Concept Mapping and Concept Modeling
Check out my new eLearning courses here!

Also check out my recent articles:

At "Humanizing Business Analysis: Visualizing Meaning through Business Concept Maps" (May 2013).

May 2013 issue of the Business Rules Journal.

Austrian blogger and knowledge, information and communication management expert Annette Hexelschneider on her blog (partly in German) has a wonderful review of my book here.

Have I forgotten something here? Cannot the IT department undertake the modelling of Business Concepts? In fact, no. If you ask an IT person about a Business Concept Model, he/she will immediately say "Conceptual Data Model". That may sound similar, but what they are thinking of is a UML Class Diagram, which is not, repeat not, a Business Model, which business users can understand. (Believe me, I have tried). Furthermore a class diagram is a solution specification containing design decisions such as generalisations. What the Business needs is an as-is Business Model expressed in its own language. See the page No UML Please for further information.
Business Modelling has made significant advances the later years because of Business Process Modelling. But on the data / information side, nothing has happened in the IT world since the wholesale exodus to Object Orientation in the nineties.

Business Metadata explained
This is the authoritative book about Business Metadata:
Capturing Enterprise Knowledge - Business Metadata, William Inmon, Bonnie O'Neil, Lowell Fryman, Morgan Kaufmann 2008, ISBN 978-0-12-373726-7

Another good book is:
Data Modeling for the Business, Steve Hobermanm Donna Burbank, Chris Bradley, Technics Publications 2009, ISBN 978-0-9771400-7-7

Business Concept Mapping

This is one of the most overlooked and undersupported areas of business development using IT.
The importance of it becomes very clear in Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. Think of it: What is Business Intelligence first and foremost? The answer is: A presentation of business information intended for direct access by untrained business users, who knows the business well, but not a whole lot - if anything - about information technology.
Since the deliverables of BI and DW are databases (and multidimensional cubes) there are next to none application programs, where IT developers can hide business rules and other logic.

Business Concept Map Requirements

A successful business intelligence solution has some important characteristics:
  • It is intuitively understandable by business users
  • it expresses itself in the language of the business
  • It contains all the necessary business concepts and business rules
  • It is well-defined and precise without redundancy and inconsistencies
  • It makes scoping and sizing the project much easier
This is actually the hard part of a business intelligence project!

”Wisdom begins with the definition of Terms!” - Socrates

I offer you detailed insight in my book:

Design Thinking Business Analysis - Business Concept Mapping Applied
Thomas Frisendal
© Springer, 2012
ISBN 978-3-642-32843-5

The book describes a new approach to business analysis: Information-driven Business Analysis.

You might also be interested in my eLearning courses here!

Business Metadata

One way of looking at this is as a way of collecting metadata (information about the way business works). Bill Inmon and Bonnie O'Neill et al have written a very good book about this subject (cf. the details in sidebar to the right).

The place in your project model

Business Concept Mapping is an analytic activity, which belongs to the first phases of all projects. It could even be part of a pre-analysis activity.
See the Analysis and Design page for information about Business Concept Mapping in the context of all deliverables of the first stage / preanalysis phase of the projects.
The activity is explorative and a highly interactive, brainstorming type task, taking place in a series of workshops.

The deliverables

The Business Concept Model contains quite simple stuff, really:
One or more diagrams (Concept Maps), which describe the concepts and their semantics
A document containing definitions and descriptions of Business Concepts and their relationships. Additional business rules may also be found here. See more about what a Business Concept Model looks like, here. And see much more about Definitions in Malcolm Chisholms recommandable book "Definitions in Information Management", ByDesign Media 2010, ISBN 978-0-615-35754.

Concept Mapping Tools

Part of the toolbox for business modelling is a diagramming tool that supports Concept Maps. There are a few of those on the market, but many of them are either targetted specifically for Learning & Education or for Knowledge Management. This typically means that they are too complex for business users, who should take part in the modelling. There is one exception, though: I have successfully employed the product CmapTools for a number of years now. And I can highly recommend it, because it is intuitive, simple and powerful.

Benefits of Business Concept Mapping

Time spent in the early days of the project on Business Concept Mapping is time well spent. You will, actually, gain in the end, and the whole of the project is more safe and manageable. This is because:
  • You are certain that the end result, the BI solution, is intuitively accessible for business users
  • You understand the business 100 percent
  • The business learns hidden facts about itself (many "Aha!" experiences on the way)
There is a direct path from a Concept Map into a multidimensional environment with dimensions and hierarchies etc. For example setting up the UDM (Unified Dimensional Model) of a simple one-to-one process, because all the attribute relationships are well defined and understood already.