I agree that typical IT organizations focusing on typical administrative applications won’t develop ontologies – although they might implicitly adopt ontologies used by their application domain. However, there are several contexts in which ontologies might be developed where the time and labor investment could be considered worthwhile.
One such context is in supporting product line architectures within some product or service organization. BMW, for example has invested for many years in their own product line architecture to support different model categories, feature sets, and supporting component and software sets. None of this investment would have been viewed as supportable if used by a single car model or even model line development team. And the investment is ongoing and evolving as new feature/types and models are developed (e.g., hybrids and all-electric cars). The key is to be able to make the case that the investment will have returns across a broad range of products/projects and service customer sets. BMW’s doesn’t call what they are doing using an ontology, but it sure has many of the attributes of an ontology.
A second important context for justifying the investment in an ontology is at the industry segment/domain level. An example might be the Supply Chain Operational Reference (SCOR) Model developed by the Supply Chain Council, an industry consortium promoting interoperability among manufacturing and transportation service providers participating in supply chains.
My focus here is not to claim that these are ontologies, but to highlight the business model context and scope conditions/attributes under which investment in ontology development might be justified. The ontology has to be useful over more than one product/project/service, and have payoff over a timeframe comparable to and, ideally, well beyond the timeframe needed to develop the ontology. If multiple organizations will achieve mutual benefit from an ontology (as in the supply chain example), an organizational entity that transcends individual participating organizations will generally be required. In some cases an individual organization might be dominant enough in the domain to drive such development (e.g., Walmart in commercial RFID standards or the US military in military interface standards), but this is fairly unlikely and often creates countervailing forces against adoption of the standard/ontology, such as competitive fears or fears of dependence on outside agencies.
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Adrian Walker
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 7:20 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] How long to useful?
Hi John & All,
Interesting discussion. I'd add this.
If a design and mock-up looks as though it will be easy to use, that sometimes gets conflated with "easy to implement", even though it may in fact require research breakthroughs for what's inside the black box.
I had a colleague at Bell Labs who consistently refused to give time and cost estimates for software projects. That was then. Anybody know an organization that would live with that now?
Cheers, -- Adrian
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On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 4:24 PM, <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> And I would offer that whatever it is of value you can produce must
> be put into the hands of end-users who have essentially no interest
> at all in ontology. What you've produced—whatever it is—must make
> their job easier...
I agree. But I would add that this principle applies equally well to everybody involved -- including subject matter experts (SMEs) and application developers.
You can't expect SMEs, such as physicians or geologists, to take a training course in your system before they can use it to do anything useful.
You can expect programmers to look at a description of the API for your system -- but only if it is written in terms of the programming language they are already using, not in terms of some notation you hope they will learn.
Bottom line: Anybody who claims that ontology will make life simpler has an obligation to demonstrate that simplicity in any tools they develop.
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