How do we solve the interoperability question ?

For realizing integration between business processes and -systems it is of great importance that a solution is found for the interoperability question. The core of the issue is the lack of information interoperability between business support systems. For years it is one of the mitigating factors in the realization of inter-enterprise collaborative business processes and information exchanges.

For overcoming the problems surrounding the transformation of information elements between different standards, the last few years two approaches are worked out:
- de UN/CEFACT Core Components Technical Specification (CCTS)

- Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF)

The UN/CEFACT Core Components Technical Specification (CCTS) is a syntax-neutral methodology for developing a common collection of semantic building blocks of information elements. The Core Components Technical Specification is based on ISO 15000-5 (ebXML Core Components Technical Specification).

This specification wants to provide a solution-oriented approach for the well-known interoperability question. The Core Components Technical Specification defines a semantic basis for XML Standards.

The specification focuses on two areas:

- Core Components (CC’s):
Core Components are semantic building blocks, conceptual in nature, for developing data- and information models.

- Business Information Entities (BIE’s):
Business Information Entities are context-specific applications or expressions of conceptual core components within a business domain. BIE’s are always derived from CC’s.

The UN/CEFACT develops and maintains a universal Core Component Library (CCL) that is freely available to the entire Core Component community. The UN/CEFACT would like to make a contribution to improving and simplifying the way parties beyond corporate boundaries (applications and systems) and domains (sectors) exchange information with each other. The Core Component Library contains only Business Information Entities.

A number of important principles and rules that should be endorsed are:

- The use of the Dictionary Entry Name (DEN):
The Dictionary Entry Name (DEN) is the unique official name of a Core Component and of a Business Information Entity in the dictionary. The CCTS prescribes that the Oxford English Dictionary shall be followed for the naming convention (Dictionary Entry Name).

- Assigning Unique Identifiers to instances of Core Components:
The Unique Identifier ensures that a Core Component and a Business Information Entity can be referenced in a unique way.

To ban all interoperability problems permanently standardization institutes should adhere to the CCTS approach and rules. Moreover the Core Components of these institutes should be included in the Core Component Library (CCL) with a unique identifier.

Only then it is possible to establish straightforward and possibly in the future automatic transformations between different standards. The standards that are currently based on the CCTS have for the greater part complied with the development and use of Core Components and Business Information Entities.

XML Standards based on the Core Components Technology Specification are among others:
- OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL)
- Open Applications Group (OAGIS)
- UN/CEFACT

Unfortunately the institutions assign different names to Business Information Entities that represent the same objects. Thus it remains difficult to draw unique and uniform transformation rules.

The other approach that can be followed is that of the Open Group, the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF). The Universal Data Element Framework is an implementation of the naming conventions as specified by the International Standardization Organization for Metadata Registries (MDR) in the document ISO/IEC 11179. The UN/CEFACT Core Components Technology Specification naming convention rules are also based on the ISO 11179 specification.

The UDEF is a method for categorizing information elements by means of assigning an alphanumeric key (tag) and a simple name to the data. The full UDEF ID of an information element is determined by looping through the UDEF Tree which consists of Objects and Properties.

For the information element Purchase Order Document Number this results into:
UDEF Tag = “d.t.2_8” and the UDEF Name = “purchase.order.document_identifier”.

The tree structure of the Object “Purchase Order Document” is composed of:
Document (tag 2)
- Order (tag t).
- Purchase (tag d).

The tree structure of the Property is composed of:
Identifier (tag 8 )

To get a better view of, on the one hand, the complexity of the use of the CCTS by different standardization institutes and on the other hand the problems of drafting transformation rules I will work out the transformation of an invoice into different standards on the basis of UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice (CII) specification drawn up by the UN/CEFACT in collaboration with different industry sectors.

Read more in my bloart: Transformation definitions for the electronic invoice.

Tags: electronic data interchange, UDEF, CCTS, UN/CEFACT

Last update: 26-11-2011

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