Enterprise Ontology – a framework for building and identifying corporate evidence

Role of an enterprise ontology

For an overview of this concept i am going to reference an article written by Dave McComb called The Enterprise Ontology. It offers a good description of an ontology, an Enterprise Ontology as well as some very good reasons as to why an organisation should build one. The article was written in 2006 and i will quote the first paragraph: At the time of this writing almost no enterprises in North America have a formal enterprise ontology.

Yet we believe that within a few years this will become one of the foundational pieces to most information system work within major enterprises.

We are now in 2011 and i am not aware of any publicised stories of any companies in the USA or Europe or the rest of the world for that matter that are able to say they have an enterprise ontology and that it is underpinning the information systems that exist within organisation.

Whilst it is expected that it will take an organisation some time to design, model and build an enterprise ontology the benefits will, if it is managed effectively, bring considerable change to people and value to the information created.

An enterprise ontology provides the enterprise indexing system to define meaning, classification and categorisation for past, current and future information. By providing this it aids evidence and evidence based enterprise architecture by creating a means to “frame” information by specific terms and definitions and thus aid like to like relationships.

If we consider evidence as either proofs or observations derived from a formal or scientific approach as well as opinions and expert statements created from renowned experience and capability; thus that evidence has to be

An Evidence Ontology

Monastery of Hosios Loukas - Gabriel
Monastery of Hosios Loukas - Gabriel

I have been thinking about the task of developing a model of the classes and attributes  of an evidence ontology to support Evidence Based Enterprise Architecture. Having searched on Google, not that i was expecting to find an exact match, i came across something similar for the field of biosciences.

It was interesting to read how they have approached the problem. They describe the use of their ontology as a means to record a collection of assertions, the sources of the assertions and the degree of confidence experts hold in the assertions.

There are very similar relationships here with the requirements for an evidence ontology for evidence based enterprise architecture. Firstly the means to classify particular assertions made in the enterprise architecture. For example these assertions can be found within the artifacts such as models and specifications, the architectural and solution building blocks and statements recorded in architectural views.

Secondly the ability to classify the degree of confidence in the assertions as expressed by senior architects and subject matter experts. Measuring the confidence is perhaps a two fold activity whereby the author assess the confidence and this is either accepted or revised by an expert.