If your business uses any kind of database system, you already have a rudimentary ontology contained within the structure of your database tables. The problem is that if you have several database systems, one for distribution and one for accounting, for example, those systems may not agree in how they understand key terms in your business, such as ‘product’. For this reason, meta-data management systems have been developed to help coordinate information about your business between these various system. However, for many businesses, such meta-data managements systems have seemed like a cumbersome addition to business processes that do not realize a clear business benefit.
Another problem that businesses face is knowledge management, namely retaining key information about your business operations in a way that is not dependent upon individual employees who may quit or retire. While many businesses recognize this problem to be important, it may seem like an extravagance to create a completely new system just for knowledge management, only to worry about whether this new knowledge management system actually agrees with the other business systems.
Formal ontology helps address both of these problems. By formalizing your business rules and processes, formal ontology provides a way to clarify and to retain key knowledge within your company. Plus, Semantic Web technology makes it possible for these same business rules to be incorporated directly into all of your business systems, helping to ensure that all your systems agree about key terms in your business. Since the business rules could be maintained outside of the hard code of your business systems, it would be possible to change those business rules more quickly, without lengthy computer programming and testing delays.
To start exploring how formal ontology could help your business, see the following: