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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

e-commerce standards

Jia-Lang Seng

Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA and

Department and Graduate School of Accountancy, College of Commerce,

National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China, and

Woodstock Lin

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

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.

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



assisted analysis


Industrial Management & Data


Vol. 107 No. 3, 2007

pp. 415-437

qEmerald Group Publishing Limited


DOI 10.1108/02635570710734307

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[1], ebXML[2], 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

Figure 1.

An ontology-assisted B2Bi

EC alignment and

management framework

(this research)

Represent XML and


Analyze Partners’

Data and Process,

“as-is” using UML

Merge Ontologies, “to-be”

Analyze EC

Standards’ Data and

Process using UML

Model Public

Ontology using UML

Model Standard

Ontology using UML

Test XML and Ontologies





Cross Trading Partners’ Biz Model and Process EC Standards’ Biz Model and Process


assisted analysis


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.


assisted analysis


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

commerce standards.

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.


assisted analysis


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

retained, too

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

different meanings

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

new ontology

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

different meanings

We keep the name of the new property.

However, we change the name of old

property to another new name

Table I.

Ontology merge rules

(this research)




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

information systems.

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.

Figure 2.

An ontology-assisted B2Bi

eCommerce alignment

framework (this research)

5. Testing

(Step G)

Business Requirement

1. Discovering

(Step A, B)

2. Capturing

(Step C, D)

3. Mergence

(Step E)

4. Representation

(Step F)

Figure 3.

A prototype architecture

of an ontology-assisted

B2Bi eCommerce platform

(this research)







Adapters Channels




















assisted analysis


Figure 4.

Layers in the prototype

system (this research)

Knowledge Base

in OWL

XML DTD Importer


Business Document

DTD Business Metadata

Process Information Process







OWL file

Document Ontology

Figure 5.

Main functions of the

prototype (this research)

B2B Ontology







Provide Process



Edit constraint



Parse DTD File

Parse metadata

Browse the




DTD Importer




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

Figure 6.

The B2B DTD plug-in

(this research)


assisted analysis


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

Figure 7.

The B2B DTD importer

(this research)




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.

Figure 8.

The basic classes of a

process ontology

(this research)


assisted analysis


.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

as equivalent.

Figure 9.

The basic properties

of a process ontology

(this research)




Figure 10.

Ontology instance creation

(this research)

Figure 11.

Existing public process

ontology (this research)


assisted analysis


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

and properties.

4.2.7 Step G – to test ontology. We validate the ontology with the Prote



ontology function.

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

Figure 12.

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

Figure 13.

Created instances of



assisted analysis


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. Discussion

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.

Figure 14.

Equivalent classes

Figure 15.

Equivalent properties


assisted analysis


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

6.1 Conclusion

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

is a subsidiary of GS1 US, formerly the Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC).

2. ebXML is a worldwide project initiated and driven by the Organization for the Advancement

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

framework to enable interoperable electronic commerce and business expressed in XML.


assisted analysis



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Systems Modeling, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 142-56.

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Information Integration.

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Gulledge, T. (2006), “What is integration?”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 106

No. 1, pp. 5-20.

Helo, P. and Szekely, B. (2005), “Logistics information systems: an analysis of software solutions

for supply chain co-ordination”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 105 No. 1,

pp. 5-18.

Hunag, C.J., Trappy, Amy J.C. and Yao, Y.H. (2006), “Developing an agent-based workflow

management system for collaborative product design”, Industrial Management & Data

Systems, Vol. 106 No. 5, pp. 680-99.

Kogut, P., Cranefield, S., Hart, L., Dutra, M., Baclawski, K., Kokar, M. and Smith, J. (2002),

“UML for ontology development”, The Knowledge Engineering Review, Vol. 17 No. 1,

pp. 61-4.

Lesjak, D. and Vehovar, V. (2005), “Factors affecting evaluation of e-business projects”,

Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 105 No. 4, pp. 409-28.

Medjahed, B., Benatallah, B., Bouguettaya, A., Ngu, A.H.H. and Elmagarmid, A.K. (2003),

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The VLDB Journal, Vol. 10, pp. 334-50.

Zhao, F. (2004), “Management of information technology and business process re-engineering:

a case study”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 104 No. 8, pp. 674-80.

Corresponding author

Jia-Lang Seng can be contacted at: [email protected]


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