ECIMF Project Overview

Useful links to information related to the project.
This page contains a couple of quick facts that should help you understand what this project is about:


The idea for a standardization project in the area of interoperability between different e-commerce standards has been first presented to CEN/ISSS in May 2000 by WebGiro AB, during Workshop plenary meeting in Vienna. It has received overall positive reactions, with recognition that the area is so complex and subject to so many other projects that a more specific definition of scope is needed, as well as clear support from both industry and research communities.

These conditions have been met through WebGiro's partnership with industry leaders like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and MCI Worldcom, as well as close cooperation with Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). This group has jointly submitted a revised proposal to establish an official CEN/ISSS project within the Workshop for Electronic Commerce.

This proposal has been very well accepted by the Workshop CAG (Chairman Advisory Group), which resulted in April 2000 in the decision to form a project group.

Please see the Documents section for currently available materials and the Status page for project tasks.


The ECIMF project aims to deliver:

A meta-framework, which offers a modeling language, methodology, and prototype tools for all e-commerce users to achieve secure interoperability of the service regardless of system platforms and without major adjustments of existing systems.

The most important characteristic of this project is to provide a common platform and approach to enable interoperability without enforcing major changes to the existing infrastructure. This is in contrast with many other widely promoted approaches to interoperability, which require from partners to be strictly conformant to a common standard in order to participate in e-commerce.

There are strong reasons for preferring the "enable" instead of (now commonly endorsed) "enforce" approach:
  • Business partners may have already made significant investments in building interfaces conforming to some standard(s).
  • Commonly used integration methodologies are focused on data translation, which results in complex and inflexible solutions. Changing such integration solutions to accommodate new standards is often infeasible.
  • There will always be legacy systems that need to be integrated with the "standard of the year" external interfaces. It is simply not realistic to hope that at some point in time all systems will adopt and fully conform to one common standard for every aspect of business communication
For these reasons, the interoperability-enabling technologies will play an increasingly vital role in the e-business communication.

The main purpose of this meta-framework is to facilitate the interoperability by mapping the concepts and contexts between different existing e-commerce frameworks, across multiple architectural layers. At this stage we defined the following three layers of interoperability:

  • Semantic: after identifying the key concepts that each standard uses we need to provide an explicit mapping between them, considering differences in contexts in which they occur
  • Dynamic: each e-commerce party follows its own interaction patterns, as prescribed by its framework rules. A process mediator specification needs to be designed in order to align these conversation flows so that they meet each other.
  • Syntax: the differences in message formats, transport protocols and data element naming need to be resolved.

ECIMF Layers: Semantic, dynamic, syntax

An important premise for this project is the following definition of interoperability:

The interoperability, as seen from the business point of view, takes place when the business effects for the two involved enterprises are the same as if each of them conducted a given business process with a partner using the same e-commerce framework.

As a consequence of this premise, the project applies a top-down approach to the comparative analysis of the e-commerce frameworks, which starts from the business process level. ECIMF also reuses the experiences of other projects in the area of Business Process analysis and modeling, such as UN/CEFACT Unified Modeling Methodology (UMM), RosettaNet, OAG, ebXML, OMG and others.


The development and adoption of the ECIMF standard should benefit especially the following groups:
  • SME market:
    The small companies no longer will be forced to restructure at all costs their internal systems in order to conform to whatever framework their bigger partners have. The interoperability bridges that conform to ECIMF will allow them to do it gradually, based on the economic principles, while at the same time allowing them to participate in the e-commerce. This should result in more SME-s joining the e-market, even though their internal economy systems may not yet follow any standard e-commerce framework.
  • System integrators:
    The system integrators will be able to use a consistent methodology, and a precise framework for defining the integration bridges. The results of their work can be implemented on various conforming platforms, no longer locking them (and their customers) into a single proprietary tool. The overall cost for implementing the integration solution, its maintenance and amount of manual labor will be reduced.
  • Software vendors:
    The software vendors will be able to offer competitive integration products that conform to the standard framework. This means that their products will be more attractive to the customers, who are more likely to choose a solution that guarantees them certain level of independence. At the same time though, the conformance to ECIMF should allow software vendors to offer clearly understood added values, which are now very often misunderstood because of the difficulty in comparing proprietary methodologies.

The manpower allocated on permanent basis to this project comes currently from WebGiro and KTH (see the Members page for details). Numerous other individuals, and also the members of CEN/ISSS are involved on a voluntary basis. Additionally, in later stages of the project, we intend to find enough interest for the proof of concept implementation of the ECIML-compliant agent from our industry partners to allocate additional programming resources. We invite other workshop members, research organizations, user groups and industry representatives to contribute their resources and experiences to broaden the scope of the project.

The choice of particular topics for proof-of-concept activities results from the limitations of the resources, and the need to provide useful results in a limited time. Having this in mind, the planned deliverables consist of the following:
  • General ECIMF methodology (ECIMF-GM):
    A document (CWA) describing in detail the multi-layered approach, and the specification of the ECIMF methodology. This part will result from the discussions on the general methodology on how to approach the business process integration. The intention is to keep this part vendor- and tool-independent. Depending on the involvement of the project members, this document can have a value of either general guidelines, or formalized methodology. Our aim is to provide the latter.
  • ECIMF technical specification (ECIMF-TS):
    A document (CWA) containing the formal technical specification for modeling notation constructs, and the serialized form for the models (i.e. the ECIML and the MANIFEST specifications).
  • The Proof of Concept implementation (ECIMF-POC):
    This deliverable includes the tools to support the methodology - the ECIMF Navigator based on the Conzilla for conceptual navigation and calibration, integrated with a ManifestFactory implementation in order to produce the MANIFEST recipes based on the model. It will also contain a Proof of Concept mapping of two business processes from different frameworks. This part may include additional examples of mapping, depending on the contributed resources. If the timeframe and the resources available will be sufficient, a basic ECIML-compliant agent implementation will be created to support the Proof of Concept mapping.

You can find the latest versions of these documents on the Documents page.

The timeframe for this project is 18 months, in the period of June 2001 - December 2002. During this time the milestones listed below have been planned. See also the Status page for the current status of reaching these milestones:
  • M0: (Jun 2001): Initial Proof of Concept (POC) for the approach
    • Deliverables:
      • Reformulate and elaborate on the FAM CWA material in order to show how Conzilla tool can provide structured and contextualized added value to a textual description.
      • Provide an initial description of the methodology for comparing the e-commerce frameworks (this will form the draft of ECIMF-GM document).
      • Prepare a simple example of mapping the differences between two e-commerce frameworks (e.g. BizTalk and e-Speak), using the proposed approach.
  • M1: (Oct 2001): Initial ECIMF specification and basic tools integration
    • Deliverables:
      • Initial version of the ECIMF-GM and ECIMF-TS documents, and models of a concrete business process in two selected e-commerce frameworks.
      • Customization of the tools to support the modeling notation introduced in ECIMF-GM.
  • M2: (1Q 2002): Refined ECIMF specifications and extended tool-chain
    • Deliverables:
      • Refinement of the ECIMF specifications based on further comparative modeling of the selected frameworks.
      • · Extended support for the process in the tool-chain: integration of Conzilla, scripting language and the ECIML code generation to form the ECIMF Navigator tool.
  • M3: (4Q 2002): Further refinements to ECIMF specifications, and a reference ECIML-compliant agent implementation
    • Deliverables:
      • More refined ECIMF specifications, and additions to the tool-chain to support the specification.
      • Depending on the support from industry partners, a basic reference implementation of the ECIML-compliant server.

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