Purpose – The purpose of this research is to articulate an analysis framework and a method for the cross-national business-to-business integration electronic commerce (B2Bi EC) by exploring an ontology-assisted schema and semantics resolution in the business process alignment with electronic commerce standards. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents an ontology-assisted analysis method and alignment model in the implementation of the B2B electronic commerce standard specification over the existing trading partners’ public processes in the syntactic and semantic integration and interoperability. An application of the Unified Modeling Language is made to analyze the public process in the domain and in the standard. Terms, concepts, relations, and links are created from the analysis results and converted into an ontology representation. Web Ontology Language is introduced to formulate the analyzed knowledge and experience to align the domain and the standard. There are correspondences and conflicts in the process of alignment. They are resolved via the shared and reusable ontology which is a convergence of the domain ontology and the standard ontology. The converged and shared ontology is achieved via a set of rules and heuristics that are created in the research. Findings – The key of success in the B2Bi EC lies in the ability to accomplish the process interoperability and the schema comparability. Three main tasks have to be achieved to fulfill the requirements. This research constructs a prototype to implement the method. The prototype is used to illustrate the feasibility and validity of the method. A set of starter experiments has been conducted in use of a straight-through example of a purchase order process in the alignment with the RosettaNet standard and the ebXML standard. The starter experiment serves as the baseline to demonstrate that the method is feasible and valid. Originality/value – A syntactic and semantic analysis method and alignment model are developed and demonstrated in the research. Integration and interoperability are accomplished in use of the systematic and analytic method.
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An ontology-assisted analysis in
aligning business process with
Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA and
Department and Graduate School of Accountancy, College of Commerce,
National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China, and
WPI Group, IT Division, Nankang, Taiwan, Republic of China
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to articulate an analysis framework and a method for the
cross-national business-to-business integration electronic commerce (B2Bi EC) by exploring an
ontology-assisted schema and semantics resolution in the business process alignment with electronic
Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents an ontology-assisted analysis method and
alignment model in the implementation of the B2B electronic commerce standard speciﬁcation over the
existing trading partners’ public processes in the syntactic and semantic integration and
interoperability. An application of the Uniﬁed Modeling Language is made to analyze the public
process in the domain and in the standard. Terms, concepts, relations, and links are created from the
analysis results and converted into an ontology representation. Web Ontology Language is introduced
to formulate the analyzed knowledge and experience to align the domain and the standard. There are
correspondences and conﬂicts in the process of alignment. They are resolved via the shared and reusable
ontology which is a convergence of the domain ontology and the standard ontology. The converged and
shared ontology is achieved via a set of rules and heuristics that are created in the research.
Findings – The key of success in the B2Bi EC lies in the ability to accomplish the process
interoperability and the schema comparability. Three main tasks have to be achieved to fulﬁll the
requirements. This research constructs a prototype to implement the method. The prototype is used to
illustrate the feasibility and validity of the method. A set of starter experiments has been conducted in
use of a straight-through example of a purchase order process in the alignment with the RosettaNet
standard and the ebXML standard. The starter experiment serves as the baseline to demonstrate that
the method is feasible and valid.
Originality/value – A syntactic and semantic analysis method and alignment model are developed
and demonstrated in the research. Integration and interoperability are accomplished in use of the
systematic and analytic method.
Keywords Business planning, Electronic commerce, Integration, Extensible Markup Language
Paper type Research paper
1. Research background
Internet has changed the way business conducted between companies worldwide.
Firms are now used to exchange business information electronically over internet.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
This research is supported by National Science Council. The grant no is NSC 94-2416-H-004-018-.
The authors wish to thank the journal reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments and
Industrial Management & Data
Vol. 107 No. 3, 2007
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Since, the mid-1990s, wave after wave of web technology standards emerge to support the
electronic business information exchange. Standards like Extensible Markup Language
(XML), internet electronic data exchange (I-EDI), RosettaNet, ebXML, Web Ontology
Language (OWL), and semantic web surge and sweep electronic commerce worldwide
(RosettaNet Consortium, 2006; ebXML business process speciﬁcation schema (BPSS), 2006;
OWL, 2004). These standards impact on contemporary corporations in many aspects.
These standards are proposed to provide a uniform way of business information exchange
mechanisms. Semantic not syntactic integration emerges to be the issue that hinders the
plan and progress of business-to-business integration electronic commerce (B2Bi EC),
which in turn causes time, cost, and reinvention every time there is a change in the public
process, there is a change in the standard, and there is a change in the partnership.
The traditional method to tackle the issue can be divided into the programming (ad hoc)
approach and the mapping table (syntactic) method. The programming approach solves
the problem in a one to one fashion but the result easily becomes the unmanageable
“spaghetti” chaos. The mapping table seems to be an easy and convenient approach.
However, it only deals with the speciﬁc data values not the data deﬁnition. An
exponentially growing number of trading partners emerge in B2Bi EC. Programming is no
longer an effective and ﬂexible way. Mapping table is too primitive and inadequate.
The new complexity of data semantic in the business information exchange makes both
approaches even harder to tackle the problem (Stojanovic et al., 2002). We believe that
internet growth makes B2Bi climb to a higher level of exchange, that is, the exchange of
business meanings and business constraints. A knowledge-intensive and
system-to-system semantic integration model and method is in need.
2. Research issue
B2Bi is to exchange business information between different ﬁrms and interoperate the
public processes over internet. The traditional ways of trading include telephone, fax,
and e-mail. These approaches introduce faults, redundancies, and wastes. Electronic
data interchange is a 1990s and transaction-based approach. However, the change of
EDI speciﬁcation is neither on line or real time. EDI lacks the ability to quickly respond
to business changes and suffers from the scalability in the presence of an exponentially
growing number of users. Internet EDI is the next stage of B2Bi development. And new
B2Bi standards have been proposed based on XML. They indeed provide a more on
line and real time method than traditional EDI. However, companies still struggle with
the difﬁculty of heterogeneity and interoperability in the exchange and execution of
processes and protocols. In essence, an enhanced approach needs to provide the
technology compatibility and the knowledge representation.
Electronic commerce within and across national boundaries is universal. Most ﬁrms
if not all have problems in one way or another with business process integration and
business model interoperability. On both methodological and pragmatic levels, due to
increasing diversity in web pages, web services, data sources, and programming
languages in all countries, developing an analysis framework of cross-national B2Bi
resolution is important at international, national, and intra-national levels. This study
will develop an analysis framework and a method to explore the way integration and
interoperability over schema and semantics can be achieved in B2Bi EC. The dynamics
of internet and intelligence of XML and ontology interplay with inter-organizational
context, making it a base for exploring the model and method.
Various approaches have been proposed to study B2Bi issues. However, they lack
the process perspective and the semantic representation. Their interoperability is
based on ad hocracy. Much is needed in the systematic and methodological
enhancement. This research intends to tackle the inadequacy of B2Bi standard
implementation in forms. An ontology-assisted analysis framework is created to
reconcile and represent the conﬂicts and correspondences in the B2Bi EC issue. Based
on the literature, in general, B2Bi framework has three fundamental layers to deal with
(Cut et al., 2002; Gasevic et al., 2004). They are the communication layer, the content
layer, and the process layer. These layers represent the important mechanism and
management in B2Bi such as the coupling among partners, the autonomy, and the
security. In essence, they mean the speciﬁcations of the message formats, the transport
protocol, the procedure, and the security mechanism.
3. Research method
3.1 Analysis-driven ontology modeling
The research structure shown in Figure 1 is the analysis framework we present in the
paper to illustrate the model and the method to be developed and deployed in the B2Bi
EC standards implementation. The framework is made up of the Uniﬁed Modeling
An ontology-assisted B2Bi
EC alignment and
Represent XML and
Data and Process,
“as-is” using UML
Merge Ontologies, “to-be”
Standards’ Data and
Process using UML
Ontology using UML
Ontology using UML
Test XML and Ontologies
Cross Trading Partners’ Biz Model and Process EC Standards’ Biz Model and Process
Language, the XML, and the ontology technologies. Business process interoperability
and business data integration are considered the antecedents to B2Bi strategies.
More in the framework, a set of analysis procedures are proposed. We analyze the
cross-national business partners’ data schema and process model. We examine the
electronic commerce standard in the aspect of data semantics and process semantics.
A set of heuristics and rules will be created to represent the above analyzed process
models and data schema in form of syntax and semantics. The partners’ and the
standards’ ontologies will be separately developed using the rules and the heuristics.
We will merge these ontologies in order to reconcile their conﬂicts and
correspondences. The resulting merged ontologies are tested by the prototype system.
In the end, we hope there is an evolution step to be undertaken to reuse the resulting
ontologies. The trading partners can share the domain knowledge in the future
standard implementation. The following subsections describe the procedures of the
analysis framework and are divided into step A through step D. Step A develops
the domain ontology of the ﬁrm and of the trading partners. Step B creates the domain
ontology of the standards. Step C focuses on the ontology knowledge representation for
the ﬁrm and for the trading partners. Step D creates the ontology knowledge
representation of the standards.
3.2 Step A – ﬁrm public process ontology, “as-is”
3.2.1 To analyze the current business process, “as-is”. If we want to analyze the current
process, in general, we initiate a meeting. The meeting participants include the process
owners and the process users. Through interviewing users, we discover detailed
information about the current processes. The detail information contains the process
goal, the process ﬂow, the process user role, the process input, the process output and
others. This information should be minuted. According to the meeting minutes, we
draw the UML diagrams. If we understand the current processes more, we can
represent the process as in UML without losing its semantics.
3.2.2 To design the use case diagram. Before we draw a use case diagram, we have
to gather data. We analyze the process actors, the process preconditions, and the
process ﬂow to ﬁll out an analysis form. Take the purchase order (PO) as an example.
There should be two actors in the PO process: buyer and seller. Before the buyer orders
something, the seller makes a request for a quote document from the seller ﬁrst. Then, if
the buyer accepts the quote, he sends a PO to the seller. When the seller receives the
PO, the seller conﬁrms the order. This scenario is the common and simple one.
3.2.3 To design the sequence diagram. In a sequence diagram, we try to discover all
messages that are exchanged in a business process and in the PO. It can be extracted
from the use case diagram and the meeting minutes. In the PO example, the PO
Request is the ﬁrst message to be sent from the buyer to the seller. When the seller
receives the order request, the seller should check the inventory to determine whether
the ﬁrm can fulﬁll that PO or not. Then the PO Conﬁrmation is the next message to be
sent from the seller to the buyer.
3.2.4 To design the activity diagram. An activity diagram can show the ﬂow from
one activity to another activity. It can represent the detailed process ﬂow. We should
ﬁnd the information from discussion at the meetings so as to develop the activity
diagram. We need to discover the detailed actions in the ﬂow, the initial state, and
the ﬁnal state. We then continue the PO example and ﬁnish the activity diagram.
In this example, we have three actions: request a PO, check inventory for this order,
and conﬁrm this PO.
3.2.5 To design the class diagram. We try to extract a generic class construct from
the use case diagram, the sequence diagram, and the activity diagram. Again, we move
on with the PO example. First, we work on the use case diagram. We discover four
components: the two actors and the two use cases. We take the two major elements in
the use case diagram, Actor and Use Case, to form the two classes: Actor and Activity.
Next, we extract the class Message from the sequence diagram, because the sequence
diagram describes the message ﬂow and the order ﬂow between the objects. Then, we
work on the activity diagram which consists of several actions as described above.
The class Action can be extracted.
3.3 Step B – standard public process ontology, “to-be”
3.3.1 To develop the EC-standard-compliant business process. We use four UML
diagrams to perform the work such as the use case diagram, the sequence diagram, the
activity diagram, and the class diagram. They are utilized to model an
EC-standard-compliant business process. The mapping methods between the four
diagrams are the same as in step A. The difference between steps A and B is the source
of analysis. Step A focuses on the ﬁrm existing and current public processes. We
have to collect and examine them through interviews and observations. We model the
standard processes from B2Bi EC standard speciﬁcations at step B. Some B2B
standards have the concept of process, but some do not. If they do not, we should
discuss this issue with the trading partners in order to develop a new standard process
speciﬁcation based on the B2Bi EC recommendation. Of course, some B2B standards
have adopted UML diagrams to present their standard processes in the speciﬁcation.
We can directly use them.
3.3.2 To design the use case diagram. We develop the use case diagram based on the
B2B standard speciﬁcation. A B2B standard speciﬁcation often describes the process
purpose and the process deﬁnition in the statements. We search and extract the basic
components for a use case from the process statements.
3.3.3 To design the sequence diagram. The B2B standards should specify the
sequence of the exchanged messages. The latest standards often adopt the sequence
diagram to represent the sequence. Therefore, we use the diagram provided by
the standards. If the standards do not use UML diagrams, we still can analyze the
sequence of messages in the generic control constructs.
3.3.4 To design the activity diagram. A B2B standard should formalize the public
process ﬂow. Such formalization allows the partners to follow. We do not expect to
manage many different process ﬂows with our trading partners in the real world.
A B2B standard provides the well-deﬁned process ﬂows. We can extract and formalize
the deﬁned process ﬂow from B2B standard speciﬁcation.
3.4 Step C – ﬁrm ontology representation
3.4.1 To capture the current B2B ontologies. In this study, we propose a heuristics
approach to model the ontologies for the ﬁrms and the B2Bi EC process and message.
We build the ontology so as to describe the ﬁrms’ B2B domain knowledge. This domain
ontology contains the basic classes and properties. Every business process should ﬁt in
an ontology deﬁnition. We deﬁne the basic B2B components and properties.
3.4.2 To model the current business document ontology. We analyze the core of the
public processes performed between B2B partners. The core means the message
analysis. We then need to develop a process ontology based on the semantics of
the message analysis. The semantics refer to the context, the meaning, the terminology,
and the relationship in the business document exchange process.
3.4.3 To reconcile the current business constraints. We may have constraints on each
entity, each message, and each process. These constraints have to be converted into
OWL. After business process and document ontology being created, we move on to
build the EC standard ontology.
3.5 Step D – standard ontology representation
3.5.1 To capture the EC standard’s ontologies. To build the EC standard ontology,
we need to ﬁnd out the B2B process speciﬁcations and their business documents.
The deﬁnition of each business document is often encoded as DTD or XML Schema.
We use the schema to create this EC standard ontology.
3.5.2 To design the EC standard’s process ontology. Notice that not all EC standards
require implementing all elements in the speciﬁcations. Only the standards that are
required in the partnership will be converted into OWL classes. In this section,
we develop a set of heuristics to address the issue.
3.5.3 To model the EC standard’s document ontology per partner. The way to model
the standard document ontology is the same as above. We extract the data deﬁnition in
standard to do the conversion.
3.5.4 To reconcile the EC standard’s constraints. The standard may have
constraints on each entity, each message, and each process. The trading partners in
between may have their own practice constraints. We extract to collect them and use
the above procedures to convert them into OWL object properties.
3.6 Step E – ontology merge
When initiating and implementing a new B2B initiative, we deal with new B2B EC
standards. Different business partners and different settings occur. Though we have
the existing ontology in the ontology repository, these new differences cause the
ontology mismatch and inconsistency. We need to resolve and merge these ontologies
including functions of:
.reading in ontologies, ontology updates, and adaptations;
.viewing a speciﬁc version or a variant of an ontology;
.differentiating ontologies; and
.checking the inconsistency in the ontology combination.
In essence, the key to merge is to discover the differences and to generate the
correspondence rules between ontologies. The differences are like the instances of
the changes of class name, the addition or deletion of classes, the addition or deletion
of properties, and the mergence or split of classes. Though it is common to ﬁnd new
conﬂicts and differences between new trading partners, there are common parts as well
to take advantage of as we discuss on the repeat rate and reuse. The hard part is the more
heterogeneous the ontologies are, the larger extent of change to be implemented between
the old and the new processes. Analysis gives us the parts of the process to be changed
and installed in the coming implementation. We adopt the ontology of the B2B standard
and merge the B2B standard ontology based on the merge rules as listed in Table I.
3.7 Step F – ontology representation
We have described the ontology representation in steps C and D. The technique is used
in the merged ontology.
3.8 Step G – ontology test
To verify the ontologies merged, we consider two issues, the syntactic test and the
semantic test. We test the syntactic of ontology through the ontology tool.
It automatically validates the inconsistency of syntax. The semantic test is to discover
the inconsistency between the database schema, the business processes, and the old
version of ontology. We extract the database schema and examine the consistency
between the business ontology. We compare the consistency between the trading
agreements in order to specify the business rules. We analyze the differences between
the new ontology and the real environment. The analysis results will be used to adjust
the business process to reﬁne the merged ontology.
Figure 2 shows the steps. As described above, we ﬁrst discover the ontology
requirements in steps A and B. We then create the ontology in steps C and D. We merge
ontologies in step E. Step F gives a merged representation. Step G tests the syntax and
4. An experimental study
4.1 A prototype system
In this research, we have developed an experimental prototype that implements the
presented B2Bi ontology development method. This prototype is built to facilitate
the illustration of the feasibility and the validity of the method. In this section,
we demonstrate an application of the prototype in two main electronic commerce
standards, the RosettaNet Consortium (2006), a worldwide and vertical B2B standard;
and the ebXML BPSS (2006), an Organization for the Advancement of Structured
Information Standards (OASIS Consortium, 2005) and UN sponsored and horizontal
B2B standard. Both standards are installed worldwide because they cover the diverse
electronic commerce practices. We use these two major standards as the starter
experiments in the illustration that our new method is feasible and valid. Preliminary
experimental results show that this ontology-assisted method gives a viable resolution
to the long-standing semantic and syntactic issue in the implementation of electronic
In both experiments, we choose the PO process as the baseline to illustrate a live
case study of a large-scale semiconductor component distributor. The live case
company is called company W. Company W is the number one distributor in the Asia
Paciﬁc region since 2004. The PO process is the main business process in their B2B EC.
Company W since 2004 became quite concerned with the various EC standards to be
installed and among its cross-national suppliers and customers. The time and efforts
grow exponentially. At the same time, Company W is troubled by a needed lift to the
next level of performance of global supply chain management. And B2Bi is
the bottleneck of the performance and becomes the compelling reason to reengineer the
electronic commerce architecture.
Level Type Current (old)
(new) Conﬂict description Merge rules
Class level Schematic
None New Standard has a new class, which doest not
exist in current process
We keep the new class in the ontology. All
the properties of the new class should be
Existed None The current process exist an old class,
which does not appear in standard process
If the old class will no longer exist in the
future, we discard them; else we should add
the old class to the new ontology
Existed class New class They are with the different class names but
the same meaning
We reserve the old class A and add it to new
ontology. Then, we use the owl:sameAs to
state the two classes are equivalent.
However, we use the class B usually
Existed class New class They are with the same class name but
We keep the name of the new class.
However, we change the name of old class to
another new name
None New There are additional properties in a class We use and adopt these properties in the
Existed None There are deletion properties in a class We have to determine whether the
properties are no longer useful. If we do not
use these properties any more, we discard
them. We adjust the minimum cardinality of
these old properties to 0 because they are
not necessary properties in the new class
They are with the different property names
but the same meaning
We reserve the old property A and add it to
new ontology. Then, we use the
owl:equivalentProperty to state the two
properties are equivalent
They are with the same property name but
We keep the name of the new property.
However, we change the name of old
property to another new name
Ontology merge rules
An ontology-assisted B2Bi eCommerce prototype architecture as shown in Figure 3 is
developed in the experimental study. The B2Bi platform allows enterprises to
exchange business documents over internet. It provides various and common B2B
protocols to connect the trading partners. It provides the ability to streamline the
business process and the adapters when linking with the various enterprise
We build the research model of step A through step G into a prototype system.
The layers in the system are shown in Figure 4. The system provides a number of main
functions such as the DTD importer, the ontology editor, and the ontology display.
Figure 5 shows the structure of the functions.
An ontology-assisted B2Bi
framework (this research)
(Step A, B)
(Step C, D)
A prototype architecture
of an ontology-assisted
B2Bi eCommerce platform
Layers in the prototype
system (this research)
XML DTD Importer
DTD Business Metadata
Process Information Process
Main functions of the
prototype (this research)
Parse DTD File
4.1.1 DTD importer. DTD importer parses the DTD that speciﬁes the document format
and transfers DTD to ontology. The user can enter the output OWL ﬁle as shown in
Figure 6. This feature will transfer the ﬁle automatically. We will produce two groups
of class and one group object property. The classes are B2B_DataEntity and
B2B_ComposedDataEntity. The object property is B2B_BusinessProperty. The DTD
importer will differentiate all entities from DTD ﬁle base on the nature.
The DTD Importer also provides an ability to parse the entity’s metadata. Through
parsing the metadata, we can enrich our document ontology. This program will read
the entity information using a batch approach as shown in Figure 7.
4.1.2 Ontology editor. We build a process ontology template. The basic classes and
properties of the B2B process can use this template to develop the ontology as shown in
Figures 8 and 9. Business constraints also can be edited through the ontology.
4.2 A RosettaNet experiment
RosettaNet Consortium (2006) is a non-proﬁt consortium of more than 500
organizations working to create, implement and promote open eBusiness standards
and services. RosettaNet tries to establish a common language and a standard
processes for the electronic sharing of business information. In order to implement the
experimental scenario, we install a set of RosettaNet core speciﬁcations. We will
explain each in the following sections. These core speciﬁcations include RNIF, partner
interface process (PIP), and dictionary.
We chose the RosettaNet Partner Interface Processe(PIP)3A4, the PO request
process, to be the experimental public process, which is mostly implemented and
installed. PO process is corresponding to Company W’s sales order ﬂow. The PIP3A4
speciﬁcation provides the details of the PO process property and constraint. The
structure and content of the business documents to be exchanged in RosettaNet is
The B2B DTD plug-in
speciﬁed in DTD and XML schema. We need to build the process ontology from the
PIP speciﬁcation and to create the document ontology from the DTD and message
4.2.1 Step A – to analyze the existing business process. We analyze the current
business process of PO between Company W and its buyers. In the use case diagram,
we see two kinds of participants: company W and buyers. Company W has the partner
role of “seller” and customers play the role of “buyer.” In the sequence diagram, we see
two business documents that are exchanged. They are the “customer order” and
“customer order Ack.” There are three main activities in the sales order ﬂow such as
“send a customer order,” “check inventory” and “conﬁrm customer order.”
4.2.2 Step B – to develop the B2B EC-standard-compliant business process.
The RosettaNet speciﬁes PIP3A4 exchanging three messages such as
“PurchaseOrderRequest,” “PurchaseOrderConﬁrmation” and “ReceiptAcknowledgment.”
PIP3A4 further speciﬁes two more activities, that is, “request PO” and “conﬁrm PO.”
They represent the standards to be complied with.
4.2.3 Step C – to represent the existing ﬁrm ontology.
.To design current business process ontology. Company W and its buyers are
B2B_Partner. We add them as the instances of B2B_Partner. The instance’s
The B2B DTD importer
naming rule should be pre-established. We create the domain ontology of each
business process for company W and its buyers. In Figure 10, we show the
B2B_Process “customer order.”
.To model current business document ontology. We use the DTD importer in the
prototype to convert and store the DTD ﬁles into document ontology repository.
The converted data result is shown in Figure 11.
4.2.4 Step D – to represent B2B EC standard ontology.
.To design RosettaNet process ontology. The PIP3A4’s ontology is built from the
standard speciﬁcation. The PIP restrictions must be considered. For example, the
PIP3A4 speciﬁcation deﬁnes when to enable a buyer to issue a PO and when to
enable a seller to acknowledge the receipt of order, and even down to the line item
level. No matter how and if the order is accepted, rejected, or pending. The
provider’s acknowledgment must include the information about delivery
expectation. Further, when a provider acknowledges that a product line item on
the PO document is “pending,” the provider must later use PIP3A7, “Notify of PO
Acknowledgment” to notify the buyer when the product line item is either ﬁnally
accepted or rejected. The PIP speciﬁcation also describes the process start state
to be one of the following: PO request exists, TPA exists, requesting partner
approved, responding partner approved, buyer authorized, PO request valid, or
PO request non-repudiated as shown in Figure 12. One of the above must be
returned as the initial date started.
The basic classes of a
.To model RosettaNet document ontology. The PIP3A4’s DTD ﬁles and message
guideline give the details of each entity in the standard document. We again use
the DTD importer to convert and load the speciﬁcation. We edit the constraints
for each entity. The DTD importer can intelligently determine and set up the
business property domain and domain range properly. A RosettaNet PIP
deﬁnition can be added as the instance’s comment as shown in Figure 13.
4.2.5 Step E – to merge ontology. In the merge of ontologies, the PO has a unique
number as the identity of the order. In this experiment, the current PO number is
named “orno.” However, PIP3A4 uses the ﬁeld “ProprietaryDocumentIdentitfer” as the
PO number. We resolve the inconsistency via link analysis.
When we generate the current business ontology and the B2B standard ontology,
we can merge them in the system. Although Prote
´provides the merge, we need to
adjust the detail correspondence rules to link the relationship between two ontologies.
The ontology editor provides the test function helps us check the ontology consistency.
The PO usually has a unique number as the identity of the PO. The current order
number is named “orno.” However, PIP3A4 names the ﬁeld as
“ProprietaryDocumentIdentitfer.” We use the owl:sameAs to link these two classes
The basic properties
of a process ontology
Ontology instance creation
Existing public process
ontology (this research)
4.2.6 Step F – to represent ontology. We generate a set of HTML ﬁles that contain the
content of ontology. Users browse the ontology in a user-friendly interface. It minimizes
the risk of ontology to be altered. With the hyperlink, we can trace any related classes
4.2.7 Step G – to test ontology. We validate the ontology with the Prote
4.3 An ebXML experiment
The second experiment we have conducted is a realization of ebXML in the case of PO.
ebXML BPSS (2006) was started in 1999 and developed by the OASIS. OASIS is a
non-proﬁt, international consortium that drives the development, convergence, and
adoption of eBusiness standards. The consortium produces more web services standards
than any other organization along with standards for security, eBusiness, and
standardization efforts in the public sector and for application-speciﬁc markets. Founded
in 1993, OASIS has more than 3,500 participants representing over 600 organizations and
individualmembers in 100 countries (OASIS Consortium, 2005). ebXML is a modular suite
of speciﬁcations that enables enterprises of any size and in any geographical location to
conduct business over the internet. By using ebXML, companies can exchange business
messages, conduct trading relationships, communicate data in common terms and deﬁne
Newly generated classes
and properties (this
and register business processes. In order to implement the experimental scenario, we
install a set of ebXML core speciﬁcations. We will explain each in the following sections.
These core speciﬁcations include the business process, the core component, and the
collaboration protocol proﬁle and agreement.
Steps A, B, C from the method are similarly applied in the ebXML experiment.
The main difference is in step D where we explain the procedure of transition. The
difference is when we try to model the ebXML standard speciﬁcation in ontology.
4.3.1 To design ebXML process ontology. ebXML uses BPSS to model business
processes. In modeling the process ontology, we utilize the sequence diagram and the
activity diagram. The BPSS speciﬁcation speciﬁes a business transaction, a business
document ﬂow for the business transaction, a binary collaboration, and then a
choreography for the binary collaboration. A business transaction in ebXML is the
basic transaction unit between two partners. It consists of a requesting business
activity and a responding business activity. A binary collaboration is always executed
between two roles. They are called the authorized roles because they represent the
actors that are authorized to participate in the collaboration. A binary collaboration
consists of one or more business activities. These business activities must be
conducted between the two authorized roles in the binary collaboration.
A choreography is an ordering and sequencing of business activities within a
binary collaboration. The choreography is speciﬁed in terms of the business states and
Created instances of
the transitions between these business states. In the PO process example, we know it
has two activities: PO request action and PO conﬁrmation action. Both can be extracted
from the BPSS sample ﬁle. We further know that if the activity is authorization
required or non repudiation required. Below is the converted OWL scripts.
4.3.2 To design ebXML document ontology. The ebXML document ontology is
created in use of the ebXML core component speciﬁcation. The core component can be
used to create the classes and the properties and be converted into ontology. The
ebXML document ontology needs to incorporate existing DTD or existing XML
schema in order to support each component conversion. The ebXML core component in
the standard ontology corresponds to the basic data entity in the domain ontology.
The core component represents the same meaning as the data entity in the domain
ontology. The ebXML aggregate information entity, on the other hand, stands for
the composite data entity in the domain ontology. Because BPSS is also UML-based,
the set of UML diagram such as the use case diagram, the class diagram, the sequence
diagram, and the activity diagram our method recommends are adopted. Hence,
the correspondence and reconciliation will occur early at the analysis phase and will
be carried out in the merge of standard ontology and domain ontology. For ebXML, the
actual document deﬁnition is achieved using the ebXML core component speciﬁcations
or by some methodology external to ebXML. They in turn are converted into a DTD or
a XML Schema. BPSS speciﬁes the speciﬁcation name as “PurchaseOrderReques.dtd.”
We only need to get this DTD ﬁle and import it. A business document has three
types of components. They are the basic data entity, the composite data entity, and the
business property. The ebXML consists of: core component type (CCT), basic
information entity, and aggregate information entity. CCT are core components that
carry the actual value and have no business meaning on their own. A basic information
entity is a singular concept that has a unique business semantic deﬁnition. A basic
information entity adds a semantic meaning to a single datatype or a CCT. When CCTs
are reused in a business context, they become basic information entities. An
aggregate information entity contains two or more basic information entities
or aggregate information entities that together form a single business concept.
Each aggregate information entity has its own business semantic deﬁnition.
5.1 Research implication
The ﬁrst set of literature investigating the issues of aligning the business processes
with the B2B electronic commerce standards are described in Omelayenko (2001),
Stojanovic et al. (2002) and Bussler et al. (2002). They represent the earlier efforts
working on the programming to approach the interface between the trading processes
and new standards. This ad hoc programming approach was primitive and
exploratory. Later in the literature survey (Ding et al., 2004), the time when there were
more B2B middleware systems in the marketplace, the researches gear toward to solve
the issue of conversion and hub in the middleware system. Another important stream
of literature presented in Choy and Kim (2004), Cao et al. (2005) and Chang et al. (2006)
addresses the integration aspect of the alignment. These studies relate to ours. They
perceive the issue as a process and performance issue in the supply chain management.
In Hsieh et al. (2006) and Iyer et al. (2005), the process issue is further examined with
mathematics to model the business operation.
In 2004 and 2005, we tested new PIPs including PIP3B18, PIP3B2, and PIP4C1 in the
live case experiment. Each PIP took one to three months instead of six months as in the
prior years. The IT division assigned four full time system engineers instead of six to
deliver the implementations. Figure 14 shows the equivalent classes generated from
the PIP3A4 standard. Figure 15 shows the equivalent properties in the test.
5.2 Managerial and technical implications
We summarize the managerial and technical implications into three points:
(1) Ontology is a more powerful technology on semantics and context. A mapping
table is simple but lacks the ability to scale. It is a way of “mapping of terms” not
an approach to “mapping of sense.” Ontology allows systems to discern the
“one to one,” the “one too many,” and the “many to many” correspondences. It
allows the systems to undertake the complex conversion such as the situation
when there are same terms but with different meanings; different terms but with
same meaning; different terms but with different meanings yet close. Ontology
can support an automation of the evolution of the terms, the concepts, and the
relationships. The relationships between the new terms and the corresponding
old terms can update automatically. Ontology is the base of reasoning.
(2) The analysis framework and ontology enables the deployment of a new B2Bi
EC standard initiative to be installed and operated in an effective and efﬁcient
fashion. Though RosettaNet PIP message deﬁnes many business entities, but
there are many repeating entities in different PIPs. RosettaNet PIP3B2 is an
example of the shipment notiﬁcation process which speciﬁes 120 business
entities and properties. PIP3A4 is another example that has 143 business
entities. However, there are 59 repeating business entities between these two
PIPs. The repeat rate is above 49 percent. In fact, the more related the processes
are, the higher the repeat rate will be. We must take advantage of the repeat
rates. The repeat rate of entities between PIP3A4 and PIP3A8 is as high as
92 percent, almost identical. As new processes are continuously and constantly
added to our ontology, the ontology must become more robust. The work of
ontology creation becomes more automatic and less labor intensive. At the same
time, the new knowledge extracted from the new ontology can be captured.
Trading partners regularly collaborate and contribute to the reconciled and
merged ontology which in turn forms a semantically rich repository in support
of the reasoning, the inference, and the search of organizational learning. By
enhancing and enriching the shared ontologies, we can deploy a new B2Bi EC
initiative in a more effective and efﬁcient manner.
(3) A special function to transfer data model from DTD and XML schema to OWL
is useful. A prototype of parser and converter to handle XML documents in the
creation of ontology is needed.
6. Conclusion and future work
In this paper, we have presented an ontology-assisted analysis method and alignment
model in the implementation of the B2B electronic commerce standard speciﬁcation
over the existing trading partners’ public processes in the syntactic and semantic
integration and interoperability. An application of the Uniﬁed Modeling Language is
made to analyze the public process in the domain and in the standard. Terms, concepts,
relations, and links are created from the analysis results and converted into an
ontology representation. OWL is introduced to formulate the analyzed knowledge and
experience to align the domain and the standard. There are correspondences and
conﬂicts in the process of alignment. They are resolved via the shared and reusable
ontology which is a convergence of the domain ontology and the standard ontology.
The converged and shared ontology is achieved via a set of rules and heuristics that
are created in the research. The key of success in the B2Bi EC lies on the ability to
accomplish the process interoperability and the schema comparability. Three main
tasks have to be achieved to fulﬁll the requirements. In this research, we have
constructed a prototype to implement the method. The prototype is used to illustrate
the feasibility and validity of the method. A set of starter experiments has been
conducted in use of a straight through example of a PO process in the alignment with
the RosettaNet standard and the ebXML standard. The starter experiment serves as
the baseline to demonstrate the method is feasible and valid. The three main things we
have accomplished in the research are:
(1) Identifying the main components of knowledge and experience to be reconciled
and to be represented in the alignment of the standard ontology and the domain
(2) Developing the set of rules and heuristics for the ontology correspondence and
(3) Designing an experimental prototype to implement the method and to
demonstrate the feasibility and the validity by selecting two main electronic
commerce standards as the baseline test. The RosettaNet experiment represents
the vertical electronic commerce standard. The ebXML experiment stands for
the horizontal electronic commerce standard.
6.2 Future research work
The future research work will continue to explore the complex issues of the alignment
and automation between domains and standards. Some of the immediate tasks to be
undertaken in our study include:
.Enhancing the ontology search and inference capability. As the rule base and
heuristics base grow, search and inference engine become slow in the ontology
management. Tuning and enhanced rules must be developed.
.Upgrading the DTD importer to import XML schema and to enable the
conversion between XML schema and OWL representation. This will solve the
version control issue.
.Conducting more diverse and complex experiments in terms of scale and scope.
More experiments will be conducted in the public processes of receiving and
payment that are closely related with the public process of PO. RosettaNet and
ebXML will still be the main standards.
1. RosettaNet is a consortiumof major computerand consumer electronics, electronic components,
semiconductor manufacturing, telecommunications and logistics companies working to create
and implementindustry-wide, electronic commerceand business process standards. RosettaNet
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of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the United Nations Centre for Trade
Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT). ebXML is to map out a common
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Jia-Lang Seng can be contacted at: [email protected]
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