A field study in the banking industry
Carol Kort Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Jaap Gordijn Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands Email: email@example.com
Companies increasingly form networked value constellations to jointly satisfy a complex need. Well known examples include the networked business model of Cisco Systems [Tapscott, D., Ticoll, D., & Lowy, A., 2000] and the virtual integration of Dell Computers [Magretta, J.,1998]. In a value constellation, a series of enterprises and final customers co-produce things of economic value, using network technology such as the Internet to coordinate this process. By doing so, they exploit each other’s core competencies to a maximum extent, and enterprises can concentrate on and develop their own core competencies themselves. Obviously, forming a constellation requires coordination and communication mechanisms to be in place, to facilitate co-working between the various enterprises the constellation exists of. One of the problems in value constellations is that every enterprise speaks another language, thereby creating misunderstandings and barriers for proper communication. Such misunderstanding happens at all levels: information systems of various enterprise that are not very well interconnected, business processes that can not easily interoperate over enterprise borders, and even the constellation itself in terms of the participating enterprises and the services and products these enterprises transfer between each other is not always unambiguously understood. One approach to address the misunderstanding is to use ontologies. According to [Gruber, T.R., 1993] ontology can be defined as: “… an explicit specification of a conceptualization” The term “ontology” is borrowed from philosophy, here an ontology is a systematic account of existence. In the realm of information systems and AI, ontology has a somewhat different interpretation: “an ontology is what a community of practice believes to exist”. This is close to the opinion of [Quine, W.V.O., 1961] who says that an ontology specifies things that we must assume to exist in order for our theories to be true. What people believe to exist, we call a “conceptualization”. It represents an abstract, simplified view on the world. Modern definitions of ontology (see e.g. [Borst, W.N., Akkermans, J.M. & Top, J.L., 1997]) emphasize that there must be an agreement on the conceptualization that is specified: “An ontology is a formal specification of a shared conceptualization”. This notion of shared conceptualization is important to us, because we aim at a shared understanding of a constellation by enterprises involved. Ontologies can be developed at various abstraction levels. For instance, recent web-standards such as OWL (see e.g. http://www.w3.org/2004/OWL/) or web-services such as BPEL4WS [Andrews,T., Curbera, F. et al., 2003] provide ontological foundations for the communication between information systems of individual enterprises. Approaches like ebXML (see http://www.ebxml.org) focus on ontologies to enhance cross-organizational business process integration. And finally ontologies such as BMO [Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., & Tucci, C.L., 2005], REA [McCarthy, W.E., 1982] and e3value [Gordijn, J., Akkermans, J.M., 2003] aim at the shared understanding of the business value level: what do enterprises offer each other of economic value. In this book chapter, we focus on the use of these business value ontologies, and more specifically on the e3value ontology. This ontology understands a value constellation as a set of enterprises that transfer things of economic value with each other. It features an ontology editor (see http://www.e3value.com/ for a free download) that allows for a graphical representation of a constellation, and supports various kinds of reasoning about the constellation. One specific...