The UDEF is a framework for global interoperability. It is based on concepts of object class and property that are common to many branches of information and knowledge management. Any kind of data item can be considered as being the value of a particular property of a particular object class. The UDEF enables object classes and properties to be consistently and uniquely identified, and hence enables data items to be classified.
The UDEF is enterprise-centric. The classification of data is done from the point of view of a particular enterprise. It is thus necessary to know which enterprise is the basis of a particular item classification in order to interpret that item within other enterprises.
The UDEF has a core vocabulary containing terms that describe basic object classes and properties that are common across enterprises. Other vocabularies, containing terms that describe object classes and properties from specialist knowledge areas or from particular enterprises, can be added. In principle, any object class or property can be identified in the UDEF.
Vocabularies in the UDEF framework contain terms that describe object classes and properties.
The object classes are of two kinds: enterprise and general.
An enterprise object class is defined relative to a particular enterprise. The UDEF is a mechanism for indexing enterprise data. All the core UDEF object classes are enterprise object classes. For example, Person is defined as "Any data or information about any human being that is relevant to the enterprise". Employee.Person is data or information about an employee of the enterprise, and does not apply to people that are employees of other enterprises.
A general object class is defined in absolute terms. For example, Airplane might be defined in an engineering vocabulary as "Any data or information about any airplane". The core UDEF does not include general object classes, but general object class identifiers can be used stand-alone or combined with core UDEF object class identifiers to define enterprise object classes, thereby increasing the scope and precision of the UDEF. For example, Airplane could be combined with Asset to name the object class defined by, "Any data or information about any airplane which is used, consumed, or available for use/consumption by any process of an enterprise." It could also be combined with Product for "Any data or information regarding an airplane that is the result of a set of processes by an enterprise and which is intended to be used or consumed by entities outside of the enterprise."
Properties are also of two kinds: datatype properties and object properties.
A datatype property is one whose values are data quantities such as numbers or text strings. All core UDEF properties are datatype properties. For example, Amount is "A number of monetary units specified in a currency."
An object property is one whose values are objects (in the wider sense, including people). For example, a family vocabulary might include an object property next-of-kin-of. The core UDEF does not include object properties, but object property identifiers can be combined with core UDEF property identifiers to define datatype properties. For example, next-of-kin-of could be combined with name for "a word or phrase that distinctively designates the next-of-kin of a person."
(Note that these concepts of object and datatype property are similar to those found in RDF.)
A UDEF-compatible vocabulary contains terms identifying and describing object classes and properties that form a set of trees under the sub-class and sub-property relations.
Note that this is a more restrictive condition than allowing arbitrary sets of object classes and properties, which might form partially-ordered sets that are not trees under the sub-class and sub-property relations.
The object classes can include both general and enterprise object classes. The properties can include both object and datatype properties.
In general, a UDEF-compatible vocabulary contains a set of names for each node, and a set of descriptions for each node. A node may have multiple names and descriptions, for example in different languages, and with the names including alpha-numeric identifiers as well as meaningful names. (Native identifiers are classed as names. The object classes and properties are given new UDEF identifiers when they are imported into the UDEF.)
A UDEF-Compatible Vocabulary can be imported into the UDEF. When this is done:
The organization importing the vocabulary into the UDEF remains responsible for the maintenance of that vocabulary. In doing so, it must follow the UDEF governance procedures to ensure that the vocabulary remains UDEF-compatible.