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Subject: [QA Packing Team] DRAFT UBL FAQ

Jon has contributed to the FAQ.

We should plan to include it in the 1.0 release.

Marion A. Royal
202.208.4643 (Office)
202.302.4634 (Mobile)
----- Forwarded by Marion A. Royal/MEB/CO/GSA/GOV on 09/15/2003 09:36 AM
                    "Tim McGrath"          To:     jon.bosak@sun.com                                                 
                    <tmcgrath@portco       cc:     ubl-msc@lists.oasis-open.org, ubl-csc@lists.oasis-open.org, (bcc: 
                    mm.com.au>              Marion A. Royal/MEB/CO/GSA/GOV)                                          
                                           Subject:     Re: [ubl-csc] DRAFT UBL FAQ                                  
                    09/14/2003 12:23                                                                                 

i like it - well done Jon!

jon.bosak@sun.com wrote:
     Hello UBL Chairs and Marketing Subcommittee,

     OASIS recently added a "FAQ" menu item to each of its TCs and has
     requested each TC to provide content with which to populate these

     Attached is a first draft of the UBL FAQ that I committed to write
     up for this a few weeks ago.  Please review this and get back to
     me with any changes or additions.

     Unless I hear some huge outcry over this, I intend to send in
     whatever I manage to get put together out of the next few days'
     worth of input so that we've got SOMETHING at the end of our FAQ
     link (http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/ubl/faq.php).  Then we
     can continue to augment and modify this at our leisure.


     UBL FAQ
     Draft for UBL MSC/CSC Review, 13 September 2003
        1.      What are the goals of UBL?

          The goals of the UBL Technical Committee are as follows:
               To create a Universal Business Language (UBL) that will
               standardize common business data structures and allow
               businesses of all sizes to enjoy the benefits of electronic
               To develop UBL in harmony with the OASIS ebXML
               specifications and in light of recommendations and standards
               issued by ISO, IEC, ITU, UN/ECE, W3C, IETF, OASIS, and other
               relevant standards bodies and organizations.
               To align the vocabulary and structures of UBL with the
               vocabulary and structures of existing XML business
               To establish liaisons with leading industry data exchange
               organizations in order to ensure the usability of UBL in a
               variety of trading contexts.
               To vest ownership of UBL 1.0 in OASIS, a nonprofit
               corporation dedicated to the adoption of structured
               information standards, and to make it freely available to
               everyone without licensing or other fees.
               To promote UBL to the status of an international standard
               for the conduct of XML-based electronic business.
               To develop a standard context methodology for the automated
               customization of UBL to fit different business environments.
        2.      What does UBL intend to deliver?

          The primary deliverables of the UBL TC in the UBL 1.0 time frame
               A set of Naming and Design Rules for the representation of
               ebXML Business Information Entities (BIEs).
               A UBL BIE library in the form of standard XML schema
               elements for common business data structures such as
               "party," "address," and "line item."
               A set of basic business documents assembled from the BIE
               library, such as UBL Order, UBL Receipt Advice, and UBL
               A set of formatting specifications for the rendering of the
               basic business documents in human-readable form.
               Guidelines for extending UBL within specific industry
        3.      Where does the "BIE" terminology come from?

          It comes from ebXML, a nonproprietary international electronic
          commerce framework developed in partnership with the United
          Nations and maintained in a set of OASIS Technical Committees
          (see ebxml.org). The ebXML framework is being adopted by a
          growing number of governments and industry organizations as the
          basis for the next generation of business-to-business (B2B) and
          supply chain management (SCM) systems. UBL originated from the
          need to define a standard document format for ebXML messages.
        4.      Is UBL part of ebXML?

          Historically, UBL was developed in order to provide the document
          schemas for ebXML, but ebXML and UBL are not formally connected.
          It is easy to imagine UBL being used in a wide range of possible
          XML-based business frameworks other than ebXML.
        5.      Let me rephrase that question. Is UBL going to be the
          vocabulary for ebXML business documents?

          UBL can be (and was designed to be) a business vocabulary for
          ebXML, but ebXML can also be used with other business
          vocabularies as well. In fact, ebXML can in theory be used to
          exchange traditional EDI messages (X12 or EDIFACT), though we
          don't know of anyone actually doing this.
        6.      Will UBL be used with ebXML or not???

          It can't be denied that the combination of UBL and ebXML is a
          great foundation upon which to build a completely open, standard,
          vendor-neutral platform for the world's electronic commerce. The
          fact that UBL and ebXML are both owned by OASIS doesn't hurt,
        7.      Why do we need UBL? Aren't there already a number of XML
          vocabularies for business documents?

          That's exactly the problem -- there are too many of them. And
          most of them are optimized for a particular vertical industry or
          application domain, leading to an enormous interoperability
          problem for real-world businesses that have to work with partners
          in multiple industries.
        8.      Why are multiple messaging formats a problem?

          Several reasons.
               Developing and maintaining multiple versions of common
               business documents like purchase orders and invoices is a
               huge waste of effort.
               Writing and maintaining multiple adapters for multiple XML
               business schemas is a huge waste of effort.
               The existence of multiple XML formats makes it much harder
               to integrate XML business messages with backoffice systems.
               The need to support an arbitrary number of XML formats makes
               tools more expensive and trained workers harder to find.
               Only a single publicly owned standard can serve as a legally
               binding form for common business documents.
        9.      What are the advantages of a single standard for XML
          business messages?

          The main advantages of a single format are:
               Lower cost of integration, both among and within
               enterprises, through the reuse of common data structures.
               Lower cost of commercial software (software written to
               process a fixed XML tag set is much easier to develop than
               software that can handle an unlimited number of tag sets).
               Easier learning curve (just a single library).
               Lower cost of entry and therefore quicker adoption by small
               and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
               Standardized training, resulting in many skilled workers.
               A universally available pool of system integrators.
        10.     This sounds too good to be true. Don't different business
          contexts require different versions of the same basic business

          Yes and no.

          In many small-business environments, standard forms can indeed
          satisfy business requirements well enough to be used without
          modification. The existence of standard paper forms proves this.
          In these environments, UBL can work right out of the box.

          It is true, however, that different industries have different
          data requirements, and this has led in the past to the
          proliferation of variants even in such tightly controlled
          standards as X12, EDIFACT, and RosettaNet.
        11.     How does UBL solve the problem of multiple versions?

          UBL has both short-term and long-term strategies for dealing with
          the need to create variations of basic data structures tuned for
          different business contexts.

          The short-term (UBL 1.0) strategy is to provide guidelines for
          the manual extension of the generic UBL data models. It is
          expected that industry data exchange standards organizations will
          create their own versions of the UBL documents according to their
          expert understanding of the needs of each industry. The
          contribution of UBL at this stage will be to radically reduce the
          cost of document creation and to maximize code reuse to the
          fullest extent practical.

          The long-term (post-1.0) strategy is to create a technology for
          the automatic creation of specific document types based on the
          particular business context in which they are to be used. UBL
          intends to build on the ebXML identification of key context
          drivers (business process, industry, regulatory environment,
          etc.) in developing this context methodology.
        12.     So UBL is just a collection of basic business forms?

          No, it is also (and more importantly) a library of reusable data
          components from which an unlimited number of other documents can
          be constructed. It is expected that groups of business experts
          will construct these other documents based on the UBL library for
          use in specific domains such as taxation, transport, customs,
          resource planning, and so on.
        13.     Who owns UBL?

          UBL is owned by OASIS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the
          open development of public XML standards. UBL is being developed
          by an OASIS Technical Committee made up of XML and business
        14.     How much will it cost to use UBL?

          UBL is royalty-free.
        15.     When will UBL be ready for use?

          The OASIS UBL TC is nearing the end of a two-year-long project to
          complete UBL 1.0. An initial set of the basic UBL schemas, data
          models, example instances, stylesheets, and supporting materials
          was released for public review in January 2003 as UBL 0.7. In May
          2003, the UBL data models were substantially revised in light of
          many comments received during the three-month 0.7 public review
          period, and the revised data models, designated UBL 0.8, were
          then put through a two-month review by teams representing
          RosettaNet, the Open Applications Group, and the OASIS eGov TC.
          Input from this review has been incorporated into the UBL data
          models, and the TC is now beginning the generation of the XML
          schemas for UBL 1.0 Alpha.

          After internal technical review of the 1.0 Alpha schemas,
          expected to end in mid-October, the TC will prepare a full set of
          example instances, stylesheets, ASN.1 specifications,
          documentation, and UML class diagrams to accompany the data
          models and the normative schemas. Release of UBL 1.0 Beta for
          public implementation testing is scheduled for the beginning of
          November 2003, and completion of UBL 1.0 is scheduled for
          February 2004. The release of UBL 1.0 as an OASIS standard will
          provide a royalty-free set of XML schemas, presentational
          specifications, and supporting documents that we hope will become
          universally adopted as a legal basis for electronic commerce.
        16.     What do you mean by "legal basis for electronic commerce?"
          Aren't all data standards equal in this regard?

          No. Electronic documents such as purchase orders and invoices are
          not just sets of parameters; they express the legal intentions of
          their senders. In an environment characterized by a relatively
          small number of large-scale EDI-like trading relationships, such
          intentions can be expressed in one-off out-of-band legal
          agreements. But in a larger marketplace involving an arbitrary
          number of players, intention can be expressed only within a fixed
          and universally understood semantic framework. To put it simply,
          the meaning of a commercial document exchanged in a global
          environment has to be understood the same way everywhere because
          the agreement it expresses has to be enforceable everywhere.
        17.     How will UBL attain the status of a legally recognized XML
          vocabulary for electronic commerce?

          The UBL TC strives to work within the framework of international
          standards that we believe should govern electronic trade. For
          example, the UBL Forms Presentation Subcommittee has been working
          closely with the UN/ECE eDocs initiative to ensure that the UBL
          schemas and stylesheets conform to UN document layout standards.
          The UBL Library Content Subcommittee has worked closely with the
          UN/CEFACT Core Components team to ensure strict adherence to the
          Core Components Technical Specification, to which UBL has been a
          major contributor. And the UBL Naming and Design Rules
          Subcommittee has worked with UN/CEFACT ATG2 to align XML schema
          design principles.

          The objective of UBL from the beginning has been to provide the
          world with standards for the electronic versions of traditional
          business documents designed in a way that recognizes established
          commercial and legal practices. Since December 2001, UBL has been
          on the standing agenda of the ISO IEC ITU UN/ECE eBusiness MoU
          Management Group, of which OASIS is a nonvoting member. This
          group manages relationships regarding electronic business
          standards among the organizations referenced by the General
          Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). OASIS is also a Class A
          Liaison to ISO TC 154, which is responsible for the international
          standardization of electronic document syntaxes such as EDIFACT.
          It is our intention to submit UBL to ISO following its approval
          by OASIS in the first quarter of 2004.
        18.     What does UBL have to say about the standardization of
          business processes?

          UBL has very little to say about process definition.

          In order to reduce the task of ecommerce standardization to
          manageable proportions, UBL strongly differentiates the data
          standardization problem from the process standardization problem.
          UBL focuses on the standardization of business data as the first
          step toward global ecommerce integration and leaves the
          standardization of business processes to the user communities
          represented by organizations such as RosettaNet, OAG, and
        19.     Doesn't this leave process definition somewhat ambiguous?

          It leaves initial process definition implicitly defined by our
          existing commercial, legal, and regulatory institutions, to be
          supplemented by the more formal process definitions just
          beginning to emerge from industry domain organizations.
        20.     This doesn't sound like the optimum end state for
          electronic commerce.

          UBL is not intended to provide the Grand Unified Theory of
          electronic commerce. It's just intended to provide the logical
          next step forward for our existing system of trade.
        21.     That's not very elegant.

          Successful evolution is like that.
        22.     What are the possible larger implications of a standard XML
          tag set for business documents?

          The World Wide Web was created through the combination of a fixed
          tag set for hypertext publishing (HTML) and a transfer protocol
          designed for the same purpose (HTTP). The combination of a fixed
          tag set for electronic business (UBL) and a transport protocol
          designed for the same purpose (ebXML messaging) may create an
          explosion of business opportunities in the same way that the web
          technologies created an explosion of publishing opportunities.

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tim mcgrath
phone: +618 93352228
postal: po box 1289   fremantle    western australia 6160

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