred to as a model of a language that describes real-world objects (Holten, 2000; Nissen et al., 1996; Strahringer, 1996). Thus, model and meta-model are related to the same real world object. This kind of meta-model is called a language based meta-model (Strahringer, 1996). Related to the real-world object which is to be modeled, the meta-model is defined in the metalanguage (Guarino & Welty, 2002; Holten, 2000). Holten (2000) depicted the interdependencies of the meta level, type level, and instance level on three layers. He stated that a model M1 of a real-world object is described in a language L1 which itself is described in a model M2 (meta-model of the real world object). These relationships are assigned at the language abstraction levels shown in Figure 2. In Figure 2, model M1 relies on language L1 in the sense that model M1 cannot be understood without knowing language L1. Referring our interpretivist position (cp. Figure 1) language L1 is the basis for recognizing real worlds aspects and arranging them in model M1. From a methodical point of view, a core question is how a language as L1 can be created and maintained to handle new situations.

Languages as Matter of Linguistics


In order to understand how languages as sets of symbols are created and a common understanding of symbols can be established, the work on language critique, a branch of constructive philosophy known as the Erlangen School, of Wilhelm Kamlah and Paul Lorenzen, provides useful insight (Kamlah & Lorenzen, 1984; Lorenzen, 1987). This approach is related to other research on the nature languages. Languages as matter of subject are analyzed in linguistics. One of the early researchers involved in forming the modern view on languages was Ferdinand de Saussure. He conceptualized a linguistic sign as a union of a concept, or alternatively the signified (signifi) and a sound image, or
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

182 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 2. Arrangement of models and meta-models on language abstraction levels (Holten, 2000, p. 142)

M2

represented in

L2

meta level
language based meta model of model of

M1

represented in

L1

type level
model of

part of the real or perceived world

instance level

alternatively the signifier (significant) (de Saussure, 1974, p. 66). De Saussure (1974, p. 67) states that a linguistic sign has two basic characteristics represented by two principles. Principle I describes that the combination of concept and sound image is arbitrary. Thus, a language consisting of linguistic signs is based on conventions. Principle II focuses on the linearity of auditory sound images (auditory signifier). The auditory signifier is fugacious. Each element is represented successively. If auditory signifiers are written down, the line by which they are to be interpreted substitutes the time dimension of auditory sound signifiers (p. 70). In this case the signifiers are still represented linearly. After de Saussure, one of the most influential research projects in linguistics was conducted by Charles Morris. According to Morris (1974, p. 24), a language consists of a set of interrelated signs. In contrast to de Saussures sign, Morris sign only addresses what de Saussure calls the signifier. In order to clearly distinguish de Saussures sign from Morris sign we will denote Morris sign as symbol. The basis of this understanding of symbols goes back to the ancient Greeks. As a science semiotic states facts about symbols and is divided into three subordinate branches, syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics (Morris, 1971, p.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 183

23). As a more commonly-used term, syntactics, which we will further refer to as syntax, deals with the relations of symbols to one another (p. 28). Language communities need such syntactical conventions in order to create a common understanding of interrelated symbols. Semantics deals with the relation of symbols to concepts or objects which they may or do donate (p. 35). Such conventions are necessary within a language in order to address one real-world object with the same symbol. Finally, pragmatics deals with the relation of symbols to their interpreters (p. 43). It addresses the understanding of symbols to users. Both introduced conceptualizations are based on conventions. However, de Saussure did not explicitly address the problem as to how the relationship between a signifier and a signified were bound, thus creating a sign. Morris semantics and syntax are based on conventions as well, because a community needs a shared understanding of symbols and their relationships as a prerequisite for meaningful communication. Pragmatics, however, focus on the relation of symbols and their interpreters. It deals with an individual who understands a symbol, which has a meaning to a group of people the same way these people understand it. In order to analyze how a common understanding of symbols is created, Language Critique, known as the Erlangen School, of Wilhelm Kamlah and Paul Lorenzen, is helpful. Kamlah and Lorenzen (1984, p. 33)show that language is used to disclose the world and is thus a proper instrument in relation to our interpretivist position (cp. Figure 1). The language critique approach integrates two linguistic abstractions: first, the abstraction from discourse to language as a system of signs, and second the abstraction from sign to concept (cp. Figure 3). The first abstraction separates language and discourse in the sense of schema versus linguistic action. By this, Kamlah and Lorenzen provide a means of separating signs (founding a language and thus a schema) from their linguistic usage (discourse) (p.44). Discourse means the repeatedly actualized usage of signs in changing combination and variation. Thus, discourse is an actualized activity, whereas language comprises potential activities, defined as activityschema (p. 45). The second abstraction in the language critique approach deals with the relation of sign and meaning. De Saussure, Morris, and Kamlah and Lorenzen divide between a concept and its representation, which is called sound pattern by Kamlah and Lorenzen (1984, p. 72). Given a term, concept is the meaning of this term. A concept is at first no more than a term; however we abstract from the arbitrary sound-pattern of a term when we call it a concept (p. 72). On the other hand, if statements are made about signs that are invariant with respect to the changing meaning of these signs, these statements deal with the soundpattern. So, to reach the sound-pattern of a sign, disregarding the meaning as an abstraction is required (p. 73).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

184 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 3. Agreements and abstractions in the language critique approach (Holten, 2003a)
1. agreement discourse 1. abstraction from accidental properties of activities actualized activity, spoken term, word as schema 2. abstraction from arbitrary soundpattern 2. agreement meaning, intension

sound pattern, sign

concept, state-ofaffairs

The separation of concept and representation is common to all linguistic approaches mentioned. Whereas de Saussure does not address how combinations of concept and representation are established, Morris addresses this problem explicitly with the pragmatics dimension of symbols. In both conceptualizations, the combination is arbitrary. Using Morris terminology symbols have syntax, semantics and pragmatics. But how does this happen and how are these dimensions related? Where do the conventions making syntax, semantics and pragmatics of these symbols come from? Seen through the eyes of Kamlah and Lorenzen, these questions can be answered using the construct language community: A new term is introduced by explicit agreement with respect to its usage and meaning (Kamlah & Lorenzen, 1984, p. 57). This agreement leads to a relation of concept and term and is shared by a language community as the knowledge of using this term (p. 45). In the words of Kamlah and Lorenzen, Since discourse as actualized activity pursues the particular end of mutual understanding, we may say of language that as a system of signs it promotes mutual understanding. For this very reason it is, in a unique way, a know-how held in common, the possession of a language community. (p. 47)

An Example on Language Critique


The following example is intended to demonstrate the importance of Kamlahs and Lorenzens concepts, language critical re-construction and language community, for information systems modeling problems. Morris explicitly divides semantics and pragmatics as the general meaning of one symbol and the meaning of a symbol to a user. If, for instance, hieroglyphs of ancient cultures are found, the symbols would have a linguistic meaning nobody understands any
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 185

longer. However, scientists may intensively research the hieroglyphs and relearn the language by relearning what the symbols mean (or what they think they mean). Using Morris terminology hieroglyphs as symbols then would have syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, again. But how does this happen? Where do the conventions making syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of these hieroglyphs come from? Seen through the eyes of Kamlah and Lorenzen, these questions can be answered using the concepts language critical re-construction and language community: Semantics and pragmatics are directly linked to each other in Kamlahs and Lorenzens approach, which means that the ancient language symbols have no meaning once the last ancient language user has died. The scientists researching the hieroglyphs can develop an understanding of these symbols, which creates a new language community understanding these symbols in same way. It is possible that the ancient language users belonged to the same language community. However, this may not be the case if they understood them differently. The approach implies that there is no clear existence of languages without anyone currently using this language. If members of a group of people communicate and each has an aligned semantic and pragmatic dimension of a symbol in mind, then this group of people forms a language community.

Language Critique Summary and Implications


De Saussure, Morris, and Kamlah and Lorenzen divide between a concept and its representation. Whereas de Saussure does not address how combinations of both are established, Morris addresses this problem explicitly with the pragmatics dimension of symbols. In both conceptualizations, the combination is arbitrary. With Kamlah and Lorenzens language critique approach, the combination of a signified and a signifier from de Saussure or semantics and syntax from Morris can be created deliberately. In Kamlahs and Lorenzens world there are no languages without users. Language communities have to be created by introducing symbols and explaining them. The implications for our work are that the semantic and pragmatic dimensions of symbols need to be introduced together. In order to create a language for the specification of information systems, language constructs need to be introduced and explained. By studying this work, the reader will become a member of the language community sharing the language that will subsequently be introduced. If a language community has been created based on a critical language (re)construction of a domain, the members of this language community share the pragmatic dimension of a symbol. All members have the same concept in mind if they are confronted with a symbol of the language and vice versa. In turn, nonmembers of the language community do not understand the language symbols or
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

186 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

they understand them differently. In order to become a member of a language community, an individual must align the pragmatic dimension of language signs with that of the language community. Once inside a language community, the border between pragmatics and semantics of a symbol disappear for an individual. The symbol becomes a sign for de Saussure, where all individuals relate a concept to the sign and vice versa. In summary, linguistic actions used to establish language communities are the instruments to create ontologies and with respect to our interpretivist position (cp. Figure 1) ontologies are related to language communities.

Operationalization: Types of Linguistic Actions for Information Systems Engineering


Wedekind (1981) defines a set of construction operations (linguistic actions) to create systems of concepts relevant for the development of database systems derived from the work of Kamlah and Lorenzen. These linguistic actions are called subsumption, subordination, and composition. They are defined as follows (Holten, 1999; Wedekind, 1981):

Subsumption. A concept is created by statements. By subsumption, object types are created in the sense of an instance-of relation. An object type defines a set of objects. Concepts created by subsumption are modeled with the entity type symbol. Subordination. A set of concepts is subordinated to a higher concept by statements. By subordination, is-a relations are defined between object types. Is-a relations are modeled with a triangle. Composition. Two (or more) concepts are related by statements. By composition relationships, types are created. Concepts created by compositions are modeled with relationship type symbols and cardinalities in minmax notation. Cardinalities define the complexity of relationship types. For any concept used to define the meaning of the composition, the complexity of minimum and maximum values of the elements is given as zero, one, or many. If composed concepts are required to compose further concepts, this is modeled by surrounding the respective relationship type symbol by an entity type symbol.

Using these linguistic actions as an example, we are able to define a system of concepts relevant for the investigated domain. Ontology is clearly a synonym for system of concepts specified based on these construction operations. The implications on the method engineering approach proposed here are as follows:
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 187

In order to approach the field of information systems development methodically, we first need to define an ontology. As already stated, an ontology is a constructivist or interpretivist approach to creating terms and explaining the concepts relating to an information systems domain. The ontology will be defined by critically reconstructing the language of the considered domain with Wedekinds linguistic actions. This will create signs in de Saussures understanding. The necessary pragmatic alignment of the symbols created, will be achieved by common language explanations of the introduced symbols. Syntactic conventions for the introduced symbols will be defined partially by creating an entityrelationship model. This model, combined with explanations, can be seen as ontological foundation. It enables the user to avoid misunderstandings with a structured domain description. Based on the ontological foundation, we are able to develop a consistent representation language for the investigated domain. These three steps to approaching information systems development methodically will be demonstrated in a case in the next section. Resulting from the linguistic analysis of languages, Figure 2 needs to be extended. The modeling language L1 consists of two main parts which are symbols that represent something for users of this language on the one hand and rules how these symbols are interrelated on the other hand. From the work of Kamlah and Lorenzen, it is evident that semantics and pragmatics are closely related to each other. This part of the language can be modeled in a terminological model. Syntactic alignment of the use of language symbols in this approach is as necessary as semantic and pragmatic alignment, in order to create language communities. However, this part of the language can be formalized in a syntactical model that is different from the terminological model. Both are metamodels related to the relevant aspect of the real or perceived world. They are modeled in two modeling languages L2 and L3, for which the same differentiation (semantics/pragmatics and syntax) can be applied as for L1. L2 may be different from L3. Nevertheless, this differentiation is not necessary for our further work and will therefore not be examined. Figure 4 depicts the arrangement of models and meta-models at language abstraction levels using the linguistic foundations from this paragraph.

Creation of an Ontology
Using Wedekinds three introduced linguistic actions subsumption, subordination, and composition we will now (re-)construct a language to make statements about the domain of management information systems. We introduce language constructs for specifying information spaces and aspects within information

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

188 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 4. Arrangement of models and meta-models at language abstraction levels considering linguistic foundations

M2
syntactical part of the model terminological part of the model L3

L2

meta level
language based meta model of model of model of

syntax
M1 L1

semantics / pragmatics (Ontology)

type level
model of

part of the real or perceived world

instance level

spaces. Furthermore, business objectives will be added to the language to assist in providing a specification of MIS with the introduced language.

Definition of Information Spaces


The first base concept of the modeling approach is Dimension. Dimensions are necessary to span information spaces. From a managerial point of view, they are orthogonal. There are mandatory dimensions, because every managerial view must have a temporal reference, or, for example, a reference to an optimistic or pessimistic planning scenario of the enterprise. Additionally, dimensions used to define a managerial view have to be explicitly compatible. Dimensions are represented by (red) rectangles. In order to integrate hierarchical views on identical leaf objects consistently, the concept Dimension Grouping is introduced. Dimensions defining views on identical leaf objects are subsumed in the same dimension grouping. Dimensions belonging to the same dimension grouping have the same set of leaves. For example, in the retailing business different aspects of stores are relevant. Stores
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 189

are classified according to competitive environments, sites (e.g. downtown, suburb or village) or appearance (age and degree of modernization). All attributes relate to the same set of business objects (set of stores). Since it is meaningful to combine these aspects with one another, different dimensions are introduced. These dimensions are integrated in one dimension grouping (Store), because their leaves are identical. Separating dimensions and dimension groupings avoids parallel branches within dimensions. Dimensions with parallel branches (networks) found in the literature (Blaschka, Sapia, & Dinter, 1998; Bulos, 1996; Golfarelli, Maio, & Rizzi, 1998; Golfarelli & Rizzi, 1998, 1999; Sapia, Blaschka, & Hofling, 2000; Lechtenbrger, 2001) correspond in part to the concept of dimension grouping introduced here. Nevertheless, dimensions within dimension groupings are connected by leaves only, leading to strict hierarchies (see Example 1). Dimensions consist of dimension objects. Referring to Riebels enterprise theory, managements arrangements and examinations deal with dimension objects (Riebel, 1979; Holten, 1999). Riebels (1992) theory defines management decisions as vital elements. Each activity is produced and maintained by decisions. Therefore, decisions are the only sources of cost, outcome and liquidity. Following Riebel, the language concept Dimension Object is introduced. Dimension objects are organized in hierarchies (concept DO-Hierarchy) as part of a dimensions definition. The concept of DO-Hierarchy enables the construction of, for example, product hierarchies or regional hierarchies. Each dimension object is associated with an unequivocal hierarchy level (concept Hierarchy Level). Dimension objects at the lowest hierarchical level are called Leaves, all other dimension objects are called Non-Leaves. Referring to abstraction and aggregation, dimension objects at the same hierarchical level must build homogeneous sets (Bhnlein, 2001). Dimension object hierarchies are represented by hierarchical structures. Squares represent hierarchical levels of non-leaves. Leaf objects have no square as Example 1.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Dimension Subsumption: Used to create and organize the space of which a managerial view is composed. Subsumption: A specific object type for which different dimensions can be used to characterize the aspects relevant for management. Composition: Relationship between concepts Dimension and DimensionGrouping. A certain dimension belongs to one unequivocal dimension grouping (cardinalities (1,1)). A certain dimension grouping comprises at least one dimension, but may comprise many dimensions (cardinalities (1,n)).

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component Object Language Symbols
Dimension Object

Dimension Grouping

Dimension Grouping

D-DG-As (Dimension Dimension Grouping Association)

Dimension Grouping

(1,n)

"Dimension Grouping" "Dimension"


D-DG-As

Dimension

(1,1)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

190 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

prefix. Every dimension object has an identifier. Hierarchy level identifiers are related to levels by dotted lines. Indentations are used to increase the clarity of the diagram. Lower level objects are placed to the right of higher-level objects. Squares labeled with + indicate subordinate dimension objects not shown to improve clarity. In the case of squares labeled with -, all dimension objects of the succeeding hierarchy level are visible (see Example 2). To prevent information overflow, managerial users need segments from dimension hierarchies. Task specific views can be combined, based on dimension hierarchy segments. For this purpose the concepts Dimension Scope and Dimension Scope Combination are introduced. Dimension scopes are sub trees of dimensions. Dimension scopes are represented by (white) rectangles with (red) triangles inside. The combination of dimension scopes, defines a space of multi-dimensional objects relevant for managerial users. This space is also called navigation space (see Example 3). Referring to Riebels enterprise theory the concept Reference Object denotes vector types within a navigation space spanned by dimension scopes. Reference objects are measures, processes and states of affairs which can be subject to arrangements or examinations on their own (Riebel, 1979, p. 869) (see Example 4).

Aspects Within Information Spaces


The modeling constructs introduced so far, allow for constructing navigation spaces and creating reference objects within these information spaces. In the next steps, we introduce constructs that enable us to fill this navigation space with information. Generally, every piece of information within an information space is seen as an aspect (concept Aspect). It comprises axiomatically defined aspects (concept Basic Aspect) or calculated aspects (concept Calculated Aspect). Another specialization of Aspect comprises qualitative (concept Qualitative Aspect) and quantitative aspects (concept Quantitative Aspect). For qualitative aspects a definition of value elements is mandatory (concept Value Element). Defined value elements are assigned to qualitative aspects. For instance, the qualitative aspect project status can have either one of the values started, pending, or finished. Aspects can be grouped within aspect systems (concept Aspect System), to allow for analyses that require the use of more than one aspect. In a balanced scorecard (Kaplan & Norton, 1992, 1993, 1996) scenario, different performance measures are presented as comprehensively grouped together so as to evaluate business developments holistically. Aspects within aspect systems can be arranged hierarchically (concept Aspect-Aspect System-Association Hierarchy).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 191

Example 2.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Dimension Object

Leaf, Non-Leaf

D-DO-As (Dimension Dimension Object Association)

DO-Hierarchy (Dimension Object Hierarchy)

Hierarchy Level

D-HL-As (Dimension Hierarchy Level Association)

D-HL-Sequence (Dimension Hierarchy Level Association Sequence) DO-DHL-As (Dimension Object Dimension Hierarchy Level Association Association)

Subsumption: Entities relevant for managerial investigations or analysis; part of the definition of dimensions in the sense that they have strong relationships to each other, from a managerial point of view. Subsumption and Subordination: The concept Dimension Object is unequivocally and totally (symbols u, t) specialized in the concepts Leaf and NonLeaf. Leaves are at the lowest level of the dimension hierarchies. Non-Leaves are at all other levels. The set of leaves is the same for all dimensions which belong to the same dimension grouping. Composition: Relationship between concepts Dimension and Dimension Object. A dimension requires a (possibly empty) set of dimension objects for its definition (cardinalities (0,n)) and any dimension object requires a relationship to at least one dimension (cardinalities (1,n)). Leaves are related to all dimensions of a dimension grouping. All other dimension objects (non-leaves) are related to exactly one dimension. Composition: Recursive relationship from concept Dimension Object to itself. For dimension objects a hierarchical order is required. Any dimension object may have zero or one superior imension object (cardinalities (0,1)) and zero or many subordinated ones (cardinalities (0,n)). Subsumption: Dimensions consist of hierarchical levels. Dimension objects are necessarily assigned to these levels within one dimension. Composition: Relation between concepts Dimension and Hierarchy-Level. Any Dimension is composed of one or many hierarchical levels (cardinalities (1,n)); a hierarchical level as an abstract object can be related to one or many dimensions (cardinalities (1,n)). Composition: There is an unequivocal order of hierarchy levels associated to a dimension. Each hierarchical level of a dimension has zero or one predecessor and zero or one successor. (cardinalities (0,1) on either side). Composition: Relationship between the concepts Dimension-Object and D-HLAs. Each dimension object must unequivocally be associated to one hierarchy level of the dimension to which it belongs (cardinalities (1,1)) and each hierarchy level of a dimension must contain at least one or many dimension objects (cardinalities (1,n)).

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component Object Language Symbols
Dimension Object

"Dimension Object"

"Non-Leaf"
Dimension Object

"Non-Leaf"
Leaf

"Leaf"

D,T

Non-Leaf

Dimension

(0,n)

"Dimension" "Non-Leaf"
D-DO-As

"Leaf"

Dimension Object

(1,n)

"Non-Leaf"
DO-Hierarchy (0,1) Dimension Object (0,n)

"Non-Leaf" "Leaf"

"Hierarchy Level"
Hierarchy Level

Dimension

(1,n)

"Hierarchy Level" "Hierarchy Level"


D-HL-As

"Hierarchy Level"

Hierarchy Level

(1,n)

"Dimension" "Non-Leaf" "Non-Leaf"

D-HLSequence (0,1) D-HL-As (0,1)

"Leaf" "Leaf" "Non-Leaf" "Non-Leaf" "Non-Leaf"

Dimension Object

(1,1) DODHLAs

D-HL-As

(1,n)

A reference object from a defined navigation space can be assigned to an aspect. This leads to a fact (concept Fact). Facts make statements about the referenced objects. They may state the turnover achieved by a business unit, the performance of an organizational member, or the status of a current business process. Each of these facts necessarily comprises a reference object (business unit,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

192 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Example 3.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Dimension Scope

DO-DS-As (Dimension Object Dimension Scope Association)

Dimension-ScopeCombination DS-DSC-As (Dimension Scope Dimension ScopeCombination Association)

Subsumption: Used to define scopes of dimensions relevant for a managerial view. Composition: Relationship between concepts Dimension-Object and Dimension-Scope. Any dimension object may or may not be member of a dimension scope (cardinalities (0,n)). Any dimension scope is composed of one or more dimension objects (cardinalities (1,n)). Subsumption: Used to identify combinations of dimension scopes while defining managerial views. Composition: Relationship between concepts Dimension-Scope and Dimension-Scope-Combination. Any dimension scope combination may contain one or many dimension scopes (cardinalities (1,n)) whereas any dimension scope can be a member of zero or many dimension scope combinations (cardinalities (0,n)).

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component Object Language Symbols
Dimension Scope

Dimension Object

(0,n)

"Dimension Scope" "Non-Leaf"


DO-DS-As

"Non-Leaf" Leaf

Dimension Scope

(1,n)

Dimension Scope Combination

Dimension Scope

(0,n)

"Dimension Scope Combination" "Dimension Scope"


DS-DSC-As

"Dimension Scope"

Dimension Scope (1,n) Combination

Example 4.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Reference Object

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component


Subsumption: Reference objects are defined by RIEBEL as all measures, processes and states of affairs which can be subject to arrangements or examinations on their own (Riebel (1979), p. 869). Subsumption and Subordination: A combined reference object is a reference object interpreted as a vector. Composition: Relationship between concepts Combined-Reference-Object and Dimension-Object. Dimension objects are used as coordinates to specify combined reference objects. Any dimension object can be used as a coordinate for one or many combined reference objects (cardinalities (1,n)) and any combined reference object has one or many coordinates (cardinalities (1,n)). Subordination: A reference object is a vector and then specialized as a combined reference object. Additionally, a reference object can have the role of a dimension object. In this case, it is used to define dimensions and as coordinates for combined reference objects. Nevertheless, any dimension object is a reference object. The specialization of reference objects is thus not unequivocal (symbol n), but total (symbol t). Composition: Recursive relationship from concept the Reference Object to itself. Logically, this relationship defines the space of all reference objects of which managerial views can be composed. Any reference object may have zero or many higher reference objects (cardinalities (0,n)) and zero or many subordinate ones (cardinalities (0,n)).
Reference Object

Combined Reference Object C-RO-Coordinates (Combined Reference Object Coordinates)

Reference Object

Combined Reference Object

Combined (1,n) Reference Object C-ROCoordinates (1,n)

Dimension Object

Reference Object, Combined ReferenceObject, DimensionObject

Reference Object

n,t

Combined Reference Object

(1,n)

C-ROCoordinates (1,n)

Dimension Object

RO-Structure (Reference Object Structure)

RO-Structure (0,n) Reference Object (0,n)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 193

organizational member, business process) and an aspect (turnover, performance, status). Facts and aspects are generalized to the construct Operand. As soon as they are seen as operands, calculations based on these operands may be performed. These calculations are defined by means of calculation expressions, which can generally be distinguished by their purpose. If they are defined for a set of reference objects, the calculation is an aggregation. Aggregations play an important role in so-called drilling operations. For quantitative aspects such as a turnover, aggregations can be made over a set of products groups, business units or shops. The turnover of product groups can be drilled down to the turnover of products within the same period of time, requiring exactly the same calculation expression, applied to a different set of reference objects. Another example relates to warehouse stocks that may require the aggregation to average stocks. Drilled down to units of the warehouse again, the calculation expression stays untouched. Only the reference objects change. If calculation expressions are defined for single reference objects, these calculations have no further implications. Profits are calculated by subtracting costs from turnovers. The implication of this calculation is that only one reference object is used (the profits of a company unit within a set time period are the turnover reduced by the costs of exactly this company unit in the set time period). The concept Calculation Expression is thus specialized into the concepts Calculation Expression Element and Calculation Expression Set. Finally an Information Object combines a dimension scope combination with an aspect system. This implies the creation of facts, if elements of the navigation space are selected (reference objects) and valued with an aspect of the assigned aspect system. If calculations of facts are necessary (for instance for plannedactual-analyses or variance analyses of profits within two time periods), fact calculations can be included in information objects (see Example 5).

Business Objectives to Derive Information Spaces and Create Planning Scenarios


At this point, we are able to define navigation spaces filled with measures. These measures can be processed by various means, facilitating the definition of information requirements of organizational members. The remaining problem is that information requirements cannot usually be given by organizational members, because they are implicitly embedded in their objectives or strategies. A small extension to the above defined meta-model constructs can help to close this gap and transform business objectives into the modeling constructs introduced so far (Becker et al., 2003).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

194 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Example 5.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Aspect Subsumption: Aspects are attributes concerning the dynamics of reference objects. Subsumption and Subordination: The concept Aspect is unequivocally and totally (symbols u and t) specialized through the concepts Basis Aspect and Calculated Aspect. Basis aspects are defined by means of statements. The definition of calculated aspects additionally requires logical or algebraic expressions. Each aspect used to define a calculated aspect must be defined in advance. Subsumption: Qualitative aspects are attributes concerning the dynamics of reference objects which are not measured exactly. Each qualitative aspect comprises a set of discrete values characterizing states of processes. Subsumption: The concept Value Element comprises elements which set ranges for qualitative aspects. Composition: The set of value elements defining the range for a qualitative aspect is assigned explicitly to this aspect. Value elements can be part of zero or many sets (cardinalities (0,n)) and every qualitative aspect must comprise at least two different value elements (cardinalities (2,n)). Subsumption: Quantitative aspects (Ratios) are attributes concerning the dynamics of reference objects which are measured exactly. They quantify managerially relevant aspects such as the value of an enterprise, business performance and the financial situation. Subordination: The concept Aspect is unequivocally and totally (symbols u and t) specialized though the concepts Qualitative Aspect and Quantitative Aspect. The concept Quantitative Aspect is a synonym for the concept Ratio. Composition: Relationship between concepts Reference Object and Aspect. Any reference object can be combined with zero or many aspects and vice versa (cardinalities (0,n) on either side). Subsumption and Subordination: The concept Calculation Expression is unequivocally and totally (symbols u and t) specialized though the concepts Calculation Expression Set and Calculation Expression Element. The latter comprises every calculation expression specifying the value for one element of concept Reference Object. The concept Calculation Expression Set is required to logically or algebraically calculate values of a set of elements. Subsumption: Operands are part of logical and algebraic calculation expressions. Composition: Each calculation expression is related to at least one operand (cardinalities (1,n)) and each operand becomes part of zero or many calculation expressions (cardinalities (0,n)).

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component Object Language Symbols
"Aspect"
Aspect

Basis Aspect; Calculated Aspect

Using Rows in Tables


Aspect u,t Basic Aspect

Calculated Aspect

Qualitative Aspect

"Qualitative Aspect"
Qualitative Aspect

Value Element QA-VE-As (Qualitative Aspect Value Element Association)

"Value"
Value Element

Value Element

(0,n)

Using Rows in Tables

QA-VE-As

Qualitative Aspect

(2,n)

Quantitative Aspects (Ratio)

Ratio (Quantitative Aspect)

"Ratio"

Aspect; Qualitative Aspect; Quantitative Aspect (Ratio)

Using Tables
Aspect u,t Qualitative Aspect

Ratio (Quantitative Aspect)

Fact

Reference Object

(0,n)

Fact

Aspect

(0,n)

Calculation Expression; Calculation Expression Set; Calculation Expression Element

Calculation Expression

u,t

Calculation Expression Element

Formal Expression; Column in Table

Calculation Expression Set

Operand CE-On-As (Calculation Expression Operand Association)

Operand

Calculation Expression

(1,n)

CE-On-As

Operand

(0,n)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 195

Example 5. (Continued)
Conceptual Language Aspect
Aspect System

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component Object Language Symbols
Subsumption: An aspect system is a set of aspects which enables the analysis of business situations. Composition: Relationship between concepts Aspect and Aspect System. An aspect system is composed of one or many aspects (cardinalities (1,n)) and an aspect may be a member of zero or many aspect systems (cardinalities (0,n)).
Aspect System

1
67
1
29
34
57

29

34
57

5
9

A-AS-As (Aspect-Aspect System Association)

5
9

Aspect

(0,n)

67

"Aspect System" "Aspect"

A-AS-As

"Aspect" "Aspect"

Aspect System

(1,n)

"Aspect"

A-AS-As-Hierarchy Composition: Recursive relationship (Aspect-Aspect System- from concept A-AS-As to itself. Aspects Association Hierarchy) within an aspect system are organized hierarchically. Each aspect may have zero or many higher aspects (cardinalities (0,1)) and zero or many subordinate ones (cardinalities (0,n)). Operand; Aspect; Fact; Subsumption and Subordination: The Fact Calculation Operand concept is unequivocally and totally (symbols u and t) specialized through the concepts Aspect and Fact. Quantitative aspects (ratios), qualitative aspects and facts can be involved in logical and algebraic calculation expressions. If facts are used as operands the calculation expression is called a fact calculation. The concept Fact Calculation is defined implicitly and does not become part of the meta model. Information Object Composition: Relationship between concepts Aspect System and Dimension Scope Combination. Set of facts relevant to a management user. One aspect system can be combined with none or many dimension scope combinations and vice versa (cardinalities (0,n) on either side).

A-AS-AsHierarchy (0,1) A-AS-As (0,n)

"Superordinate Aspect" "Subordinate Aspect" "Subordinate Aspect"

Operand

u,t

Fact

+ % -

+ % -

"Fact Calculation Expression" "Dimension Scope Combination"


1
67

Aspect
34
57

29

5
9

"Aspect System"

"Fact Calculation" := Expression

Aspect System

(0,n)

Information Object Dimension Scope (0,n) Combination

"Information Object "Dimension Scope Combination"


1
67

29

34
57

5
9

"Aspect System" "Fact Calculation"

+ % -

The first necessary construct is Objective. According to Porter (1979), the most abstract and general business objectives are defined in a business strategy. A business strategy deals with defending and strengthening a competitive business position. A major difficulty of business strategies (concept Strategy, General Condition, and Guideline) is their non-operational character. Objectives need to be defined operationally in order to be manageable (Latham & Kinne, 1974). Operational objectives (concept Operational Objective) are defined by a certain measure (concept Objective Measure), level (concept Objective Level), reference (concept Reference Object), and time frame (part of concept Reference Object) (Adam, 1996). Objective levels combine one reference object with an objective measure. For instance, the profit margin (objective measure) of a business unit in 2005 (reference object) needs to be at least 10 percent (objective level). The objective level is assigned to an operational objective. None of these concepts are part of the object language. They are necessary when constructing models with the above introduced language, by providing indications as to how to construct dimensions (from objective refer-

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

196 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

ences) and aspects (from objective levels). Furthermore, these constructs allow for creating planning scenarios (Becker et al., 2003) (see Example 6).

Example Modeling Case


Business Objectives
After having introduced an ontology that consists of a (re-)constructed language to make statements about information spaces and aspects within information spaces we will now introduce a comprehensive modeling case. The starting point is the definition of business objectives which will be transformed into information Example 6.
Conceptual Language Aspect
Objective

Linguistic action and statement Meta Model Component


Subsumption: Objectives are planned achievements of future time periods. They may have the more general character of a business strategy or the detailed character of a sales plan for a forthcoming month. Composition: Objectives can be arranged hierarchically, placing more general objectives above detailed objectives. Detailed objectives can help to achieve general objectives, if the objective system is free of conflict. Subsumption and Subordination: Objective is specialized into the concepts Strategy, General Condition and Guideline (general, non-operational objectives) and Operational Objective (manageable objectives). Manageable objectives give more hints about the construction of navigation spaces and measures within these navigation spaces. Composition: As each operational objective must comprise a reference object and an objective measure, the concept Objective Measure is assigned to the concept Reference Object. This composition constitutes an Objective Level and can be seen as equivalent to a fact. Subsumption and Subordination: Similar to aspects, an objective measure can be defined qualitatively or quantitatively. Both types of objective measures will later be transformed into a qualitative or quantitative aspect as a counterpart for specifying information requirements. Composition: a defined objective level ultimately will be assigned to the operational objective from which it has been derived. Only operational objectives feature objective levels. Business strategies may contain references, time frames, or measures, but they do not necessarily have to, thus they do not necessarily have an objective level.
Objective

Objective; Objective Structure

Objective Structure (0,n) Objective (0,n)

Objective; Strategy, General Condition and Guideline; Operational Objective

Objective

u,t

Strategy, General Condition, and Guideline

Operational Objective

Objective Measure; Reference Object; Objective Level

Objective Measure

(0,n)

Objective Level (0,n)

Reference Object

Objective Measure; Quantitative Measure; Qualitative Measure

Objective Measure

u,t

Quantitative Measure

Qualitative Measure

Operational Objective; Objective Level; OOOL-AS (Operational Objective, Objective Level Association)

Operational Objective

(0,n)

OO-OL-AS

Objective Level

(0,n)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 197

spaces and planning scenarios. We use a method which has been introduced by Becker et al. (2003). It first decomposes operational objectives into their defining parts. These defining parts will be transformed into information spaces in the second step. The derived information spaces will be filled with planning scenarios in a third step. Our sample company is part of a supply chain that decided to decrease delivery times, in order to increase customer satisfaction. Products are shipped directly from company warehouses on the basis of customer orders. The company stocks a small number of products and attempts mainly to produce just in time. Most supply chains can potentially achieve higher customer satisfaction by reducing the delivery times of ordered products. The additional effort required to decrease the delivery times, can be justified with the savings from decreased stocks along the supply chain. The savings can be passed on to the customer, invested in improving customer service or in strengthening the supply chain. To decrease delivery times of ordered products, the efficiency of operative business processes along the entire supply chain needs to be increased. A major managerial responsibility is to define business objectives and undertake the necessary steps to deploy improved business processes. Furthermore, control mechanisms need to be implemented to monitor the degree to which business objectives have been reached. The main objective of our example company focuses on profiting from the positive effects of information sharing along supply chains. It is consistent with the general goal of long-term profitability:

Objective Delivery Time Reduction of Business Unit Automotive Supplies: decrease the average delivery time of all products of business unit Automotive Supplies to a maximum of 24 hours within the next year.

The time frame for the main objective is next year. Furthermore, it refers to all products of business unit Automotive Supplies. The time frame combined with the reference constitutes the reference object. Average delivery time is a quantitative measure. If a temporal value (not a time frame) is assigned to the reference object, this value becomes a business fact. Since delivery time is composed of production time and shipment time, the objective is broken down into two sub-objectives. The first sub-objective has been set as follows:

Objective Increase Production Efficiency: increase production efficiency at assembly line V8 engine in factory alpha from level 8 to level 9 within the next year.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

198 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

As in the case of the main objective, the time frame is next year. The reference of the objective is assembly line V8 engine in factory alpha. Efficiency is a qualitative measure, which can be expressed by the values (categories) 0 to 10. The efficiency categories can be calculated by algorithms, which consider various influencing variables or are derived by an auditing process, where trained personnel set the efficiency based on their observations. The second subobjective to decrease delivery times refers to the shipping efficiency: Objective Increase Shipping Efficiency: increase shipping efficiency of products shipped out of factory alpha by any logistic partner from level 8 to level 9 within the next year.

The time frame again is next year. It refers to factory alpha, any logistic partner, and any product and is measured by the qualitative measure efficiency. Both sub-objectives are measured qualitatively. In order to derive the efficiency measures for both sub-objectives deterministically, each is split up again into three sub-objectives. Production efficiency is described by the following objectives:

Objective Rejection Rate Reduction: decrease the average rejection rate of product group Original Equipment Engines products at assembly line V8 engine in factory alpha from 0.4 to 0.2 percent within the next year, without increasing the rejection rate of other product groups products assembled at this line, Objective Machine Defect Rate: decrease average machine defect rate of machines at assembly line V8 engine in factory alpha from 0.7 class A defects per week to 0.3 within the next year, Objective Lead Time Reduction: achieve an average lead time reduction during production of any single product of product group Original Equipment Engines at assembly line V8 engine in factory alpha from 256 minutes to 240 minutes within the next year.

On the other hand, shipment efficiency is broken down into these three objectives:

Objective Decrease Just-In-Time Deviation of Logistic Partners: decrease the average just-in-time deviation of any logistic partner for any product shipped from factory alpha with an appropriate transportation to five minutes within the next year (Just-In-Time deviation is the time

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 199

difference between planned and actual collection of a customer order by a logistics partner),

Objective Decrease Packing Time: decrease the average packing time of factory alpha warehouse workers for any customer order to one hour within the next year, Objective Reduce Warehousing Costs: reduce the total costs of factory alpha warehouse to 500,000 within the next year.

These six objectives can each be decomposed into their defining components. Table 1 gives an overview of the entire objective system by decomposing each objective to objective reference, time frame, objective measure, and objective level. The defining components of decomposed operational objectives are structured according to the model constructs introduced in the last section. In order to monitor the degree to which an objective has been accomplished, operational objectives need to be transformed into planning scenarios. After the end of the planning period has been reached, deviation analyses help to compare these planning scenarios to the actual business development. The next section shows how objectives can be transformed into planning scenarios.

Table 1. Operational objective components


Main Objective Sub-Objective Level 1 Sub-Objective Level 2 Objective Reference Time Frame Objective Measure average delivery time efficiency average rejection rate Objective Level 24 hours

Delivery Time Reduction of Business Unit Automotive Supplies Increase Production Efficiency Rejection Rate Reduction Machine Defect Rate Lead Time Reduction Increase Shipping Efficiency

business unit automotive supplies, next year any product assembly line V8 engine, factory alpha next year

products of product group Original Equipment - Engines, assembly next year line V8 engine, factory alpha machines, assembly line V8 engine, factory alpha next year

0.2 percent

average machine 0.3 class A defect rate defects per week 240 minutes

single products of product group Original equipment, assembly line next year average lead time V8 engine, factory alpha factory alpha, any logistics partner next year efficiency average just-intime deviation average packing time total costs

Decrease Just-Infactory alpha, any logistics partner, Time Deviation of next year product Logistics Partners Decrease Packing factory alpha warehouse workers, Time customer, order Reduce Warehousing Costs factory alpha warehouse next year

five minutes

one hour

next year

500,000

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

200 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Deriving Information Models from Business Objectives


Constructing Dimensions
Having defined operational objectives and structured them hierarchically, we are now able to create a conceptual model of the information system supporting managerial analysis. We first need to define dimensions that consist of hierarchically structured dimension objects. As a first step, the initial set of objective references taken from the definitions of operational objectives can be decomposed. The objects of the Reference column in Table 1 represent such decomposed objective references, which will be redefined as dimension objects and structured hierarchically. They thus form the basic structure of what will be a dimension. This process is complex creative work. Even so, without a methodological approach such as the one presented here, no assistance with this process would be available. Questioning managers on basis of the specified operational objectives is imperative for deriving further insights into the structures of the information systems supporting managerial analysis. Our example objective Rejection Rate Reduction states that rejection rates of other product groups products must not increase. This inevitably leads to the question as to which other product groups should be considered for managerial analysis. The planning scenario that needs to be set up, will include the objective level of the product group Original Equipment Engines, which needs to be decreased according to the objective. Furthermore, it includes the objective levels of all other product groups that must not exceed the respective levels from the previous year. The identification of dimensions can be assisted by answering the question of whether the elements of operational objective references are structured in an n:m relationship or in a 1:m relationship. The first case implies the modeling of two dimensions (because dimensions are hierarchical constructs of dimensions objects) whereas in the latter case, only one dimension is modeled. This decision needs to be made carefully. It needs to be identified whether this 1:m relationship occurs only temporarily, just as objective references of operational objectives, or generally. If it occurs generally, it is imperative to know, if the relationship might be changed by an ongoing business strategy. As mentioned above, identifying dimensions is a complex process that directly influences data warehouse structures. It can be seen as a strategic decision during the MIS specification process. In our example objectives from Table 1, there are 11 types of fundamentally different entities, business units, assembly lines, warehouses, factories,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 201

product groups, workers, products, logistic partners, time entities, orders, and customers. Now, does an assembly line always belong to one factory or can it be spread over more than one factory? Is it possible that a factory runs more than one assembly line? Do workers work in one factory (at one assembly line) or are they allocated to more factories (assembly lines)? Is a product always assigned to exactly one product group? Questions like these have been made possible by the definition of operational objectives with the proposed method. They need to be answered by responsible personnel from business domains to specify the management-supporting information system. Implying 1:m relationships between business units, product groups, and between product groups and products, these three different entity types can be aggregated within one dimension Product. If, furthermore, all other entity types are bound by n:m relationships, each will be structured in one dedicated dimension. Only warehouses and assembly lines have been aggregated within one dimension, because allowing analysis between these entity types would serve no purpose. To distinguish planning scenarios from actual business developments, we need the dimension Version. Version is a dimension consisting of the dimension objects Actual, and several plans such as Plan, Plan optimistic, Plan pessimistic, or Forecast. Due to the fact that we transform objectives into planning scenarios to compare them to future business development, we need to add a dimension object of Version to each business fact. If it is a planned fact, a reference to a plan-version is necessary. In case of actual business facts, the Version dimension object Actual is referenced. Deviation analysis later compares business facts that differ only in the reference component of the dimension Version. Figure 5 contains all dimensions necessary to build the MIS environment, which allows for the managerial activity monitor delivery time. After the identification of dimensions, their basic structure of dimension objects that have been derived from operational objectives needs to be completed. Other dimension objects that will further be necessary to answer the managers questions need to be added. Basically, this means that all relevant products of all product groups (product group Original Equipment Engines and all others obtained from the answer to the question derived from the operational objective Rejection Rate Reduction) are added to the product dimension. In this case, the product dimension would be extended by the products, product groups, and business units shown in Figure 5. This procedure needs to be repeated for every identified dimension.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

202 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 5. Set of dimensions for managerial activity monitor delivery time


Models of Dimensions Product Automotive Supplies Original Equipment OE Engines OE Chassis Components OE Electronic Components Assembly Line Chassis Components Factory Alpha Warehouse Replacement Electronic Components Engine Parts Electronic Parts Personnel Assembly Line V8 Engine Foreman Machine V8 - JH7765K Foreman Workplace 1 Industrial Supplies Services Machine V8 - HJG5RF4 Foreman Time by Month January 2004 February 2004 Assembly Line Chassis Components Foreman Factory Alpha Warehouse Foreman Workplace 2 Production and Storing Facilities Assembly Line V8 Engine Machine V8 - JH7765K Machine V8 - HJG5RF4

Logistics Partner Partners for Engines Partners for Chassis Components

Factory Factory Alpha Factory Beta

Customers by CRM Class Class A Customers Class B Customers

Order Order 0000001 Order 0000002

Version Plan Actual

Legend <dimension identifier> <non-opened non-leaf dimension object identifier> <opened non-leaf dimension object identifier> <leaf dimension object identifier>

Constructing Navigation Spaces for Managerial Activities


The definition of business objectives first needs to be followed by the managerial activity of undertaking the necessary steps to implement improved business processes. Secondly, management must monitor the degree to which the defined business objectives have been achieved. To address the problems of information overflow and information misuse, we need to define dimension scopes for specific managerial monitoring activities. To monitor the objective Increase Production Efficiency introduced above, we need to define six dimension scopes. As time can be limited to all time dimension
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 203

objects of the sub-hierarchy 2004, the first dimension scope Time by Month Year 2004 consists of all days and months in 2004 and the year 2004 itself. All other time entities are blanked out. Five more dimension scopes are built similarly. The dimension scope Factory Factory Alpha reduces all factories of the dimension Factory to Factory Alpha, Product Product Group Automotive Supplies Original Equipment OE Engines focuses on engines, and Production and Storing Facilities Assembly Line V8 Engine reduces the total set of warehouses and assembly lines to assembly line V8 Engine. Version is reduced to Plan in one dimension scope (Version Plan) and Actual in another (Version Actual), which allows for comparing the business facts based on these two valuations. The dimension scope combination Production Efficiency joins all six dimension scopes. It creates a navigation space for the required information of the managerial monitoring activity corresponding to the objective Increase Production Efficiency. This navigation space consists of all combined reference objects that are necessary to monitor the objective Increase Production Efficiency itself, and all of its sub-objectives once the respective qualitative and quantitative measures have been assigned to them. The dimension scope combination features two hierarchy levels. To create a combined reference object, one dimension object of each dimension scope of the first hierarchy level needs to be selected. Version is split up into two dimension scopes, which means that one of its dimension scopes needs to be picked for the valuation of business facts. This is necessary, because no information would be aggregated from the versions, Actual and Plan (Holten & Dreiling, 2002; Holten et al., 2002). Figure 6 contains the dimension scopes and the dimension scope combination for the managerial activity monitor production efficiency. The second sub-objective Increase Shipping Efficiency of the main objective Delivery Time Reduction of Business Unit Automotive Supplies requires the construction of a different set of dimension scopes and a different dimension scope combination. Four existing dimension scopes can be used for the managerial activity monitor shipment efficiency, which are Time by Month Year 2004, Factory Factory Alpha, Version Plan, and Version Actual. Additionally, five new dimension scopes are necessary for customers, logistic partners, orders, personnel, and production and storing facilities. Each reduces the total set of its corresponding dimensions dimension objects to the relevant one for the managerial activity. As for the managerial activity monitor production efficiency, a dimension scope combination joins all of these dimension scopes (Shipping Efficiency). In order to create combined reference objects, again one dimension object from the first hierarchy level of the dimension scope combination, needs to be selected as well as one element of either one the version dimension scopes. Figure 7 contains the dimension scopes and the

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

204 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 6. Set of dimensions scopes and dimension scope combination for managerial activity monitor production efficiency
Models of Dimension Scopes for Objective Increase Production Efficiency Time by Month Year 2004 Product Product Group Automotive Supplies - Original Equipment - OE Engines Automotive Supplies Original Equipment OE Engines Production and Storing Facilities Assembly Line V8 Engine Assembly Line V8 Engine Machine V8 - JH7765K Factory Factory Alpha Machine V8 - HJG5RF4 Version Actual Actual Factory Alpha Version Plan Plan

January 2004 2004-01-01 2004-01-02

February 2004 December 2004

Model of Dimension Scope Combination Production Efficiency Production Efficiency Time by Month Product Year 2004

Product Group Automotive Supplies - Original Equipment - Engines Assembly Line V8 Engine

Production and Storing Facilities Factory Version Version Version Legend <dimension scope identifier> <dimension scope combination identifier> Plan Actual Factory Alpha

dimension scope combination for the managerial activity monitor shipment efficiency. The introduced dimension scopes and dimension scope combinations from Figure 6 and Figure 7, correspond to two managerial activities of the managers responsible for production and logistics. Both managerial activities serve the purpose of reducing the delivery time of business unit Automotive Supplies as introduced with the main objective above. The activities of the higher management may just require the information, whether the delivery times have been reduced or not. The determining factors for this reduction are clear to the production and logistics managers, but in order to minimize information overflow, they are not part of upper managements view on business processes. Also, the hierarchical depth of the dimensions Product and Time by Month have been reduced. In contrast to the horizontal reduction of dimensions, this reduction is made vertically. It is no longer possible to drill down from months and product groups to more detailed dimension objects such as products or days. Figure 8 contains the dimension scopes and the dimension scope combination for the

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 205

Figure 7. Set of dimensions scopes and dimension scope combination for managerial activity monitor shipment efficiency
Models of Dimension Scopes for Objective Increase Shipping Efficiency Time by Month Year 2004 Factory Factory Alpha

January 2004 2004-01-01 2004-01-02

Factory Alpha Customers by CRM Class Class A Customers Class B Customers Any Customer

February 2004 December 2004 Logistics Partner any Logistics Partner

Order

Any Order

Order 0000001 Order 0000002

Partners for Engines Partners for Chassis Components

Personnel Production and Storing Facilities Factory Alpha Warehouse Factory Alpha Warehouse Version Plan Model of Dimension Scope Combination Shipping Efficiency Shipping Efficiency Time by Month Logistics Partner Factory Personnel Year 2004 any Logistics Partner Plan

Factory Alpha Warehouse Workers

Factory Alpha Warehouse Foreman Version Actual Actual

Factory Alpha Factory Alpha Warehouse Workers Any Customer

Customers by CRM Class Order Any Order

Production and Storing Facilities Version Version Version Legend <dimension scope identifier> <dimension scope combination identifier> Plan Actual

Factory Alpha Warehouse

managerial activity monitor delivery time of business unit automotive supplies.

Constructing Aspect Systems


All defined business objectives have now been decomposed and used to construct dimensions. Furthermore, navigation spaces have been created to monitor if the business objectives have been accomplished. In the next step, aspect systems will be defined which will be assigned to navigation spaces, allowing for the construction of business facts. The decomposition of facts, led to measures that have been used to quantify or qualify the references. These
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

206 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Figure 8. Set of dimensions scopes and dimension scope combination for managerial activity monitor delivery time of business unit automotive supplies
Models of Dimension Scopes for Objective Delivery Time Reduction of Business Unit Automotive Supplies Product Business Unit Automotive Supplies Time by Month January 2004 February 2004 December 2004 Version Actual Replacement Electronic Components Engine Parts Electronic Parts Model of Dimension Scope Combination Delivery Time of Business Unit Automotive Supplies Delivery Time of Business Unit Automotive Supplies Product Business Unit Automotive Supplies Year 2004 Version Plan Plan Actual Year 2004

Automotive Supplies Original Equipment OE Engines OE Chassis Components OE Electronic Components

Time by Month Version

Version Version Legend <dimension scope identifier>

Plan Actual

<dimension scope combination identifier>

measures will be transformed either into quantitative or qualitative aspects, depending on the nature of their values. To monitor the objective Increase Production Efficiency several aspects are necessary. First, production efficiency is a qualitative aspect. Levels from 0 to 10 can be used to value production efficiency. The objective Increase Production Efficiency has been broken down into three sub-objectives, which have been transformed into quantitative aspects. The measures of the three subobjectives are average rejection rate, average defect rate, and average lead time. All three aspects will be organized into an aspect system Production Efficiency Measurement as sub-aspects of the aspect production efficiency. For analytical purposes, the production efficiency is significant and used as a starting point. In case something is wrong, it is possible to drill-down to the influencing aspects average rejection rate, average defect rate, and average lead time. The construction of the second aspect system for the objective Increase Shipping Efficiency is similar to the construction of the aspect system for the objective Increase Production Efficiency. Shipping efficiency is the most significant aspect. Three sub-aspects are derived from the sub-objectives of the

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 207

Figure 9. Aspect systems for the managerial activities monitor production efficiency, monitor shipment efficiency, and monitor delivery time of business unit automotive supplies
Models of Aspect Systems
1 34
67

29

5
57 9

Production Efficiency Measurement Production Efficiency Average Rejection Rate Average Defect Rate Average Lead Time

1 34
67

29

5
57 9

Shipment Efficiency Measurement Shipment Efficiency Average Just-In-Time Deviation Average Packing Time Costs

1 34
67

29

5
57 9

Delivery Performance Measurement Average Delivery Time Shipment Efficiency Production Efficiency

Legend
1
67

29

34
57

5
9

<aspect system identifier> <super-aspect (hierarchically)>

<sub-aspect (hierarchically)

objective Increase Production Efficiency, which are average just-in-time deviation, average packing time, and costs. The construction of the main objectives aspect system Delivery Performance Measurement differs from the first two aspect systems. It is constructed from three aspects, which are average delivery time, shipment efficiency, and production efficiency. Shipment efficiency and production efficiency are taken from the first two aspect systems, but in contrast to the production and logistics management, there are no drill-down possibilities for the aspects Shipment Efficiency and Production Efficiency. This again is due to avoid information overflow. All aspect systems for the three managerial activities monitor production efficiency, monitor shipment efficiency, and monitor delivery time of business unit automotive supplies are shown in Figure 9.

Constructing Information Objects


As pointed out previously, a managerial activity, which monitors if a business objective has been accomplished, needs to compare planning scenarios with actual business developments. The nature of such analyses is that the reference objects of compared business facts differ only in a value of dimension Version

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

208 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

(Holten, et al., 2002; Holten & Dreiling, 2002). To compare planned facts with actual business facts, fact calculations need to be defined. Any business fact of a dimension scope combination that features the included dimension of the fact calculation can be calculated according to the calculation expression. Figure 10 shows the fact calculation Plan Variance. It calculates a percentage, which represents the deviation by which planned aspects differ from actual aspects. The fact calculation abstracts from aspects. It can be assigned to each dimension scope combination, where part of it equals to definition of version in Figure 10. Finally, we are able to construct information objects for the three main objectives. Each information object in our example consists of a dimension scope combination, an aspect system, and a fact calculation expression. The information object Production Efficiency assigns the aspect system Production Efficiency Measurement to the dimension scope combination Production Efficiency. Furthermore, the deviation analysis of planned and actual aspects is rendered possible by the fact calculation Plan Variance. Both other information objects are structured similarly. Figure 11 contains the information objects Production Efficiency, Shipment Efficiency, and Delivery Performance Measurement. The constructed information objects consist of planned and actual business facts. Besides the planned facts that arise from planning scenarios defined by the introduced business objectives, other facts are included within these information objects. Examples are production efficiency of factory alpha, shipment efficiency of logistic partners, or the average delivery times for customer orders within the year 2003. These other facts are part of a dynamic managerial analysis, which aims at detailing or generalizing the examined aspect of the business.

Conclusions and Outlook


This chapter introduced an ontology-driven method for information systems development. Based on the analysis of epistemological positions, the interpretivists position explained as a combination of ontological realism and subjective cognition was chosen for the analysis. The ontology-driven method for IS development incorporates an ontology as the core concept and is based on several philosophical and linguistic foundations such as Kamlah and Lorenzens language critique approach, Morris findings on semiotics, de Saussures findings on signs, or Bunges research in ontology. We showed that ontologies are created and maintained by language communities using linguistic actions and how new concepts can be created to handle new situations.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 209

Figure 10. Fact calculation expression plan variance


Model of Fact Calculation Plan Variance
+ % -

Plan Variance Version Version Version Plan Variance := (Plan/Actual)*100 Plan Actual

Legend
+ % -

<fact calculation identifier> <dimension identifier> <dimension scope identifier>

<calculation expression>

Figure 11. Information objects for the managerial activities monitor production efficiency, monitor shipment efficiency, and monitor delivery time of business unit automotive supplies
Models of Information Objects Production Efficiency Production Efficiency
1 34
67

29

5
57 9

Production Efficiency Measurement Plan Variance

+ % -

Shipment Efficiency Shipment Efficiency


1 34
67

29

5
57 9

Shipment Efficiency Measurement Plan Variance

+ % -

Delivery Performance Measurement Delivery Time of Business Unit Automotive Supplies


29 67

1 34

5
57 9

Delivery Performance Measurement Plan Variance

+ % -

Legend <information object identifier>


+ % -

<fact calculation identifier> <dimension identifier> <dimension scope combination identifier>

Furthermore, we have applied our ontology-driven method to information systems development by introducing an ontology for the domain of management information systems. A comprehensive business case indicates the usability of this specification language. By using Wedekinds three introduced linguistic actions subsumption, subordination, and composition we have (re-)constructed a language to make statements about the domain of management information
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

210 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

systems. We have introduced language constructs for specifying information spaces and aspects within information spaces. Furthermore, business objectives have been added to the language to assist a specification of MIS with the introduced language. There remains, however, significant room for extension and development. The language needs to be applied to different modeling cases for gaining experience with it and improving it. To better profit from the language we will work on an automated, respectively semi-automated generation of information systems based on the specification models as shown by Holten (2003b). Furthermore, we will examine different domains such as Customer Relationship Management and create an ontology for this domain as well (respectively extent the one used here). Again, this will result in a specification language (or a language extension, this time focusing on CRM.

References
Adam, D. (1996). Planung und Entscheidung. Wiesbaden, Germany: Gabler. Becker, J., Dreiling, A., Holten, R., & Ribbert, M. (2003). Specifying information systems for business process integration A management perspective. Information Systems and e-Business Management, 1(3), 231-263. Blaschka, M., Sapia, C., Hfling, G., & Dinter, B. (1998). Finding your way through multidimensional data models. International Workshop on Data Warehouse Design and OAP Technology, Vienna, Austria, (pp. 198203). Bhnlein, M. (2001). Konstruktion semantischer data-warehouse-schemata. Dissertation thesis, Deutscher Universitts-Verlag, Wiesbaden, Germany. Bulos, D. (1996). OLAP database design: A new dimension. Database Programming & Design, 9(6), 33-37. Bunge, M. A. (1977). Ontology I: The furniture of the world: Treatise on basic philosophy. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Reidel. Campbell, A. E, & Shapiro, S. C. (1995). Ontologic mediation: An overview. IJCAI Workshop on Basic Ontological Issues in Knowledge Sharing, (pp. 16-25). de Saussure, F. (1974). Course in general linguistics. London: Peter Owen. Dub, L. & Par, G. (2003). Rigor in information systems positivist case research: Current practices, trends, and recommendations. MIS Quarterly, 27(4), 597-635.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 211

Golfarelli, M., Maio, D., & Rizzi, S. (1998). The dimensional fact model: A conceptual model for data warehouses. International Journal of Cooperative Information Systems, 7(2/3), 215-247. Golfarelli, M. & Rizzi, S. (1998). A methodological framework for data warehouse design. ACM First International Workshop on Data Warehousing and OLAP (DOLAP), ACM, Washington, D. C. Golfarelli, M. & Rizzi, S. (1999). Designing the data warehouse: Key steps and crucial issues. Journal of Computer Science and Information Management, 2(3). Green, P. & Rosemann, M. (2000a). Integrated process modeling: An ontological evaluation. Information Systems, 25(3), 73-87. Green, P. & Rosemann, M. (2000b). Usefulness of the BWW ontological models as a core theory of information systems. Information Systems Foundation Workshop: Building the Theoretical Base, (pp. 147-164). Guarino, N. & Welty, C. (2002). Evaluating ontological decisions with OntoClean. Communications of the ACM, 45(2), 61-65. Henderson, J. C. & Venkatraman, N. (1999). Strategic alignment: Leveraging information technology for transforming organizations. IBM Systems Journal, 38(2/3), 472-484. Hirschheim, R., Klein, H. K., & Lyytinen, K. (1995). Information systems development and data modeling. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. Hitt, L. M. & Brynjolfsson, E. (1996). Productivity, business profitability, and consumer surplus: Three different measures of information technology value. MIS Quarterly, 20(2), 121-142. Holten, R. (1999). Entwicklung von Fhrungsinformationssystemen. Ein methodenorientierter Ansatz. Wiesbaden, Germany: Gabler. Holten, R. (2000). Framework and method for information warehouse development processes. In R. Jung & R. Winter (Eds.), Data Warehousing 2000 Methoden, Anwendungen, Strategien Heidelberg, Germany: Springer. (pp. 135-163). Holten, R. (2003a). Integration von informationssystemen. Theorie und anwendung im supply chain management. Habilitation thesis, University of Mnster, Department of Information Systems, Mnster, Germany. Holten, R. (2003b). Specification of management views in information warehouse projects. Information Systems, 28(7), 709-751. Holten, R. & Dreiling, A. (2002). Specification of fact calculations within the MetaMIS approach. Muenster, Germany: University of Muenster.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

212 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Holten, R., Dreiling, A., & Schmid, B. (2002). Management report engineering A Swiss Re business case, In Data Warehousing 2002 Conference, Friedrichshafen, Germany, pp. 421-437. Im, K. S., Dow, K. E., & Grover, V. (2001). Research report: A reexamination of IT investments and the market value of the firm An event study methodology. Information Systems Research, 12(1), 103-120. Jiang, J. J., Klein, G., & Discenza, R. (2001). Information system success as impacted by risks and development strategies. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 48(1), 46-55. Johnston, H. R. & Vitale, M. R. (1988). Creating competitive advantages with interorganizational information systems. MIS Quarterly, 12(2), 153-165. Kamlah, W. & Lorenzen, P. (1984). Logical propaedeutic. Pre-school of reasonable discourse. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Kaplan, R. S. & Norton, D. P. (1992). The balanced score card. Measures that drive business performance. Harvard Business Review, 70, 71-79. Kaplan, R. S. & Norton, D. P. (1993). Putting the balanced scorecard to work. Harvard Business Review, 71, 134-142. Kaplan, R. S. & Norton, D. P. (1996). Translating strategy into action. The balanced scorecard. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Karimi, J. (1988). Strategic planning for information systems: Requirements and information engineering methods. Journal of Management Information Systems, 4(4), 5-24. Keil, M. (1995). Pulling the plug: Software project management and the problem of project escalation. MIS Quarterly, 19(4), 421-447. Keil, M., Mann, J., & Rai, A. (2000). Why software projects escalate: An empirical analysis and test of four theoretical models. MIS Quarterly, 24(4), 631-664. Kelly, G. A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New York: W. W. Northern & Company. Kottemann, J. E. & Konsynski, B. R. (1984). Information systems planning and development: Strategic postures and methodologies. Journal of Management Information Systems, 1(2), 45-63. Latham, G. P. & Kinne, S. B. (1974). Improving job performance through training in goal setting. Journal of Applied Psychology, 59, 187-191. Lechtenbrger, J. (2001). Data warehouse schema design. Berlin, Germany: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft. Li, E. Y. & Chen, H.-G. (2001). Output-driven information system planning: A case study. Information & Management, 2001(38), 185-199.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 213

Lorenzen, P. (1987). Constructive philosophy. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press. Morris, C. (1971). Writings on the general theory of signs. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton. Mukhopadhyay, T., Kekre, S., & Kalathur, S. (1995). Business value of information technology: A study of electronic data interchange. MIS Quarterly, 19(2), 137-156. Niehaves, B., Ribbert, M., Dreiling, A., & Holten, R. (2004). Conceptual modeling An epistemological foundation. 2004 Americas Conference on Information Systems, New York, NY (pp. 4232-4242). Nissen, H. W., Jeusfeld, M., Jarke, M., Zemanek, G. V., & Huber, H. (1996). Managing multiple requirements perspectives with metamodels. IEEE Software, 13(3), 37-48. Porter, M. E. (1979). How competitive forces shape strategy. Harvard Business Review, 57, 137-145. Reich, B. H. & Benbasat, I. (2000). Factors that influence the social dimension of alignment between business and information technology objectives. MIS Quarterly, 24(1), 81-113. Ribbert, M., Niehaves, B., Dreiling, A., & Holten, R. (2004). An epistemological foundation of conceptual modeling, 12th European Conference on Information Systems, Turku, Finland. Riebel, P. (1979). Gestaltungsprobleme einer zweckneutralen Grundrechnung. Zeitschrift fr betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung, 31, 863-893. Riebel, P. (1992). Einzelerls-, Einzelkosten- und Deckungsbeitragsrechung als Kern einer ganzheitlichen Fhrungsrechung. In W. Mnnel (Ed.), Handbuch Kostenrechnung, Wiesbaden: Gabler (pp. 247-299). Rosemann, M. & Green, P. (1999). Enhancing the process of ontological analysis The who cares dimension. Information Systems Foundations Workshop Ontology, Semiotics and Practice, (pp. 39-54). Rosemann, M. & Green, P. (2002). Developing a meta model for the BungeWand-Weber ontological constructs. Information Systems, 27(2), 75-91. Sapia, C., Blaschka, M., & Hfling, G. (2000). GraMMi: Using a standard repository management system to build a generic graphical modeling tool. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-33), Vol. 33, Maui, Hawaii. Scheer, A. W. (2000). ARIS Business process modeling. Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany: Springer. Soley, R. & The OMG Staff Strategy Group (2000). Model driven architecture. Needham, MA: Object Management Group.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

214 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Standish Group International. (2001). Extreme CHAOS (Research report). Available for ordering at http://www.standishgroup.com Strahringer, S. (1996). Metamodellierung als instrument des methodenvergleichs. Eine evaluierung am beispiel objektorientierter analysemethoden. Herzogenrath, Germany: Shaker. Subramani, M. & Walden, E. (2001). The impact of e-commerce announcements on the market value of firms. Information Systems Research, 12(2), 135-154. Tam, K. Y. (1998). The impact of information technology investments on firm performance and evaluation: Evidence from newly industrialized economies. Information Systems Research, 9(1), 85-98. Tan, F., B. & Hunter, M. G. (2002). The repertory grid technique: A method for the study of cognition in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 26(1), 3957. Uschold, M., King, M., Moralee, S., & Zorgios, Y. (1998). The enterprise ontology. The Knowledge Engineering Review, 13(1), 13-90. van Hee, K. M., Somers, L. J., & Voorhoeve, M. (1991). A modeling environment for decision support systems. Decision Support Systems, 7(3), 241251. Venkatraman, N. (1994). IT-enabled business transformation: From automation to business scope redefinition. Sloan Management Review, 35(2), 73-87. von Foerster, H. (1996). Wissen und Gewissen. Versuch einer Brcke. Frankfurt a. M., Germany: Suhrkamp. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. Falkenberg & P. Lindgreen (Eds.), Information systems concepts: An in-depth analysis (pp. 79-107). Amsterdam, Netherlands: North-Holland. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990a). Mario Bunges ontology as a formal foundation for information systems concepts. In P Weingartner & G. Dorn (Eds.), Studies on Mario Bunges Treatise (pp. 123-149). Atlanta: Rodopi. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990b). An ontological model of an information systems. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(11), 1282-1292. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3(4), 217-237. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1995). On the deep structure of information systems. Information Systems Journal, 5(3), 203-223. Weber, R. (2004). The rhetoric of positivism versus interpretivism: A personal view. MIS Quarterly, 28(1), 3-xiii.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 215

Wedekind, H. (1981). Datenbanksysteme I. Eine konstruktive Einfhrung in die Datenverarbeitung in Wirtschaft und Verwaltung. Mannheim, Germany: B.I.-Wissensverlag. Wixom, B. H. & Watson, H. J. (2001). An empirical investigation of the factors affecting data warehousing success. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 17-41.

Endnote
1

This work has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium fr Bildung und Forschung), record no. 01HW0196.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

216 Holten, Dreiling & Becker

Appendices
Appendix A. Meta-model segments for defining information spaces and aspect within information spaces
Meta Model (extented Entity Relationship Model)

Reference Object Structure (0,m) (0,m) Combined Reference Object (0,m) CRO-Coordinates

Dimension Object Hierarchy Operator (0,m) CE-Ot-As (0,m) (0,m) (0,1) (1,1) (1,m) Calculation Expression (1,m) u,t Calculation Expression Element DO-DS-AS (1,m)

(0,m)

Dimension Object

(1,m) Operand (0,m) CE-On-As Calculation Expression Set Dimension Scope Fact (0,m) (0,m) DS-DSC-AS (0,m) u,t Quantitative Aspect (Ratio) u,t Basic Aspect Dimension Scope Combination

u,t

Aspect

(1,m)

Qualitative Aspect Calculated Aspect (2,m) A-AS-As

(0,m)

(0,m) Aspect System Value Element (0,m)

(0,m)

A-AS-As

Dimension Grouping

(1,m)

Information Object

D-DG-AS

(1,1) Dimension (1,m) (1,m) DO-D-AS

D-HL-AS

(1,m)

DO-D-HL-AS

Hierarchy Level

(1,1)

Legend

<Identifier>

Entity Type

<Identifier>

Reinterpreted Relationship Type

Specialization (Types: - u unequivocally, e equivocally - t total, p partial)

<Identifier>

Relationship Type

(min,max)

Connector ( - min minimum cardinality, - max maximum cardinality)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontology-Driven Method Engineering 217

Appendix B. Meta-model segment for business objectives


Meta Model (extented Entity Relationship Model)

Objective Structure (0,m)

Objective

(0,m) Strategy, General Condition, and Guideline

u,t

Operational Objective

(0,m)

Quantitative Measure (Aspect Ratio)

u,t

Objective Measure

(0,m)

OO-OL-AS

Qualitative Measure (Aspect Category)

Objective Level

(0,m)

Reference Object

(0,m)

Legend

<Identifier>

Entity Type

<Identifier>

Reinterpreted Relationship Type

<Identifier>

Relationship Type

(min,max)

Connector ( - min minimum cardinality, - max maximum cardinality)

Specialization (Types: - u unequivocally, e equivocally - t total, p partial)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

218 Kazmierczak & Milton

Chapter VIII

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology:


Making Data Models Better Map the World
Simon Milton, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Ed Kazmierczak, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Abstract
This chapter examines the following question: How well do data models map the world? Data modelling languages are used in todays information systems engineering environments to model reality. Many have a degree of hype surrounding their quality and applicability with narrow and specific justification often given in support of one over another. We want to more deeply understand the fundamental nature of data modelling languages. We thus propose a theory, based on ontology, that should allow us to understand, compare, evaluate, and strengthen data modelling languages. We then introduce Chisholms ontology and apply methods to analyse some data modelling languages using it. We find a good degree of overlap between all of the data modelling languages analysed and the core concepts of Chisholms ontology, and conclude that the data modelling

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

219

languages investigated reflect an ontology of commonsense-realism. Critical common-sense realism more generally due to its perspectival nature and its implicit recognition of institutional and social reality has the potential to dramatically improve our ability to better map the world.

Introduction
Data models have been used in information engineering environments for many decades for the precise purpose of building representations of reality. Data models are used in organizations to represent reality at three levels. First they are used to establish the highest level of description of an organisations reality to guide strategic information systems development and management and for high level data management. The model is used to drive information systems management and development and for the implementation or management of databases. Second, they are used to construct a description of the reality surrounding a proposed information system. The description is used in systems analysis and design. This is often called conceptual modelling although the name does not describe well the purpose of this activity. This facilitates the accurate and timely implementation of a system by helping establish relevant shared understandings of reality and in implementing some specific aspects of the system in technology such as databases. An increased degree of detail is required compared with corporate data modelling. Significant attributes of things found in the reality are required together with relationships between entities. Finally, they are used to model parts of an organisations reality leading to implementation in an operational database into which facts about that reality are stored. Such databases may serve several information systems within an organization. This description is the most detailed but assumes only enough detail for all applications relying on it to function. To date, there have been many different data modelling languages proposed with the most popular being the entity-relationship model (Chen, 1976) but also including the functional data model (Kerschberg & Pacheco, 1976; Shipman, 1981), the semantic data model (Hammer & McLeod, 1981), NIAM (Nijssen & Halpin, 1989), and object modelling technique (Blaha & Premerlani, 1998) that later became the basis for the unified modelling language (UML). Each new modelling language has often been accompanied with claims of its superiority and at times hype when compared with the others. There has been little beyond opinion to substantiate such claims and yet all notations purport to do similar things. We have two research questions:

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

220 Kazmierczak & Milton

1. 2.

How well do data models represent reality? What are the similarities and differences between data modelling languages?

We need a theory to help us answer these questions. The mature philosophical study of ontology has been used as a source of theory to investigate tools and techniques used in the analysis and design of information systems. A key development in the use of ontology for the study of information systems has been the work of Wand and Weber (Weber, 1997), based on Bunges (1977, 1979) ontology. Part of the focus of this research has been to investigate the representational power of data modelling languages (Green, 1996; Rohde, 1995; Wand, 1996; Wand & Weber, 1989, 1990, 1993; Weber, 1997). Our work is motivated by the search for semantic methods to answer the research questions just mentioned. The work of Wand and Weber, while ground breaking, is based on structural comparison of elements of grammar and concludes only presence or absence of a construct. The conclusions drawn are very much based upon whether or not the data modelling language supports the ontological construct. Our work seeks to develop semantic methods that not only detect the presence or absence of a construct but also allow us to judge the level of agreement or disagreement between a data modelling language and an ontology. The contribution of this chapter is threefold. First, we develop qualitative methods: 1) the method of conceptual comparison, for conceptually evaluating individual data modelling languages through ontologies and 2) the method for conceptual comparison, for comparing a range of data modelling languages with an ontology based on a number of individual evaluations. These methods help answer the two research questions and are detailed in the method section. Our methods are, to some extent, independent of the individual ontology chosen as the basis of comparison. As a by-product we are starting to investigate the dominant ontology within data modelling languages. Second, we apply the methods using Chisholms (1996) ontology to a representative range of data modelling languages. We follow this introduction with a deeper discussion of exactly what ontology is before relating ontologies and data modelling languages. We then examine the realism assumed in Chisholms ontology and relate it to that contained within Bunges ontology (the ontology upon which BWW is based.) Following this we describe Chisholms ontology, which is the ontology used in this study, before describing the methods applied. The methods can be applied to ontologies other than Chisholms. Finally we present the results and conclude. Our conclusions also comment on the more fundamental influence common-sense realism is likely to have in data modelling specifically, and information systems more generally.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

221

Ontology Defined: A Stratified Domain


Ontology is the study of what there is. An ontology written by a philosopher can be described as a particular system of categories accounting for a certain vision of the world. As such, this system does not depend upon a particular language: Aristotles ontology is always the same, independently of the language used to describe it (Guarino, 1998). An ontology describes what is fundamental in what there is or what is real. It defines the terms used to construct a description of reality in its most general sense and how the terms are related. It must be able to describe a reality without specifying particulars of any category. It must be able to be used to describe reality at any point in time (either well into the future, or into the past). A highlevel philosophical ontology must be able to describe reality in this way. [Ontology is] the study of being in so far as this is shared in common by all entities, both material and immaterial. It deals with the most general properties of beings in all their different varieties (Kim & Sosa, 1995, p. 373). Metaphysics can also be understood in a more definite sense, suggested by Aristotles notion (in his Metaphysics, the title of which was given by an early editor of his works, not by Aristotle himself) of first philosophy, namely, the study of being qua being, i.e. of the most general and necessary characteristics anything must have in order to count as being an entity (ens). Sometimes ontology is used in this sense, but this is by no means common practice, ontology being often used as a synonym for metaphysics. (Audi, 1995, p. 490) For our purposes, we find the following definition most helpful, and we adopt it in this work: Definition 1. Reference Ontology Ontology, understood as a branch of metaphysics, is the science of being in general, embracing such issues as the nature of existence and the categorical structure of reality. Different systems of ontology propose alternative categorical schemes. A categorical scheme typically exhibits a hierarchical structure, with being or entity as the topmost category, embracing everything that exists. (Honderich, 1995, p. 634)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

222 Kazmierczak & Milton

Essentially, this is in alignment with our interests, because ontology of this nature represents a framework using which the building blocks of reality are described, in a way that is divorced from any specific situation or state of affairs. This agrees with Guarinos definition we gave earlier. It encompasses everything that exists but is general. In contrast, other parts of informatics, notably but not restricted to artificial intelligence (AI) (Vet & Mars, 1998; Vickery, 1997) and more generally, computer scientists use ontology in a highly pragmatic way. On the other hand, in its most prevalent use in AI, an ontology refers to an engineering artifact, constituted by a specific vocabulary used to describe a certain reality, plus a set of explicit assumptions regarding the intended meaning of the vocabulary words. (Guarino, 1998) This is what we adopt as the meaning for a domain-specific ontology. For example, microeconomics, or a specific plant taxonomy, each has its own categories of terms and intended meaning for terms used in these fields. To help clarify the distinction between the two meanings Guarino finds in computing, he continues by saying that the two readings of ontology are indeed related [to] each other, but in order to solve the terminological impasse we need to choose one of them, inventing another name for the other: we shall adopt the AI reading, using the word conceptualization to refer to the philosophical reading. Specifically, two ontologies can be different in the vocabulary used (using English or Italian words, for instance) while sharing the same conceptualization. (sic) (Guarino, 1998) We, in line with philosophy, maintain the term reference ontology for the philosophical meaning and use domain-specific ontology for this latter, much more recently adopted term. However, the two should be related. A sensibly constructed domain-specific ontology should map back to a reference or philosophical ontology. Also each may be used to specify specific members of categories that account for a certain reality. Lets consider examples. A reference ontology has extremely general terms (individual, attributes, class, set, etc.) and describes reality in its most general sense. A domain specific ontology, while not necessarily committing to specific instances of the ontology (you, me, my cat), may commit to categories
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

223

such as pet, bridge, animal, election campaign, and also remain broad in its coverage of reality. It is clearly becoming more specific, but without committing to specific individuals; but it is not, in its fullest definition, general enough to stand the test of time (there was a time when bridges did not exist). Some domain specific ontologies are expressed in terms of a reference ontology but some have grown bottom up without a deep consideration of the upper most categories. A domain specific ontology is also likely to be restricted in the breadth of reality it describes, such as ontologies restricted to engineering, or medicine. Finally, we may be able to commit ourselves to actual members of each category (you, me, and my cat). This specificity of reality is not of interest to us. We can represent these ideas diagrammatically and see the definition of ontology stratified as we have just described (see Example 1). In the data-modelling world, a reference ontology can be understood as a data modelling language such as a crude object model consisting of objects that are described using properties and where relationships relate objects with one another. A domain-specific ontology is paralleled in data modelling by a data model, for example consistent with the crude object model, showing a university with entities such as department, or faculty, and examination with abstracted relationships between the entities. An example of a specific reality would commit to student Tony Blair and subject AKA100 International Politics 1. A domain specific ontology may extend to a certain reality such as this. In data modelling, the language used commits to a reference ontology and we want to examine this commitment in more detail. However, it can be said that in AI not all domain specific ontologies map back to coherent reference models. Some highly pragmatic examples of domain specific ontologies (such as CYC and Semantic Web) do not attempt to define high-level categories that are philosophically consistent.

Example 1. A stratification of ontology philosophical (Reference), computer science (Domain-specific), and specific reality.

Reference ontology

Domain-specific ontology specific reality

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

224 Kazmierczak & Milton

In researching data modelling languages it is reference ontology that is of interest. Examining the ontological commitments at this level is likely to have a profound effect on our deeper understanding of the role and purpose of data modelling tools. In the following discussions it is in this sense that ontology will be intended.

Relating Ontology and Data Modelling Languages


Any ontology uses technical expressions to define what is real and it is these same expressions that are used to describe a specific state of affairs. Each expression has meaning and may be defined formally or informally. It is important therefore to distinguish between the labels or words given to each technical expression and the meaning behind that expression. For example individual is a label given to a technical expression in an ontology and has a specific meaning in that ontology. For the purpose of distinguishing expressions from their intended interpretation we will use Term to mean the label used in the ontology and Concept to mean the interpretation that the ontology gives to that term. A concept is defined as follows. Definition 2. Concept [A] concept is a way of thinking about something a particular object, or property, or relation, or some other entity (Dancy & Sosa, 1992, p. 74). Now, to describe an ontology, we require the following elements: 1. A categorisation of what constitutes reality, and what fundamental categories of things exist. As an example Chisholm presents his categorisation in a taxonomy (shown later in Figure 1). A set of terms, each associated with a concept that fully defines the term, with which to construct descriptions of what there is. A set of fundamental terms labelling the fundamental categories (in 1) and a means of relating all terms back to those labelling the fundamental categories.

2. 3.

For example, Chisholms ontology uses the terms individual, attribute, event, relation and set/class but only individual, attribute, and event are fundamental and label categories in Chisholms taxonomy. Set/class and relation derive their
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

225

definitions from individual and attribute and are thus related back to the fundamental categories. Data modelling languages also use terms, to signify modelling elements. For example, the Entity Relationship model (Chen, 1976) uses the terms entity, relationship, and attribute to signify specific modelling concepts used for modelling information systems. The terms, and their underlying concepts, used to describe a given data modelling language constitute an ontology of the type described above. We claim that the terms and concepts used to define a data modelling language constitute an ontological meta-model for the modelling language. We can now compare the ontological meta-model for a data modelling language with a philosophical ontology (acting as an external, or reference, ontology) thus yielding a qualitative semantic analysis of the similarity and difference between the world view that can be captured by the data model and that embodied in the ontology. Concepts are the basis for comparing an ontology with an ontological metamodel for a data modelling language. A concept is expressed using a possession condition. Definition 3. Possession Condition A possession condition is [a] statement which individuates a concept by saying what is required for a thinker to possess it (Dancy & Sosa, 1992, p. 75). Some concepts are compound. A compound concept has a core without which the entire concept is meaningless. In this sense the core of a concept is necessary for the concepts meaning to be preserved (Honderich, 1995). Definition 4. Core Concept A core concept is one such that its absence would render the definition of an entire concept meaningless (Milton, 2000; Milton, Kazmierczak, & Keen, 2001). For example, the concept of a knife would be meaningless without a blade and some handle that fits within the palm of ones hand. If absent, other parts of the concept do not have the effect of rendering the concept meaningless. By way of example, consider the term entity as used in the Entity-Relationship (ER) model. The concept for this term in ER is something which involves information. It is usually identifiable. Each entity has certain characteristics, known as attributes. A grouping of related entities becomes an entity set (Thalheim, 2000). Other similar definitions can be found in many texts, including the classical chapter by Chen (1976). For data modelling languages, the concept associated with a term can be synthesised from seminal sources.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

226 Kazmierczak & Milton

Table 1. The concept entity from the classic ER modelling language


Concept Entity Description ER allows for significant entities, or objects (either physical or conceptual) to be modelled. These must be grouped into entity classes. Each entity cannot depend upon other entities to be classed as an entity. Each member of an entity class must have an identity (a key).

Core

Identity

In the case of entity from the classic ER modelling language, we can show the compound concept in Table 1. We can observe if the models built using our data modelling languages exhibit the world view embodied by an ontology by observing how well concepts found in the data modelling languages ontological meta-model matches concepts from the ontology. This in turn is achieved by comparing the concepts in the ontological meta-model with those of the ontology. An examination of the results would reveal the overlap between the ontology and the data modelling language. The method for conducting such conceptual evaluations and comparisons is described in the method section. Before this, we discuss the philosophical heritage and content of Chisholms ontology, and its categories. We do this respectively in the following two sections.

Commonsense Realism: Chisholms Philosophy


In this section we discuss the objectives for a philosopher when writing an ontology. Chisholms ontology is then discussed and found to be one of Commonsense Realism. We conclude by placing Bunges ontology (used as a basis for BWW used in information systems) in context with Chisholms ontology. Ontology defines the sum total of reality (Honderich, 1995). It examines the nature of existence (what exits) and the categories into which these things fit. Existence is what exists outside an individuals mind and asks What is real? Things that exist may be concrete (physical) or abstract. Each ontologist must answer these questions when defining their categories. They do so by stating their philosophical approach and by relating their ontology to the stream of philosophical arguments.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

227

Chisholm (1996) asserts that his approach is one of critical commonsensism: Our approach to philosophy is what Charles Sanders Peirce has called critical commonsensism. This approach is based on faith in ones own rationality. Reason, as Peirce put it, not only corrects its premises, it also corrects its own conclusions (p. 4). Commonsensism is the view that we know, most, if not all, of those things which ordinary people think they know and that any satisfactory epistemological theory must be adequate to the fact that we do know such things (Dancy & Sosa, 1992). Critical commonsensism differs from commonsensism in that it demands a more rigorous standard of support for knowledge to be acquired, requiring the term critical. Chisholms (1996) ontology is also categorised as being one of extreme realism in that in addition to individuals, abstract things such as attributes are also real. Realism in any area of thought is the doctrine that certain entities allegedly associated with that area are indeed real. Common sense realism sometimes called realism, without qualification says that ordinary things like chairs and trees and people are real. Scientific realism says that theoretical points like electrons and fields of force and quarks are equally real. And psychological realism says mental states like pains and beliefs are real. (sic) (Dancy & Sosa, 1992) However, Chisholms critical commonsensism combined with his form of extreme realism means that his ontology adheres to a philosophy that may be a little different from commonsense realism. Barry Smith (1995), also a prominent realist and who refers to Chisholm in his discussion, defines the school more clearly than Dancy and Sosa (1992), and in his article he outlines his support for the thesis that commonsense realism in its various guises seems to be useful in cognitive science. The thesis that there is only one world towards which natural cognition relates is a central plank of what philosophers in the course of history have identified as the doctrine of common-sense realism. It is a doctrine according to which: (a) we enjoy in our everyday cognitive activities a direct and wideranging relational contact with a certain stable region of reality called the commonsense world

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

228 Kazmierczak & Milton

(b) our everyday cognitive activities rest upon a certain core of interconnected beliefs called common sense which is in large part true to the common-sense world as it actually is, not least in virtue of the fact that such beliefs and our associated cognitive capacities have arisen through interaction with this world; (c) this common-sense world exists autonomously, which is to say independently of our cognitive relations to it. Indeed from the perspective of common-sense realism the common-sense world exists entirely independently of human beings. Partial evidence for this thesis is provided by the fact that palontology and related disciplines describe this world as it was before human beings existed. Of course this world would lack theoretical interest in a universe populated exclusively by creatures with cognitive capacities radically different from those of human beings. But what these disciplines describe is, nonetheless, such as to exist independently. (Smith, 1995, p. 644) A careful reading of the extract reveals that it leaves room to subsume the scientific reality or outlook while still allowing for a commonly held view or socially agreed reality and it reassures us that we do not require human cognition for this world to exist. Additionally, this school of philosophy allows for a difference between the reality and the appearance of reality. Often this is called the error that is involved in making sense of reality. Thus common-sense is not, in spite of its reputation, nave; it draws a systematic distinction between reality and appearance, or in other words between the way the world is and the way the world seems or appears via one or other of the sensory modalities and from the perspective of one or other perceiving subject in one or other context. The thesis that there is only one world towards which natural cognition relates must thus be understood as being compatible with the thesis that there are many different ways in which the world can appear to human subjects in different sorts of circumstances. (Smith, 1995, p. 645) It is important, however, not to ignore the success in describing reality through science, and so we need to describe the relationship between the world as seen in common sense and that described by physics, the most closely related science. Later in this chapter, Smith relates commonsense realism with physics.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

229

The common-sense realist must confront the question of the relation between the common-sense world and the world that is described in the textbooks of standard physics. Here again a number of different philosophical alternatives have been mapped out in the course of philosophical time, including that view that it is the common-sense world that is truly autonomous while the world of physics is to be awarded the status of a cultural artifact. Here in contrast, we assume a thesis to the effect that the commonsense world overlaps substantially with physical reality in the more standard sense. (Smith, 1995, p. 647) This is important because physics, and indeed science generally, cannot be discounted in the quest for determining what there is. Science has been very successful in determining what there is in the physical world and is in part responsible for constructing models of physical reality. As paradigm shifts in science come and go, so will the models we use to describe physical reality. Paradigm shifts clarify our understanding of the physical world often importantly at the margins. We are experiencing the ramifications of just such a paradigm shift that began a little under a century ago. Issues such as string theory, quarks, and quantum mechanics generally have arisen from this paradigm shift, just as notions of mass, force, momentum, gravity, and planetary motion accompanied the Newtonian paradigm shift of several centuries ago. One therefore needs to be careful not to overstate the importance of science when examining ontology. Nevertheless, commonsense realism has a place for such development and clearly refuses to discard scientific realities in order to allow for social structures and understanding. To date, the only ontology that has been adapted and used in information systems is a scientific ontology by Mario Bunge (1977, 1979). It is scientific in that it uses the results of the natural sciences and of systems theory in its design. Consequently, it requires reworking when paradigm shifts occur in science or when our understanding of how the natural world works changes significantly. It also takes a mechanistic or deterministic view towards the world and its physical and social structures. Being a scientific ontology, Bunges ontology is set at a level much more finely grained than an ontology based on common-sense realism. The two are clearly related as we explained earlier in this section. Both are likely to have a role in information science research with commonsense realism likely to be influential when considering socio-technical or social design issues and scientific realism is likely to be influential when considering purely technical or computerised parts of information systems.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

230 Kazmierczak & Milton

Nevertheless the two ontologies have different but complementary realisms and it is therefore valuable to consider Chisholm as an alternative ontology as invited by earlier researchers.

Chisholms Ontology
Roderick Chisholm (1957, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1989a, 1989b, 1996) has written extensively in the areas of ontology, metaphysics, and epistemology and these works provide a backdrop to his 1996 monograph. We are obviously restricted in covering Chisholms ontology in this chapter. Interested readers are encouraged to refer to the monograph by Chisholm (1996), or his earlier chapter (1992), for a comprehensive treatment of the ontology. Chisholms categories are organised into the taxonomy shown in Figure 1. Chisholm adheres to the theory that establishes the dichotomy dividing the world into entities that are contingent and do not have to exist, and those that are necessary entities and must exist in order for the theory to be consistent (Honderich, 1995). This latter group is also often referred to as abstract entities that nevertheless exist. This is part of his realism and is reflected in the first branch in Figure 1 where the entire universe consists of entities divided in those that are contingent and those that are necessary. The fundamental categories that are relevant to all types of modelling in information systems are shown in bold typeface. Additional terms are real and are defined in the ontology (relation, set/class) and are related back to the terms that label the fundamental categories. In studying data modelling (a sub-set of information systems modelling) states and events are not relevant. These are relevant for studies of the process models of the Object Modelling Technique (UML) and other modelling languages that model states and changes in states. Necessary substance and its state (God and His state, Chisholm, 1996) are also clearly not in the realm of this study. Similarly, we do not need to consider issues of boundaries between spatial individuals in data modelling (Where do I end and the chair upon which I sit begin?) and are therefore outside the scope of this work. Consistent with our earlier discussion, the nodes in the taxonomy are labelled by terms forming a subset of those found in the ontology, for example, the terms individual and attribute. In fact individuals and attributes are central to Chisholms ontology. Further, other terms that Chisholms ontology requires to make sense of what there is are defined with reference to these fundamental terms. For example, individual and attribute have descriptions that show not only their own nature, the terms class and relation and related (and defined) in
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

231

Figure 1. The categories for Chisholms (1996) ontology


Entities Contingent Necessary

State

Individuals

States

Non-states

Event

Boundaries Substances

Attributes Substance

terms of attributes. In this section we introduce the terms from Chisholms ontology that we use in ontological studies of data modelling languages. The paragraphs describing each term convey the concept associated with the term. We conclude with a tabular summary of the concepts.

Individual
An individual is a discernible and transient object. It need not be material (or physical) in nature. Examples of individuals are an accountant named Freda, the annual financial statements for Ericsson, and Orly International Airport. Individuals are identified using attributes that only they exemplify, and may have constituents thereby giving them structure. This is called mereology (Honderich, 1995). Constituents may be other individuals (called parts) or may be boundaries (the other constituents). For example, consider Orly Airport. It has several renta-car franchises, bars, restaurants, and departure gates. Each of these is a part of Orly Airport and each is also an individual. In this example, most of these parts can be further sub-divided. On the other hand spatial substances have boundaries. A boundary is a surface, line, or point. For example, Orly Airport may have as its constituent surfaces that help to identify it as a spatial object. That surface is a boundary and is in turn made up of a number of surfaces, lines, and points. Boundaries of spatial substances are not of interest in data modelling.

Attribute
An individual may exemplify attributes. Each attribute may be exemplified by many individuals. Orly Airport is very busy; Nokias balance sheet is good;
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

232 Kazmierczak & Milton

Freda, our accountant, is of age 43. Some attributes may never be exemplified and others cannot be exemplified. For example, Orly Airport may never be green. We can be sure that Orly Airport cannot be a liquid. If two attributes are considered to be equivalent then it is the case that where one attribute is exemplified by an individual then so is the other. This is called conceptual entailment in the ontology. This can be illustrated by considering Orly Airport. The attribute very busy may involve a conceptual entailment with the attribute of having over a certain number of aircraft movements an hour. Chisholm allows for compound attributes, which in turn may consist of other compound attributes or simple attributes. He suggests that an attribute may be the conjunction or disjunction of several attributes. For example, the attribute of being good with respect to Nokias financial statements may be the conjunction of being in surplus (profit) and being of good credit rating. Chisholm also indicates that there may be alternative mechanisms for providing compound attributes, other than conjunction and disjunction. Philosophically and logically it makes little sense to talk about when an attribute came into being. In Chisholms ontology, attributes are enduring, thus avoiding the problem of declaring when an attribute comes into being. For example, when did the attribute being green first come into being? Since we cannot know and since raising its genesis brings about certain problems it is better to adopt the position that attributes are non-contingent, they exist perpetually.

Classification
Classes and sets may be part of a state-of-affairs. In Chisholms ontology, attributes are used to restrict membership of sets and classes. Indeed, Chisholms ontology reduces the discussion of classes to the discussion of attributes by adopting Russells (1908) reduction of classes to attributes. This has the effect of building classes and sets from individuals through the exemplification of an individuals attributes and not by constructing elaborate class structures. For example, suppose we are maintaining a taxonomy of plants. Periodically, the taxonomy may change quite drastically without a change in the majority of attributes exhibited by the plants involved. Using Chisholms ontology classes can change radically through a change in membership criteria based on attribute exemplification. Classes and sets can be selected based upon attributes that are conjunctions and disjunctions of other attributes, and in this sense complex class relationships can be realised, that are essentially class structures. The central point remains that individuals come together to form classes and are fundamental to the ontology. Classes are reflections of attributes exemplified by individuals due to the fact that they exemplify the attributes that are used to select the class.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

233

Relation
Chisholms ontology allows for relations between individuals. Chisholm (1996) says, To know what relations are, we must understand the concept of the direction of relations (p. 51). Chisholm means that relations may not be reciprocated, or alternatively must be carefully considered from the viewpoints of all individuals concerned. For example, I may be interested in a job with Nokia. Nokia may not be interested in employing me. It is for this reason that relations are unidirectional. Further, in the ontology, relations are be represented by ordered pairs of identifying individuals. This comes from the fact that ordered pairs are related to sets of a specific form and therefore can be reduced to a discussion of attributes in the manner noted above. Therefore relations, despite being needed to describe a state-of-affairs, do not constitute a separate fundamental category but instead are related to attribute. For an ordered pair to represent unidirectional relations, attributes need to be found that uniquely describe and thereby identify each individual. For example, suppose that Freda (our accountant) is recruited to audit Nokias books then an attribute being an ordered pair of identifying attributes for Freda and Nokia would

Table 2. Relevant concepts from Chisholms ontology


Concept Description Individual Chisholm allows for discernable and transient objects. These are Core called individuals. Individuals come into being (are created) and pass away (destroyed). In this sense they are transient. Identity Each individual possesses an attribute (or several attributes) that identifies it. Structure Individuals may have constituents. These are either other individuals (known as parts) or boundaries (the other constituents.) Individuals that make up parts of others are still thought of as being individuals. Attribute Attributes are exhibited by individuals. They are central to Chisholms Core ontology, after individuals. Further, attributes are enduring, in the sense that they do not come into being and do not pass away. Further, attributes must be loosely coupled with individuals. Conceptual Attributes can be equivalent in the sense that if something exhibits one Entailment attribute then it exhibits the other. Complexity Attributes may be simple or complex. Complex attributes are combinations of either simple or other complex attributes. The mechanism suggested by Chisholm is one involving conjunction and disjunction of attributes. He feels there may be other ways of providing for this complexity. Classification Classes and sets are provided using attributes, in the ontology. Core Specifically, it is through the attributes that membership of classes is determined. Relation Individuals may be related. Specifically, relations are attributes (an Core ordered pair). The ontology requires that attributes that identify the participating individuals are required. The relations are unidirectional (not bi-directional).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

234 Kazmierczak & Milton

have to be exhibited by Freda that in turn represents the relation. A corresponding attribute representing the reverse relation would need to be exhibited by Nokia, if the relation were to be reciprocal. In the simplest case an individual may be related to another (binary). More complex relations between three individuals (ternary) or more (n-ary) are allowed. Mathematically it is proven that these all can be reduced to a series of binary relations (Quine, 1960).

Method
The role of our methods is to compare and to contrast the ontological meta-model embodied in the data modelling languages with a reference ontology (in this case Chisholms ontology). In the discussion below we assume that we have not yet selected the ontology to be used and refer to a fixed but arbitrary ontology as our reference ontology. The reader can however, consider Chisholms ontology as our intended target. We present two methods for evaluating data modelling languages against a specific ontology: 1) the method of conceptual evaluation which can be applied to each specific data modelling language, and in turn forms the basis of the second method which is, 2) the method of conceptual comparison. The relationship between the two is explained in this section. In this chapter we present the results of an application of the latter method.

The Method of Conceptual Evaluation


The aim of the method of conceptual evaluation is to compare the ontology embodied in a data modelling language with the reference ontology selected from the range of ontologies available. In conducting a conceptual evaluation, we are seeking to provide qualitative answers for specific data modelling languages to questions such as:

How well does the data modelling language capture reality relative to an ontology? How similar are a range of data modelling languages?

As indicated in Figure 2 the inputs to the method of conceptual evaluation are the reference ontology and the ontology derived from the meta-language of the data modelling language. The output of the method is a list of similarities and

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

235

Figure 2. The method of conceptual evaluation

Reference ontology Conceptual Evaluation Data model ontology Qualitative assessment of similarities and differences

differences between the two sets of concepts and a qualitative analysis of those similarities and differences. It is not necessary for either the ontology or the data modelling language to be described using a mathematical formalism. It is possible that both are at best semi formal with natural language descriptions of concepts found in each. The method of conceptual evaluation has four basic steps.

Step 1. Determine the set of concepts from the reference ontology to be used in a forward evaluation. This set of concepts we call the reference concepts. Step 2. Determine the set of concepts from the ontology embodied in the data modelling language to be used in a backward evaluation. This set of concepts we call the data modelling concepts. Step 3. Perform a forward and backward evaluation of the two sets of concepts and tabulate the results. Step 4. Perform the analysis step in which the results are analysed.

The first step is to determine the basic set of concepts on which the forward evaluation will be based. The method does not prescribe which set of concepts from the reference ontology should be chosen. For example, one may wish to study the concept of state in UML (Rumbaugh, Blaha, Premerlani, Eddy, & Lorensen, 1991) by reference to Chisholms ontology, and consequently the fundamental concepts of states and events from Chisholms ontology may be the only relevant concepts that need to be considered for such a limited study. Nevertheless, the chosen concepts must be appropriate for the modelling language under study. In this study, for example, only the static or structural

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

236 Kazmierczak & Milton

concepts are required because that is the common nature of the data modelling languages under examination. The second step resembles the first and involves determining the set of concepts from a particular data modelling language. Each data modelling language will have a different group of concepts using which sense is made of reality. For example, the ER model uses different terms from that used by UML. It is likely that there will be a degree of similarity in the concepts associated with terms from those languages. The third step involves the comparison of concepts from each of the reference ontology and the ontology embodied in concepts from a data modelling language. It is performed utilising concepts from the data modelling language as well as the reference ontology according to our philosophy the reference ontology is not the only ontology that could be chosen and is not the only theory in that other reference ontologies could be used. Nor is the ontology necessarily better than that embodied in any data modelling language. Further, the comparison is at the level of concepts thus moving beyond the specific names or terms used to signify the concepts. Additionally, this step is highly subjective there is no other way to undertake a conceptual evaluation of this nature. The presentation of the results of the evaluation utilises semiotic theory for two reasons. First, terms and concepts are clearly semiotically related. Second, comparison of concepts is semantic with semiotic theory providing an ideal basis for explaining semantic differences in terms. The relationship between terms in an ontology and their concepts are explained through semiotics: each term, through its associated concept in a reference ontology or the ontology of a data modelling language, spans part of a semantic field (Eco, 1976), or conceptual plane (Cruse, 2000; Culler, 1976). Alternatively, each term from an ontology possesses an essential depth (Liska, 1996) which similarly evokes the conceptual span of a term. In this chapter we adopt the term semantic field to label these ideas and use it to express the similarities and differences between concepts in the reference ontology and those embodying the ontology from the data modelling language. Specifically, we use a graded indicator to express the similarities and difference. When comparing a concept c (from the ontology) with a specific data modelling language, there are three broad categories of results. These categories are consistent with the semiotic texts we quoted above. First, the data modelling language may have total overlap with respect to c. Total overlap may be provided by one concept (for example, d) or perhaps by several concepts (for example, two concepts d and e). That is, there may be one concept or several concepts that together provide total overlap, in terms of semantic field, with the concept from the ontology. The second possibility is where the overlap is partial. Finally, it may be that there is no overlap at all between the data modelling language and c from the ontology.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

237

Figure 3 shows the three categories of results pictorially. While the coverage of a specific concept is depicted in this figure as a sharp rectangle, the nature of semantic fields dictates that the boundaries between semantic fields are quite imprecise. This emphasises the fact that the comparison is conceptual and that concepts may be partially covered and that a simple presence absence is not ideal for ontological evaluations of this nature. Each of these categories of results can be indicated using symbols so that an idea of the results of the comparison can be conveyed easily in tabular form. This is called the indicative results. The three symbols for full coverage, partial coverage, and no coverage are (), ( p), and (X) respectively. For compound concepts a summary for the complete concepts can be calculated. This is shown in Table 3. The summary (concept level) result is shown as the additive of results for the parts of the complex concept made up of parts a and b. The second dimension of final step in the method is the qualitative result of evaluating a data modelling language using an ontology revealing the story behind the indicative results from step 3. The analysis of the qualitative results presents issues beyond the direct comparison of concepts and discusses issues such as the nature of the gaps in coverage that are evident from the results as presented in step 3 and the implications of these on the data modelling language under study.

Figure 3. Degree of overlap in coverage of semantic field


d c c p d e X

d d e

Table 3. Results for a compound concept, with parts a and b


Concept Result Part A Part B
Key: X no coverage

X X X

p p

p X

p p p

p partial coverage

full coverage

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

238 Kazmierczak & Milton

Our method is related to work by Wand and Weber (1989) where they undertook an informal comparison between tools and an ontology. This informal comparison later progressed to be a more formalised (1993) understanding of the representational clarity with which a model of reality is created from human perceptions using a specific tool. In this, they examine the grammars that information systems analysis and design methods provide to describe aspects of the real world. A grammar in this context generates a language, which is a set of strings over some alphabet.In these grammars, sentences provide a graphical representation of some real-world phenomena (Wand & Weber, 1993). In their latter more formal treatment, Wand and Weber use ideas of ontological clarity and ontological completeness to establish a measure of the ontological expressiveness of an analysis and design tool as represented by its grammar as it compares with the grammar representing the ontology. These measures are defined using construct (or term) mapping to and from the ontology for clarity and completeness respectively. Their measures are based on the presence or absence of terms in a grammar representing the modelling tool when compared with terms in a grammar from the ontology. Both grammars and terms are required to be expressed mathematically. These concepts bear a degree of similarity to those used in our method. However, they do not explore the more fundamental question of the qualitative differences or similarities in world-view between the ontology and the various tools under examination that are uncovered by examining the subtle differences in meaning of the various terms found in the ontology and in the tools. Instead their comparison is based on the mapping (or failure in mapping) of mathematical constructs to and from the ontology. Their approach also requires that the ontology selected be precise and defined mathematically. Not all ontologies are capable of being defined mathematically due to mathematics failing to adequately represent reality. The modelling tool under investigation must similarly be precisely defined. Formalizing the modelling tool in a grammar compromises the meaning attached to terms. Terms may have their meaning restricted by formalising them. Data modelling languages often lack formality. It is for these reasons that we have included semiotic theory to express the results of each ontological evaluation of data model. We further note that as a result, and of necessity, the method is highly qualitative and has a degree of subjectivity.

The Method of Conceptual Comparison


The method of conceptual comparison seeks to compare a number of data modelling languages by analysing the results of conducting a series of conceptual evaluations against the selected reference ontology. The method consists of
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

239

repeated applications of the method of conceptual evaluation against a number of data modelling languages. The results indicate the degree to which the reference ontology is reflected in the ontology of a range of data modelling languages and utilises the reference ontology as a benchmark against which the data modelling languages can be assessed. In conducting the series of conceptual evaluations we are testing each language against the selected and independent view of reality as represented by a reference ontology. As a direct consequence, the method of conceptual comparison can be used to determine how wide spread and to what degree a reference ontology is reflected in the ontologies implicit in a range of data modelling languages. The analysis of results sheds light on the ontological overlap or dominance of the reference ontology with a range of data modelling languages. A reference ontology is also a measure of how well something represents reality in the way encapsulated in the ontology. In the following section we present the results of such a conceptual comparison with a range of data modelling languages the range of languages spanning 20 years of scholarship. In accordance with the method, it is constructed from a number of conceptual evaluations using Chisholms ontology and the ontology implicit in the respective data modelling language.

Results
We have selected five data modelling frameworks from the literature to use in this work. These data modelling languages span the period from the beginning of the semantic data modelling to its extension into the world of object data modelling. First, the Entity-Relationship (ER) model (Chen, 1976). It is one of the most important entity-relationship-attribute style of modelling framework and is still extremely popular in industry. Second, the Functional Data Model (FDM) (Kerschberg & Pacheco, 1976; Shipman, 1981) is the cleanest example of the functional-style of semantic data model. Third, we include the Semantic Data Model (SDM) (Hammer & McLeod, 1981) recognised to be an important model (Hull & King, 1987; Peckham & Maryanski, 1988) and may be considered to be a significant model with respect to object data model development. Fourthly, NIAM (Nijssen & Halpin, 1989). Finally, the object model UML (Blaha & Premerlani, 1998) is included as a significant object model that is used in contemporary information systems development yet, in part, originating from the semantic data modelling stream. Table 4 shows the indicative results for the comparison of Chisholms ontology with the data modelling languages.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

240 Kazmierczak & Milton

Table 4. Indicative results of the comparison of selected data modelling languages using Chisholms ontology
Ontological Concept
Individual Core Identity Structure Attribute Core Conc. Entailment Complexity Classification Relation
Key: X no coverage

ER
p X p p X p p p

FDM
p p p X

SDM
p p X p

NIAM
p X p X p p p

UML
p p X p p

p partial coverage

full coverage

Summarising from an earlier section, Chisholms ontology views the world as a collection of individuals and relations between them. Individuals have structure and represent ontologically distinct entities. Attributes in the ontology are used to describe and identify individuals and using identity of individuals, describe relations. Further, attributes are universals in a philosophical sense and endure, and, by inference they are loosely coupled with individuals. Attributes are also used to determine class and set membership. Relations are also seen as being uni-directional. Our conceptual comparison, summarised by Table 4, suggests that the worldview described by the reference ontology is to a large extent a similar world-view to those imparted by the languages and there is a significant level of agreement with the ontology and the modelling languages that weve studied, but the data modelling languages lack the full generality of Chisholms ontology. The departures are in the structural aspects of individuals and more subtly, attitudes to the nature of attributes and relations and the implications of a lacking of loose coupling between individuals and attributes (particularly implications concerning classification). We examine each in turn. Individual structure represented by part-whole relationships defined at the individual level is supported by some but not all data modelling languages. Those modelling languages not showing support provide a crude mereology at the class level. This approach is useful in cases where structure cannot be generalised to the class level due to a high degree of diversity in the structure of individuals grouped. Apart from this difference the remainder of the concept individual is supported. The core of the concept attribute is partly supported by most data modelling languages. This is due to the lack of support by most data modelling languages of loose coupling between attributes and individuals by three data modelling
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

241

languages. Loose coupling allows for a high degree of diversity in the types of attributes that similar individuals exemplify. Consequently, individuals where such diversity is evident are no longer constrained to classes of like individuals all exemplifying a fixed range of types of attributes. Some data modelling languages (FDM and NIAM) support the loose coupling evident in Chisholms approach; the remainder do not. Nevertheless most have a high degree of coverage of the core and complexity parts of attribute. Attribute equivalence is completely absent from all data modelling languages. Classification and relations are concepts recognised by all data modelling languages. Classification in the ontology is evident through the attributes exemplified by members of classes. In the ontology, classes are related to each other by the intersections and unions of the attributes used to select them and thereby can simulate class hierarchies. This approach to classification structure is entirely different from the most common classification approaches used by most data modelling languages where instead, rich and rigid class hierarchies are prevalent. Essentially, in the ontology there exists a sea of individuals from which classes are built. This provides flexibility in cases where the classes of individuals that are required change drastically without very much changing in the nature of the individuals themselves. The concept of relations between individuals is supported by all data modelling languages. However, the reference ontology also requires relations to be unidirectional, thus allowing for non-reciprocation of relations. We have found that relations are not bi-directional in several of the data modelling languages but the concept is fully supported by FDM and SDM. The consequence of the departures from the ontology by the data modelling languages that we have observed is that it is likely one can model a narrower range of situations using the studied data modelling languages than Chisholms ontology. Further, Chisholms ontology has the potential to change our view of data modelling by its increased flexibility achieved through bi-directional relations and through its loose-coupling of attributes with respect to individuals. In turn, this has positive implications for the flexibility of models that are subject to radical change. It is the formation of classes through attributes as a direct consequence of loose coupling that is most beneficial for flexibility. We can see from the results that the modelling languages share the world-view of the ontology to a large degree. The areas of departure are of the nature of a difference in emphasis rather than complete absence of support. In the case of complex concepts all modelling languages support the core to a high degree of coverage. On the basis of this, we can say that the world-view held through the ontology is substantially similar to that held by this representative range of data modelling languages.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

242 Kazmierczak & Milton

Conclusions, Future Work, and Reflection


In this chapter we have compared Chisholms ontology with the ontologies implicit in a representative range of data modelling languages using qualitative methods to see how well data models map the world. We have found that there is a significant degree of overlap between Chisholms ontology and the data modelling languages selected. Indeed, we have found that the ontologys core elements are reflected in the range of data modelling languages selected. Recall that Chisholms ontology consists of individuals and their structure, the attributes that they exemplify and the relationships that exist between individuals. At the beginning of the chapter we posed two research questions. They were:

How well do data models represent reality? What are the similarities and differences between data modelling languages?

We discuss these in the following sub-sections.

Representing Reality
We can conclude based on the results presented in this chapter that the data models generally overlap with the core concepts of Chisholms ontology to a large degree and that the world-view encapsulated in Chisholms ontology is broadly consistent with the world-view implicit in the data modelling languages at least as far as the terms used for comparison are concerned. Chisholms ontology is one of commonsense realism and is categorised by Chisholm as being a realistic ontology. We have found, in our reading (Audi, 1995; Flew, 1989; Honderich, 1995), that the terms used by Chisholm are widely supported, and the style of realism upon which his ontology is based has a high degree of consensus between philosophers. We are confident that this core of consensus, which is considerable, forms a good starting point from which to progress towards a detailed view of reality that is shared between the data modelling languages. We have found the following forms such a consensus and can be summarised as a realistic core: 1. 2. Individuals that are ontologically independent. Attributes that are exemplified by individuals.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

243

3. 4. 5.

Part-whole relationships exist between individuals (mereology). Relations exist between individuals. Classes of individuals are selected on the attributes exemplified.

All of the data modelling languages showed good support for all of these concepts. Consequently, we conclude that the data modelling languages studied, by having a large degree of overlap with a typical commonsense realist ontology, represent reality well. This is because an ontology (such as Chisholms or Bunges Ontology) is a theory that discusses what there is in reality and in the most general sense.

Similarities and Differences Between Data Modelling Languages


The similarities between the data modelling languages is summarised by the realistic core (the aforementioned list). However, we can see three areas where there are differences between the modelling languages and the view of Chisholms ontology. First, in the ontology, attributes are considered to be quite separate from the individuals that exemplify them, and they endure. One can describe this as loose coupling between individuals and attributes. Some, but not all, of the data modelling languages contrastingly group individuals into homogeneous classes and by so doing restrict the range of attributes that each individual can exhibit thus exhibiting a tight coupling. This tight coupling is also counter to the realistic core. Second, in data modelling languages the data modelling equivalent of individuals are seldom allowed to be members of several classes simultaneously. The only exception to this is in cases where a class hierarchy around a common family of classes (with UML) is established or where individuals are distributed or dispersed across several classes (with SDM). Both of these are different from the ontology in which individuals can be member of more than one class simultaneously because classes are established based upon attributes that member individuals exhibit. The classes are not repositories for individuals, and instead they filter individuals. Third, in contrast to class hierarchies there is support for part-whole (or aggregation) structures in the ontology, known in philosophy as mereology. This also supports related research that uses a different ontology. Many of the modelling frameworks supported this to at least a crude degree, such as with the ER modelling framework where the part-whole relationships are expressed at the class level. Others had more sophisticated methods of providing this, such as
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

244 Kazmierczak & Milton

with most object modelling frameworks or with SDM where individual-based mereology is present.

Future Work and Critical Analysis


There are some issues that need further investigation. The importance of conceptual entailment and the implications of the enduring and abstract nature of attributes need to be investigated in practical situations because of their potential to influence efficiency and effectiveness of implemented databases. There is also a question about the nature and usefulness of rigid class hierarchies found in many modelling languages. The ontological evaluation of modelling languages requires a deep understanding of the ontology and of each data modelling language. Further, it is on the basis of the terms described in the ontology that the comparison with each candidate modelling language is undertaken. It takes time to understand an ontology as condensed as Chisholms and to relate each term and its associated concept to modelling languages. We cannot conceive of an easier way in which to undertake such a work. Further, there is clearly a critically important interpretive dimension to the methods and consequently the results of the comparison may vary to a degree between researchers. This, however, is the very nature of the type of research and is not grounds enough to doubt its applicability. There is no algorithmic comparison of concepts. However, given that we are interested in comparing, contrasting, evaluating, and ultimately improving our data modelling languages, our approach is quite appropriate. Further, the approach has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the nature of data modelling languages by permitting analysis using qualitative ontologies such as Chisholms.

How to Better Map the World


There is a much deeper reflection possible from applying Chisholms ontology to data modelling. This reflection cuts to the core of the discipline of information systems and brings together reflection in philosophy into the nature of reality and our interaction with it. Chisholms ontology is one of common-sense realism. This realism has as one of its traits the recognition that not only does the natural world, as understood by science, exist outside our minds, so too does the social world we inhabit. Further, we can find a social reality that is to a large extent arbitrary (in the sense that two alternative realities could be conceived of and implemented for social existence) and made manifest at least partly through institutions, their rules, and objects. Examples of social reality and institutional reality abound from currenCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

245

cies to accounting practice and from social etiquette to political systems. These are somewhat arbitrary and can come into conflict with one another. However, they are also real for people. The very subject we study as information systems researchers and practitioners, the company, or organization, is not real in a naturalist sense yet is very real for the people for whom we design information systems. We can go further and say that in many cases, there is not physical reality that corresponds to it. It then seems very reasonable, indeed of critical importance, to venture beyond naturalistic ontologies when considering such issues. Chisholms ontology, being one of common-sense realism, has a clear potential to help data models better map the world inhabited by customers of information systems in three ways. First, and as we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, it subsumes a naturalist ontology such at that expounded by Bunge and thus is equally powerful compared with Bunges ontology. Second, in-line with its common-sense roots, it allows for a social reality (Searle, 1995) and, importantly for us, institutional reality (in a social sense of institution) and demonstrates much more clearly its ability to handle social reality than Bunges ontology does. Finally, it brings to the discussion a perspectival realism that goes beyond the frames of reference found in Bunges ontology. Perspectival realism is important in that it gives us the ability to view reality from multiple perspectives and also gives us the ability to explain appearances of reality. Given the current interest in ontologies for achieving a range of computerised functions, common-sense realism also provides the best style of reference ontology for use in information systems foundational research. By applying a realism to information systems that is broader than Bunges realism, we have the tools by which we can help data models better map the world.

References
Audi, R. (Ed.). (1995). The Cambridge dictionary of philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Blaha, M. & Premerlani, W. (1998). Object-oriented modeling and design for database applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Bunge, M. (1977). Treatise on basic philosophy: Vol. 3: Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Boston: Reidel. Bunge, M. (1979). Treatise on basic philosophy: Vol. 4: Ontology II: A world of systems. Boston: Reidel. Chen, P. (1976). The entity-relationship model Toward a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 1(1), 9-36.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

246 Kazmierczak & Milton

Chisholm, R. (1957). Perceiving: A philosophical study. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Chisholm, R. (1976). Person and object: A metaphysical study. La Salle, IL: Open Court. Chisholm, R. (1979). Objects and persons: Revisions and replies. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 7/8, 317-388. Chisholm, R. (1982). The foundations of knowing. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Chisholm, R. (1989a). On metaphysics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Chisholm, R. (1989b). Theory of knowledge (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Chisholm, R. (1992). The basic ontological categories. In K. Mulligan (Ed.), Language, truth, and ontology (p. 211). Dordrecht, Germany: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Chisholm, R. (1996). A realistic theory of categories An essay on ontology (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Cruse, D. A. (2000). Meaning in language: An introduction to semantics and pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Culler, J. (1976). Saussure. Fontana. Dancy, J. & Sosa, E. (Eds.). (1992). A companion to epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Eco, U. (1976). A theory of semiotics. Bloomington, IN: Midland. Flew, A. (1989). An introduction to Western philosophy: Ideas and arguments from Plato to Popper (fully revised edition of the original 1971 volume ed.). London: Thames and Hudson. Green, P. (1996). An ontological analysis of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in upper case tools. Unpublished PhD thesis, The University of Queensland. Guarino, N. (1998). Formal ontology and information systems. Paper presented at the Formal Ontology in Information Systems, Trento, Italy. Hammer, M. & McLeod, D. (1981). Database description with SDM: A semantic database model. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 6(3), 351-386. Honderich, T. (Ed.). (1995). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hull, R. & King, R. (1987). Semantic database modelling: Survey, applications, and research issues. ACM Computing Surveys, 19(3), 201-260.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Using a Common-Sense Realistic Ontology

247

Kerschberg, L. & Pacheco, J. E. S. (1976). A functional database model. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Pontificia Univ. Catholica do Rio de Janeiro. Kim, J. & Sosa, E. (Eds.). (1995). A companion to metaphysics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Liska, J. J. (1996). A general introduction to the semeiotic of Charles Sanders Peirce. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Milton, S. K. (2000). Ontological studies of data modelling languages. Unpublished PhD dissertation, The University of Tasmania. Milton, S. K., Kazmierczak, E., & Keen, C. (2001). Data modelling languages: An ontological study. Paper presented at the 9th European Conference on Information Systems, Bled, Slovenia. Nijssen, G. M. & Halpin, T. A. (1989). Conceptual schema and relational database design: A fact oriented approach. New York: Prentice-Hall. Peckham, J. & Maryanski, F. (1988). Semantic data models. ACM Computing Surveys, 20(3), 153-189. Quine, W. V. O. (1960). Word and object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Rohde, F. (1995). An ontological evaluation of Jacksons system development model. Australian Journal of Information Systems, 2(2), 77-87. Rumbaugh, J., Blaha, M., Premerlani, W., Eddy, F., & Lorensen, W. (1991). Object-oriented modeling and design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall. Russell, B. (1908). Mathematical logic as based on the theory of types. American Journal of Mathematics, 222-263. Searle, J. (1995). The construction of social reality. New York: The Free Press. Shipman, D. W. (1981). The functional data model and the data language DAPLEX. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 6(1), 140-173. Smith, B. (1995). Formal ontology, commonsense and cognitive science. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43(12), 641-667. Thalheim, B. (2000). Entity-relationship modeling: Foundations of database technology. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag. Vet, P. E. v. d. & Mars, N. J. I. (1998). Bottom-up construction of ontologies. IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, 10(4), 513526. Vickery, B. C. (1997). Ontologies. Journal of Information Science, 23(4), 277-286. Wand, Y. (1996). Ontology as a foundation for meta-modeling and method engineering. Information and Technology Software, 38, 182-287.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

248 Kazmierczak & Milton

Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. D. Falkenberg & P. Lindgreen (Eds.), Information systems concepts: An in-depth analysis (pp. 79-107). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1990). An ontological model of an information system. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(11), 1282-1292. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 1993(3), 217-237. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological foundations of information systems (Vol. Monograph #4). Blackburn, Victoria: Buscombe Vicprint.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 249

Chapter IX

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method to Measure the Suitability of Ontologies


Asuncin Gmez-Prez, Politcnica University of Madrid, Spain Adolfo Lozano-Tello, Extremadura University, Spain

Abstract
In the last years, the development of ontology-based applications has increased considerably, mainly related to the Semantic Web. Users currently looking for ontologies in order to incorporate them into their systems, just use their experience and intuition. This makes it difficult for them to justify their choices. Mainly, this is due to the lack of methods that help the user to determine which are the most appropriate ontologies for the new system. To solve this deficiency, the present chapter proposes a method, ONTOMETRIC, which allows the users to measure the suitability of existing ontologies, regarding the requirements of their systems. ONTOMETRIC, based in the analytic hierarchy process, can be used to select the most
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

250 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

appropriate ontology among various alternatives. This chapter describes the main techniques and activities to apply the method.

Introduction: The Problem of Selecting Ontologies


In 1991, the ARPA Knowledge Sharing Effort (Neches, 1991) revolutionized the way in which intelligent systems were built in artificial intelligence when proposing the construction of knowledge-based systems by means of the assembling of reusable components. Reusable components become the base (or skeleton) of the new system, to which are added specialized knowledge and specific reasoning methods, depending on the task that the system attempts to solve. This vision allows the building of bigger and more potent systems. The ontologies, used to represent the static knowledge of a domain, and the problem solving methods, used to carry out reasoning, become the key pieces that allow the reuse of knowledge and problem-solving methods (Gmez-Prez, 1999a). The saving in costs and time that is obtained in the software reuse (Bollinger, 1990; Poulin, 1997) is achieved in more scope in the reuse of this knowledge (ontologies and problem-solving methods), due to the enormous effort in the processes of knowledge acquisition of a domain, conceptual models construction, formalization, and implementation of such knowledge. At the moment, the ontologies are implemented in a great variety of languages. At the beginning of the 90s, a group of languages was designed and used for the implementation of ontologies. The most representative languages are Ontolingua (Gruber, 1993), LOOM (McGregor, 1991), OCML (Motta, 1999), FLogic (Kifer, 1995), and so forth. These languages receive the name of classic languages (Corcho, 2000), they follow a syntax based on LISP (to exception of FLogic), and they are in a phase of stable development. Recently, XML has been adopted as a standard language to exchange information on the Web. In the field of the ontologies, several languages have been created based on XML to implement ontologies. For example RDF (Lassila, 1999), RDF Schema (Brickley, 1999), XOL (Karp, 1999), SHOE (Luke, 2000), OIL (Horrocks, 2000), DAML+OIL (Horrocks, 2001) and OWL (Dean, 2003). These languages, called Web-based languages, are still in development phase and in continuous evolution. Equally, methodologies for building ontologies have been numerous. Already in 1990, Lenat and Guha (1990) published some methodological considerations related with the development of the CYC ontology. Some years later, in 1995, Uschold and King (1995) published the main steps in the development of the Enterprise ontology. In the same year, Grninger and Fox (1995) showed the
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 251

methodology used in the development of the TOVE ontology (Virtual Toronto Enterprise). One year later, Uschold (1996) carried out a proposal of unification of both methodologies. In the 12th European Conference for Artificial Intelligence, the methodology used to build the project Esprit KACTUS projects ontologies (Bernaras, 1996) was presented. In 1997, METHONTOLOGY, appeared (Fernndez, 1997), which was extended later (Fernndez, 1999a; Fernndez, 2000). It proposed the steps that should be continued to build ontologies, some guides to carry out ontologies reengineering (Gmez-Prez, 1999b), and ontologies evaluation (Gmez-Prez, 1999c). Also in 1997, the methodology used to build domains ontologies from the SENSUS ontology was presented (Swartout, 1997). All these methodologies do not consider the cooperative development of ontologies. The first methodology that includes development aspects in-group is Co4 (Euzenat, 1995). A comparative study of some of these methodologies appears in Fernndez (1999b). Since 1996, there was an important increase in the development of technological platforms related with the ontologies. The first ontology site was the Ontolingua Server (Farquhar, 1996), of the Knowledge Systems Laboratory (KSL) at Stanford University. In 1997, Ontosaurus appeared (Swartout, 1997), developed by the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) in the University of South California. Later, several tools were created based on Java technology: WebOnto (Domingue, 1998) developed in the Knowledge Media Institute (KMI) of the Open University (UK); OILed (Bechhofer, 2001), developed in the IST OntoKnowledge project; OntoEdit (Staab, 2000) developed by the AIFB of the Karlsrhue University; Protg2000 (Noy, 2001) developed by the Stanford Medical Informatics (SMI) at Stanford University; and WebODE (Arprez, 2001) developed at the Politcnica University of Madrid. In spite of the great increase that the use of ontologies has acquired, nowadays, the knowledge engineers need to look for ontologies dispersed in quite a few Web servers. When they find several that can be adapted, they should examine their characteristics attentively and decide upon the best ontologies to incorporate them to their system. This election procedure usually depends on the experience and the engineers intuition. If the system is being developed with commercial goals, it will be very difficult for them to justify the taken election. Although most of the methodologies for building ontologies (Fernndez, 1999b) propose a phase of ontology reuse, there are no works that show the users how to choose ontologies for a new project, and there are no methodologies that quantify the suitability of these ontologies for the system. This election problem would be palliated if there existed a metric that quantified, for each one of the candidates (ontologies), how appropriate they are for a new system. The method that is described in this work (ONTOMETRIC) presents the set of processes that the user should carry out to obtain these measures.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

252 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

This chapter is organized as follows. The second section gives a general overview of ONTOMETRIC method. The next section presents existing frameworks of characteristics to compare ontologies. After this, the multilevel framework of characteristics to select ontologies is described. The next section exposes the main steps of the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). The section after this describes how we have adapted AHP in the choice of ontologies (ONTOMETRIC method). Finally, the last section indicates the evaluation processes to prove the applicability of ONTOMETRIC.

Overview of the ONTOMETRIC Method


The ONTOMETRIC method allows users to measure the suitability of the existent ontologies, regarding requirements of their systems. We have developed the following tasks to complete the method.

Identification of a multilevel framework of characteristics. The framework consists of 160 characteristics that describe the ontology domain. They are classified in the following dimensions: the content represented in the ontology, the language in which the ontology is implemented, the methodology followed to develop it, the tools used for building it, and the costs of using the ontology in the system. This framework provides: a) the outline to represent the information of existing ontologies, b) the comparison of ontologies, and c) the choice of the most convenient according to the requirements of the new system. The building of the conceptual model of a domain ontology about ontologies, the reference ontology (RO), based on the multilevel framework of characteristics. The conceptual model of the RO was built following METHONTOLOGY methodology and WebODE platform. The dimension content of this ontology is instantiated with information coming from ontologies stored on ontology servers and available on the Web. The other dimensions were instantiated taking information from previous works, as well as analyzing the languages, methodologies, and tools, directly. Design of a method that measures the suitability of a set of candidate ontologies that could be incorporated into a new system. The method uses: a) the multilevel framework of characteristics, b) the conceptual model of the RO and its instances, and c) an adaptation of the analytic hierarchy process. For each candidate ontology, the method gets a quantitative measure of its suitability. It is useful to decide, in a justified way,

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 253

what ontologies are the most appropriate for the application that the user is going to develop.

The creation of the technological support to assist the method. We have developed the OntoMetric Tool to calculate (using a modification of the analytic hierarchy process) the measurement of suitability for the candidate ontologies. This tool assists users in all the processes of the ONTOMETRIC method.

Existing Studies and Frameworks of Characteristics


There are different studies on identifying characteristics for designing, comparing and classifying ontologies. The more elaborated proposals tend to organize the groups of characteristics in a taxonomical fashion. A summary of the proposals, with the number of characteristics and the purpose for which were created, is shown in the Table 1. On the one hand, the five characteristics of Gruber (1995) and the three characteristics pointed out by Uschold and Grninger (1996) are very general features and were described as fundamental properties that should be considered in the design of ontologies and that should be kept in mind in the reuse process. The comparison framework of Noy and Hafner (1997) gathers 28 characteristics about ontologies, although the definition of some characteristics is not very precise and some features can include others. With this framework, they indicated the differences and similarities among 10 chosen ontologies. The aim of this study was to compare the different alternatives and designs of ontologies to clarify the description of a standard of ontology construction. However, some characteristics can have quite confusing values. Also, this framework is not appropriate for classifying ontology according to the identified characteristics.

Table 1. Summary of works related to characteristics of ontologies


Author Gruber Uschold and Grninger Noy and Hafner Hovy Uschold Year Number of characteristics 95 5 96 3 97 28 97 36 98 10 Purpose To establish design criteria To establish design criteria To study several ontology designs To compare linguistic ontologies To identify the ontology roles in applications

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

254 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Hovys (1997) framework proposes a taxonomy of 36 characteristics about different aspects of ontologies. This framework was outlined for the purpose of comparing ontologies for natural language processing. The study was carried out like an unfinished technical report in the ISI. For this reason, some of the characteristics are not defined, some characteristics are not clearly defined, some definitions contradict the examples, and several characteristics are only relevant to natural language issues. The 10 dimensions of characteristics indicated by Uschold (1998) were gathered from the point of view of the role that the ontologies play in an ontology-based application. The purpose of this framework was that new developers of ontology-based applications could use this information to build applications with the same requirements. The definitions of the characteristics of this framework are quite imprecise and, with the proposed framework, it is difficult to classify the ontologies appropriately. To conclude, although there are some frameworks that identify characteristics related with the ontologies, they are only adequate to classify them partially. In addition, they are not useful to compare the suitability of several alternative ontologies with regard to the necessities of an application, because these frameworks were not conceived for this purpose. So, none of the aforementioned frameworks are appropriate for deciding which of the different ontologies is the best for using in a system. For these reasons, we have developed a framework that allows for the description and the comparison ontologies.

A Multilevel Framework of Characteristics to Compare Ontologies


In order to solve the aforementioned problem, we propose a complete taxonomy of 160 characteristics, multilevel framework of characteristics, which provides the outline for choosing and comparing existing ontologies. The framework is used, on the one hand, as a representation template of the information about existing ontologies. On the other hand, it helps the user select the necessary requirements that should complete the ontologies that will be considered candidates. Finally, it is the skeleton used to build the multilevel tree of characteristics used in the processes of the ONTOMETRIC method for the evaluation of candidate ontologies. The multilevel framework of characteristics possesses, in the superior level of the taxonomy, five basic aspects on the ontologies that are denominated dimensions. The dimensions are defined through a set of factors, as shown in the next tables. The factors are the fundamental elements that should be analyzed
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 255

to obtain the value of the dimensions. These factors are defined through a group of characteristics that allow the calculating of the value of their suitability. These characteristics can be defined, recurrently, by means of other characteristics, or more specific sub-characteristics, so that they describe them with more detail. It allows the analyzation of the criteria with more depth. Thus, the multilevel framework of characteristics is organized taxonomically, with dimensions described by factors, the factors by characteristics, and these by other more specific sub-characteristics. The term criterion refers indistinctly to any element of the multilevel framework, that is: dimensions, factors, characteristics, and sub-characteristics of the taxonomy. The multilevel framework of characteristics can be represented like a tree, so that the criteria placed in son-nodes describe and represent the father-nodes properties. Thus, the users will be able to extend or prune the criterion that they consider opportune, so that the new tree depends on the particularities of the project, the business, and the organization that will reuse the ontology. This tree is called the multilevel tree of characteristics (MTC) and can be represented in a graphic form as appears in the Figure 1. It should be kept in mind that the framework is subject to the conceptual and technological novelties that will appear in the future in the ontology field. In this sense, the MTC constitutes a set of living criteria that should be actualized according to the produced changes.

Figure 1. Representation of the multilevel tree of characteristics


Ontology suitability Content Language Methodology Tool

Costs

1 level: dimensions 2 level: factors


nd

st

Domain knowledge

Inference mechanism

Reasoning potential

Inference engine

...

3 level: characteristics

rd

...
level n: leafcharacteristics

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

256 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

We have identified the factors and characteristics of the dimensions (content, language, tool, methodology, and costs) from the referenced papers in the third section and from works about content of the ontologies, implementation languages, development methodologies and environments of ontologies, and costs. We have added others to complete the framework. The result of this task is a comparison framework of ontologies that serves as baseline work for the proposed method. Tables 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 show the identified characteristics for the dimensions content, language, tools, methodology, and costs. Detailed definitions and examples of these characteristics can be found in Lozano-Tello (2002). This multilevel framework of characteristics is the base to build an ontology in the ontology domain called reference ontology. The conceptual model of this ontology gathers the mentioned characteristics expressed in concepts. In order to build the reference ontology, we have used the methodology METHONTOLOGY (Fernndez, 1997; Gmez-Prez, 1998) and WebODE platform (Arprez, 2001). The reference ontology gathers instances of these concepts from 140 existing ontologies, and this knowledge is then used by the OntoMetric Tool to assist users in applying the method.

Table 2. Characteristics related with the dimension content


DIMENSION: CONTENT
FACTOR CONCEPTS CHARACTERISTIC Essential_Concepts Essential_Concepts_In_Superior_Levels Concepts_Properly_described_In_NL Formal_Specification_Of_Concepts_Coincides_With_NL Attributes_Describe_Concepts Number_Of_Concepts Essential_Relations Relations_Relate_Appropriate_Concepts Formal_Specification_Of_Relations_Coincides_With_NL Arity_Specified Formal_Properties_Of_Relations Number_Of_Relations Several_Perspectives Appropriate_Not-Subclass-Of Appropriate_Exhaustive-partitions Appropriate_Disjoint-partitions Maximum_Depth Average_Of_Subclasses Axioms_Solve_Queries Axioms_Infer_Knowledge Axioms_Verify_Consistency Axioms_Not_Linked_To_Concepts Number_Of_Axioms

RELATIONS

TAXONOMY

AXIOMS

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 257

Table 3. Characteristics related with the dimension language


DIMENSION: LANGUAGE
FACTOR DOMAIN KNOWLEDGE CHARACTERISTIC CONCEPTS/ INSTANCES/ FACTS/ CLAIMS SUB-CHARACTERISTIC Allows_Instances_Of_Class Has_Metaclasses Can_Define_Classes_Without_Metaclasses Allows_Facts Allows_Claims Can_Define_Class_Attributes Can_Define_Instance_Attributes Can_Define_Local_Attributes Can_Define_Global_Attributes Can_Define_Polymorph_Attributes Can_Define_Exceptions_In_Attributes Has_Default_Attribute_Values Has_Attribute_Types Can_Define_Cardinality_Of_Attributes Allows_Define_Procedural_Knowledge Allows_New_Facets Allows_Definition_Of_Functions Arbitrary_N-ary_Relations Allows_Define_Ad-hoc_Relations Can_Constrain_The_Type_In_Relations Can_Constrain_The_Value_In_Relations Has_Operational_Definition Can_Declare_Properties_In_Relations Contain_-SubclassOf-_Relation Contain_-NotSubclassOf-_Relation Can_Define_Exhaustive_Decomposition Can_Define_Disjoint_ Decomposition Multiple-Subclass-of_In_Classes Multiple-Instance-of_In_Instances Allows_Axioms_Embedded_In Terms Allows_Independent_Axioms Allows_Axioms_In_First_Order_Logic Allows_Axioms_In_Second_Order_Logic Allows_Disjuntives_In_PRs Allows_Conjuntives_In_PRs Each_Rule_Has_Defined_A_Chaining_Mechanism Each_Rule_Has_Defined_A_Priority Procedures_In_The_Consequent_In_PRs Certainty_Values_In_PR Allows_Multiple_Inheritance Allows_Monotonous_Reasoning Allows_Non-Monotonous_Reasoning Makes_Exceptions_In_Inheritance Axioms_Keep_The_Consistency Execute_Procedures Inference_Mechanism_In_PR IE_Is_Sound_and_Complete IE_Performs_Automatic_Clasifications IE_Deals_ Exceptions IE_Deals_Multiple_Inherance Allows_New_Inference_Engine

ATTRIBUTES

FACETS

RELATIONS

TAXONOMIES

AXIOMS

PRODUCTION RULES

INFERENCE MECHANISM REASONING POTENTIAL

INFERENCE ENGINE

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

258 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Table 4. Characteristics related with the dimension tool


DIMENSION: TOOL
FACTOR CAPABILITIES CHARACTERISTIC Local_Use Network_Use Internet-based_Use Clarity_Of_User_Interface Response_Time Reliability Browsers_Shows_Whole_Information_Of_Terms Browser_Allows_Selection_Of_Detail_Level Browser_Shows_Taxonomy Browser_Shows_Ad-hoc_Relations Tool_Builds_The_Same_Of_Language Tool_Allows_Edition_In_Any_Time Tool_Shows_Taxonomy_Graphically Tool_Allows_Definition_Of_New_Relations Tool_Allows_Independent_Use Tool_Supplies_Access_Interfaces Documentation_Using_Access_Interfaces Access_Interfaces_Are_OpenSource Documentation_Programming_Access_Interfaces Tool_Supports_Whole_Life_Cicle Tool_Supports_Important_Development_Activities Tool_Supplies_Documentation_About_Built_Products Tool_Checks_Consistency Tool_Creates_Work_Groups Tool_Allows_Simultaneous_Working Tool_Looks_Edited_Ontologies Tool_Looks_Edited_Terms Tool_Notifies_The_Changes_To_Group Tool_Identifies_The_User_Changes Tool_Imports_From_Others_Langs Tool_Imports_From_Markup_Langs Tool_Exports_To_Langs Tool_Exports_To_Markup_Langs Translations_Lose_Minimun_Semantic Translation_Is_Supervised Ease_Of_Integration Difficulty_Of_Refering_New_Terms Tool_Allows_Selection_Of_Terms_To_Integration Tool_Checks_Consistency_In_Integration_Or_Merge Assistance_For_Manual_Merge Semi-automatic_Merge

VISUALIZATION

EDITION

INTERACTION

METHODOLOGICAL ASPECTS

COOPERATIVE ASPECTS

TRANSLATION

INTEGRATION

Table 5. Characteristics related with the dimension methodology


DIMENSION: METHODOLOGY
FACTOR PRECISION CHARACTERISTIC Delimitation_Of_Phases Specification_Of_Activities_By_Phases Specification_Of_Personnel_By_Phases Specification_Of_Techiques_By_Phases Specification_Of_Finished_Products_By_Phases Clarity_Of_Activities_and_ Techniques _Description Quality_Of_Manuals Manuals_With_Complete_Examples Number_Of_Developed_Ontologies Number_Of_Different_Domains Importance_Of_Developed_Ontologies

USABILITY MATURITY

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 259

Table 6. Characteristics related with the dimension costs


DIMENSION: COSTS
FACTOR

Use_Licences_of_the_Ontology Estimated_costs_of_hw_and_sw Costs_of_access_interfaces Use_Licences_of_the_ontology_tools

The Analytic Hierarchy Process


There are several methods and tools available to aid decision-making (Triantaphyllou, 2002), some of which are used in software projects (Fenton, 1996). One kind in particular, the multi-criteria decision methods, is useful in comparing several alternatives when, at the same time, several objectives need to be kept in mind. In these methods, the evaluator can directly assign a normalized weight to a criterion that will indicate the importance that that criterion has for the final objective. The analytic hierarchy process constitutes one of the best options to aid multi-criteria decision-making. AHP was devised by Thomas L. Saaty (1977) in the early 70s. It is a powerful and flexible tool for decision-making in complex multi-criteria problems. This method allows people to gather knowledge about a particular problem, to quantify subjective opinions, and to force the comparison of alternatives in relation to established criteria. The method consists of the following steps:

Step 1. Define the problem and the main objective to make the decision. For example, Buy a car. Step 2. Build a hierarchy tree (as shown in Figure 2) in this way: the root node is the objective of the problem, the intermediate levels are the criteria, and the lowest level contains the alternatives. This hierarchical organization is used to obtain a general overview of the criteria and their relations. Step 3. For each level, build a pairwise comparison matrix with the brothers (sons of the same node). The matrix (like example in table 7) contains the weights of pairwise comparisons between brother nodes. For each comparison matrix, an eigenvector must be calculated, using the equation: |A - I| = 0, where A is the comparison matrix, I is the identity matrix and is the eigenvector. This calculus must be performed for each level of the tree. The entire process can be studied in Saaty (1990). The obtained weights are the importance of each criterion related with brother nodes.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

260 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Figure 2. Hierarchical structure of the AHP method, and example of the objective Buy a car
Objective Buy a car Criterion N consumption, price, security...

Criterion 1

...

Subcrit-1

...

Subcrit-K

ABS, Airbag, ...

Alternative 1

...

Alternative M

Volvo,

Mercedes,

...

Table 7. Example of comparison matrix for the first level Buy a car (the user considers Consumption six times less important than Price, twice as important as Security, etc.)
Consumption Price Security ... Consumption 1 6 1/2 Price 1/6 1 1/3 Security 2 3 1 ...

Step 4. Value each alternative (leaf nodes) with a fixed scale previously. The scales for rating characteristics should be established and described in a precise way. Step 5. Determine the value of each leaf node using a weighted addition formula, with the weights from step 3 and the values from step 4. These results ascend up the tree to calculate the final value of the objective (root). These final values are used to make a decision about the objective.

ONTOMETRIC: A Method for Choosing Ontologies


The AHP model can be applied to decide whether or not to reuse ontologies with the ONTOMETRIC method. In order to decide upon the reuse in a new project,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 261

ONTOMETRIC can be used to: 1) select the most appropriate ontology among various alternatives or, 2) decide the suitability of a particular ontology for the project. We have developed a software tool (OntoMetric Tool) to assist users in applying the method. Taking into account the general steps of AHP, we have adapted the method for use in the reuse of ontologies:

Step 1. Specify the objectives of the project. The engineers should know the exact guidelines of their company and available resources in relation to the new business. They must decide on the importance of the terms of the ontology, the precision of the definitions, the suitability of relations between concepts, the reliability of the methodology used to build the ontology, and so forth. Step 2. Build the decision tree from the MTC (shown in Figure 3), so that the objective, suitability value of the ontology for a new project, is placed at the root node; the dimensions (content, language, methodology, tool, and costs) are placed at the first level; the factors of each dimension at the second level; and underneath these factors, the sub-trees of specific characteristics of the particular evaluation project. The general characteristics of all types of ontologies (shown in Tables 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) should be specialized according to the particular ontology, the specific target project, and the organization that will develop the project. Step 3. For each set of brother nodes, make the pairwise comparison matrixes with the criteria of the decision tree. These comparisons depend on the objectives and aims identified in step 1. The eigenvectors (Saaty, 1990) are calculated from these matrixes. These weights represent the relative importance between brother criteria. For example, in Table 4, you can see the assessments from a user that considers C2 (Quality of manuals) three times more important than C1 (Clarity of activities and techniques), and so forth.

Figure 3. Representation of part of decision tree from MTC


Suitability of the ontology Content Language Methodology Tools Costs

... ... ... ...


Precision Usability Maturity C1: Clarity of Activities and Tech. C2: Quality of Manuals C3: Quality of Examples

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

262 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Table 8. Example of the comparison matrix for the Usability factor


Usability C1 C2 C3 C1 1 3 1/5 C2 1/3 1 1/2 C3 5 2 1

Figure 4. Example of a linguistic scale with five values


1

very low low medium high very high

0 1.2 3.4 5.6 7.8

0 2.2 4.4 6.6 8.8

1.2 3.4 5.6 7.8 10

2.2 4.4 6.6 8.8 10

medium

high

0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The eigenvector from the comparison matrix of Table 8 is (C1: 0.3420, C2: 0.5241, C3: 0.1339), and these values are linked to the MTC.

Step 4. For each alternative ontology, assess its characteristics. These values will (always multiplying by the weights calculated in step 3) ascend up to the superior nodes of the tree until the node root is calculated. For each one of these characteristics, the engineer should establish a scale of appropriate ratings.

Step 4.1. ONTOMETRIC assigns linguistic values (non-numbers) to the alternatives because human beings, in their daily activities, usually make this type of judgement. For example, if users evaluate the essential relations for the system are defined in the ontology, they can assess this quality using the following linguistic scale: very_low, low, medium, high, and very_high (Figure 4). This assessment is more intuitive than a numeric scale from 0 to 10. In this process, it is important that the groups of the linguistic values are precisely defined. However, it is not possible to perform calculations with linguistic values. One possible representation of these linguistic values is with fuzzy intervals (Gmez-Prez, 1997). Their angular points in a scale from 0 to 10, as shown in Figure 4, determine the fuzzy intervals. By assigning linguistic values with fuzzy intervals, we can perform basic

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 263

mathematical operations for intervals. This way, the operations of the sum of intervals can be defined as 1) product by a constant and 2) useful to apply the method: (a1, a2 , a3, a4)+(b1, b2, b3, b 4) = (a 1+b1, a2+b2, a3+b3, a4+b4) (1) n * (a1, a2, a3, a4) = ( n*a1, n*a2, n*a3, n*a4) (2)

Step 4.2: With these established linguistic scales for each one of the criteria, the user will proceed to study each one of the ontologies that have been considered as alternatives, and to value them using these scales. Table 9 shows an example of assessment for two ontologies (O1 and O2) in every characteristic (C1, C2, and C3) of the Usability factor.

Step 5. Lastly, combine the vectors of weights W obtained in step 3 with the values of the alternatives V, using the formula n wi vi.. As appears in Table 9, the weights of each criterion are multiplied by the linguistic valuation (with the corresponding numeric relationship indicated in Figure 4), being obtained by the fuzzy intervals of the column Weighted Value (Wi Vi). The result is calculated by means of the combination of weighted addition (n Wi Vi). This value multiplied by their weight (that was calculated in the corresponding comparison matrix), enables us to find the father value Methodology (i.e., the weighted addition with the brother nodes: Precision and Maturity will be calculated). The value obtained for the node Methodology (together with their brother nodes) helps us obtain the final valuation of the objective of the suitability of the ontologies O1 and O 2. The final results are shown in Figure 5.

Table 9. Example of calculation values for two ontologies in Usability factor


Usability
O1 O2

vi C1: (w=0.3420) High(5.6, 6.6, 7.8, 8.8) C3: (w=0.1339) VeryLow(0, 0, 1.2, 2.2)

wi vi

vi

wi vi
(1.1, 1.5, 1.9, 2.2) (0.6, 1.1, 1.5, 2.3) (0.7, 0.8, 1, 1.1)

(1.9, 2.2, 2.6, 3.0) Medium(3.4, 4.4, 5.6, 6.6) (0, 0, 0.1, 0.2) High(5.6, 6.6, 7.8, 8.8)

C2: (w=0.5241) Medium(3.4, 4.4, 5.6, 6.6) (1.7, 2.3, 2.9, 3.4) Low(1.2, 2.2, 3.4, 4.4)
Usability of O1 n wi vi:(3.6, 4.5, 5.6, 6.6)

Usability of O2 n w i vi:(2.4, 3.4, 4.4, 5.6)

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

264 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Figure 5. Representation of the final assessment of two ontologies


1
Low Medium High

Very Low Low Medium High Very High

0 1.2 3.4 5.6 7.8

0 2.2 4.4 6.6 8.8

1.2 3.4 5.6 7.8 10

2.2 4.4 6.6 8.8 10

O1 O2
0

10

Figure 6. Comparison of two ontologies (Documents and Document.o) in the taxonomy factor using OntoMetric Tool

The obtained suitability values relating it with the linguistic scale chosen by the user (Figure 4) indicates that both ontologies are close to Medium (as shown in Figure 5). With this result, the user can decide to use the best ontology (O1) in the project. Also, with the partial values, it allowed the project manager to obtain a detailed report for the directive of the company about the taken decision. Although in this case only the suitability of two ontologies was valued, for other candidates, steps 4.2 and 5 should be performed repeatedly, since the compariCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 265

son frame (designed in the previous steps) has been established. We must remember that OntoMetric Tool assists users in applying all these steps of the method: it proposes a default tree of characteristics, it uses the pairwise comparison matrixes module to do the assessment, it calculates partial and final values, and it represents graphically the obtained results. Figure 6 shows an example of OntoMetric Tool with a partial assessment for two ontologies.

Evaluation of the ONTOMETRIC Method


In order to evaluate the completeness and consistency of the multilevel framework of characteristics, 10 expert developers of ontologies (from iSOCO and Knowledge Reuse Group and from AI Lab of UPM) have validated it by means of questionnaires. They identified some conceptual errors and mistakes in the taxonomy of characteristics. The questionnaire and the experts opinions appear in appendices I and III of (Lozano-Tello, 2002). On the other hand, we have made several study cases to evaluate the decision capability of the ONTOMETRIC method. Firstly, we have carried out 15 study cases to measure the suitability of each dimension (contents, languages, methodologies, and tools). In addition, we have carried out 15 study cases to measure the suitability of ontologies, taking into account jointly the five dimensions of the framework. For each evaluation process, we have made these tasks: 1) specification of necessary values for the characteristics of the framework; 2) identification of alternative ontologies that we hope to find; 3) searching of alternative ontologies using the OntoMetric Tool; 4) assignment of importance weights using pairwise comparison matrixes; and 5) calculation of suitability measures for each ontology and drawing of the comparison graphics. These evaluation processes have been carried out for several expert ontologists and, with the evaluation results, we can ratify that it is possible to make a justified decision in order to select one ontology from another.

Conclusions and Future Work


ONTOMETRIC is an adaptation of the AHP method to help knowledge engineers choose the appropriate ontology for a new project; in order to do this, the engineer must compare the importance of the objectives and carefully study the characteristics of ontologies. Although the specialization of the characterisCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

266 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

tics and the assessment of the criteria of a particular ontology require considerable effort, the mentioned framework provides a useful schema to carry out complex multi-criteria decision-making. However, the evaluators need to specify in detail the aims of their analyses. Feedback from project managers who have used the method reveals that specifying the characteristics of a certain ontology is complicated, takes time, and its assessment is quite subjective; however, they state that, once the framework has been defined and if it is applied to one particular type of ontology, ONTOMETRIC helps to justify decisions taken, to clarify ideas, and to weigh up the advantages and the risks involved in choosing one ontology from other options. The software tool, OntoMetric Tool (http://158.49.116.183:8000/ ontometric), assists the knowledge engineer in applying the method. Shortly, it will be integrated in WebODE platform (Arprez, 2001). Future work will consist of adapting the method to different ontology scenarios (Uschold, 1999) and establishing formal metrics to assess the suitability of instances in knowledge-based systems for different domains.

Acknowledgments
This work has been developed with the support of CICYT under contract TIC2002-04309-C02-01 and the IST Programme of the Commission of the European Communities as project number IST-2000-29243.

References
Arprez, J., Corcho, O., Fernndez-Lpez, M., & Gmez-Prez, A. (2001). WebODE: A workbench for ontological engineering. First International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP01), Victoria, B.C. (pp. 613). Bechhofer, S. (2001) OilEd. University of Manchester, OntoWeb Workshop, Universal Ontology Editor Workshop, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Bernaras, A., Laresgoti, I., & Corera, J. (1996). Building and reusing ontologies for electrical network applications. European Conference of Artificial Intelligence (ECAI96.), (pp. 298-302). Wiley and Sons. Bollinger, T. & Pfleeger S. (1990). The economics of reuse: Issues and alternatives. Proceedings of the 8th Annual National Conference on Ada Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, (pp. 436-447).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 267

Brickley, D. & Guha, R. (1999). Resource description framework (RDF) schema specification. W3C proposed recommendation. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/TR/PR-rdf-schema Corcho, O. & Gmez-Prez, A. (2000). A roadmap to ontology specification languages. Proceedings of 11th European Workshop on Knowledge Acquisition, Modelling and Management (EKAW00), (pp. 80-96). Jean-Les-Pins. Dean, M., Connolly, D., van Harmelen, F., Hendler, J., Horrocks, I., McGuinness, D.L., Patel-Schneider, P.F., & Stein, L.A. (2003). OWL Web ontology language 1.0 reference. W3C working draft, February 21, 2003. Domingue, J. (1998) Tadzebao and WebOnto: Discussing, browsing, and editing ontologies on the Web. Proceedings of the 11th Knowledge Acquisition Workshop, (KAW98), (pp. 18-23). Banff, Alberta, Canada: B. Gaines and M. Musen. Euzenat, J. (1995). Building consensual knowledge bases: Context and architecture. Towards very large knowledge bases. 2nd International Conference on Building and Sharing Very Large-Scale Knowledge Bases (KBKS), (pp. 143-155). Enschede: Amsterdam IOS Press. Farquhar, A., Fikes, R., & Rice, J. (1996). The ontolingua server: A tool for collaborative ontology construction. Proceedings of the 10th Knowledge Acquisition for Knowledge-based Systems Workshop, 19, (pp. 1-44). Banff, Alberta, Canada. Fenton, N. & Pfleeger, L. (1996). Software metrics: A rigorous & practical approach (2nd ed.). London: International Thomson Press. Fernndez, M. (1999b). Overview of methodologies for building ontologies. Proceedings of the IJCAI99, Workshop on Ontologies and PSMs, Stockholm, Sweden. (4:1-4:13). Fernndez, M. (2000). Mtodo bi-fase para la conceptualizacin de ontologas basado en meta-modelos. Doctoral thesis, Facultad de Informtica. Universidad Politcnica de Madrid. Fernndez, M., Gmez-Prez, A., & Juristo, N. (1997). METHONTOLOGY: From ontological art toward ontological engineering. Spring Symposium Series on Ontological Engineering, (AAAI97), (pp. 33-40). Stanford. Fernndez, M., Gmez-Prez, A., Pazos, A., & Pazos, J. (1999a). Building a chemical ontology using METHONTOLOGY and the ontology design environment. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 14(1), 37-46. Gmez-Prez, A. (1998). Knowledge sharing and reuse. In J. Liebowitz (Ed.) The handbook of applied expert systems. New York: CRC Press.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

268 Gmez-Prez & Lozano-Tello

Gmez-Prez, A. (1999b). Evaluation of taxonomic knowledge in ontologies and knowledge bases. Proceedings of the Knowledge Acquisition Workshop (KAW99), (6:1:1-6:1:18). University of Calgary/Stanford University. Gmez-Prez, A. & Benjamins, R. (1999a). Applications of ontologies and problem-solving methods. AI Magazine, 20(1), 119-122. Gmez-Prez, A. & Rojas-Amaya, M. (1999c). Ontological reengineering for reuse. Proceedings of the European Knowledge Acquisition Workshop (EKAW99), Dagstuhl Castle, Germany, (pp. 139-156). Gruber, T. (1993). A translation approach to portable ontology specifications. Knowledge Acquisition, 5(2), 199-220. Gruber, T. (1995) Toward principles for the design of ontologies used for knowledge sharing. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, 907-928. Gruninger, M. & Fox, M. (1995). Methodology for the design and evaluation of ontologies. Proceedings of the IJCAI95, Workshop on Basic Ontological Issues in Knowledge Sharing, Montreal, (pp. 19-21). Horrocks, I., Fensel, D., Harmelen, F., Decker, S., Erdmann, M., & Klein, M. (2000). OIL in a nutshell. Workshop on Applications of Ontologies and PSMs, European Conference of Artificial Intelligence (ECAI00), (pp. 20-25). Horrocks, I. & van Harmelen, F. (2001). Reference description of DAML+OIL ontology markup language. Draft report, 2001. Hovy, E. (1997). What would it mean to measure an ontology? Internal paper, ISI of the University of Southern California, Marina del Rey, CA. Karp, R., Chaundhri, V. & Thomere, J. (1999). XOL: An XML-based ontology exchange language. Technical report, Artificial Intelligence Center, SRI International. Kifer, M., Lausen, G., & Wu, J. (1995). Logical foundations of object-oriented and frame-based languages. Journal of the ACM, 42(4), 741-843. Lassila, O. & Swick, R. (1999). Resource description framework (RDF). Model and syntax specification. W3C recommendations. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/TR/PR-rdf-syntax Lenat, D. & Guha, R.V. (1990). Building Large Knowledge-Based Systems: Representation and Inference in the CYC Project. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Lozano-Tello, A. (2002). Mtrica de idoneidad de ontologas. PhD thesis. Departamento de Informtica, Universidad de Extremadura. Luke, S. & Heflin, J. (2000). SHOE 1.01. Proposed specification. SHOE project. Retrieved from http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/plus/SHOE/ spec1.01.htm
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Applying the ONTOMETRIC Method 269

McGregor, R. (1991). Inside the LOOM classifier. SIGART Bulletin, 2(3), 7076. Motta, E. (1999). Reusable components for knowledge modelling. Amsterdam: IOS Press. Neches, R., Fikes, R., Finin, T., Gruber, T., Patil, R., Senator, T., & Swartout, W. (Fall 1991). Enabling technology for knowledge sharing. AI Magazine, 36-56. Noy, N. F., et al. (2001). Creating semantic Web contents with Protege-2000. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 16(2), 60-71. Noy, N. F. & Hafner, C. (Fall 1997). The state of the art in ontology design. AI Magazine, 53-74. Poulin, J. S. (1997). Measuring software reuse: Principles, practices, and economic models. Boston: Addison-Wesley Longman. Saaty, T. (1977). A scaling method for priorities in hierarchical structures. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 15, 234-281. Saaty, T. (1990). How to make a decision: The analytic hierarchy process. European Journal of Operational Research, 48, 9-26. Staab, S. & Maedche, A. (2000). Ontology engineering beyond the modeling of concepts and relations. Proceedings of the ECAI00 Workshop on Applications of Ontologies and PSMs, Berlin, Germany, (pp. 110-117). Swartout, B., Patil, R., Knight, K., & Russ, T. (1997). Towards distributed use of large-scale ontologies. AAAI97 Spring Symposium Series on Ontological Engineering, (pp. 138-148). Triantaphyllou, E. (2002). Multi-criteria decision making methods: A comparative study. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Uschold, M. (1996). Building ontologies: Towards a unified methodology. Proceedings of Expert Systems (ES96), Cambridge, (pp. 3-50). Uschold, M. (1998). Where are the killer applications? Workshop on Applications of Ontologies and PSMs. (ECAI98), Brighton, (pp. 107-111). Uschold, M. & Grninger, M. (1996). Ontologies: Principles, methods and applications. Knowledge Engineering Review, 2, 93-155. Uschold, M. & Jasper, R. (1999). A framework for understanding and classifying ontology applications. Proceedings of the IJCAI99, Workshop on Ontologies and PSMs, Stockholm, Sweden, (pp. 21-32). Uschold, M. & King, M. (1995). Towards a methodology for building ontologies. Proceedings of the IJCAI95, Workshop on Basic Ontological Issues in Knowledge Sharing, Montreal, (pp. 20-25).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

270 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Chapter X

A Twofold Approach for Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms


Benoit A. Aubert, HEC Montreal and CIRANO, Canada Aymeric Dussart, Robichaud Conseil and CIRANO, Canada Michel Patry, HEC Montreal and CIRANO, Canada

Abstract
This chapter presents a twofold methodology for the evaluation of interorganizational workflows modeling formalisms. The first approach is ontological and based on the Bunge-Wand-Weber models. The second is based on prototyping and consists in the development of a WFMS for language evaluation. The dual evaluation methodology is then applied to the UML with a practical example from the aerospace industry. Both convergent and divergent results are found from the two validations.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

271

Possible enhancements to the UML formalism are suggested from the convergent results. On the other hand, the divergent results suggest the need for a contextual specification in the BWW models.

Introduction
Transactions have been traditionally managed either through organizations or through markets. With advances in electronic commerce and in information systems, this distinction is getting blurred. For example, the last years have seen the development of electronic intermediaries, also known as electronic marketplaces (e-marketplaces), which aim at concentrating transactions made within, or across, industrial sectors through a limited number of virtual intermediaries. These virtual markets enhance transactional efficiency through the aggregation of trading partners (Lucking-Reiley & Spulber, 2001) and through a reduction in asymmetrical information. It is clear that electronic business has penetrated business to business (B2B) processes and consequently spurred a transformation of the traditional organizational boundaries (Zwass, 1998). Since technology has made possible the participation of several partners in shared business processes, these have been crossing organizational boundaries to an extent never experienced before (van der Aalst, 2000). Research on inter-organizational workflow technology is facing an important problem. It has essentially focused on technical issues and has almost ignored language structure (van der Aalst, 2000). This is a classical case of a technology seducer problem, very present in the Information Systems (IS) discipline, which has been criticized by Weber (1997). This chapter assesses the adequacy of the unified modeling language (UML) for inter-organizational business processes. There is no question that having adequate language structures for representation is a fundamental requirement for adequate development. The evaluation methodology is based on ontology, using Wand and Webers models (1990), and prototyping. Since little empirical validation work has been done on Wand and Webers models, ontological analysis will be combined with a prototypical validation that will consist in comparing the process language used in a workflow management system to the process language used for modeling business processes. By combining the two approaches, convergent results are expected to be found to validate the language. The chapter is organized as follows. First, workflows are defined. Then, a literature review is presented to introduce the ontological evaluation framework
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

272 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

and to motivate the choice of the UML as a candidate for thorough ontological and prototypical evaluation. Then, the ontological and the prototypical validations are developed. A discussion of the results follows using the convergent and divergent elements from both validations.

Definition of Workflows
Originally, workflow appeared from attempts to automate administrative tasks by storing digital copies of bureaucratic documents such as invoices or customer letters (Chaffey, 1998). It has since evolved into a more complex tool for coordinating groups and individuals working in organizations. Recently, workflow technology has been presented as a new way to support inter-organizational business processes (Gartner group, 1999a, b). With leading e-business software vendors such as IBM, BEA systems, Oracle, Vignette.com and Microsoft (with Biztalk Server) offering workflow solutions, workflow technology can no longer be purely considered as hype. There are over 200 products available today (van der Aalst, 2000). A workflow can be defined as the computerized facilitation or automation of a business process, in whole or in part (WfMC, 1995, p. 6) and a workflow management system (WFMS) as a system that defines, creates and manages the execution of workflows through the use of software, running on one or more workflow engines, which is able to interpret the process definition, interact with workflow participants and, where required, invoke the use of IT tools and applications. (WfMC, 1995, p. 6) Three types of workflow are generally recognized in workflow practitioneroriented literature (Leymann & Roller, 2000; Chaffey, 1998): ad hoc workflows, which possess a low potential to add value and which generally consist of nonrepetitive tasks; administrative workflows, which are also of the low addedvalue type, but which are composed of highly repetitive tasks; and, finally, production workflows, which are similar to administrative workflows but correspond to critical business processes for the organization with important value-added potential.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

273

Inter-Organizational Workflows and Language Convergence


Inter-organizational workflows differ from standard workflows in their feature of crossing organizational boundaries. This particularity has consequences on a technical level in order to define how distributed workflow will inter-operate (i.e., in a loosely coupled manner, through capacity sharing) and be coordinated (van der Aalst, 1999). It also has important consequences on an organizational level, as business partners must now consider new aspects related to security, integration with internal processes, strategic alignment, trust, conflict, and lockin between partners participating in the shared workflow. Workflow technology has been presented as a possible tool for integration for a few years now (van den Heuvel & Weigand, 2000; Muth et al., 1999) and already, several software packages such as Microsoft Biztalk Server offer integration solutions that allow workflow-based modeling. More recently, this tendency in business process management has evolved towards the possibility of having a common language for both business and systems analysis in order to attain a more direct conversion of business process models to application integration models (Zetie, 2003). For example, the Business Process Management Initiative proposes the Business Process Modeling Notation along with a formal mapping to an executable format as a possible tool for both business process modeling and execution (BPMI, 2002). Among the objectives of this convergence is the narrowing of the gap between business requirements and IT solutions in a process-centric manner (Smith & Fingar, 2003). The generalization of business process modeling for application integration and the aforementioned emerging language convergence is bringing new challenges for language evaluation. Indeed, if similar languages are now to be used for both business and systems analysis it is essential to define a methodology for their validation and, to date, research on workflow integration has mainly focused on technical issues and not language structure (van den Heuvel & Weigand, 2000). As stated by van der Aalst (2000), The semantics of the constructs needed to model inter-organizational workflows should be defined before solving the technical issues (which are mainly syntactical) (p.68). This chapter aims at bringing some elements of explanation to this problem by proposing a methodology for evaluating the ontological validity of available formalisms in order to represent workflows that cross organizational boundaries in contexts such as emarketplaces. The benefits of this research are numerous. First, few or no efforts are reported in the literature on the different workflow modeling formalisms for interorganizational processes. Second, this work will bring more formal basis to the development of e-marketplaces. And finally, finding an adequate common
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

274 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

language will allow a common denominator representation for translation from a language to another as defined by Curtis, Kellner, and Over (1992).

Evaluation Framework
The idealist that does not distinguish a thing from any of its models cannot account for the multiplicity of schemata of one and the same thing. Consequently, he cannot understand the history of theoretical science, which consists partly in the replacement of some schemata by others. (Bunge, 1977, p.121) In this section, ontology-related definitions are first presented followed by an ontological evaluation framework for IS languages. Afterwards, several process formalisms are briefly reviewed in order to select the most appropriate one for an inter-organizational workflow context. Finally, an evaluation model combining both ontological and prototypical analyses is presented.

Single Grammar Evaluation


The number of different business modeling languages and the necessity of interoperability between modeling tools has brought a debate on the need for common languages, the importance of model engineering as a part of software engineering, and on the advantages of ontology-driven modeling (Bzivin, 1998). Ontology, in the context of business modeling, refers to meta-models that define or constrain the model. For more consistency, a precise terminology, as used in the work of Weber (1997) and in ontology-related literature, will be used for the remaining of this chapter. The basic concept of a language consists in its grammar. A grammar can be defined as a set of constructs that include all fundamental objects of the language plus all higher-level constructs that can be generated using those objects. A grammar is composed of grammatical constructs. Constructs represent the building blocks of the grammar. Finally, grammars are used to generate scripts. Scripts represent a meaningful representation of reality. To evaluate a language, we need to determine if the grammar is appropriate for representation of a real-world phenomenon. Wand and Weber (1990) have developed a set of models, usually referred to as the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) models, based on the work on ontology by Bunge (1977, 1979). They have been used to evaluate different grammars such
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

275

as data flow diagrams, entity relationship or object-oriented diagrams (Green & Rosemann, 2000). The BWW models are described in Chapter 1 of this book (see Ontological Analysis of Business Systems Analysis Techniques: Experiences and Proposals for an Enhanced Methodology, by Green and Rosemann). The choice of the BWW models, relying on the ontology developed by Bunge (1977), is justified by two elements. First, since this particular ontology has been often utilized in the information systems field, its use enables comparisons with previous research and the establishment of cumulative knowledge. Second, the Bunge (1977) Ontology has been regarded as very clear, precise and formal (Weber, 2003).

Multiple Grammar Evaluation


There are situations in which an information systems analyst would use multiple grammars to represent the real world. For example, if he uses the unified modeling language (UML), he would have to use the different grammars included in the different diagrams of the language. It may be in order to compensate for the weaknesses present in the initially chosen grammar. Green (1996), in a study of 168 users of computer-aided software engineering (CASE) packages, found that users were five times more likely to use multiple grammars than a single one. Weber and Zhang (1996) hypothesized that users rely on multiple grammars in order to minimize ontological overlap. This hypothesis was supported by Greens (1996) findings. Apart from minimizing the ontological overlap, Green (1996) also identified the goal of achieving maximum ontological completeness. Users should choose their grammars in a combination in order to leave the smallest possible number of ontological constructs uncovered by grammatical constructs. Table 1, reproduced from Green and Rosemann (2000), reviews ontological analyses done on modeling grammars. Green and Rosemann (2000) present the only process related grammar for BWW analysis used in the ARIS toolset, the event-driven process chain (EPC). In this evaluation, all four situations of ontological deficiencies were identified, raising concerns by the authors of possible misspecifications in the BWW models. Those misspecifications were identified as a possible over-engineering of the model: it could include constructs that are not relevant to process modeling, the fact that the BWW evaluation does not take into account the objectives of the modeling grammar during ontological analysis suggesting a need for an individualization of the model, and finally a need to extend the BWW model with enterprise-modeling related constructs (Green & Rosemann, 2000).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

276 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Table 1. Ontological analyses related work from Green and Rosemann (2000)
Study Traditional Wand and Weber (1989) Wand and Weber (1993) Sinha and Vessey (1995) Weber and Zhang (1996) Weber (1997) Green (1997) Parsons and Wand (1997) Opdahl and Henderson-Sellers (1999) Green and Rosemann (2000) Type of Grammar Structured X (DFD) Data-centered X (ER) X (ER) X (Relational) X (NIAM) X X O-O Process Ont. Comp. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes X Yes Ont. Clar. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

X X (OML)

These concerns motivate the use of a prototype for completing the ontological evaluation. Since this study will adopt a research methodology that combines ontology and prototyping, the next section will identify the best-adapted language for such a dual evaluation.

Language Selection
Based on existing literature, a list of six criteria has been established. The first three formal basis, executability, and visualization relate to business processes modeling in general, while the last three representation of distinct organizations, modeling document exchange, and representation of the three dimensions of workflow relate more precisely to the context inter-organizational workflows. These two groups are discussed in sequence. The first criterion relates to formality. Curtis et al. (1992) define a formal language as being a language enactable on a machine. Therefore, a strictly formal language will have a complete mathematical semantic defining it in order to be understood by the machine. Moreover, a formal language has the advantage of a theoretical framework for analysis and representation (Basu & Blanning, 2000). The second criterion relates to the executability of the language. An executable language is a language that can be simulated. Simulation offers the possibility to support the verification of the formal description with respect to correctness, consistency, completeness, absence of deadlock, and alike (Benyoucef & Keller, 2000). Visualization is another criterion. It is generally accepted that visual information is better understood by humans, and can improve human intuition and understanding about the process (Sutton, Tarr, & Osterweil, 1995).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

277

For this study, three specific criteria have been added to take into account the inter-organizational context. An e-marketplace being an intermediary between multiple buyers and sellers (Choudury, Hartzel, & Konsynski, 1998), the modeling language will have to be able to represent distinct organizations. The modeling of document exchange relates to the actual tendency of linking intraorganizational processes through the exchange of XML documents to form a global B2B inter-organizational process (Skinstad, 2000; Skonnard & Laskey, 2000; RosettaNet, 1999a). Such processes where each partner takes care of a specified part of the process are defined as loosely coupled inter-organizational processes (van der Aalst, 2000). And last but not least, the representation of the three dimensions of workflow corresponds to the foundations on which this work is based, that is to say that workflow technology is the key to creating efficient e-business processes. There is a consensus today on the three dimensions that define a workflow (Leymann & Roller, 2000; van der Aalst, 1998): the business process, representing what is to be done in terms of activities, the IT resource, which will be used in order to automate the tasks, and the organization (Which will perform the activity?) or the cases (When will the task be performed?). Therefore, workflows are often represented using a threedimensional space model called W3 (what, who, which, or when). Five formalisms were candidates for the evaluation: Petri Nets, WfMC, UML, ANSI, and EPC. 1. The Petri Nets formalism was invented by Karl Adam Petri in the early 60s (Pfleeger, 1998). It was quickly used to model business processes and has now been formalized to model workflows (van der Aalst, 1998). Petri Nets are known for their rigorous semantic. The WfMC formalism is the only consortium-led language to exist today. To define workflow processes, the WfMC uses a basic meta-model composed of a set of objects (type, activity, transition condition, workflow relevant data, role, and invoked application) that represents simple processes. (WfMC, 1995, 1999). UML is composed of a set of diagrams of which the activity diagram is used to describe processes. For workflow modeling, these objects could either illustrate the invoked application by an activity or the document flow. Furthermore, different organizations can be modeled using swimlanes in the diagram (Booch, Rumbauch, & Jacobson, 1999). UML enjoys actual popularity and is an object-orientated paradigm. The ANSI formalism boasts a diagrammatic nature and is used in simulation software such as IGrafix and Process. Swimlanes and large corridor-like partitions of the diagram can be used to represent different organizations

2.

3.

4.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

278 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Table 2. Comparison of five workflow modeling languages


Formal Basis + Executability + + + Visualization + + + + + Distinct Organizations + + + Document Exchange + + + W3 + +

Petri Nets WfMC UML ANSI EPC

and document exchanges between them can be represented using the adequate symbols (Rivard & Talbot, 1998). 5. Finally, the event-driven process chain (EPC) method (Keller, 1992) is used to make business processes understandable by neophytes (Curran & Ladd, 2000). It is now better known for its use in business process reengineering with the SAP R/3 ERP system.

Table 2 presents a summary of the evaluation. The sign + means that the criterion is fully respected, while the means that it is not. A question mark means that it was not possible to determine whether or not the formalism meets a given criterion. The table clearly shows that both the WfMC and the EPC formalisms fail most criteria. As the ANSI formalism is not formal and is unable to represent a particular invoked application, it also has major limitations; which leaves only the Petri Nets and UML along with the classical debate between formal strictness and efficient diagramming in business process modeling. UML was finally chosen to pursue the analysis. This choice is essentially motivated by disciplinary reasons. It is of greater interest to evaluate a language whose strength resides in its representational richness. Although UML possesses a less formal basis than Petri Nets, it allows the representation of the dimensions of workflow that are essential to have an efficient model. Moreover, its actual popularity in information systems renders its evaluation very relevant. Therefore, in the remaining of this chapter we will try to answer the following question: Is UML powerful enough from an ontological and practical point of view for the representation of workflows crossing organizational boundaries?

The UML
The grammar that will be used for evaluation and modeling purposes in this chapter is the unified modeling language (UML) in its basic form, as described in the UML User Guide by Booch et al. (1999). To this day, the UML has known several evolutions through different extensions mechanisms. The object constraint language (OCL) for example, which is
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

279

present in the standard specification of the UML, allows the precise definition of constraints on objects by using a formal semantics instead of freely formatted text (Object Management Group, 2001). Furthermore, the Eriksson-Penker Extensions (2000) present a set of extensions for business modeling, which are defined by using the standard extension mechanism present in the UML. Models designed with such extensions are not designed to be transformed into code but can serve as a reference for designing other UML IS diagrams. Also published recently, the UML profile for the Distributed Enterprise Computing (EDOC) is a new standard from the Object Management Group (2002) that aims at defining a standard way to model business interaction onward to executable systems. The EDOC profile defines an Enterprise Collaboration Architecture to define models that are independent from the platform, a Patterns profile that aims at improving reusability of object models by defining standard constructs such as common objects or business concepts and a set of technology dependent models for platform-specific modeling. Finally, as extensions can be freely defined in the UML within the framework of the extensions mechanism, another example can be found with the RosettaNet Consortium UML extensions designed to model their generic B2B processes (RosettaNet, 1999b). The choice of focusing on the UML in its basic form is motivated by two reasons. First, it is a bit premature to validate the usefulness of evolutions of the language if it has not been proven that there exists some form of incompleteness or ambiguity in the first place. Second, recent literature suggest that the evolutions that the language has known are not yet either de facto standards or fully useful for practitioners (Thomas, 2003). In the current study, we will focus on the use of three diagrams: the activity, the state, and the sequence diagrams. This choice is consistent with the previous literature on workflow modeling using activity charts and state charts prior to their inclusion in the UML (Muth, Weissenfels, & Weikum, 1999). It is also motivated by the context of the study. Since WFMS are parameterized by representing graphically the workflow that is to be supported by the system, the associated data model is generally transparent for the analyst. Focusing on the structural aspect of the UML would therefore bring little added value.

Rationales for Language Evaluation


A model is, by definition, a simplification of the reality (Booch et al., 1999), that is to say, a description of a real-world extant. Figure 1 represents these concepts. Adequate modeling requires completing a good representation of the reality. As
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

280 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Figure 1. Validating language constructs

Reality

Representation

REAL W ORLD

Representation of reality satisfying BW W ontology Formalization - mathematical theory

Language constructs (grammar)

Based on

Based on

Real-world extant

Described by Sim ulates


W orkflow Simulator

Formal model

Automates

Based on

W orkflow System

Based on

presented in Weber (1997), this good representation phenomenon is twofold. First, it means having a valid link between the real world and the models that the users make from it (described as real-world extant in Figure 1) and second, it means to have a valid link between this users model and the scripts that are derived from it (formal model in Figure 1). The first phenomenon of representational goodness, which represents how well individuals can derive a good notion of the real world, is not addressed by the BWW models as it is argued in Weber (1997) that it is not at the core of the IS discipline and already covered by other disciplines. The second phenomenon however, and precisely its deep structure aspects, is argued to be at the core of the discipline. It aims at representing how well some of the features of the script represent characteristics of a users model of the real world. The BWW models were derived to analyze such deep structure phenomena. Among these models, the representation model allows the evaluation of grammars used to create scripts. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine in a BWW evaluation if it is the language used to complete the script that is faulty or the evaluation criteria. For example, Green and Rosemann (2000), in an analysis of the EPC, raised doubts about the validity of all the ontological constructs of the BWW model. Under a classical BWW analysis, the language would have been poorly evaluated while its

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

281

industrial applications are very numerous. It is therefore important to consider a validation methodology that would complete a BWW evaluation. To evaluate a grammar, we therefore need to find a path from the grammatical constructs to the reality as illustrated in Figure 1. A formalism being a language used to model reality, applying the formalism and testing it in a practical manner is the only way to validate unambiguously the abstraction of the model. UML being only partially formal with State diagrams and executability still being in an early development stage, a prototyping approach is clearly the most adequate and will therefore be used as a second evaluation method. In this research, we have the precisely defined language features of the UML and we will use a model based on its grammar to write the process program, a workflow management system. Going from the model to the system will allow us to identify if the models are clear enough for a successful development of the system. Afterwards, a reverse iteration will be made in order to see if there could be any lack of information between the completed process program and the initially designed models. By combining both the BWW analysis and the prototypical analysis, a convergence between the two sets of results can be expected. Indeed, if a prototypical analysis concludes that there is a lack of information within the models for the development of the system, it would confirm a BWW theoretical conclusion of ontological incompleteness. In our context, the ontological constructs are replaced by the constructs of a process program that aims at automating a business process. Of course, the same language features (or grammatical constructs) are kept for both analyses and are those of the UML. There still exists a possibility of a double bias in the analysis in that both the ontological analysis and the prototypical analysis bring convergent, but biased results. Yet, combining the two analyses is a step towards a more valid and more accepted BWW analysis. It is also a step towards a confirmation of the doubts that Green and Rosemann (2000) raised about a possible over-engineering of the BWW models in their analysis of the EPC. Figure 2 presents our complete language evaluation model, which is the main contribution of this chapter. Using this framework, two analyses need to be conducted. The first analysis is purely theoretical and is an application of the BWW representational model presented earlier. The second analysis is a practical application using a prototype system. Once both analyses are completed, a comparison between the conclusions of the two will be conducted. If convergent results are found, then it will be possible to formulate possible improvements for the UML. If the results are divergent, questions will have to be raised about the validity of the ontological constructs.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

282 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Figure 2. Language evaluation model


Prototypical Analysis Ontological Analysis

Require adapted (completeness)

Are compared to (ontological clarity)

Process Programs

Language Features (grammar)

BWW Ontological Construct

Are defined by writing (clarity)

Are compared to (ontological completeness)

CONVERGENCE?

Ontological Validation
The methodology for the BWW analysis is similar to previous BWW evaluations presented in Table 1. It consists in using the definitions of all ontological constructs and in finding a possible mapping with the grammatical constructs of the language under evaluation. Afterwards, a forward analysis from the grammatical constructs to the ontological constructs is done to evaluate ontological clarity. The backward analysis will check for ontological completeness. If deficiencies are found, their possible consequences will be identified.

Matching Grammatical and Ontological Constructs


The elementary unit in the BWW model is the thing. This elementary ontological construct can be associated with the object in our three diagrams. Contrary to the EPC, the activity chart can show the transformations made on objects during activities and therefore solve a case of ontological incompleteness.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

283

An activity in the activity diagram will sometimes involve transformations made on objects. In fact, activities in the activity diagram are formally defined as an ongoing nonatomic execution within a state machine (Booch et al., 1999, p. 259). State machines represent accordingly the different possible states for an object. We will therefore interpret these activities as a Property in general for the object. This is relevant with Green and Rosemanns (2000) analysis of the EPC that interpreted the function in the EPC as a Property in general too. Class and Kind are respectively represented in the UML in the class diagram with the class and the generalization constructs. This diagram represents the static aspects of a system and is therefore not included in the analysis. Consequently, the absence of direct match will not be considered as an ontological incompleteness. States of the thing are represented by the state of the object in the activity diagram or by the state construct in the state diagram. A state machine in the state diagram represents the Conceivable State Space, defined as all the states that a thing may ever assume. A Lawful State Space can be represented in a state diagram using substates. Stable States and Unstable States can respectively be represented by the final state or the initial state in a state diagram. Events are represented as the trigger for a transition in the state diagram. But events can also be represented as an activity in the activity diagram. There is no grammatical differentiation for External and Internal events but the use of the Uses Cases for human-machine interaction diagram or the use of stereotypes could help make the differentiation possible. The Conceivable Event Space can be observed on the state machine of a thing by looking at all transitions triggers. There exists no construct for a poorly-defined event and well-defined events use the same grammatical construct as a normal event. Transformations are represented by an activity in the activity diagram. Lawful transformations are represented by guard conditions on transitions. There is no grammatical construct for Lawful event space. History can be modeled using the shallow history state construct in the state diagram. Acts on cannot be represented in the same way as it is defined in the definitions of the ontological constructs but could eventually be associated to the composition relationship in the class diagram, for example, in a composition relation between a thing Activity and a thing Project. Coupling relationships between objects (things) in the system can be represented using messages in the sequence diagram. In the case of workflow management, it is the coupling between actors, organizational units or organizations (between the swimlanes in the activity diagram) that are most interesting to illustrate cross-organizational workflow. A System can be represented using the sequence diagrams. Indeed, if multiple objects are involved, dividing the system will not eliminate the existing couplings between those objects. It could
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

284 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

also be represented using the package construct of the UML. The System composition is represented using the object construct. Once again, the System environment, that is to say external and internal things to the system, cannot be differentiated without a stereotype. The System structure is represented using the message construct in the sequence diagram. Subsystems can be represented using a stereotyped package. Relationships of composition and generalization would show the System decomposition and the Level structure. Unfortunately, the package and the relationships are not part of the three views that originally defined our language.

Results of the Ontological Evaluation


The complete ontological evaluation has been transcribed in Table 3. For an analysis of ontological completeness, it seems that several constructs can not find representation in any views: Lawful event space, Acts on, Poorly-defined event. Consequently, from a purely theoretical point of view, for workflow modeling, the UML must be considered as ontologically incomplete. Moreover, many examples show that the UML for workflow modeling is not ontologically clear. Indeed, we face construct overload for the activity construct in the activity diagram that can represent a transformation, a process, a property in general, or an event. Construct overload was also observed for the swimlane of the activity diagram that can represent either a thing (such as an organization) or a hereditary property of the thing (a user of the organization). Finally, overload was also identified for the trigger construct (that can represent either an event or a well-defined event). We also face construct redundancy in the case of the Process ontological construct that can be either represented by a complete activity diagram or by the activity construct in an activity diagram. In the case of the activity diagram, construct excess can also be identified since the branching construct could not find any matching ontological construct. Also, since we are using multiple grammars in the analysis, it is necessary to evaluate ontological overlap between the different views of the UML. Not surprisingly, they mainly concern the activity diagram for which there exist many overlaps with the state diagram. The activity diagram was the last added diagram in the UML and consisted in bringing a process view to information systems. Ontological analysis shows that it does not integrate perfectly with the other views. Clearly, the goal of minimizing ontological overlap is not attained here. The consequences of those deficiencies are not negligible for the systems analyst. First, he may not possess all necessary constructs to complete his models. Second, some confusion may arise between different constructs because of the overload and scripts could therefore be interpreted differently from

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

285

Table 3. BWW representation model analysis for dynamic aspects of UML


Ontological construct Thing Property In Particular In General Intrinsic Mutual Emergent Hereditary Attributes Class Kind State Conceivable State Space State Law Lawful State Space Process Event Conceivable Event Space Transformation Lawful Transformation: Stability Condition Corrective Action Lawful Event Space History Acts On Coupling: Binding Mutual Property System System Composition System Environment System Structure Subsystem System Decomposition Level Structure External Event Stable State Unstable State Internal Event Well-Defined Event Poorly-Defined Event State of the object State State Machine StateTransitionState Substates Activity diagram Object Swimlane Activity Swimlane State diagram Object Sequence diagram Object Other views

Class (Cass diagram) Generalization (Class diagram)

Activity diagram Activity Activity Activity Guard conditions on transitions

Trigger All triggers

Shallow history state construct Messages Sequence Diagram Object << Stereotype>> Messages Package with <<system>>

Package with <<subsystem>> Composition Generalization

<< Stereotype>> Final State Initial State << Stereotype>> Trigger

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

286 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

one analyst to another. Finally, the analyst may be tempted to use only the activity diagram because it covers most of the necessary ontological constructs. But these harsh conclusions for the UML need to be softened for several reasons. First, we need to be cautious about the ontological incompleteness conclusion. Using multiple views, this incompleteness has been minimized to only four constructs that are not necessarily essential to workflow modeling, and this could confirm a conclusion by Green and Rosemann (2000) who raised the question of a possible over-engineering of the BWW model and a need for a contextual individualization of the model. Second, the construct redundancy that has been identified refers to the possibility of having different levels of abstraction for the activity diagram. While this may look confusing at first, adequate stereotyping on different activity diagrams could clearly identify at what level we are. Third, the construct excess refers to the absence of an ontological construct that identifies branching. Intuitively, this is an ontological construct that would definitely be essential to any workflow modeling grammar. Now that conclusions have been raised from the ontological analysis, a prototypical analysis will complete the evaluation.

Prototypical Validation
Methodology
The prototypical analysis consists in modeling a B2B business process and in automating it using a WFMS. It is precisely the transposition of the model in the system that is analyzed. The assessment of the prototype will determine if the models are clear (if we do not hesitate between constructs in the system) and complete enough (if the model has all the required information) for the successful development of a WFMS. The clarity analysis consists in transposing the model into the WFMS to identify ambiguities. The completeness analysis consists in comparing the process program requirements for adequate execution of the process to the language features we had for modeling the workflow. The research context chosen is the aeronautical industrial sector and, more precisely, the exchange of quality control documents between manufacturers and their numerous sub-contractors. The names of the clients and suppliers are voluntarily omitted for confidentiality reasons. The existing inter-organizational processes lack automation, and it is therefore anticipated that important economies of scale could me made by using a market aggregator that would automate B2B processes in a workflow-oriented manner.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

287

We therefore need a development model that: 1) uses UML for modeling, and 2) aims primarily at defining standard B2B processes. The development model for the RosettaNet Consortium that has successfully implemented B2B standard for over 60 companies in the IT and electronics components industry (InternetWeek, 2000) was a natural candidate. The model aims at creating Partner Interface Processes (PIP) that define standard interfaces for developers. A PIP is composed of a new generic B2B process, a dictionary of common properties for the industry and of XML document type definitions (RosettaNet, 1999a).

Business Model
As Is Process
Using corporate documentation, a preliminary blueprint of the B2B workflow was drawn and presented to five different experts or managers in aerospace quality control. Two were working for two different large manufacturers while the three others were working for different sub-contractors. Some minor modifications were made to the business blueprint and complementary corporate documentation was sometimes collected during the meetings. With the modifications suggested by the respondents and the supplemental corporate information obtained, a final blueprint of the business process was finally drawn. It is presented in Appendix 1. The process starts with a supplier having produced a given number of items ordered by a manufacturer. There is an optional quality inspection to be made on a randomly chosen item in the shipment if the supplier produces it for the first time or if modifications were made in the manufacturing process. This inspection leads to the writing of a first article inspection report that is kept in the suppliers documentary vault while another copy is sent with the shipment. The failure of this inspection is not included in the boundaries of our studied process because it involves another process of B2B communication to determine the reasons of non-compliance. For every shipment, the supplier must complete a mandatory inspection that consists again in choosing randomly an item in the shipment and in inspecting it. This leads to the writing of a certificate of conformity, also called a certificate of compliance. Once again, a copy is kept in the suppliers documentary vault while another copy is joined to the shipment. If the item is found to be noncompliant with the manufacturers requirements, a supplier report of nonconformity (RNC) is sent to the manufacturer describing the defect and asking for a study of the non-conformity. If the manufacturer accepts the nonconformity, he sends back the RNC mentioning that the article is accepted as
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

288 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

is. Otherwise, the RNC is sent back mentioning that the article is rejected. Sometimes, a certificate of acceptance or a certificate of rejection can replace the RNC. Once again, a copy of both of these documents is kept in the vaults of both the supplier and the manufacturer. When the shipment arrives at the manufacturer, quality control documents are inspected. If the supplier has a sufficiently good rating for the manufacturer, inspection at reception can be skipped. Otherwise, another inspection is made and, if it is successful, the received items are placed in the inventory. If the inspection finds a defect, all the received parts are immediately placed in quarantine and the non-conformity is studied. A RNC is filled in and if the item can be accepted as is, it is placed in the inventory. The refusal of the item is not included in the boundaries of this process because it involves another complex process of repairing; reworking or modifying the item according to supplemental analyses made and would unnecessarily complicate the case of study.

To Be Process
The business process analysis phase aims at creating a new generic to be process modeled using the UML formalism. Several governmental and quality control agencies impose both the process and the exchanged documents, and therefore little modifications are possible. In fact, it was found that the two manufacturers had very similar processes with their subcontractors and almost similar quality control documents. The redesign of the process includes a third party (the e-hub) and was made using the basic guidelines of business process reengineering (BPR) as presented in Hammer (1990). While the application of those guidelines may be considered as being a non-exhaustive method for workflow analysis and redesign, it is important to remember that the objective of this work is to evaluate an inter-organizational modeling language and not the applicability of BPR methods in an inter-organizational context. The modified business process is presented in Appendix 2.

System Development
For the implementation framework phase, the XML document format used consisted of those already present in the WFMS software package. The Dictionaries step was not completed because it is not relevant to this study. A prototypical process model, as presented in Pfleeger (1998), was followed. Every revision to the model was considered as a possible completeness problem or clarity problem.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

289

To implement this inter-organizational workflow, the Weblogic Process Integrator (WLPI) of BEA SYSTEMS was used. Only one workflow engine was used to support the process. Such a configuration would facilitate the integration with ERP systems, which are prevalent in the aeronautics industry. Also, for smaller firms, the purchase of a WFMS is way beyond budget. A Web-based interface for document management with routing controlled by an outsourced WFMS is much more appropriate to their context. Finally, using an intra-organization-like architecture in an inter-organizational context greatly reduces the risk associated with the prototype development while still being adequate for the study. This system is based on the Weblogic application server that enables the use of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specifications such as Java Server Pages (JSPs), Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) or Java Messaging Services (JMS). At the core of the system is the Weblogic Process Integrator Server, a workflow engine dynamically executing workflows defined in the workflow studio using a flowchart tool. For each activity defined in the workflow, several tasks can be completed such as sending an electronic mail message, launching an application or sending an XML document to a client application. Workflow models, instances and variables are stored in a relational database. For the prototyping context, the WFMS is used as a work coordination tool, which is generally the main task of a WFMS (Chaffey, 1998). Each organization uses a client application that 1) gives reminders to complete an inspection or to fill in a document and 2) asks specific questions on the result of evaluation or of an inspection for adequate workflow routing. Communication between the workflow engine (the electronic intermediary) and the different client applications (the organizations) is made through the exchange of XML documents. The workflow engine predefines the document type definitions used. To define a workflow, WLPI uses a workflow definition meta-model presented in Figure 3. The execution logic is represented using eight grammatical constructs defined as nodes in the meta-model. Each node can invoke different actions such as invoking an application, sending a reminder or sending an XML document. For parameterization, the Workflow studio is used to describe in a flowchart manner the workflow to be automated. It uses eight grammatical constructs that are briefly described in Table 4 with their equivalences in the UML which mainly come from the activity diagram because of the close resemblance between the two grammars. Prior to parameterization, tests were made to verify that the engine could adequately execute a basic workflow and could send simple XML documents to the workflow clients. Afterwards, the models were used to set the WFMS to our context using the translation present in Tables 4-6. The observations made during the system development follow.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

290 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Figure 3. Weblogic process integrator workflow meta-model

O rg a n iz a tio n

R o le

T e m p la te

User

T e m p la te de fin itio n

In sta n c e

V a ria b le

Node

Node

V a ria b le

A c tion

Clarity
Two cases of ambiguity were identified. The first case concerns the activity construct in the activity diagram. It was ambiguously used as an event construct too because no grammatical construct exists for an event in the activity diagram of the UML while these constructs were distinct in the process program. For example, receiving an XML document is modeled as an activity in our models while it is an event in the process program. Clearly, mistakes could be made while transposing the model in a WFMS because room is left for interpretation. The second ambiguity concerns the swimlanes of the activity diagram. Our process program required making a clear distinction between organizations, roles and users. The swimlanes of our model were not sufficiently precise to make such distinctions. In the case of workflow management, more precision is needed and adequate meta-modeling appears unavoidable to clearly identify the relationships between users, their roles and their organizations. Not surprisingly, such precisions are made in RosettaNet UML extensions (1999b).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

291

Table 4. Weblogic process integrator grammatical workflow constructs


PROCESS PROGRAM CONSTRUCT Start Done Task VENDOR DESCRIPTION Indicates the start of a workflow. Indicates the end of a workflow. Defines a task in a workflow. Represents a condition in the workflow that evaluates to be true or false. Represents an event that can be triggered either internally or externally by an XML message. Subactions can be performed, and/or workflow variables can be set, as the result of the trigger of the event. Used to connect workflow nodes. The arrow directs you to the subsequent task in the flow. Allows joining of one or more task, decision, or event with an OR condition. Allows joining of one or more task, decision, or event with an AND condition. UML EQUIVALENT Activity Diagram Initial State Final State Activity Sequential Branch Activity Trigger State Diagram Sequence Diagram

Decision

Event

Triggerless Transition ?

Connector

Or

Join

And

Table 5. Non-diagrammatical constructs used in Weblogic process integrator


Construct Organization User Role Workflow variable Representation in UML Swimlane Swimlane Swimlane Object State

Table 6. Some possible actions for tasks


Actions Call program Sending an XML document Send an e-mail Assign task to user Representation in UML Object with stereotype Object with stereotype Object with stereotype Activity

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

292 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Completeness
Only one case of incompleteness was observed. As defined in Booch et al. (1999), A Stereotype is an extension of the vocabulary of the UML, allowing you to create new kinds of building blocks similar to existing ones but specific to your problem (p.78). Therefore, for every process program construct that lacked a precise grammatical symbol, we could freely define a new construct to represent it. For our prototype system, we developed stereotypes for each possible action for an activity as represented in Table 6. However, since there does not exist a symbol for the exclusive or join, we could not define a stereotype to represent it. This is clearly a completeness deficiency in the activity diagram. Indeed, joining in the activity diagram can only be made on an AND basis and not an EXCLUSIVE OR basis. This observation was not made during the parameterization of the system but when determining the translation scheme presented of Table 4.

Final Remarks
A final observation made during the development of our prototype is the little use we made of the views other than the activity diagram. In fact, this is not very surprising since the flowcharting tool used in WLPI is very similar to the activity diagram. In this analysis, we identified cases of clarity and completeness problem and made an observation on the use of multiple views. We will now compare these results with those of the ontological analysis and discuss convergent or nonconvergent results.

Reconciliation and Discussion


In this section, the results obtained from the ontological and from the prototypical evaluation are compared. We will first evaluate completeness issues, followed by clarity problems and by grammatical overlaps.

Completeness
From the ontological evaluation, we concluded that the UML was ontologically incomplete because it lacked the Lawful event space, Acts on, and the PoorlyCopyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

293

defined event constructs. Those completeness problems were not observed for the development of the prototype system. In fact, those constructs are fundamentally philosophical and have little to do with workflow modeling. They most probably illustrate a case of contextual over-engineering of the BWW models for a situation as specific as cross-organizational workflows and illustrate the need for a contextual specification of the models. In the prototypical evaluation, we lacked a construct of Exclusive Or for joining two activities. This result cannot be compared with the ontological analysis because branching in the UML had no ontological equivalent in the BWW models. But clearly, such a joining is essential in process modeling and this illustrates once again the need for a specification of the BWW models so that it can include branching. It also illustrates the need to add an Exclusive Or construct in the activity diagram. Such a construct exists in the OCL specification but it is unclear whether OCL can be used to define constraints on branching between action states in the activity diagram and therefore adds to ambiguity.

Clarity
We observed in the ontological evaluation that the activity construct in the activity diagram brought a construct overload problem. This result is convergent with the prototypical analysis in which we faced confusion between the activity and the event construct when transposing our workflow model into the WFMS. Clearly, the activity diagram lacks an event construct and further specifications of the language should aim at including this construct. The construct redundancy problem of the Process ontological construct, which could either be represented by a complete activity diagram or by a single activity in an activity diagram, was not a particular problem for the development of our system. In fact, this result is explainable by the fact that the WFMS imposes indirectly the appropriate level of abstraction of the task as it coordinated the work of individuals. Also, the redundancy for the trigger construct was not an issue as the WFMS used a single event construct in its grammar. Finally, during both ontological and prototypical validation, we faced clarity problems with the swimlanes of the UML activity diagram that could ontologically represent a thing, or a hereditary property of that thing and, in a more practical context, users, roles, and organizations. Further specifications of the UML should aim at defining a more precise semantic for the swimlanes in the activity diagram that could permit the representation of organizational hierarchical levels.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

294 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Multiple Views
The ontological evaluation revealed that the activity diagram had several overlaps with other views in the UML. During the development of the prototype, little use was made of diagrams other than the activity diagram. These results are clearly convergent. It illustrates once again how the activity diagram integrates poorly with other views of the language. It is difficult here to suggest possible improvements because reducing overlaps could also lower the complete ontological completeness of the language. In fact, further improvements should aim at both reducing overlaps while maintaining the overall ontological coverage, which can be considered as very satisfactory for the UML.

Conclusion
To this day, research on inter-organizational workflows has essentially focused on technical aspects of interoperability between WFMS. In fact, very little work has been done in order to define a precise semantic for inter-organizational business modeling. This chapter intended to bridge that gap by finding a solution to this problem from an IS perspective. To provide a framework for this research, we chose to rely on the work of Wand and Weber (1993). This chapter aimed at determining if the ontological validity of available formalisms was sufficient to represent workflows crossing organizational boundaries. A review of several formalisms revealed that the UML fulfils essential representation criteria related to B2B workflows. Moreover, it possesses several extension possibilities that make it a powerful and popular language for business modeling. Three contributions can be stressed. First of all, this work presented a more rigorous methodological framework for ontological grammar evaluation than previous studies by combining an analysis using the BWW representation model with a prototypical analysis. Prior research had raised doubts on the validity of the BWW model in workflow-modeling contexts by assuming that the tested grammar had little deficiencies. Clearly, a more rigorous methodological framework was needed in order to discuss the validity of the BWW models. By using the ontology of a WFMS in addition to the BWW ontology, conclusions drawn out of convergent results from both analyses can be considered more rigorous. Moreover, this twofold methodology could provide useful basis for the evaluation of future languages that combine the aim of business and systems analysis.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

295

Second, by using this new methodological framework, little ontological deficiencies were identified in the UML. This result could mainly be attributed to the extension capabilities of the grammar. Nevertheless, some room for improvement has been identified and specific enhancements were suggested. The most challenging concerns the overlaps of the activity diagram with other views in the UML. Clearly, this view, which is essential for workflow modeling, does not fit well with the other views of the popular language, and this problem could increase current hesitancy for developers to use a workflow paradigm for IS development. Third, the two analyses confirmed the need for the development of specific ontology for workflow modeling. There is undeniably room for both a universal ontology for the representation of real-world phenomenon such as the BWW models and for more specific contextual ontology, which could also be based on the BWW ontology. In fact, the BWW representation model is probably too fundamental for a precise context such as cross-organizational business process modeling. Indeed, while it was first concluded that the UML had ontological deficiencies, our models were sufficient for the successful development of a prototype system in the aerospace industry. From these contributions, directions for future research can be identified. While this work credited the UML with little deficiencies, some of the aforementioned suggested improvements could boost the already-high quality of its grammar. Optimal combinations of graphical and text constructs in modeling language could be evaluated. Another interesting research direction could be the definition of common extensions for the community of WFMS developers. Indeed, while the extension mechanisms are powerful tools against ontological deficiencies, such extensions need to be defined in a matter that is fully understandable by all business partners. To this day, only extensions to the UML for business modeling at large and not workflow management have been defined. Recent efforts made by the OMG with the EDOC offer interesting possibilities in this area. Such a contextual approach could also be a research track for ontological evaluation models. Further research in this area could aim at defining a particular ontology for workflow modeling based on the BWW models and on the metamodels from several WFMS. There are over 200 WFMS systems available on the market, which would allow a large sample of study. With a precise ontology for workflow, universal extensions could be defined and therefore ease the task of making UML models a possible direct input for WFMS parameterization. This stream of work also has business implications. Accurately modeling information flows has always been a challenge. The models have to be representative of the reality while being easy enough to understand to enable users to validate them. Inter-organizational systems introduce additional challenges for analysts. They have to model information flows across organizations.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

296 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

In doing so, they face multiple sets of documents, different names, different term definitions, and multiple data dictionaries. Having an ontologically valid formalism does not guarantee that all models will be correct. However, it reduces the risk of errors by eliminating ambiguities, by reducing confusion and by ensuring that all the elements that will have to be implemented in the system have a representation in the model. This reduces the risk of having an inadequate or incomplete system.

References
Basu, A. & Blanning, R. (2000). A formal approach to workflow analysis. Information Systems Research, 11(1), 17-36. Benyoucef, M. & Keller, R. (2000). An evaluation of formalisms for negotiations in e-commerce. Proceedings of the Workshop on Distributed Communities on the Web, Quebec City, QC, Canada, (pp. 45-54). Bzivin, J. (1998). Who is afraid of ontologies? OOPSLA 98 Workshops, Vancouver, Canada. Available at http://www.metamodel.com/oopsla98cdif-workshop/bezivin1 Booch, G., Rumbauch J., & Jacobson, I. (1999). The Unified Modeling Language user guide. Reading, PA: Addison-Wesley. BPMI. (2002). Business process management initiative. Business process modeling notation, working draft V 0.9. Retrieved from http:// www.bpmi.org/bpmn-spec.esp Bunge, M. (1977). Treatise on basic philosophy: Volume 3: Ontology I: The furniture of the World. Dordrecht & Boston: Reidel. Bunge, M. (1979). Treatise on basic philosophy: Volume 4: Ontology II: A world of systems. Dordrecht & Boston: Reidel. Chaffey, D. (1998). Groupware, workflow and intranets: Reengineering the enterprise with collaborative software. Woburn, MA: Digital Press. Choudury, V., Hartzel, K., & Konsynski, B. (1998, December). Uses and consequences of electronic markets: An empirical investigation in the aircraft parts industry. MIS Quarterly, 22(4), 471-507. Curtis, B., Kellner, M., & Over, J. (1992). Process modeling. Communications of the ACM, 35(9), 75-89. Curran, T. & Ladd, A. (2000). SAP R/3 Business Blueprint. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Eriksson, H. E. & Penker, M. (2000). Business modeling with UML: Business patterns at work. New York: Wiley Computer Publishing.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

297

Gartner Group. (1999a, October 7). E-Business to workflow: Wake up! Available at http://www4.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=g_search& id=300767 Gartner Group. (1999b, December). Why e-business craves workflow technology. Available at http://www4.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=g_ search&id=301217 Green, P. (1996). An ontological analysis of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in upper CASE tools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Department of Commerce, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Green, P. (1997). Use of information systems analysis and design (ISAD) grammars in combination in upper CASE tools An ontological evaluation. Proceedings of the Second CAiSE/IFIP8.1 International Workshop on the Evaluation of Modeling Methods in Systems Analysis and Design (EMMSAD97) (pp. 1-12), Barcelona, Spain. Green, P. & Rosemann, M. (2000). Integrated process modeling: An ontological evaluation. Information Systems, 25(2), 73-87. Hammer, M. (1990, July-August). Reengineering work: Dont automate, obliterate. Harvard Business Review, 104-112. InternetWeek. (2000, November 6). RosettaNet sharpens focus: Interview with Jennifer Hamilton, CEO, RosettaNet. InternetWeek [online]. Retrieved from http://www.internetweek.com/interviews/ham110600.htm Keller, G., Nuettgens, M., & Scheer, A. W. (1992). Semantische prozessmodellierung auf der basis ereignisgesteuerte prozessketten (EPK). In A. W. Scheer (Ed.), Veroeffentlichungen des Instituts fuer Wirtschaftsinformatik. Saarbruecken: Heft 89. Leymann, F. & Roller, D. (2000). Production workflow: Concepts and techniques. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Lucking-Reiley, D. H. & Spulber, D. F. (2001). Business-to-business electronic commerce. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15(1), 55-68. Muth, P., Weissenfels, J., & Weikum, G. (1999). What workflow technology can do for electronic commerce. Technical report, University of the Saarland, Department of Computer Science, Saarbruecken, Germany. Object Management Group, The. (2001). Unified modeling language specification, version 1.4. Available at http://www.omg.org/cgi-bin/doc?formal/ 01-09-67 Object Management Group, The. (2002). UML profile for enterprise distributed object computing specification, OMG adopted specification. Available at http://www.omg.org/technology/documents/formal/edoc.htm

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

298 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Opdahl, A. L. & Henderson-Sellers, B. (1999). Grounding the OML metamodel in ontology. Working paper, (pp. 1-59), University of Queensland, Brisbane. Parsons, J. & Wand, Y. (1997). Using object in systems analysis. Communications of the ACM, 40(12), 104-110. Pfleeger, S. L. (1998). Software engineering: Theory and practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Rivard, S. & Talbot, J. (1998). Le Dveloppement de Systmes dInformation. Qubec: Presses de lUniversit du Qubec. RosettaNet. (1999a). RosettaNet implementation framework. Available at http://www.rosettanet.org/RosettaNet/Rooms/DisplayPages/ LayoutInitial?Container=com.webridge.entity.Entity[OID[AE9C86B8022CD 411841F00C04F689339 RosettaNet. (1999b). UML extension for e-business partner interface process modeling, version 0.5 draft. Sinha, A. P. & Vessey, I. (1995). End-user data modeling: An ontological evaluation of relational and object-oriented schema diagrams. Working paper, Indiana University, Indiana. Skinstad, R. (2000). Business process integration through XML. Netfish Technologies [online]. Retrieved from http://www.infoloom.com/ gcaconfs/WEB/paris2000/S10-03.HTM Skonnard, A. & Laskey, B. (2000, May). Biztalk server 2000: Architecture and tools for trading partner integration. MSDN Magazine [online]. Retrieved from http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnmag/issues/0500/biztalk/default. aspx Smith, H. & Fingar P., (2003). Business process management The third wave. Tampa, FL: Meghan-Kiffer Press. Sutton, S. M., Tarr, P. L., & Osterweil, L. J., (1995). An analysis of process languages. CMPSCI technical report 95-78, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Thomas, D. (2003). UML Unified or universal modeling language? Journal of Object Technology, 2(1), 7-12. van der Aalst, W. M. P. (1998). The application of Petri Nets to workflow management. The Journal of Circuits, Systems and Computers, 8(1), 2166. van der Aalst, W. M. P. (1999). Interorganizational workflows: An approach based on message sequence charts and Petri Nets. System Analysis Modelling Simulation, 34(3), 335-367.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

299

van der Aalst, W. M. P. (2000). Loosely coupled interorganizational workflows: Modeling and analyzing workflows crossing organizational boundaries. Information and Management, 37, 67-75. van den Heuvel, W. -J. & Weigand, H. (2000). Cross-organizational workflow integration using contracts. Proceedings of OOPSLA 2000 Workshops, Minneapolis, Minnesota. http://jeffsutherland.org/oopsla2000/ vandenheuvel/vandenheuvel.htm Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1989). An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In E. D. Falkenberg & P. Lindgreen (Eds.), Information systems concepts: An in-depth analysis (pp. 79-107). Amsterdam: North Holland. Wand, Y. & Weber, R., (1990). An ontological model of an information system. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(11), 1282-1292. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3(4), 217-237. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological foundations of information systems (Accounting Research Methodology Monograph Series No. 4). Melbourne: Coopers & Lybrand. Weber, R. (2003). Conceptual modelling and ontology: Possibilities and pitfalls. Journal of Database Management, 14(3), 1-20. Weber, R. & Zhang, Y. (1996). An analytical evaluation of NIAMs grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Information Systems Journal, 6(2), 147-170. Workflow Management Coalition. (1995, January). The workflow reference model. Available at http://www.wfmc.org/standards/docs/tc003v11.pdf Workflow Management Coalition. (1999, January). Interface 1: Process definition interchange. Available at http://www.wfmc.org/standards/docs/TC1016-P_v11_IF1_Process_definition_Interchange.pdf Zetie, C. (2003). Business process modeling is gaining speed. Giga Information Group, CIO.com [online]. Retrieved from http://www2.cio.com/analyst/ report773.html Zwass, V. (1998). Structure and macro-level impact of electronic commerce: From technological infrastructure to electronic marketplaces. In K. E. Kendall (Ed.), Emerging information technologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

300 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Endnote
1

An earlier version of this chapter was published as Dussart, Aymeric, Aubert, Benoit, A., & and Patry, Michel. (2004), An Evaluation of InterOrganizational Workflow Modelling Formalisms, Journal of Database Management, 15(2), April-June 2004, 74-104.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

301

Appendices
Appendix 1. Final as is business blueprint
S tart
Is the artic le a newly m anufac tured i tem for the suppl ier?

Y es

P ro ce ed to Fir s t A rtic le in sp ec tio n of item Do cu m e ntar y Va ult Item de po sit

S UP PL IE R

Item d epo s it

No In s pec tion a nd te s t of ite m

Is th e ite m c om plian t w ith Y e s W ri te C erti fic ate of re qu ir em en ts ? No


W ri te suppli er report of non c onformi ty and tak e pic tures of item Com pl ianc e (C . of C.)

D oes the it em sati sfy the Fi rs t Articl e Inspect ion requirem ents?

No

E nd

Yes
Ship item w ith quali ty c ontrol doc um ents W rite F irst A rticle Inspecti on Report

T em porary i tem deposi t

Ins pe ct Qu ality c on tr ol d oc um e nts w ith item s re c eive d


D o w e inspec t it em at rec eption for thi s s upplier?

Do c . V au lt

P lac e item s in inv en to ry S tudy o f no nco nfor m ity

No

Y es
Inventory

Ins pec tion a nd te st of ite m Is the item c om plian t with r eq uire m en ts? No
Plac e item in quarantine,

Y es

B UY ER

Qu ar antine

Stu dy no n- co nfor m ity and w rite s up plier r ep ort of non -c on for m ity
Is the item at v ariance w ithin w ri te certifi cate suppli er requirem ents but not Y es of acc eptance at varianc e wit h buy er purchase or annotate RN C orders AN D is perform anc e, interchangeability, m aintainability , pla ce ite m weight, safety (...) unaffected?

A c c ept ite m ,

in in ve ntor y

I s the item at variance w ithi n s upplier requi rements but not at variance w ith buy er purc hase Y es orders AN D i s performanc e, i nterc hangeabi lit y, m aintainabili ty, weight, s afety (...) unaffec ted?

No

E nd W rite an d s end Ce rtific a te o f A c ce ptan ce W r ite ce rtifica te o f r eje ction

No

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

302 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Appendix 2. Proposed to be process


MANUFACTURER e-HUB
l:Articles [Not Inspected]

SUPPLIER

Check if article is newly manufactured [newly] Proceed to FAIR l:Articles [compliant] [In First Inspection] Write FAIR Proceed to inspection [not compliant] s:SupplierReportofNonConformity <<XMLdocument>> [COMPLETED] Flag Manufacturer for Non-Conformity Write supplier report of non-conformity l:Articles [non-conform] l:Articles [In inspection] [not compliant] [existing production]

f:FirstArticleInspectionReport <<XML document>> [COMPLETED]

[compliant]

:Message << e-mail message>> Reception of e-mail

Study Non-conformity [acceptable deviation] [unacceptable deviation] Fill Certificate of Rejection Write Certificate of Acceptation

c:CertificateOfConformity <<XML document>> [COMPLETED] a:AcceptanceReport <<XML document>> [COMPLETED] Flag Supplier for Acceptation of non-conformity r:RejectionReport <<XML document>> [COMPLETED] Flag Supplier for Rejection of non-conformity

:Message << e-mail message>>

Reception of e-mail

Wrtie certificate of conformity

l:Articles [Conform]

:Message << e-mail message>> Reception of e-mail Discard Articles

Ship Articles

Receive Articles

Inspect QC documents Inspection at reception for supplier? [Trusted Supplier] [Supplier with inspection] Inspect Articles [Compliant]

l:Articles [Received]

l:Articles [In manufactuer inspection] [Non-compliant]

Place articles in quarantine l:Articles [Quarantined] Write report of non-conformity Study deviation r:ReportOfNon-conformity [Completed]

Place articles in inventory

Annotate RNC [Acceptable Deviation]

l:Articles [Stored]

[Discard articles]

[Return for modification ] Return article to supplier

l:Articles [Returned]

l:Articles [Discarded]

Discard articles

The new process is organized around the outcome: having a shipment of compliant parts in the manufacturers inventory. The original process involved several non-value added activities. In the new process, document-related activities only involve information capturing on a Web-based interface, thus reducing the number of channels to one. All other activities aim at fulfilling the final outcome of the process. The primary control variable of the flow is the state

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Evaluating Inter-Organizational Workflow Modeling Formalisms

303

of the article shipment item, which is purely outcome-related. If the outcomes are separated as having 1) a compliant shipment of items sent to the manufacturer and 2) an inspected shipment of items in inventory, both activities are performed by those who will use the outcomes. The new process is to be executed by a centralized WFMS and will coordinate work as if it was done in a single organization (geographical independence). Moreover, all documents are stored in a centralized location. Through aggregation, the system aims at minimizing quality control costs. The decision points are all located where the work is done except for the study non-conformity activity. But again, this activity cannot be modified because it has to be completed by the manufacturer. Finally, information capture is now done at the source.

Appendix 3. State machine for the 1:articles object

Not Inspected articleChecked [is newly produced] In First Inspection FAIRCompleted [is non-com pliant]

articleChecked [is already produced] In Inspection

m anufacturersEvaluation Completed [refuses deviation] non-conform inspectionCompleted [is not-compliant]

FAIRComplete d [is com pliant]

inspectionCompleted [is com pliant] m anufacturersEvaluation Completed [accepts Conform deviation] articlesSent Received supplierEvaluated [is not trusted] In m anufacturer inspection inspectionCompleted [is not-compliant]

supplierEvaluated [is trusted] Stored

inspectionCompleted [is compliant] deviationStudied [is acceptable] Quarant ined

Discarded deviationStudied [is unrepairable]

Returned deviationStudied [is repairable]

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

304 Aubert, Dussart & Patry

Appendix 4. Possible interaction diagram for the new process

M A N.

e-HUB

S UPP .

W rite non-conform ity report Flag m anufacturer C onsult report Inspect deviation report Send decision Flag supplier C onsult report report

Inspect articles

C onsult decision and prepare shipm ent

Send articles C onsult quality reports Inspect articles Quality reports

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

305

Chapter XI

Methodological Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques


Andrew Gemino, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Abstract
This chapter examines methodological issues arising in the comparison of systems analysis and design techniques. An argument is made to establish a foundation of research and more broadly consider the management of scope in analysis and design research. A discussion of why and how we evaluate techniques is provided. A generalized approach combining both deductive and inductive reasoning is presented and a combined grammarbased and cognitive-based approach to comparison is discussed. In addition, concepts from Friedmans economic methodology are applied in the choice between alternative ontologies that underlie grammar-based comparisons. The chapter concludes with a set of nine questions that researchers should consider when designing and developing research in the evaluation of systems analysis and design techniques.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

306 Gemino

Introduction
In his book Ontological Foundations of Information Systems, Weber (1997, p. 30) suggests: The way ahead, I have argued, lies in sustained efforts to develop paradigmatic foundations for the discipline. If we fail to develop such foundations, I believe the IS discipline will remain fragile we will have squandered our chances (yet again) of coming to a deep understanding of the nature and purpose of information systems. Webers words should resonate strongly when we consider two points: 1) that investment in information systems has taken an increasingly large share of the capital invested in western economies (National Science Board, 2003) and 2) in the midst of this investment, information systems courses are being excluded from business school accreditation (Ives, Valacich, Watson, & Zmud, 2002) and from curriculum in MBA training (Avison, 2003). It seems clear that while information systems are recognized as increasingly important, training in the management of information systems is not recognized with the same level of importance. It is in this context of paradigmatic foundations that we consider the methodology of technique evaluation, that is, how we compare techniques in the area of systems analysis and design. The discussion of this topic is divided into three sections. The first section introduces the importance of evaluating the techniques that help define scope. The next section focuses on the type of representations we compare and the two basic functions in modeling: reading and writing. The third section suggests a generalized approach to evaluating analysis techniques, along with some considerations of this general method. While this chapter is concerned primarily with how we evaluate analysis techniques, the lack of paradigmatic foundations that Weber laments overshadow our discussion of generalized methods for comparisons. For this reason, it seems natural to preface the main topic of the chapter with a few remarks about the relationship between systems analysis modeling techniques and the management of scope in information technology projects.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

307

Scope and Systems Analysis and Design


The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines nine areas of project management (scope, time, cost, quality, risk, human resources, communication, procurement, and integration) and five project phases (initiating, planning, execution, control, and closing). The use of system analysis modeling techniques impact scope management directly because analysis techniques help analysts and stakeholders define expectations and support the process of requirements definition in the context of planning. Since failures occur when a system does not meet its objectives, analysis techniques are also important in the management of risk and quality. The use of analysis techniques can therefore affect five project management areas (scope, quality, risk, time, and cost). It should also be recognized that scope definition is revisited throughout the project's lifecycle, hence, analysis techniques that help to define scope are relevant throughout the project. The importance of clear requirements is clearly evident in practitioner research into factors affecting project success (Standish Group, 1999). Given the importance of analysis techniques, I believe a fundamental issue underlying the analysis, design, development and implementation of information systems remains the management of scope. While the accounting discipline informs the practice of cost management and operations management has created PERT and Gantt charts for time management, what business school function considers scope? The almost universally accepted IS tradition of training in system analysis and design places the IS discipline as a natural leader in the effective management of scope. Since defining requirements is a recognized skill of importance in IS curriculum, it seems arguable that the management of scope is a discipline that, at least for IS projects, could be exclusive to the IS banner. In searching for paradigmatic foundations, it therefore seems reasonable to consider a research area focused on managing scope. Yet research in the area of systems analysis techniques remains, at least in the casual perusal of top journals in the IS discipline, more peripheral than core. As Weber (1997, p. 8) notes in an aside, (I count myself among those who are currently viewed as fringe dwellers in the IS discipline). Many reasons for the relative lack of interest in analysis and design research can be asserted. For example, some might argue the journal limelight is taken by more engaging research topics such as factors affecting the adoption of information technology or the alignment of technology investments with business strategy. These topics are of obvious importance to a large number of organizations and rightly receive a great amount of attention in IS journals. I believe researchers in the area of systems analysis and design would be better served to view the lack of attention to their research not as the result of more engaging topics, but rather a result of

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

308 Gemino

less compelling research in our area. I believe that in the market place of ideas, increased recognition will only come as a result of improving the quality of the research developed in the area of systems analysis and design. In addition to improved quality, I believe additional journal focus will be provided as we focus more broadly on issues surrounding the management of scope in IS projects. The issue of scope management involves not only the definition of requirements, but also the tools and strategies used to effectively communicate scope to a variety of stakeholders (users, analysts, developers, quality assurance). Scope management includes the processes to control changes and adaptations in projects. And in order to communicate scope, we will need an ability to track it closely, particularly as a projects move through inevitable changes in objectives and requirements. These issues are of a broader concern to managers and the fact that improved scope management may likely positively impact project success rates provides an engaging topic for researchers and practitioners alike. It is for these reasons that I suggest researchers in our area look towards the management of scope as a foundation for their research.

Why Evaluate Scope Modeling Techniques


Having made some arguments for the importance of scope management in the IS discipline, we turn our attention to the importance of evaluating techniques for defining scope as represented by IS models. The use of techniques such as data flow diagrams or entity relationship diagrams can improve the clarity of requirements, reduce changes in these requirements and provide more realistic objectives, all of which serve to improve the potential for success in IS projects (Johnson, Boucher, Connors, & Robinson, 2001). Given the importance of techniques in managing scope, it is not surprising a large number of techniques have been proposed (Avison & Fitzgerald, 1995; Chatzoglou & Macaulay, 1996; Oei, van Hemmen, Falkenberg, & Brinkkemper, 1992). The abundance of techniques and a lack of comparative measures have created a need to evaluate alternatives (Johnson, 2002; Wand & Weber, 2002). Many researchers have responded to this need and described useful and engaging comparisons (Batra, Hoffer, & Bostrom, 1990; Bodart, Sim, Patel, & Weber, 2001; Burton-Jones & Meso, 2002; Gove & March, 2003; Green, 1996; Siau & Benbasat, 1997). Workshops such as the Evaluation of Modeling Methods in Systems Analysis and Design associated with CAiSE and the symposiums on Research in Systems Analysis and Design (2002, 2003, 2004) are indications of the growth in research in this area.
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

309

But while progress has been made, the foundations for evaluating techniques remain somewhat undefined. Useful frameworks have been developed (Batra et al., 1990; Topi & Ramesh, 2002; Wand & Weber, 2002) and foundations have been proposed (Wand & Weber, 1993; 1995; Weber, 1997), but little consensus has been reached. While some would argue consensus is not necessary for progress, Weber (1997) has argued that some agreement on principles underlying information system modeling would help to focus research in the area. In considering comparisons between scope definition techniques, a clear distinction should be made between the techniques we might compare (such as object oriented analysis, structured analysis, IDEF0, data modeling and many others) and the methodology we use to compare these techniques. It is to the latter that this chapter is addressed. In addition, this chapter narrows the focus by removing considerations of specific techniques (such as measurement instruments, constructs, experimental treatments, ontological analyses) used to develop these comparisons. This is not to suggest that the pursuit of improved techniques for evaluating modeling techniques is without value. To the contrary, it is a necessary pursuit in the development of the area. However, studies of evaluation techniques can shed only a little light on the objectives and assumptions underlying technique evaluations.

Evaluating Alternative Techniques


In considering methods for technique evaluation, the journey begins with a simple question: How can we evaluate alternative modeling techniques? To understand this question, we must agree on some basic ideas relating to modeling of information systems. If one accepts, as I do, the argument made in Weber (1997, p. 65) that information systems are representations of histories of things in the real world in terms of the way we have chosen to conceive them then it is follows that models of information systems are representations of representations of histories. In my experience, statements such as these inevitably lead to conspicuous rolling of the eyes on the part of the reader and the use of mathematical formalism on the part of the writer. While the formalism used by Weber (1997) and Wand and Weber (1993) provides a clear, albeit sometimes challenging path through definitions, I have decided to minimize formalism in this discussion. I willingly accept a larger degree of ambiguity, which I hope to trade off with a somewhat simpler message.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

310 Gemino

Four Representations to Consider


To begin the discussion, I believe few would argue that a model is a representation and that a model presents information about some things. These statements are consistent with the first proposition in a model of information outlined by Weber (1997, p. 89). In this proposition Weber suggests that, information is a representation of some thing(s) in the world. In regards to modeling, this suggests we must recognize the fundamental difference between the thing(s) being modeled and the information about the thing(s) the model itself. I also believe it is not controversial to suggest that information about a thing can be presented and eventually understood. This statement would be consistent with Webers (1997, p. 89) second proposition stating that things can be known only via information. This brings us to an important point: Is information presented to a person equal to knowledge? The statement to consider is whether two people viewing the same model, and presented with the same information, will necessarily develop the same cognitive representations of what is being modelled. If the answer to this statement is no, then the researcher accepts that information presented is not necessarily equal to knowledge gained and he or she defines himself or herself as a constructivist (Gemino & Wand, 2003). I would argue that individuals construct knowledge from the combination of information presented and personal, and therefore unique, long-term memory. If the response to the above statement is yes, then the researcher believes information presented is equal to knowledge gained and the researcher can be seen to ascribe to the information-processing model of human cognition (Mayer, 2001). In this view, information is an input that is processed, in a similar way, by a large majority of individuals. This process results in a similar output (knowledge) across many individuals. The choice between a constructivist view and an information processing view is surprisingly important. I believe the information processing view underlies much of the research in the area, particularly where the focus is placed on what is presented rather than how it is understood and processed into knowledge. In my opinion, the constructivist view provides more flexibility in evaluation. Researchers can take into account individual differences, for example in terms of domain and modeling experience, while not precluding the idea that a good representation can be similarly understood by a large number of people. When we argue about things in a model, and not things in cognition, I believe we restrict ourselves to a discussion that assumes everyone viewing the model understands it in the same way. I do not believe this to be true. It is my view that the presentation of information about a thing does not imply knowledge about a thing. Understanding is a process that results in a different type of representation a cognitive representation of knowledge that is
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

311

fundamentally different from the model it is derived from. In my view, information presented is not equal to knowledge gained. So in evaluating modeling techniques, Webers second proposition can be used to suggest there are really four representations to consider: 1) things in the world, 2) information about things in the world, 3) understanding of things in the world, and 4) understanding of information about things. Note that I do not include modeling techniques or knowledge of these techniques as representations. This is because modeling techniques are the language we use to express information about things. While the language is critical to developing effective communication, the language is not an end in itself but rather a means of expressing understanding. In using the word understanding, I separate an individuals understanding from the more general concept of knowledge (which may be common across individuals). These four representations are shown in Figure 1. The four categories of representations are addressed with different tools. For example, how we define things in the world is addressed by ontologies and meta-models. These tools provide a well-defined language for describing things in the world. Information about things is created, in our area of research, using analysis and design modeling techniques such as use case models or entity relationship diagramming. These modeling techniques provide a simpler but less complex language for developing models of things in the world than ontologies and meta-models. Analysis and design modeling techniques are tools that help us to transforming things in the world into models of things of the world. They are

Figure 1. Four representations to consider in IS modeling

Things in the world

Understanding of things in the world

Information about things in the world

Understanding of info. about things

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

312 Gemino

abstractions of things that should be of interest to stakeholders in a systems project. To compare alternative modeling techniques, it is often considered important to measure the understanding that has been gained from viewing or creating a model. This requires an empirical instrument to evaluate a persons understanding of information about things While this perhaps provides a measure of a persons understanding of the model, I would suggest another important issue to consider is what a person knows about the real world as a result of viewing the model. This suggests that understanding information about things and understanding things in the world are not always congruent. In my view, a researcher considering an evaluation of modeling techniques should reflect on all four of these representations. For example, consider an experimental evaluation of two modeling techniques. The first step should be to clearly define differences between the alternatives (Gemino & Wand, 2004). These differences are only apparent when they can be compared against a complete set of modeling constructs, such as those provided by an ontology or meta-model. Once the differences are clearly defined, then an experiment can be developed. Study participants might then be run through an experimental procedure and measurements taken. An important consideration in the choice of instruments will be whether the researcher is measuring a participants understanding of information about things or understanding of things in the world. I would argue that if the objective of modeling techniques is to communicate information about things in the real world, then the latter, understanding of things in the world, is a more appropriate item to measure. Others might argue the real task is for the model viewer to understand the model; hence understanding of information about things would be appropriate. The important issue, however, is to recognize and clearly identify which representation is being considered. This will help to develop clearer and more useful comparisons.

Functions of Modeling
There are two basic functions served in any modeling exercise: reading and writing (Wand & Weber, 2002). The two functions suggest two dimensions for evaluating modeling techniques. Normans Theory of Action (1986) is useful in understanding these functions (Gemino & Wand, 2004b). The theory is depicted in Figure 2. The theory is best understood by considering two persons who are involved in modeling. The model creator has a goal to communicate his or her understanding by representing his or her understanding in a model. A model viewer has a goal

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

313

Figure 2. Normans theory of action as applied to IS modeling

Design Model Designer (model creator) Model

Viewer Model Stakeholder (model viewer)

to understand the domain being represented by interpreting the model. Norman theory clearly distinguishes between a persons understanding, held in cognition, and the model that is expressed physically. Discrepancies between a persons understanding of the system and the model used to represent the system leads to issues in both creating and interpreting the diagram. Norman labels these discrepancies the gulf of execution and the gulf of evaluation. A gulf of execution forms when discrepancies exist between the conception of the domain from a model creators viewpoint and the model of the domain (for example a diagram). In this case the model creator is frustrated because the model does not represent his/her view of the domain accurately. These discrepancies may occur due to: 1) constraints on the expressiveness of the technique, 2) lack of skill of model creator, or 3) confusion in the model creators conception of the domain. A gulf of evaluation occurs when a discrepancy exists between a model viewers cognitive model of the domain and the model representing the domain. In this case, the model viewer is not getting the correct idea because there is a difference between what the model shows and what the viewer understands. The discrepancy may occur when: 1) the user misinterprets the diagram due to lack of experience with the technique, 2) the user develops a different conception of the domain being represented than the one conveyed by the diagram, or 3) there exists ambiguity within the diagram itself. Viewed through Normans theory, the modeling process can be seen as an effort to bridge the gulfs of execution and evaluation in order to bring the model
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

314 Gemino

creators and model viewers conceptions of the system (the design model and the viewer model), closer together. Normans theory is useful because it provides a clear separation between the domain represented in a model and the understanding of that domain as represented in the cognitive model of either the designer or the viewer. These insights suggest researchers need to clarify whether their focus is placed on the gulf of execution (where analysts create models) or the gulf of evaluation (where individuals interpret models). More importantly, Normans model suggest that a complete evaluation must include considerations of how the modeling technique bridges both gulfs.

A Generalized Approach to Evaluation


Having discussed how we approach the comparison of scope defining techniques, our attention can turn more carefully to these comparisons. It is important to note we are not considering why we model, but rather, why we compare alternative techniques for modeling. It is hoped that insights into why we evaluate might help to define not only the research objectives of the area but also the principles underlying these objectives.

Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Questions of Comparisons


Gemino and Wand (2003) have suggested that if the objective of comparing alternative modeling techniques is to find which modeling technique performs better, then empirical tests and comparative results fulfill this objective. This is a phenomenon-based approach to comparison based on purely inductive principles, that is, using data to infer performance of techniques. Observations would provide comparative information from which we could infer the preferred analysis techniques when practitioners needed to choose between modeling techniques. While this may be one of the objectives of evaluating alternatives, Gemino and Wand (2003) suggest it should not be the ultimate objective. Instead, the objective should be to understand why these differences occur. Focusing exclusively on results cannot provide explanations of why observed difference exist. To explain why differences exist requires a theory that enables a deductive reasoning directly relating characteristics in a modeling technique to differences in the performance of individuals who use the technique. A deductive approach suggests a reason why performance difference will be observed. We therefore evaluate techniques in order to test theories of how characteristics of

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

315

modeling techniques affect the eventual understanding of individuals viewing or creating models.

An Argument for Evaluation


Given the discussion just mentioned, the evaluation of techniques is perhaps best viewed in the familiar format of an argument. For example, an argument suggesting technique A is a better modeling technique than technique B might be crafted in the following manner: 1. 2. Technique A has a higher level of ontological clarity than technique B. Viewing models that are created using techniques with higher ontological clarity leads to better understanding in individuals .

Therefore: 3. Individuals viewing models created with technique A will show a higher level of understanding than individuals viewing models created with technique B.

It is useful to consider this argument carefully. The first proposition is a statement that could be verified by comparing techniques A and B to some benchmark set of constructs in an ontology or meta-model. Which ontology or meta-model is used is not important yet (we will return to this question in the next section). Gemino and Wand (2003) have identified this as a grammar-based approach to evaluation. But in and of itself, the first statement does not provide any argument as to which technique will perform better for people. It is simply a statement of fact in regards to mapping of constructs in two techniques to one set of ontological or meta-model constructs. The second proposition differs from the first because it suggests something about individuals viewing models. It is at this point that the area of IS analysis separates from that of computer science. In the IS discipline, the model viewer is an important part of the modeling process. The second proposition is not an objective fact, but rather a statement that is hopefully derived from an underlying theory about how humans perceive characteristics in models. Gemino and Wand (2003) have identified this a cognitive-based approach to evaluation. It is here, in statements such as the second proposition, that I believe the area of scope definition would be best served to focus its attention. Specifically, our research area needs theories to address why a characteristic of a modeling technique,
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

316 Gemino

such as ontological clarity, makes a difference to a model viewers understanding. While there are many forms that a statement such as the second proposition can take, none of these statements will ever be objective in the way that the first proposition can be considered objective. Statements like the second proposition can always be questioned and must be backed by theoretical arguments with as much clarity as possible. But even with a cognitive theory, a statement like the second proposition provides little comfort. It is not difficult to consider alternative theories that could argue exactly the opposite expected result from that provided in the second proposition. This is why statements such as the third proposition are so important. Without a testable hypothesis, such as that given in the third proposition, there can be little hope of advancing our understanding of how to make more effective and efficient scope definition techniques. These testable hypotheses give us an opportunity to evaluate alternative theories using empirical data. This recognition is of course nothing new, as Popper (1934/1959) attests to. This argument can therefore be generalized to provide a structure that, I argue, can underlie evaluations of systems analysis and design techniques. This argument structure generally coincides with the approach suggested in Gemino and Wand (2003). The argument is summarized in three propositions: 1. 2. 3. A consideration of characteristics of techniques being compared. A deductive statement based on theory that suggests why these characteristics will impact the dependent measure being considered. A hypothesis that is crafted so that it can be evaluated inductively.

Forming our evaluations in this way provides us with the best of both the inductive and deductive approaches. The empirical results provide us with phenomena that can address issues regarding the performance of alternative techniques. Using theory to drive our comparisons provides an opportunity to build theory and recognize principles for good design of modeling techniques.

Considerations for the Generalized Approach


One issue to consider in regards to this general approach relates to the first proposition. What is meant by an objective consideration of characteristics of

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

317

modeling techniques? Gemino and Wand (2003) have argued earlier that this comparison should be addressed using a benchmark set of constructs. I have used ontology and meta-model, interchangeably, as candidates for these benchmarks because both ontology and meta-models attempt to provide construct definition at a more abstract level than the level provided in analysis techniques. However, a similar issue to the question of Which theory? in the second proposition can be raised in the first proposition: Which ontology or meta-model should be used as a basis for comparison?. Again, each researcher faces a choice in addressing this question. The first choice in coming to this realization is perhaps the largest; and it is the issue regarding truth. The question to consider is the following: Is there one true underlying ontology (meta-model) for information systems modeling?. The researcher answering yes to this question would also likely accept that all relevant constructs for IS modeling are correctly defined in this true ontology. But at this point, the researcher would be trapped into a rather difficult problem of induction akin to proving statements such as All swans are white. These problems have generally been viewed as intractable. On the other hand, if the researcher answers no to the question above, then the researcher finds himself or herself in a problem of a different sort. If there is no true ontology (meta-model), then how can you choose between alternatives? For example, if two alternative ontologies are well-formed and each provided its own set of clearly defined constructs so there was no logical inconsistency in either definition, how can you choose between them? To address this question, the field of economics provides some insight. In this field, researchers can face comparing alternative economic theories built on different sets of assumptions but that address a similar question (Boland, 1982). Since well-formed economic theories are essentially closed worlds that are developed from founding assumptions, they are similar to ontologies and metamodels used in IS research. Some have argued that economic theories might be compared based on the realism of assumptions; however, Friedman (1953) has shown the futility of these types of arguments and instead suggests that, viewed as a language, theory has no substantive content; it is a set of tautologies. Its function is to serve as a filing system for organizing empirical material and facilitating our understanding of it (p. 7). This view of theory is similar to our view of ontologies and meta-models as languages that serve as analytical filing systems for constructs. Given this view, the question arises how we can compare alternative theories. Again Friedman (1953, p.7) provides insight:

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

318 Gemino

The answer to these questions depend partly on logical, partly on factual considerations. The canons of formal logic alone can show whether a particular language is complete and consistent, that is whether propositions in the language are right or wrong. Factual evidence alone can show whether the categories of the analytical filing system have a meaningful empirical counterpart, that is whether they are useful in analyzing a particular class of concrete problems. So the first test of any ontology or meta-model is logical completeness and consistency. This should be a relatively objective exercise. Once an ontology or meta-model has passed this logical test, it can then be used to identify differences among modeling techniques. The impact that these differences have on participants can then be hypothesized using cognitive theory and eventually tested empirically. The ontology (meta-model) that is better is the ontology that provides us with differences that lead to useful empirical results. In this case useful can be defined as results confirming both the differences identified and their significant impact on participants performance. A useful ontology would therefore provide us with a language for identifying differences between techniques. Further, a useful ontology would establish differences that were found to affect the performance of the technique in a significant way across a variety of technique comparisons. In adopting the usefulness of the ontology as the main criteria for comparison on ontologies or meta-models, the researcher adopts the conventionalist view. This view suggests that no truths are possible based on induction (inferring from data). So rather than search for truths, we compare ontologies on the basis of agreed upon conventions. Examples might include ease of use, largest number of constructs or any other criteria we see fit to use. We have argued above for the criteria of usefulness. One should note that saying ontologies are useful does not imply that they are true. It is my belief, therefore, that outside of arguing about completeness and consistency, an argument about which ontology is better on any level other than an empirical level in systems analysis and design is an exercise unlikely to bear significant academic fruit.

Conclusions
The discussion just mentioned highlights a number of important questions that researchers might consider when developing evaluations of IS scoping techniques. The questions are in no way meant to be exhaustive. Some questions not

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

319

considered in the following list, for example, are provided in Gemino and Wand (2004). The questions offered here are intended to make explicit some additional considerations relating to technique comparisons. 1. 2. 3. 4. Does the researcher allow for individual differences in understanding gained from viewing a model? Which of the four representation(s) will be considered in developing the comparison between models? Will the focus be placed on issues relating to the gulf of execution and/or on the gulf of evaluation? In making the comparison, has the researcher clearly identified the differences between modeling techniques? Ontologies and meta-models are suggested for this purpose. In justifying these differences, has the researcher established the completeness and consistency of the ontology (meta-model)? In regards to the use of ontology (meta-model), will the researcher be relying on the convention of usefulness in regards to the use of the ontology (meta-model) or some other convention? Has the researcher been able to provide a theoretical link explaining how the differences between techniques result in different cognitive outcomes? Were the outcomes measured with an appropriate instrument? Are the results from the empirical procedures significant and meaningful?

5. 6.

7. 8. 9.

It is hoped these questions will help researchers become more aware of the choices they face in evaluating models. This awareness should help to define comparisons more precisely and perhaps begin to build a foundation with a more cumulative tradition. Weber (1997) has argued that the way forward is to develop foundations in our research area. In regards to the evaluation of techniques, I believe this begins with an understanding of the assumptions and principles underlying our techniques. It is my hope that this chapter provides some useful beginning in regards to this discussion. In addition, I hope the reader considers the broader issue of the management of scope as a context for further research into the area of IS analysis and design.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

320 Gemino

References
Allen, G.& March, S. (2003). Modeling temporal dynamics for business systems. Journal of Database Management, 14(3), 21-36. Avison, D. E. (2003, January). Information systems in the MBA curriculum: An international perspective. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 11(6), 117-127. Avison D. E. & Fitzgerald, G. (1995). Information systems development: Methodologies, techniques, and tools (2nd ed.). London: McGraw-Hill. Batra, D., Hoffer, J., & Bostrom, R. (1990, February). Comparing representations with relational and EER models. Communications of the ACM, 33(2), 126-139. Bodart, F., Sim, M., Patel, A., & Weber, R. (2001, December). Should optional properties be used in conceptual modelling? A theory and three empirical tests. Information Systems Research, 12(4), 384-405. Boland, L. A. (1982). The foundations of economic method. London: George Allen and Unwin. Burton-Jones, A. & Meso, P. (2002). How good are these UML diagrams? An empirical test of the Wand and Weber good decomposition model. In L. Applegate, R. Galliers, & J. I. DeGross (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems 2002, Barcelona, Spain, 15-18 December, 2002 (pp. 101-114). Chatzoglou, P. D. & Macaulay, L. A. (1996). Requirements capture and IS methodologies. Information Systems Journal, 6, 209-225. Friedman, M. (1953). The methodology of positive economics. In Essays in positive economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gemino, A. & Wand, Y. (2003). Evaluating modeling techniques based on models of learning. Communications of the ACM, 46(10). Gemino, A. & Wand, Y. (2004). Foundations for empirical comparisons of conceptual modeling techniques. Forthcoming in Requirements Engineering Journal, 2004. Green, P. (1996, May). An ontological analysis of information systems analysis design (ISAD) grammars in upper CASE tools. PhD thesis, Department of Commerce, University of Queensland, Australia. Ives, B., Valacich, J., Watson, R., & Zmud, R. (2002). What every business student needs to know about information systems. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 9(30).

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Issues in the Evaluation of System Analysis and Design Techniques

321

Johnson, J., Boucher, K., Connors, K., & Robinson, J. (2001, February/March). The criteria for success. Software Magazine, 21(1), s3-11. Johnson, R. A. (2002). Object-oriented system development: A review of empirical research. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 8, 65-81. National Science Board, Subcommittee on Science & Engineering. (2003). Science and engineering indicators 2002. Retrieved September 25, 2003, from http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind02/c8/c8s2.htm Oei, J. L. H., van Hemmen, L. J., Falkenberg, E. D., & Brinkkemper, S. (1992, July). The meta model hierarchy: A framework for information systems concepts and techniques. Technical report No. 92-17, Department of Informatics, Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics. Katholieke Universiteir, Nijmegen, (pp. 1-30). PMBOK 2000. (2000). Project management body of knowledge. Project Management Institute. Retrieved September 25, 2003, from http:// www.pmi.org/info/PP_PMBOK2000Excerpts.asp Popper, K. (1934/1959). Logic of scientific discovery. New York: Science Editions. Siau, K. L., Wand, Y., & Benbasat, I. (1997). Information modeling and cognitive biases An empirical study on modeling experts. Information Systems, 22(2&3), 155-170. Standish Group. (1999). CHAOS: A recipe for success. Retrieved July 15, 2004, from http://www.standishgroup.com/sample_research/PDFpages/ chaos1999.pdf Topi, H. & Ramesh, V. (2002). Human factors research on data modeling: An extended framework and future research directions. Journal of Database Management, 13(2), 3-20. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1993). On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. Journal of Information Systems, 3, 217-37. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (1995). On the deep structure of information systems. Journal of Information Systems, 5, 203-223. Wand, Y. & Weber, R. (2002). Research commentary: Information systems and conceptual modeling A research agenda. Information Systems Research, 13(4), 363-376. Weber, R. (1997). Ontological foundations of information systems (Accounting Research Methodology Monograph No. 4). Melbourne, Australia: Coopers and Lybrand.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

322

Wyssusek & Klaus

Chapter XII

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design:


Extending the Scope of the Discussion

Boris Wyssusek, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Helmut Klaus, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Abstract
Ontology has attracted considerable attention in information systems analysis and design (ISAD) research. Ontology is philosophy and bears its own substance and history of debates, which quite often have not been accounted for in information systems research. A more comprehensive consideration of well-known philosophical issues of ontology may help to apprehend precisely the transfer of ontological concepts into ISAD, including insights regarding their limitations and to articulate directions

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design

323

towards further research. In particular, this requires expanding of the scope of current debates in information systems towards the sociophilosophical aspects of ontology. Only then, it will be possible to determine whether ontology can direct the project of theoretical foundation for ISAD. An outline of the critique of the prevailing rationalistic methodical understanding of information systems development in contemporary IS literature illustrates how the indiscriminating borrowing of philosophical presuppositions has encumbered current understandings. Critical reflection upon these presuppositions can get over persuasions and bring about theorisation.

Introduction
In the last two decades, ontology and ontologies have attracted enduring attention in the field of information systems research and practice, especially in the domain of information systems analysis and design (e.g., Checkland, 1981; Boland, 1982; Winograd & Flores, 1986; Wand & Weber, 1988; Floyd, 1992; Hirschheim, Klein, & Lyytinen, 1995; Weber, 1997b; Green & Rosemann, 1999; Milton, Kazmierczak, & Thomas, 2000; Fettke & Loos, 2003; Rosemann, Vessey, & Weber, 2004). The domain of information systems analysis and design is understood to be concerned with the analysis of real world systems the determination of changes that should occur in the real world after the introduction or modification of an information system, and finally, based upon the elicited requirements, the design of information systems. Thus, of all domains within information systems research and practice, information systems analysis and design (ISAD) has the most and the strongest ties to the world out there. The process of ISAD is embedded in the whole systems development life cycle, that is, a methodical process that covers all activities from the identification of problems and opportunities to the implementation and evaluation of the system (Kendall & Kendall, 1992, pp. 66). In this context, information systems are commonly seen as representational systems, that is, systems that represent facts about the outside world. This presupposes knowledge of what there is to be represented, and how to represent it. Consequently, research on ISAD has turned to the philosophical discipline of ontology that is concerned with being and what exists. It is generally acknowledged that the central activity of analysis and design of information systems is modelling. In analysis, parts of the real world are described that should be represented in the information system. Correspondingly, in design certain characteristics of the information system to be developed are
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

324

Wyssusek & Klaus

described in models. In contrast to the arts, where modelling is understood as a highly creative and intuitive activity, modelling in the context of ISAD, conforming to the concept of the overall systems development life-cycle, is generally regarded as a methodical process, that is, following generally agreed upon and prescribed steps. The emphasis on, and the importance of modelling for ISAD is conspicuously demonstrated by the abundance of modelling methods, the continuous efforts of improving them and developing new ones. However, beyond modelling methods themselves, there is hardly any theoretical foundation for ISAD. This deficit has given rise to the interest of the ISAD research community in ontology and ontologies (e.g., Wand & Weber, 1988). Ontology is prestigious as a philosophical discipline, with tradition, famous individuals, a host of literature, and high reputation in the general scientific community. It thus opens the possibility for information systems research to draw on the findings of other well-established disciplines. However, this can be perilous without an awareness of certain limitations. Information systems researchers are seldom philosophers, which makes drawing on an unfamiliar discipline prone to the fallacies of gross misunderstandings, false analogies, simplification, and the like. Especially in philosophy, every concept comes with its own history of debates; precise definitions are rare, and to grasp fully a notion we first need to know and to understand the debates and their history. Nevertheless, engaging in philosophy is neither futile nor too laborious. In fact, it cannot be avoided, since a good part of the answer to the question why philosophy? is that the alternative to philosophy is not no philosophy, but bad philosophy. The unphilosophical person has an unconscious philosophy, which they apply in their practice whether of science or politics or daily life (Collier, 1994, p. 17). Unconscious philosophy does not mean that every man is a philosopher by default. It only means that every man has the potential to think and to engage in philosophy. Gramsci (1971) holds that philosophy is not only the business of people called philosophers; on the contrary, language that is given to all humans, always deals with meaning of notions and concepts; every human shares the understanding of a community and strives to act ethically, and lives within a historically given structure of habits, rites and beliefs. Thus, in any intellectual activity and mentation, the human being, irrespective of it being explicit or not, enacts a specific understanding of world. For Gramsci (1971) then, when thinking becomes a conscious activity, thought is immediately connected to an ethical question, namely Is it better to think, without having a critical
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design

325

awareness, in a disjointed and episodic way? (p. 324). In refuting the conscious adoption of imposed worldviews, Gramscis everymans thinking or philosophy cannot be but critical, since only then genuine awareness, action and participation in the world can emerge. This calls to mind that even more, when dealing with philosophical views, circumspection is required, or a critical approach. As the meaning of ontology and ontologies is bound to the respective philosophical doctrines used as horizons of interpretation, not only their immediate consequences for the understanding of ontology and ontologies must be paid attention to, but also to seemingly more distant consequences that are implicated in a particular doctrine, for example, ethical consequences. One common understanding of ontology and ontologies in the ISAD literature is based on the ontology of Mario Bunge (1977, 1979, 1993), which, alas, hardly finds support in contemporary philosophy and sociology. Thus, Bunges philosophical doctrine determines a horizon of interpretation that is rather detached from contemporary discourses on the social world. If Bunges ideas were followed consistently in unfolding a conceptual foundation for information systems, this foundation would be precluded to relate to current thinking, and would make its communication within the IS community and beyond rather taxing. Moreover, maintaining a dialogue with neighbouring disciplines, such as organisation theory, would be onerous likewise. In other words, the uncritical adoption of Bunges ontology restricts understanding of world to a particular doctrine that is solitary. This in turn narrows the perspective to such an extent that limitations as well as ethical consequences of the application of his ontology cannot be questioned. Its proponents may have already forfeited a discriminative concern with that doctrine, while there is little chance that clear-sighted comments from beyond this circle may ever be voiced. Yet, the issue is not supplanting Bunges ontology with another one. Rather, critical approaches that are already extant in contemporary information systems research proffer plenty of opportunities to engage in critical reflection on ontology as foundation for ISAD. For example, when following HabermaS (1972), the ontological foundation of information systems analysis and design should not solely be guided by an instrumental-technical or a practical-hermeneutical cognitive interest, but also by an emancipatory interest. In brief, methods have given rise to the interest in ontology in information systems research, and methods are also of interest in philosophy. By critically reconnecting the information systems discourse on method with that of philosophy and the question of language, we expect to make space for discussions on the meaning of ontological foundation of information systems analysis and design.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

326

Wyssusek & Klaus

Setting the Scene


Since the famous NATO conference in 1968, the information systems research community has been familiar with the notion of software crisis (Naur & Randell, 1969). Plagued by the ever-increasing complexity of hardware and software, the development of reliable, effective, and efficient information systems had become the major challenge for researchers and practitioners alike. It was also on the occasion of this very conference that the notion of software engineering was introduced. The phrase software engineering was deliberately chosen as being provocative, implying the need for software manufacture to be based on the types of theoretical foundations and practical disciplines, that are traditional in the established branches of engineering (Naur & Randell, 1969, p. 13). Today, it is generally acknowledged that this conference was the birth of the discipline of software engineering, although in its early days, the phrase software engineering was of a metaphorical nature rather than an actual description of the state of affairs. Nevertheless, engineering was identified as the silver bullet to (almost) all the problems encountered when engaging in the development of complex hardware and software systems.

Methodism in Software Engineering


What is engineering? Definitions of engineering abound, yet share some common clauses: Creating cost-effective solutions to practical problems by applying scientific knowledge to building things in the service of mankind (Shaw, 1990, p. 15). Obviously, the difference between craft or art and engineering rests on the application of scientific knowledge. Analogously to Ryles (1949) distinction between knowing-that (declarative knowledge) and knowing-how (procedural knowledge), scientific knowledge can be characterised as comprised of two different, yet complementary types: knowledge about the subject matter under investigation the ultimate goal of science and knowledge about how to achieve this goal. Thus, the latter type of knowledge is about means-ends-relationships, and when codified describes a specification of steps which must be taken, in a given order, to achieve a given end (Caws, 1967, p. 339). In general, we refer to such a specification as method, derived from the Greek (meta: along) and (odos: way) following a way. With Descartes (1637), the application of the appropriate method of inquiry became the guarantor for obtaining truth. When engineering makes use of scientific knowledge, it draws on knowledge about the subject matter and on knowledge about means-ends-relationships, that is, methods. However, whereas in the realm of science the goal of applying (or following) a method is to gain knowledge, in the realm of engineering the goal is building things. Reaching this
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design

327

goal is supposedly ensured in the tradition of Cartesianism when using the appropriate method: The predisposition to believe in the power of methodologies comes from Descartes who proposed that truth is more a matter of proper method than genial insight or divine inspiration (Hirschheim et al., 1995, p. 21). Even before Descartes had spelt out the dominance of method in the production of knowledge, the obsession of academics with method had already become a target of scathing polemics: Method no word is more popular in our lectures these days, none more often heard, none gives off a more delightful ring than that term. Everything else, if you use it often enough, will end by nauseating your readers. This is the only thing that never makes them sick. If you leave it out, they think the feast you set before them is disgustingly seasoned and poorly prepared. If you use it often, they will believe that anything you give them is the ambrosial and nectared food of the gods (Turnbe, 1600; quoted in Ong, 1958, p. 228). The sheer abundance of methods available and applied these days in software engineering means that the metaphor software engineering has been taken seriously and now appears as a description. Methodical software development is the state-of-the-art in the field. Still the question remains: Have the expectations been met? Recurring failures in the development of information systems (Standish Group, 1994, 2003; Boustred, 1997), the persistence of the software crisis (Gibbs, 1994), as well as the productivity paradox (Brynjolfsson, 1993; Attewell, 1994; Strassmann, 1997) point towards a negative answer. But why? Ever since the emergence of the discipline software engineering, information systems development has been understood as a planned, deliberate activity bounded in time and carried out in a systematic and orderly way (Bansler & Havn, 2003, p. 51). In other words, it has been understood as a methodical process, to an extent that the modern concept of method has been so strongly impressed on our thinking about systems development, that the two concepts, information systems development and information systems development method, are completely merged in systems development literature (Truex, Baskerville, & Travis, 2000, p. 56). In contrast, empirical findings question the very idea of methodical information systems development, since methods are often unsuitable for some individuals (Naur, 1993) and settings (Baskerville, Travis, & Truex, 1992). Similar methods in similar settings yield distinctly different results (Turner, 1987).
Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

328

Wyssusek & Klaus

Developers may claim adherence to one method while ignoring this method in actual practice (Bansler & Bdker, 1993) (Truex et al., 2000, p. 54). Consequently, Floyd (1992) criticises the disciplines view of methods as rules laying down standardized working procedures to be followed without reference to the situation in hand or the specific groups of people involved (p. 86). This suggests that while research has been preoccupied with method, it has simultaneously neglected (or ignored) the amethodical aspects of information systems development, as explained by Truex et al. (2000): When the idea of method frames all of our perceptions about systems development, then it becomes very difficult to grasp its non-methodical aspects (p. 74). In a similar vein, Bansler and Havn (2003) note that these aspects become marginalized and practically invisible, [for example,] how ISD is subject to human whims, talents and the personal goals of the managers, designers and users involved (p. 51). Truex et al. (2000), subjecting texts on information systems development to Derridas (1978, 1982) deconstructive approach, demonstrate the antagonism between privileged methodical and marginalised amethodical text (Table 1).

Rationalism and Post-Rationalism


Methodical texts are a product of classical rationalist thought (Winograd & Flores, 1986, p. 14). Specifically, software development in the tradition of rationalism rests on the following assumptions:

There is a given reality out there which we come across during software development. By analysing the facts of this reality, we obtain requirements for the software. The essential task of the software developer is starting from the problem defined in that reality to find a correct solution in the form of a program system. It is possible to separate the production of software from its use. Software engineering is concerned with the production of software on the basis of fixed requirements. Software production is based on models representing reality. Models should map reality correctly. The whole process is largely independent of individuals. For one and the same problem, different developers should arrive

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design

329

at the same results. The developers should be interchangeable.

Communication should be restricted and regulated via fixed interfaces. The division of labour can be worked out on an ad hoc basis. Subject to technical feasibility, any desired parts of the production process can be automated. The developers responsibility covers only proper construction of the product in accordance with the requirements specification. Any ethical considerations that go beyond this are quite separate from the technical aspects of the work (Floyd, 1992, p. 89).

Table 1. Assumptions and ideals of methodical and amethodical texts (Truex et al., 2000, p. 59)
Privileged methodical text 1. Information systems development is a managed, controlled process idealizing logical decomposition reductionism 3. Information systems development is a linear, sequential process idealizing temporal causal chain Marginalized amethodical text 2. Information systems development is random, opportunistic process driven by accident idealizing holism creativity 4. Information systems development processes are simultaneous, overlapping and there are gaps idealizing fragmentation parallelism disconnectedness 6. Information systems development occurs in completely unique and idiographic forms idealizing choice change adhocracy 8. Information systems development is negotiated, compromised and capricious idealizing conflict social constructivism human independence

5. Information systems development is a replicable, universal process idealizing generalization consistency formalisms 7. Information systems development is a rational, determined, and goal-driven process idealizing goal predetermination process predetermination human cooperation

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

330

Wyssusek & Klaus

This rationalist thought is still guiding information systems research, despite having been confronted with strong criticism (Introna, 1996; Ciborra, 1998), whereas various other disciplines have already adopted post-rationalist or postpositivist thought that had emerged in philosophy during the past century. Of pertinence for ISAD is the prevalence of new thought in the neighbouring domains of organisation and management theory. Here, Burrell and Morgan (1979) have conceptualised sociological paradigms. In following them, the ontological and epistemological assumptions of post-positivist social-constructivist thought (applied to ISAD) have been rendered by Hirschheim et al. (1995): The epistemology is that of anti-positivism reflecting the belief that the search for causal, empirical explanations for social phenomena is misguided and should be replaced by the will and need to make sense of oneself and the situation. The ontology is that of nominalism (constructivism) in that reality is not a given, immutable out there but is socially constructed. It is the product of the human mind. Object systems emerge as part of the ongoing reality construction and the act of bounding the scope of object systems and defining requirements contributes to the ongoing process of sense making. The paradigm, social relativism, focuses on understanding social phenomena and is primarily involved in explaining the social world from the viewpoint of the organizational agents who directly take part in the social process of reality construction (p. 75). There is obviously a nexus between theory and practice of software development; for example, Hirschheim et al. (1995) argued that in the history of information systems development, methodologies and the respective approaches have always been informed by (socio-)philosophical foundations. This means for the proposal of new theoretical foundations for systems analysis and design (methods), that it must be informed by the outcome of past discourses; otherwise it would run the risk of repeating the past in an unreflected manner. Every effort towards the development of theoretical and, especially, ontological foundations of information systems analysis and design must therefore enter into a dialogue with past discourses. The pertinence of such a dialogue is exemplified in the following.

Copyright 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

Ontological Foundations of Information Systems Analysis and Design

331

Modelling With or Without Philosophical Presuppositions?


In a critique of a proposal by Hirschheim et al. (1995) for a less dogmatic approach to ISAD, Weber (1997a) denies the link between data modelling approaches and philosophical