Business basics: A Common Business Language (2/2) - exploring XML | WebReference

Business basics: A Common Business Language (2/2) - exploring XML

Business basics: A Common Business Language

Inside xCBL...

While a detailed examination of the xCBL specification is beyond the scope of this article, let's look at the available documents for order management, as well as their respective content.

Order management is a business process that consists of a set of very similar business functions, a so-called "transaction family." This family consists of functions for placing and changing an order, checking price and availability, and requesting the status of an order.

The Business Transaction Members reference ebXML business transactions, a complementary standard for finding business partners and exchanging messages. We will get back to this in the next installment of this column.

Transaction FamilyBusiness FunctionBusiness Transaction Members
Order Placementplacing an order with a supplierBT-1.1-OrderCreateBT-1.2-OrderCreateAndSingleOrderResponseBT-1.3-OrderCreateAndMultipleOrderResponsesBT-1.4-OrderRequest
Order Statusrequesting the status of an order placed with a supplierBT-1.5-OrderStatusRequestAndResult
Price Checkingchecking the price of an itemBT-1.6-PriceCheckRequestAndResult
Availability Checkingchecking the availability of an itemBT-1.7-AvailabilityCheckRequestAndResult
Change Orderchanging an order that has been placed with a supplierBT-1.8-ChangeOrderBT-1.9-ChangeOrderAndSingleOrderResponseBT-1.10-ChangeOrderAndMultipleOrderResponses

A typical transaction might look like this:

  1. A Sales Order service indicates the availability of goods or services by issuing an OrderRequest message to an intermediary such as an electronic market site. The request contains information on line items and package item details. The request gets forwarded to identified buyers.
  2. A buyer submits a purchase order. The order is sent for acceptance or rejection by a seller. A requisitioner, buyer, or buying organization can initiate an order in response to a variety of factors in the electronic business arena, contracts, auctions, order requests, etc. An order contains almost the same information as an order request.
  3. A requisitioner, or buyer, can initiate a change to an already existing order, such as changing the ordered quantity of a particular item. Any aspect of an order can be changed, and it is up to the business partners to decide whether these changes are acceptable or not.
  4. A seller uses the OrderResponse document to accept or reject an Order or a changed order. Again, seller fexibility and market customs, not technology, decides on the outcome of such a transaction.


Why are we examining something that looks so simple? Well, because it is simple xCBL (and by logical extension UBL) that has the chance to become the lingua franca for electronic business documents that EDI never became because of its complexity. The wide availability of XML tools allows for integration of the most obscure legacy systems into a global electronic marketplace for goods and services, potentially bringing pork chops and office supplies on par with financial instruments regarding process automation.

The tremendous value of all this is that somebody else went through the tedious process of defining all the message formats and exchange sequences that make up a business process for you, and also attached meaning to each individual field of these messages. You don't have to do it yourself, just wrap your head around what is already there.

All you need to get started is being able to send and receive these XML-based order documents, either through an intermediary such as a marketplace or directly from your customers, and the here described standardization will free you from the burden of rolling your own data formats, and adapting them individually for each customer. A lot of industry know-how went into the definition of xCBL, and together with ebXML, which specifies other aspects of business-to-business data exchange, the dream of friction-free exchange of goods and services might come true.

Produced by Michael Claßen

Created: Dec 10, 2001
Revised: Dec 10, 2001