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The Data Model Resource Book, Volume 3: Universal Patterns for Data Modeling by Len Silverston, Paul Agnew

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Chapter 3. Using Roles: How Parties Are Involved

"Who is the ship-to customer on this invoice?" "Who is the project manager of this project?" "Who was the counterparty for this stock trade?" Each of these questions has two things in common. First, they are questions about a party, that is, "who is...?" Secondly, the "who" is always about how a party (person or organization) is involved in some other entity. In other words, what role is the party playing within the context of a business activity or in the context of another entity (for example, the party's role in the context of an order, product, or some other entity)?

In Chapter 2 we discussed the importance of capturing the roles that parties play within the context of the enterprise as a whole. Recording information about customers, suppliers, partners, employees, logistics service providers, health care providers, subsidiaries, and counterparties is important to successfully understanding your total enterprise. But it is not sufficient just to capture these declarative roles. The context in which a person or organization is involved with specific business actions or other entities in your enterprise also needs to be captured. For example, an organization may be declared as a customer in an enterprise in general, as seen in Chapter 2, but within the context of an order the organization may be the "ship-to customer" and/or "bill-to customer." The declared "customer" role may not be specific enough to be useful in supporting the ...

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