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HYPERCUBE Ltd 7 CURTAIN RD, LONDON EC2A 3LT. Business Domain Modelling Principles . Theory and Practice. Mike Bennett, Hypercube Ltd. Overview. Business requirements and semantics Business Semantics Theory Development process grounding Philosophical grounding

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Business Domain Modelling Principles

Theory and Practice

Mike Bennett, Hypercube Ltd.

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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  • Business requirements and semantics

  • Business Semantics Theory

    • Development process grounding

    • Philosophical grounding

  • Implementing for Financial services

  • Recommendations

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Top Down DevelopmentSummary of Stages

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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UML based top down development

  • Requires business semantics to be modelled in UML

    • Unextended UML does not model business meaning

    • Extensions can be added but these are not in basic UML

      • Add own extensions

      • Use standard extensions for business meaning

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Going beyond UML

  • Zachman Framework

    • Structural and Behavioural aspects of the development project

    • Corresponding structural and behavioural aspects of the business problem domain

  • This has a spot on it for business semantics of data

    • This is where the theory and practice of ontologies and taxonomies comes in

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Top Down Development and Model Driven Architecture

  • Not the same thing, but similar disciplines apply

    • Decomposition of problem into solution

    • Linkages between business (requirements) and Developed material

  • Business Requirements

    • Structural: data requirements

    • Behavioural: business process

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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MDA Framework: Deliverables

  • Structural aspect (business data requirements)

    • Model business Terms, Definitions and Relationships (TDR)

    • Use Ontology approach

  • Behavioural aspect (business process)

    • High level: requirements for business parties to do business

    • Decomposes into message choreographies

    • Link this to ontology

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Philosophical Foundations

  • “We must philosophise if only to avoid philosophising” – Aristotle

  • “We must deal with ontology if only to avoid ontological mishaps” – Bennett

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Philosophical Foundations

  • There are three considerations in computer knowledge representation (Sowa, 1995):

    • Logic

    • Ontology

    • Computation

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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The Ancient Philosophers

  • Aristotle

    • Knowledge representation

    • Logic Representation

    • Invented the Variable

  • Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Russel & Whitehead etc.

    • Logic Representation

  • Peirce, Whitehead etc.

    • Ontology

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Hierarchical categorisation of concepts in the domain of discourse


Adds descriptions, properties and restrictions to the concepts in a taxonomy

The properties include relationships among concepts

These definitions are based on the best available from academia.

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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What is an Ontology?

  • an ontology is a model which has:

    • Formal explicit description of concepts in a domain of discourse (referred to as Classes)

    • Properties of each concept (class) describing features and attributes (known variously as slots, properties or roles)

    • Restrictions on those properties (known as facets).

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Ontology Principles

  • Set theory - determine what object, from the set of all possible things, is in this class

  • Uses Predicate logic to define this

    • some ontology tools use the original Predicate Calculus notations (Russell et al)

    • some tools represent this in natural language

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Ontology and Taxonomy

  • Provides the predicates for logic to operate on

  • “Ontological commitment”

    • Deciding what will be represented in your ontology

    • This will be a taxonomic hierarchy of Classes with Generalisation (OO Inheritance) relationships

      • can be represented in UML or in RDFS (Taxonomy) or OWL (ontology)

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Putting Ontology into Practice

  • Ontological commitment: what goes into the taxonomy

    • Need a Taxonomy before you can do an ontology,


    • the classes in the Taxonomy must be ones that would make sense in a complete ontology

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Creating an Ontology

  • Define the Taxonomy

    • in RDFS (standard taxonomy format)

    • or create in UML using inheritance only, and import into Ontology tool

  • Promote Taxonomy classes to ontology hierarchy

    • commit the relevant classes to be sub-classes of owl:Thing in the ontology tool

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Ontology in Practice:What you will see in an ontology tool

  • Namespaces

  • Classes of “Thing”

    • Generalisation relationships

    • Disjoints

  • Properties

    • Object Property

    • Attribute Property

    • Annotation Property

  • Property Characteristics

    • Adds more semantics to the properties

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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“What is a Thing?”

  • Financial Instrument

  • Issuance Terms (a contractual kind of thing)

  • Cash Flows

  • Equity

  • Debt

    • (are these sub-types of a general kind of thing?)

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Possible Classes of Thing

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Expanding the Taxonomy

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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What is an Equity?

"An equity is a financial instrument setting out a number of terms which define rights and benefits to the holder in relation to their holding a portion of the equity within the issuing company".

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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What is an Equity?

Or to put it another way…


Financial Instrument

Instrument Terms

In relation to

Is a kind of

Has rights defined in

Equity security

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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What is an Equity?

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Developing the Ontology

  • We can expand on the above to define more information about our reality, such as the characteristics of different classes of equity

  • Each attribute and relationship adds information to define what qualifies a thing as uniquely belonging to a given class

  • Ontology uses set theory and predicate logic to determine what is in what class.

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Notes on these views

  • The above views are taken from the tool “TopBraid Composer”

  • This uses the OWL language but gives a more graphical representation than other tools such as Protégé

  • The Predicate Calculus is hidden away under the hood but it is still there.

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Extending UML

  • Can extend UML to support OWL

    • OMG Recommendation

    • OWL Extensions

  • The same principles of taxonomy and ontology apply

  • Can be consumed by MDA efforts

  • Will not have all the powers of an ontology tool

    • use for representation not for processing

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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  • Use OWL Ontology language for business semantics

  • Use RDFS to capture Taxonomy initially

    • Need guidelines for identifying taxonomic categories

  • Extend to OWL as required

    • Either in extended UML or native OWL

    • Determine best business review format

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Standards Based Taxonomies

  • Some standards provide a true taxonomy already

    • e.g. ISO 10962 (Classification of Financial Instruments)

    • should not be duplicated by parallel structures in your own model

    • should plug in to a Taxonomy as a distinct category of Thing

  • Other standards do not…

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Summary: Principles

  • Representing business knowledge requires a different approach from representing data

  • Define a taxonomic hierarchy of separate categories of real-world “Thing” at the outset

  • Relationships can be added to define an ontology of the business domain

    • As long as they only have business meaning

  • Define the reality ahead of any design or development

    • Good development = weak semantics

    • Don’t try and use a technology format (UML, XML) to represent business semantics. Use the best of breed for each requirement.

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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  • Protégé

    • Freeware

    • Good for logical statements

  • TopBraid Composer

    • Open Source and inexpensive

    • Good graphical views

  • UML Editors (MagicDraw, EA)

    • Can be extended to represent OWL

    • Easier to link into MDA framework

      • But would not have all the powers of an OWL tool

Business Domain Modelling Principles

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Mike Bennett

Hypercube Ltd.

7 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3LT

020 7917 9522

Business Domain Modelling Principles