Confessions of a Concept Modeler              

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.

We work with clients across a wide variety of industry sectors and, within those sectors, subject areas often new to us. You can probably guess some of the main sectors: insurance, finance, pharmaceuticals, retail, computer services, government. But many you probably would not guess: car racing equipment, electrical transmission, flight upgrade exchanges, immunology, railroads, subscription services, maritime services, luxury car dealerships, trucking, patent offices, weapon laboratories, NATO, and many others.

Time and time again, our clients have expressed surprise and admiration for how quickly we are able to get up to speed on their rich business knowledge. In a matter of days or a week or two, we are able to ask insightful, probing, and highly fruitful questions. It makes us sound quite knowledgeable. Clients often say we somehow seem to know their business better than they do.

I confess it's a trick of sorts. If you have a blueprint to the business knowledge — well-defined and carefully structured — I believe anyone with a bit of deliberate care can quickly bootstrap their way to asking the right questions in the right ways. It all comes down to the terms and wordings you use to form questions and to record the answers; that is, to structured communication and disambiguation.

Your concept model gives you a way to talk with subject matter experts in a way you've never had before. I'm not saying it's easy — there are many thorny questions lurking in business knowledge and legacy vocabularies. Rather, I'm saying the concept model will put you directly on the fast path to clarity. It's structure that gets you there.

A concept model addresses the all-too-common problem of people talking over each other, or past each other. It's about reaching shared understanding — getting everyone on the same page about their knowledge.

A pragmatic approach to creating a concept model, and the business knowledge blueprint of which it is part, requires three fundamental ingredients:

  1. Road-tested techniques for forming, naming, defining, and disambiguating concepts. You must be prepared with best practices to tackle the challenge of making the fuzzy part of concepts unfuzzy.

  2. An inventory of patterns for how concepts can relate to one another — elements of structure. Elements of structure are critical. Elements of structure include classification, categorization, and verb concepts.

  3. A comprehensive set of guidelines for crafting precise, business-friendly definitions. These guidelines are not coincidental. A business knowledge blueprint will not be consumable by business people without solid definitions of terms.

In short, a concept model will:

  • Guide you in asking the right questions.
  • Help you achieve business clarity.
  • Show you how the pieces all fit together.
  • Make you sound smart.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Confessions of a Concept Modeler               " Business Rules Journal, Vol. 21, No. 10, (Oct. 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

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