Identifying Things (“What”)

This is the second post in a series of posts about how to identify entities in data sources that can readily be classified as belonging to each of the 6BI Business Object Categories (BOCs): Parties, Things, Activities, Events, Locations and Motivators.  The first post in the series (on Parties, the “Who” aspect) can be found at ‎.

The Things BOC identifies What the concepts and objects are that are produced and consumed by parties.  Data element and data element collection names you may encounter that belong to the Things BOC include but are not limited to names in the following table[i].  The list gives you a hint of what kind of names to look for in putting together a 6BI Analytic Schema for enabling your data to answer business questions.

For the purposes of 6BI the first decomposition of Things is between Product and Payment.  Products are also further decomposed into Good and Service.  Goods are tangible material products for which consumers make payments, and services are products provided primarily by human or human-like labor.  Products are also quite often hierarchical and the names used for each level are Things BOC names in their own right.  These names can be logical such as Class, Category, and Type for example. Or can be physical such as Assembly, Component, and Container.  Look for these words, or ones like them, in conjunction with other words that more clearly designate them as classification levels of a product, such as Asset_Type or Vehicle_Assembly.  Products and Payments represent what is exchanged in a transaction and are differentiated by the direction in which they flow.  Products flow from provider to consumer, and Payments flow from consumer to provider.  Quite often the difference between a Product and a Payment is obvious, but sometimes it’s not.  This is especially true when transactions are “in kind” and it is not obvious which, if either thing, represents the “money”.  One rule of thumb is to always remember who the “first party”[ii] in your analysis and which side of their ledger you are analyzing.  The first party is for “whom” the analysis is done or “who” the analysis is intended to benefit.  If you are analyzing their receivables side then the inflow is always a payment and the outflow a product.  If you are analyzing their payables side then the opposite is true, inflows are product types and outflows are payment types.

Potentially the Things BOC can be identified by more data store names than any other BOC because we as humans often designate all phenomena as things.  In information systems however it is always more useful to refer to the instances of the Things BOC as products or payments.  We use the term “Things” for this category of business objects so that we remember to look at both sides of “what” is being exchanged in a transaction, and not be content to only consider the product alone.  There are simply so many things in the real world but we must concentrate on “how” (see the Activities BOC post) they flow if we need to measure their value to a party and assess a party’s contribution to that value.

A Definition can also be a product. This is true when used to represent the meaning of that which parties (individuals and organizations) produce or consume.  It doesn’t matter what is defined.  It can be a party, a location, an activity, an event, a motivator or anything.  If the definition itself is manipulated (i.e. produced or consumed by a party) then it is a product, and thus a thing.  We can speak about the “Definition of the customer” for example.  Customer is clearly a member of the Parties BOC when it comes to analyzing data content for understanding performance for example.  But the definition itself (i.e. What a customer is) is a product of a metadata system.  If you need to analyze, normalize and rationalize the consistency of various definitions of customer you need to treat these definitions as things and not as parties.  That is, they are products of the system associated with a provider and a consumer.

The customer can have multiple definitions, but each separate definition must be associated with the customer through some unique combination of location, event, activity and/or motivator.  Those for whom the consistency checking and improving is performed are the parties. However, and this is critical, the definition of what a customer is, so that it can be used consistently to mean the same role played by a party depending on some unique combination of activity, location, event, product, and motivator is itself a product.  As a product, its quality can be controlled and monitored, its accuracy and integrity assessed and its use measured.

[i]  I would like to thank Barry Williams and his excellent Database Answers website for providing many of the table name examples.

[ii] The party from whose perspective the measurements are taken.


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One Response to “Identifying Things (“What”)”

  1. Identifying Motivators (“Why”) | Birkdale Computing Says:

    […] [iii] […]

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