Semantic Clarity

One of the most difficult aspects of gathering and documenting software requirements is to get all of your stakeholders and project team participants to agree on terminology, especially words commonly used in the business domain. Common usage is never very precise, and often business problems arise from ambiguities in common usage. In developing a conceptual model of the business domain, it is necessary to define key metaphors very precisely, to remove these ambiguities, and allow software to implement logic that is correct.

There are two key types of metaphor ambiguities: semantic diversity and multiple identity.

Semantic Diversity – when a key metaphor has different properties in different contexts. This presents itself as a word that means different things in different aspects of the domain.

Multiple identity – when multiple metaphors actually share the same meaning or identity. This presents as different words that are used in different aspects of the domain to mean the exact same thing.

There is one other pattern that we see, which is called contextual revelation. Contextual revelation is when a metaphor presents different attributes in different aspects of the domain. In this case, it is the same metaphor, but different information is relevant to different parts of the business process. This often presents itself as if we have different metaphors, that have a mandatory one to one relationship with each other.

In some business domains, certain aspects appear optional, in that not all aspects are in play for every situation. In this case, the contextual revelation pattern may present as the metaphor having behavioral variants. In this case, one way of disambiguation is to derive the Behavior Taxonomy. Simply put, this can be accomplished by determining the simple list of behavioral variants that are needed to support the business process, and mapping the driver attribute(s) used in determining which behavior is selected.

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