Tijd voor grondiger reflectie

Severe limitations of CCTS


Jan van Til





One of the members of CCWG-UCM, mentioned the existence of UCM (Unified Context Methodology) to me – late August 2007. As a consequence Core Components Technical Standard – CCTS v3.0 came into my existence as well as the proceedings of the UCM project this far.

This consult contains my comments on UN/CEFACT CCTS Version 3.0 (2nd Public Review of April 16th 2007).




When does a room start to exhibit prison cell characteristics (and eventually truly becomes a prison cell)? I think it does at the moment one experiences that his/her freedom to ‘move’ in the broadest sense gets limited.

As long as one stays unaware of such limitations, the thought of imprisonment will not arise. While reading the CCTS document, I got that uncomfortable sensation of imprisonment. The strong feeling that CCTS deprived me of the minimal amount of freedom I need right now.

This feeling comes about as a consequence of my interpretation of CCTS.


But then – me having that feeling: What do the biggest bars look like that CCTS tries to put me behind?



Bar 1: Restriction of context to the Business (context)

Throughout the text the perspective is narrowed to business only. However, it is clear (to me at least it is) that today information is getting more and more important. Not only in business situations, but in general! Private, public, societal, business etc.

Nowadays we connect everything with everything very easily. The keyword is Internet! Of course there is B2B, and B2C and …. But there’s X2Y too. And B2B, B2C etc. are indeed ‘only’ a subset of X2Y.

When dealing with information we – of course – can ‘see’ business, but business is not the first ‘thing’ and not the only ‘thing’ that appears on the horizon. And that’s because information is an irreducible aspect of communication, which is in turn an irreducible aspect of (human) life. And since human life is not restricted to business… information and communication aren’t restricted to business either.


From this broadened perspective (to me) it becomes clear that business certainly has – no doubt – its important place, but – informationally speaking – business doesn’t have any special rights that justify business as a starting point for CCTS, UCM or anything else.



Bar 2: Taking Business (context) as ‘the’ starting point

CCTS seems to simply take that starting point for granted. As if it were the only possible/logical thing to do. It then becomes easy and ‘natural’ to forget about that starting point all together and implicitly take the CCTS starting point as the ultimate starting point. And… as long as one stays unaware… CCTS will not manifest itself according to its real nature… as a room that imprisons; a prison cell.

On page 18 (line 497/498) CCTS claims context independency:


“[…] independent of any specific context”.


I am afraid that is not context independency, but context independency in the context of the starting point as chosen by CCTS.

Is there an inescapable need to hold on to this self imposed limit?



Bar 3: Taking context categories as ‘the’ closure

Then, starting from the CCTS’s ground level (a fixed level; the Core Components), BIE’s come into existence by applying (the mechanism of) business context to CC’s (page 22; line 618). And business context comes into existence by ‘instantiating’ one or more context categories. And (a fixed number of) context categories are prescribed by CCTS itself.

So, the way I understand CCTS, the whole of CCTS is bounded by CC’s on the one hand and context categories on the other hand. It is within these boundaries that CCTS has to support all businesses and all business circumstances within any of those businesses.


Is CCTS v3.0 really capable of accomplishing that heavy task? Is CCTS – within her own chosen boundaries – capable of supporting enough ‘business circumstances’?

Where do we find people that willingly limit their opportunities for business success (in CCTS language: limit their business circumstances), just because they have to deal with a standard that lacks the necessary accommodation for their legitimate business needs?

Is there an inescapable need to hold on to these self imposed limits?



Closing (and starting) remarks

Today we live in a world in which – so to speak – change is the only constant. In other words: we live in a world in which (business) circumstances change rapidly and continuously. And the speed at which that happens… increases. This world can no longer work properly with any standard that limits its (business) inhabitants in their (business) information needs. Designers should simply refrain from producing such limitations, especially with richer – much richer options at hand. I believe Metapattern is such an option.


On page 13 (line 358) CCTS is presented as a


“revolutionary approach […]”.


CCTS may be right on that one. The question is whether it is revolutionary enough to adequately serve the ever increasing dynamics of its users altogether.


On page 17 (line 471) the CCTS approach is presented as


“more flexible than current […] standards”.


And that is good news too. Again: the question is whether it is flexible enough to adequately serve the ever increasing dynamics of its users altogether.


In my opinion CCTS v3.0 unnecessarily cripples and imprisons its users by its limiting assumptions. As said before: refrain from such limitations! Get Metapattern; study it thoroughly. It is worth the trouble! Metapattern supports much more variety then CCTS (v3.0) can ever offer.


Metapattern is not easy to comprehend – which is because it requires quite another mindset than most people have right now.

To give one example; it can be found on page 107 (line 3651-3653):


“Whenever business collaboration takes place between specific trading partners, data is exchanged in the form of business messages. When used as such, that data exists in a particular context”.


Quite a normal sentence for ‘contemporary’ mindsets, I think. But to a Metapattern minded person such a sentence just makes no sense; it is nonsense. And unless one at least makes an attempt to understand (and hopefully appreciate) the ‘Metapattern way’, one will not be able to thoroughly ‘see’ why – I’m afraid.

Well, that calls for an explanation! Of course the specific trading partners are related. But are they related through a single collaboration in one single business context? The text on page 107 strongly suggests that they are.

Each specific trading partner, however, acts from his own unique – that is from quite a different – business context. And each specific trading partner makes his own unique contribution to the collaboration. Those specific contributions start from different origins, they start for different reasons, they aim at different goals, they count different, they…. They simply are different.

The point is that there is no single collaboration in that one single business context. One simply misses the point if one misses… that point! The only ‘point’ that all specific trading partners share (have in common)… is a tiny reference to the collaboration in question.

So, how many different business contexts do we have here really? There are at least as many different business contexts as there are specific trading partners involved in the collaboration. But, then… what happened to the collaboration itself? Well, it emptied itself into the different business contexts. And it is this way that collaboration – now acting as a single emptiness – is perfectly suited to perform its pivotal task in… collaboration: connecting together the different business contexts. Welcome to Metapattern!




September 2007, 2007 © Jan van Til


Four months later, in January 2008, I published an article (in Dutch) about the severe limitations of CCTS: “Core Components zijn voor gisteren”. The article aims to point out that durable interoperability cannot be reached with CCTS – despite all its promises.