Posts Tagged ‘collibra’

Agree on business semantics with roles, workflow and validation: “we’d call that buttoned down!”

September 18, 2012

Information Management is one of the world’s leading web sites for its area. They have listed Collibra with 40 other vendors that will  “shape the groundswell in information management technology in the 21st Century.”

Collibra is described as follows (LINK):

  • What: Webbased collaborative governance tools
  • Why: “A rock solid theoretical foundation, very community and business oriented,” a trusted advisor tells us, unlike metadata tools that get too wrapped around IT concepts. Made to allow business and technical people define their business concepts, facts and rules, in collaboration with roles, workflow, and validation. We’d call that buttoned down.
  • Where: Brussels, Belgium
  • Of Note: A spinoff of something called [sic.] STARLab at University of Brussels, one of the first places to do database research that’s now onto advanced semantics and ontology.

After being listed among ten semantic companies to watch by PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Spring Forecast in 2009; and awarded by Gartner as Cool Vendor for Enterprise Information Management in 2011, Collibra finally got rid of its wrong tag “semantic web company” and is now fully and righteously recognized by professionals and companies globally as a key player in the most vibrant, growing and important ICT software sector, that is data integration and governance (although flavored with semantics of course!).

Putting Collibra in Context: a Journey through the Childhood of a 4-year-old Technology Start-up

March 7, 2012

First click on “Full Screen” on the menu bar below. Then click on “More>>Autoplay”  or use the right arrow to browse through the presentation.

Or watch it directly on the Prezi website.

Boosting Open Innovation with Semantic Technology: the Flanders Research Information Space

August 9, 2011

The full article is now published in the professional monthly magazine Informatie. See my earlier blog post for a translation of the summary in English. The work is not done though: we are further crowd sourcing the information space using Linked Data approaches based on semantic standards managed in Collibra’s Business Semantics Glossary. Hence, to be continued, again :-)

Moulding USDL in SBVR using Business Semantics Glossary: Part 1

July 2, 2011

I truly believe in co-creation. For example, we have our Collibra software and methods regularly scrutinized by numerous master students from both technical as well as more business-oriented computer science programmes in universities across Europe.

At VU University, for example, in the context of my Business Semantics Management master class, 21 MSc students playing the role of steward formed the Amsterdam Service Modelling Community with one common purpose: building an SBVR version of the USDL service description language. There were two additional members invited playing the role of observer: Carlos Pedrinaci (representing the USDL W3C incubator group) and Ivan Razo-Zapata (our PhD student at VU working on dynamic service market place composition). Finally there was me playing the role of administrator, making a total of 24 members.

The Amsterdam Service Modelling community has 24 members (21 playing the role of "steward"; 2 as "observer"; 1 as "administrator") and is subdivided in 5 speech communities. (Note: this is an older release of the Business Semantics Glossary software)

The figure below depicts the Business Semantics Management (BSM) methodology that is established by two operational cycles (reconciliation and application) each grouping a number of modeling activities. For a summary go here and for more details see my dissertation.

Business semantics management is established by two operational cycles each grouping a number of modeling activities.

The experiment extended over a total period of 4 weeks; hence we limited ourselves to the first 4 steps of semantic reconciliation only: scope, create, refine, articulate. In September we plan to repeat this experiment  over a period of 8 weeks where we will have time to do one full cycle of BSM. Later I will also blog about similar experiments we conduct at VUB University of Brussels.

Community-driven Approach

The Amsterdam Service Modelling Community (ASMC) is modelled (in SBVR) as a semantic community. SBVR takes into account the existence of multiple perspectives on how to represent concepts (by means of vocabularies).

  • A semantic community is a group of stakeholders having a body of shared meanings. Stakeholders are people representing an organisation or a business unit.
  • A body of shared meanings is a unifying and shared understanding (perception) of the business concepts in a particular domain.  Concepts are identified by a URI.
  • A speech community is a sub-community of a semantic community having a shared set of vocabularies to refer to the body of shared meanings. A speech community groups stakeholders and vocabularies from a particular natural language in a multi-lingual community, or from a certain technical jargon.
  • A vocabulary is a set of terms and fact types (called vocabulary entries) primarily drawn from a single language to express concepts within a body of shared meanings.

Within the ASMC community, the 21 students grouped in 5 speech communities each focusing on a specific part of the USDL framework. In SBVR, speech communities are part of one semantic community and each manage their own set of vocabularies to refer to this body of shared meanings. This allows for different representations of the same business concepts.

The navigator shows (from left to right) the structure of communities and their vocabularies.

Scoping the Semantic Reconciliation Cycle

The module-based decomposition of USDL depicted below makes it easy for teams to scope. However, they all had to start from the Service and Pricing module so we could observe divergence in definitions as well, an important step in the ontology evolution process (see the Perspective Rendering principle of my PhD on BSM).

The module-based USDL framework allows for clear scoping among speech communities (by courtesy of

Create, Refine, Articulate

Below is a screenshot of the term “Service” in the Pricing and Participant vocabulary in development by the “VAAF” speech community team. The steward (indicated on the top-right) “Vlant” is responsible for selecting the right stakeholders (bottom-right) among his fellow members and engage them into the reconciliation of the term.

A term can be defined using different kinds of attributes, going from (business-oriented) descriptions and definitions to more (formal) fact types and business rules.  Currently the level of articulation is below threshold (37.5%) incentivizing the steward and stakeholders to elaborate more.

Term "Service" in the Pricing and Participant vocabulary in development by the "VAAF" speech community team.

Next time we will talk about vocabulary statistics and workflows in the software. Workflows practically implement the orchestration of reconciliation tasks to members according to their roles and responsibilities.

Are you scratching the metadata surface or governing the corporate information space? Insights in Business Semantics Management

May 26, 2011

I am invited to talk at DAMA International Conference 2011, in London, UK, November 2011. The yearly conference organised by DAMA, the premier organisation of data management professionals worldwide. The conference programme is not public yet, but I post here already the abstract for my talk.

Clear and uniform business definitions are an essential starting point for information governance. However, many tools applied for managing them still operate on the mere technical metadata level.  Yet, to empower business-driven information governance, technical metadata should be seeking grounding in business semantics that are agreed on by subject matter experts. They define a richer contextual meaning of key business assets for your organization in terms of business vocabularies and rules.

Walking through business cases in technology, finance and government, attendees will learn that:

  1. Business semantics in OMG SVBR is structured in such a way that it provide a shared understanding on rules and policies regarding information assets, as well as a technical specification that can be applied in the technical infrastructure.
  2. Feedback from their application in data integration, provide deep insights into the quality of business semantics and information.
  3. Agreeing on and total quality assurance of business semantics requires a collaborative and iterative approach, involving relevant subject matter experts from both business and IT.
  4. In this collaborative effort, workflows practically implement the orchestration of tasks to stakeholders according to their roles and responsibilities.

In the talk I will give an overview of different technologies, but special attention goes to Collibra’s Business Semantics Glossary, a collaborative business semantics management tool adopting SBVR. Recently Collibra’s technology was recently praised by Gartner as Cool Vendor in Enterprise Information Management 2011. Earlier, Collibra was listed as one of 16 semantic technology companies to watch by PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Technology Forecast in Spring 2009.

Business Semantics Management in Competency-centric HRM

September 9, 2010

The article in Journal of Computers for Industry is finally available here.

Collibra wins Datanews award for start-up of the year

June 1, 2010

Some months after winning the award for best start-up at the European Semantic Technology Conference 2009, we have acquired the prestigious Belgian Datanews award as well.

Collibra and IBM Research join forces in European research on service-oriented architectures

May 20, 2010

I am happy to announce that my company Collibra has acquired considerable co-funding in ACSI, a European FP7 research project worth 5 million Euro. ACSI stands for “Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation”. The coordinator is IBM Research Haifa, and the kick-off of the project will be held in June at their premises in Israel. Details of the international consortium are below.

ACSI will serve to dramatically reduce the effort and lead-time of designing, deploying, maintaining, and joining into environments that support service collaborations. This will be achieved by developing a rich framework around the novel notions of dynamic artifacts and interoperation hubs, enabling a substantial simplification in the establishment and maintenance of service collaborations.


Interoperation between electronic services, and more generally the business processes embodied by these services, is one of the most challenging and pressing issues in today’s increasingly globalized and de-centralized economy. Out-sourcing, globalization, and the automation of business processes continue to increase.  However, today, there is no effective, flexible, scalable, and principled approach to enable the interoperation of services across enterprise boundaries in support of shared (business) goals.  This is a major roadblock to preventing the automation of these kinds of collaboration, and more broadly, the design, deployment, and operation of innovative value nets.  The ACSI project is aimed directly at filling this vacuum.

Based on an innovative foundation, the ACSI research will develop scientific advances, techniques, and tools to dramatically simplify the design and deployment of infrastructure to support service collaborations, the ability of services to join such collaborations, and the evolution of such collaborations as the marketplace and competitive landscape change.

A Brand New Approach

Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation (ACSI) is based on two fundamental constructs: the interoperation hub and dynamic artifacts. Business-driven intelligent operation of these constructs will be grounded by business semantics.

An interoperation hub serves as a virtual rendezvous for multiple services that work together towards a common goal. Our research will develop a principled, easy-to-use framework for creating, deploying, maintaining, and joining into ACSI interoperation hubs in essentially any application domain. Similar to EasyChair or, an ACSI interoperation hub will serve as the anchor for a collaborative IT environment that supports large numbers of service collaborations that operate independently, but focus on essentially common goals. These hubs are primarily reactive, serving as a kind of structured whiteboard to which participating services can refer. The hubs can be updated with information relevant to the group, assist the services by carrying out selected tasks, or notify services of key events.

Example of interoperation hub that supports collaboration around hiring

The interoperation hubs used in ACSI will be structured around dynamic artifacts, also known as “business artifacts” or “business entities”. These provide an holistic marriage of data and processes, serving as the basic building block for modeling, specifying, and implementing services and business processes.  In the context of single enterprises, it has been shown that the use of artifacts can lead to substantial cost savings in the design and deployment of business operations and processes, and can dramatically improve communication between stakeholders. Artifacts can give an end-to-end view of how key conceptual business entities evolve as they move through the business operations, in many cases across two or more silos. As a result, artifacts can substantially simplify the management or “hand-off” of data and processing between services and organizations.

A key pillar of the ACSI research is to generalize the advantages of dynamic artifacts to the broader context of interoperation hubs and service collaborations. While the interoperation hubs themselves will take advantage of the artifact paradigm, the services participating in such hubs are not required to be artifact-centric; they can be conventional SOA services, including legacy applications with SOA adapters.


ACSI provides an approach to populating the web with semantically rich building blocks, around which services can cluster to create a broad variety of service collaborations and value networks.

The ACSI interoperation hub framework, in conjunction with the underlying ACSI artifact paradigm, provides a rich structure around which many subsequent scientific and technology advances can be made. The ACSI research will substantially extend current verification and synthesis techniques to incorporate data along with process, and will develop the next generation of process mining research by generalizing it to handle data along with process.

The project aims to achieve dramatic savings over conventional approaches to service interoperation across several areas: design and deployment, on-boarding, day-to-day operation, maintenance, data transformation automation, and evolvability. This will be accomplished while enabling rich flexibility for the different service collaborations using a given interoperation hub.

The technology can be applicable in key challenge areas of societal importance, including government, energy, healthcare, supply chain logistics (especially in industries such as food or heavy manufacture with deep upstream supply chains), and heavy manufacture (e.g., airline industries). The mechanisms incorporated into the ACSI framework to support rich variation within a single hub can be especially advantageous in domains, such as human resources, where there are significant differences from country to country.

The ACSI interoperation hub framework will provide a paradigm shift in the way that services, and more generally enterprises, can work together.


IBM Research – Haifa (coordinator)

Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

Libera Università di Bolzano

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

Tartu Ulikool

Indra Software Labs SLU

Collibra NV

Cure for the Closed World Syndrome

January 14, 2010

Last I was reading Mike Bergman’s blog on the seven pillars of the open semantic enterprise. The seven pillars are a mere summary of the European Semantic Technology research programme (in which I was active as well) of the last 10 years. Mike takes the tricky but brave step to push this a bit more to industry in terms of seven pillars.

I like the idea of the open semantic enterprise. The problem however (and true for many business-it problems) is that these pillars are too technology-religious (rather than agnostic). Ontologies (I still do not like the word) should not be built by techies. That usually results in models where business concepts are labelled in tech lingo (e.g., CustIDRel, or ProdLbl-ID), and the rules to not correspond to what regulations enforce. Therefore business experts themselves must be involved in the job. In Business Process Management, business experts are supposed to model the processes conceptually in fulfillment of certain business objectives and compliant to a set of regulations. Similarly, in Business Semantics Management, business experts decide on a shared base of business semantics: i.e. meaning of vocabulary and rules used to communicate and coordinate processes, data, and applications. This happens again according to certain rules and business goals.

Agreeing on business semantics brings me to another important social pillar that is missing here, or should I say first-class citizen: the human stakeholders in the extended enterprise. Business experts in the business zone of the “semantic enterprise” must be facilitated with the right methods and tools (see e.g., Collibra or VUB STARLab) to agree on the meaning of their vocabularies and business rules (i.e. business semantics) before even thinking about flattening a version of that agreement into an enterprise information model (whether in monolithic OWL or in industry more widely known software modelling technique UML that is dubiously abused for knowledge modelling) that can be passed on to “semantic application” builders in the tech zone of the enterprise.

During the business semantics unification process, all perspectives should be taken into account: the business context drives the scope of business semantics, but as business semantics ultimately will be used to align with ICT, the technies’ perspectives should be incorporated as well. If the techies discover flaws in enterprise information model (E.g., some terms are underspecified leading to misunderstandings or so) these new requirements for starting a new consensus process is fed back to the business zone. SBVR is a promising standard OMG based (hence MOF compliant) on the proven foundations of fact-oriented modelling to allow business experts to rerpesent business vocabulary and rule semantics in a natural manner. Full-cycle Business Semantics Management then takes into account both feedback from both Business in (e.g. in SBVR) as ICT perspectives (e.g., in UML also MOF-compliant) when reconciling business semantics. Of course governance in terms of roles and responsibilities of the activities is also important. Social performance indicators must monitor the construction and management of business semantics at all time.

I also like the emphasis of the open world assumption. I have been evangelising this idea for years  (much inspired by my former lab director and PhD supervisor Robert Meersman). Today I emphasise more on the opposite notion: indeed ICT in industry suffers the closed world “syndrome”. It is inspired by the closed world assumption. That is the presumption that what is not currently known to be true, is false. On one hand, this is caused by a rather naive assumption that there would never be a need for large-scale data exchange. Such attitude is obviously hilarious in the Internet age and this quote should be eternalized in the Hall of Most Stupid Quotes next to Bill Gates’ and Bush Jr.’s historic quotes. On the other hand, the closed formats are deliberately caused by vendor-specific database formats that create lock-in this way.