Business Semantics Management


VU University Amsterdam: period 1

University of Amsterdam: period 1

Vrije Universiteit Brussel: semester 2




English or Dutch


My course Online Information Systems (organised as mandatory course in 1BSc Information, Multimedia, and Management) is limited to traditional “closed” information systems intended for one specific organization. There, the functional requirements are known beforehand and the meaning of business terms and rules are sufficiently clear and uniformly valid within the organizational context. This course broadens the concept of information system to “open” information system where the need for semantic interoperability with its environment becomes central. The origin of the problem lies in the fact that it is not possible to predict a priori the other systems in its environment and according to what requirements an open system has to exchange information. In order to support semantic interoperability, one should reach an agreement on the meaning of business terms and rules among the community of participating systems.

Ontologies are dynamic models that capture the meaning of business terms and rules. Doing so, they underpin solutions for semantic interoperability between enterprise information systems, and many other semantic applications that are studied in i.a. the course Ontology Engineering. The purpose of this course is to learn the Business Semantics Management (BSM) methodology that enacts a business community to collaboratively capture their business vocabularies and rules (read: business semantics) in an ontology, and consequently  validate the resulting ontology (formatted in ORM, RDF or UML) in diverse information-technical contexts. By deriving ontologies from a dynamic business semantics glossary on the business level, the entropy (read: loss of information) during the many translations between business and IT can be partly remedied.

Semantic technologies gain increasing momentum in enterprise IT to leverage service-oriented architectures, master data management, business intelligence and the like to a Web scale. Therefore, this course is an excellent specialisation for students that are about to earn their Master’s or post-graduate degree in information and service sciences.


Introduction of the notions “open information system” and the problem of “semantic interoperability”. Introduction of the relationship between “business semantics” and its derivative “ontology” to solve the problem of interoperability at the information-technical level. Learning to handle the OMG SBVR standard and the BSM methodology and tools for building business vocabulary and rules, and automatically derive therefrom an ontology. The empirical evaluation of an ontology in diverse semantic applications.

How it Works

A role-playing game where students form small teams, each representing a stakeholder organization in a community. Using the web-based environment for BSM, this community builds an ontology that should fulfill certain semantic interoperability requirements between their information systems. The samples are drawn from realistic settings. This is done step-by-step by following the BSM methodology: first they should agree on a governance model that provides the “rules of engagement”; a set of roles and responsibilities for each of the stakeholders within the community. Then, based on the semantic interoperability requirements, a number of key terms which require a semantic agreement is determined. Next, there is a semantic reconciliation process that results in a unified ontology that captures an agreement on the meaning of these terms and their associated rules sets. This ontology is then validated by applying them in the community. At the end of the game, the students and lecturer plenary discuss issues and extension points to other courses such as ontology engineering. At the end, each group delivers a critical report on their findings, and presents it to the lecturer.

Business Semantics Glossary as collaborative tool.

Business Semantics Management methodology


By the lecturer written syllabus with exercises for the BSM methodology is available. Furthermore, there is web-based software to build ontologies.

In addition: slide decks of the lectures and in-depth thematic papers on specific topics and SBVR.


written team project report and oral presentation


Online informatiesystemen (VU 1BSc IMM course)


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