Use InfoSphere Business Glossary to define a common business language among modeling tools

Combining common business language taxonomies with modeling tools encourages architects, modelers, and developers to understand and use commonly understood business terms, which eliminates the ambiguity that loosely specified language can introduce. This drives alignment of requirements between IT and business stakeholders. This article describes how to use InfoSphere™ Business Glossary, Rational® Software Architect, and InfoSphere Data Architect within a specific development flow to introduce agreed-upon terms into the modeling environments, establishing the correct semantics early in the development cycle. This effort decreases the cost of development by reducing the churn of getting IT to understand what the business requirements really mean.


Brian Byrne (, InfoSphere Integration Architect, IBM

Photo of Brian ByrneBrian Byrne has over 10 years experience in the design and development of distributed systems, spending 7 years driving the architecture of Industry Models across a range of industries. Brian is currently an architect within IBM's Information Management organization.

Jennifer Ramirez (, Software IT Architect, IBM

Photo of Jennifer RamirezJennifer Ramirez has over 20 years of experience in IT, focusing the last 10 years on software integration.

18 March 2010


In a large organization with complex analysis, modeling, and development initiatives spread across multiple projects, standardizing business semantics is key. Without a way to standardize the meanings and definitions of business concepts, each analysis, modeling, or development thread will naturally establish its own semantics. These disparate semantics can compound the already fragmented understanding of the relationship between IT assets and the business concepts they support.

For example, the business side of the house might clearly define the term Customer Tax Status. This enables each IT initiative that supports Customer Tax Status to use the defined meaning, which drives consistency of term name, definition, and related semantics across all the IT initiatives. By contrast, in the absence of such a structure, each IT initiative might naturally come to its own conclusion as to what Customer Tax Status means and how it should be defined. This can result in multiple structures, such as Customer Tax Code, Tax Status, Customer Code, all of which loosely imply the same semantics but differ in name and definition.

InfoSphere Business Glossary provides a means to specify business concepts and to manage the relationship among those concepts and the IT structures that support them. However, this content is only useful if it is easy to access. For example, without immediate and efficient access to glossary content, model users, including service analysts, component designers, and logical data modelers, might ignore the glossary and define their own terms. The glossary content should be available within the modeling tools, making the content impossible for the modeler to ignore. Still, there might be complications with model interchange and synchronization as relationships between model structures and glossary terms must be retained as models flow from tool to tool.

This article describes an example use case in which a UML modeler is transformed into a logical data model (LDM). The following steps describe the flow, as shown in Figure 1.

  1. UML modeler uses glossary browser to create new UML structures and to classify existing ones.
  2. Completed UML model is used for two purposes: to drive software/service development and as a source for a logical data model.
  3. Resulting logical data model retains glossary classifications.
  4. Generation to physical data model also retains glossary classifications, ready for publication to metadata server.
  5. Derived UML models also retain glossary classifications.
Figure 1. Flow starting with UML
Flow from InfoSphere Business Glossary through UML modeler to Component/Service Developer or Data modeler

Transforming an LDM specification to a UML model is an equally valid and supported use case. Simply reverse the process described in Figure 1 using the LDM-to-UML transform, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Flow starting with LDM
Flow from InfoSphere Business Glossary through Data modeler to UML modeler or another Data modeler

The high-level steps in Figure 2 are:

  1. Data modeler uses the glossary browser to create new UML structures and to classify existing ones.
  2. Completed logical model is used for two purposes: to drive database development and as a source for a UML model.
  3. Transformed UML model retains glossary classifications.
  4. UML model is used to drive software development stack.
  5. Generation to physical data retains glossary classifications, ready for publication to metadata server.

Using the business glossary in RSM and RSA

Complete the following steps to use the InfoSphere Business Glossary within the UML modeling environment.

  1. If the glossary is not already configured for the workspace, right-click the root of the Business Glossary Explorer, and select Preferences. The Preferences (Filtered) window appears, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Configure connection to a live Business Glossary instance
Screen cap: Preferences (Filtered) window with Hostname, Username, and Password fields
  1. Enter the Host, Username, and Password, and click OK.
  2. Click Window > Show View > Other to show the Business Glossary Explorer window.
  3. Click Glossary Explorer, and click OK, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Bringing up the Glossary Explorer
Screen cap: Show View window with Glossary Explorer highlighted

The Glossary Explorer window, as shown in Figure 5, appears on your lower-right panel of RSA,

Figure 5. Glossary Explorer
Screen cap: Glossary Explorer tab highlighted with Glossary, Business Concepts, and IFW Glossary in the window
  1. Right-click anywhere in this window, and select Update to load new updates to the glossary.

From the Glossary Explorer, a modeler can perform either of two actions.

  • The modeler can drag and drop glossary terms onto existing classes and attributes of the UML model. This establishes a classifying relationship between that UML model element and the glossary term. Figure 6 shows an example of dragging and dropping the business term Involved Party from the glossary onto the UML class Involved Party. Repeating this for the terms Participant and Next Of Kin results in the classification relationships shown at the bottom of Figure 6 (larger image).
    Figure 6. Drag and drop terms
    Screen cap: Involved Party glossary being assigned

    For the modeler to establish new elements based on the terms in the Business Glossary, he simply drags the glossary terms onto the UML canvas. A new UML class is created based on the business definition of that glossary term. Figure 7 (larger image) shows a new class added by dragging the glossary term Customer.

    Figure 7. Creating a new class
    Screen cap: Project Explorer tab with glossaryAssigned Customer highlighted
  • The modeler can add new attributes to an existing class. Figure 8 (larger image) shows the result of dragging and dropping the term Health Status Date to add a new attribute to the Customer class. The relationship to the originating glossary term is retained.
    Figure 8. Adding an attribute
    Screen cap: Health Status Date is now contained in the glossaryAssigned CUSTOMER item

Using this approach, the UML modeler has complete freedom to define his model, but he is encouraged to do so in accordance with the agreed business terms and semantics of the enterprise, as shown in Figure 9. If existing model structures exist that are not already in strict accordance with the glossary, these structures can be classified using the appropriate glossary terms.

Figure 9. Terms in glossaryAssigned
Screen cap: Customer and Involved Party are now contained in the glossaryAssigned items

Constructing a new logical data model

Within the InfoSphere Data Architect environment, the glossary is also available through the same Business Glossary Explorer plugin. To import the UML model and associated glossary classifications as an LDM, define an instance of transformation from UML to LDM, as shown in Figure 10. This is a standard transform that has been updated in the most recent version of IDA to support glossary classification.

Figure 10. Specifying a configuration name and transformation
Screen cap: Name: IP, Config file destination: /USAA BG2 UML/BPS81, and Transformation: UML to LDM
  1. To configure the transform, set the source for the logical data model to be the UML model or the UML package within the model.
  2. Set the target as the IDA project in use, as shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11. Selecting source and target
Screen cap: New Transformation Config Source and Target. Involved Party on left. USAA BG Data on right.
  1. Click Finish. The transformation configuration is defined, as shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12. Finishing and running the transformation configuration
Screen cap: tab showing Forward transformation of UML to LDM
  1. To execute the transformation, click Run, which creates an LDM file corresponding to the UML model, such as Involved Party.ldm.
  2. Open the LDM file to see the new and existing UML structures, now rendered in ER notation, as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 13. Resulting LDM with glossary classifications
Screen cap: Explorer menu with CUSTOMER, glossary contents, and InvolvedParty expanded.
Screen cap: Assigned Terms tab with Customer, Member, and Initiator showing context

The data modeler can then use this LDM file as input to a transformation to DBM and ultimately to DDL to deploy to the database management system (DBMS). During this process, the data modeler often makes extensions or changes to this model, which can then be transformed back into a UML model. This synchronizes model assets between the worlds of UML and LDM, which are all connected to and classified by a common business taxonomy within Business Glossary.

For more details on the model management implications of this pattern, see Resources.


These new functions within the modeling platform fundamentally change the capability of an enterprise to define and control business semantics across various modeling domains. These techniques, properly applied, can greatly reduce the variation in business definitions across modeling efforts, across projects, and across line-of-business boundaries.



Get products and technologies



developerWorks: Sign in

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

Need an IBM ID?
Forgot your IBM ID?

Forgot your password?
Change your password

By clicking Submit, you agree to the developerWorks terms of use.


The first time you sign into developerWorks, a profile is created for you. Information in your profile (your name, country/region, and company name) is displayed to the public and will accompany any content you post, unless you opt to hide your company name. You may update your IBM account at any time.

All information submitted is secure.

Choose your display name

The first time you sign in to developerWorks, a profile is created for you, so you need to choose a display name. Your display name accompanies the content you post on developerWorks.

Please choose a display name between 3-31 characters. Your display name must be unique in the developerWorks community and should not be your email address for privacy reasons.

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

(Must be between 3 – 31 characters.)

By clicking Submit, you agree to the developerWorks terms of use.


All information submitted is secure.

Dig deeper into Information management on developerWorks

Zone=Information Management, Big data and analytics, Rational
ArticleTitle=Use InfoSphere Business Glossary to define a common business language among modeling tools