Blueprinting Business Knowledge: Concept Models

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

Extracted from Business Knowledge Blueprints: Enabling Your Data to Speak the Language of the Business, by Ronald G. Ross, 2020.

Businesses today face a host of challenges that demand a new approach, not just to data but to the business knowledge that lies behind data. Perhaps the driving force is poor data quality. Or IT's disconnect from the language the business uses. Or lack of a big picture or common vocabulary. Maybe all the above.

Recognition is growing rapidly that traditional data design techniques are also inadequate for the larger challenges of integrated digital business, including highly-customized products, machine intelligence, and software ontologies.

The common factor in meeting these challenges? It's what the company knows — business knowledge. That knowledge isn't limited to structured data — it applies equally to textual business communications ('unstructured data'). How did structured data and 'unstructured data' ever get disconnected? Business text matters!

Business knowledge is more complicated — I prefer to say far richer — than most realize. It requires a blueprint, which must be developed deliberately through clarification and synthesis. The goal is to create a shared, structured understanding of concepts.

What is a concept? The dictionary[1] defines it simply as something conceived in the mind — a thought, idea, notion. For business what's critical is whether a concept is shared.

People usually already have concepts of things in their minds — you typically don't design concepts from scratch. The problem is that those concepts aren't shaped the same. And they're not harmonized. Think of the problem as essentially redesigning concepts to get everyone on the same page — that is, to create shared understanding.

By providing essential structure for the design, a concept model is the core component of the business knowledge blueprint you need. A concept model provides the basis for creating a robust business vocabulary with business-friendly definitions. We define concept model as follows:

concept model: a set of concepts structured according to the relations among them

A concept model should be primarily of, by, and for business people. To emphasize the point, perhaps we should say business concept model. Even when we drop business from the term and say just concept model, remember business is always implicit.


[1] Merriam-Webster Unabridged.

# # #

Standard citation for this article:

citations icon
Ronald G. Ross, "Blueprinting Business Knowledge: Concept Models" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 21, No. 03, (Mar. 2020)

About our Contributor:

Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the BRS Methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:

Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

Online Interactive Training Series

In response to a great many requests, Business Rule Solutions now offers at-a-distance learning options. No travel, no backlogs, no hassles. Same great instructors, but with schedules, content and pricing designed to meet the special needs of busy professionals.