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Re: [ontolog-forum] Quote for the day

To: "Toby.Considine@xxxxxxxxx" <Toby.Considine@xxxxxxxxx>, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2011 14:39:47 -0500
Message-id: <4D237783.4010704@xxxxxxxx>

Toby Considine wrote:
> This thread has morphed into a discussion of how to explain the value
> Ontology to business owners / decision makers, and assertion that *they*
> would never be interested. My purpose in the note (as you asked, Ed), it to
> illustrate that CEOs are potentially intensely interested--but not, perhaps,
> if we insist on the purity of their language and approach. They did, indeed
> get to become CEOs for a reason, and didn't happen to choose to become
> ontologists.
>       (01)

I think we are in agreement on this.  My take, based primarily on 
discussions with manufacturing executives and a handful of consultants, 
is that what the senior executives want right now is three things:    (02)

 (a) a means of organizing the captured corporate knowledge, so that it 
can be searched and retrieved by people who discover they need it.  The 
problem with the captured knowledge is that it is mostly in text form, 
with some formal models and structures in various languages and tools.  
In theory, this is the kind of thing we ought to be able to do better 
with ontologies, and it is a direct application of some of the Semantic 
Web ideas.    (03)

 (b) a means of capturing corporate knowledge that may otherwise be lost 
as senior staffers retire or are attracted to other firms.  One of the 
big concerns -- a version of John Sowa's profferred definition of 
'expert' -- is capturing the knowledge of what has been tried and 
proven/judged *not* to work, and why.  Most of the existing corporate 
documentation reflects what was actually built or implemented and the 
decisions that were taken.  The ideas that were discarded for various 
reasons are typically documented only in the minds of the people who 
participated in that experience, and perhaps briefly in a few emails or 
the minutes of some management meeting.  Upper management is plagued 
with bright new 'ideators' seeking to make their mark.  The senior 
officer can filter out those that were tried in 1982, 1987, 1991 and 
1995 and can usually tell the new face when it was tried, how, and what 
happened, but none of that is documented.  The idea here is to do the 
knowledge engineering 'from the horse's mouth'.    (04)

 (c) a means of reconciling the information they get from various 
departments, each holding different views on critical corporate assets, 
processes, and plans.  The problem here is not only the 'nyms' that Jack 
Ring mentions -- different terms for the same things, different 
groupings/aggregations and upper level classifiers -- but also genuinely 
conflicting models.  The conflicts tend to arise out of the different 
KPIs and other elements of the business assessment, evaluation and 
reward system.  One group counts orders placed, another orders filled, 
and a third total revenue from orders; and as an order changes state, 
its value to the company changes, but its value to various performance 
assessments appears and disappears.  This is an area in which ontologies 
can do better than the Conceptual Schema and the Information Base of 
which Sjir speaks.  Ontologies can provide formal definitions of classes 
and properties (in terms of 'more fundamental' ones), which allows us to 
deduce relationships, recognize (or declare) synonyms, and recognize 
inconsistencies in the 'schemas' themselves.    (05)

The problem with delivering any of these results is tying the bell on 
the cat's neck.  Some team of knowledge engineers has to get down and 
dirty with the text resources and the individual company practitioners, 
and tease out and formulate all of the knowledge that is presumably 
resident in them.  And then the knowledge engineers have to go back to 
many of these resources to resolve some of the confusion and conflict.  
That is an expensive process for the CEO, not because of what the 
consulting ontologists cost, but because of the time of his/her 
corporate personnel assets that is consumed.  Further, it is a risky 
process, precisely because it exposes the knowledge that is the 
corporate advantage to external eyes and ears.  Unlike Toby's tag line, 
this is an activity that must be done well -- thoroughly and carefully 
-- to be worth doing at all.    (06)

-Ed    (07)

> tc
> "If something is not worth doing, it`s not worth doing well" - Peter Drucker
> Toby Considine
> TC9, Inc
> TC Chair: oBIX & WS-Calendar
> TC Editor: EMIX, EnergyInterop
> U.S. National Inst. of Standards and Tech. Smart Grid Architecture Committee
> Email: Toby.Considine@xxxxxxxxx
> Phone: (919)619-2104
> http://www.tcnine.com/
> blog: www.NewDaedalus.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ed Barkmeyer [mailto:edbark@xxxxxxxx] 
> Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2011 11:24 AM
> To: Toby.Considine@xxxxxxxxx; [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Quote for the day
> Toby Considine wrote:
>> Not every business model *wants* precision of description and
> communication.
> That is a different matter.  The objective in a trade agreement is to be as
> precise as necessary to get agreement and reveal as little as possible of
> the inner workings of each agent.  So it is not a matter of not wanting
> precision; it is a matter of choosing an appropriate precision.
>> Many in the commercial real estate world, for one example, feel what 
>> they are buying is a superior awareness of what is, or what could be, 
>> than the seller knows. The seller may feel the same.
> Yes.  Most companies, not just in real estate, believe that their major
> value components and commercial advantage come from some internally kept
> knowledge and practices.  And others contract with them because they
> recognize those values, even though (or because) they lack access to the
> enabling knowledge.
>> A model of full and perfect
>> knowledge on each side would slow business and reduce opportunity.
>> I shared with this list a couple years ago an observation from C-level 
>> executives at some of the largest REITs in North America, that a 
>> company's ontology is its unique value proposition, and is the sole 
>> responsibility of its executives. What they wanted from folks like 
>> those on this list is clear and clean semantics in which to express this
> ontology.
> I do not understand this paragraph.  I think Toby is saying that the
> executives want a standard upper ontology for their domain (real estate)
> which they can use to develop their corporate micro-theory (ontology).  
> Is that right?
>> Bonus points if the semantics were such that the Leasing Agent could use
> them.
> Presumably the Leasing Agent is already using those semantics.  The bonus is
> in developing software that can assist the agents effectively by using the
> corporate semantics as expressed in the corporate ontology.
>> I don't for a minute think that this covers all cases, but it is an 
>> important perspective, an anvil on which to beat other concepts of 
>> ontology on. Clearly, an ontological sales pitch that runs counter to 
>> this perspective would be a tough sell.
> I don't disagree, but I hope we can clarify what is wanted here.
> -Ed
>       (08)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                Cel: +1 240-672-5800    (09)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (010)

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