ASC X12 Design Model for XML Gains Support

Jan. 1, 2003
A new research report from Gartner Inc., a leading technology research and advisory firm, praises the architecture in the eXtensible Markup Language (XML)

A new research report from Gartner Inc., a leading technology research and advisory firm, praises the architecture in the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) design model issued recently by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12, the standards body accredited in North America for the development of electronic business messages.

The report, ASC X12 Proposes CICA for XML Specification Definition, by Gartner research director Rita Knox, Ph.D., describes the Context Inspired Component Architecture or CICA, a method for assembling business messages that provides the predictable structure needed for e-business, but with a great deal more flexibility than in electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions. ASC X12 incorporated CICA as the heart of its XML reference design model, a document that guides future development of electronic business message standards using XML.

Knox says the XML world has suffered from a lack of common rules for the creation of business messages, noting that up to now many XML messages translate directly from paper-document equivalents or business processes, with little coordination or direction. “In many cases,” Knox says, “there are many versions of the same message or components, with no processes, other than human intervention, to detect and reconcile the similarities or conflicts.”

The report outlines CICA’s methods, describing its seven-layer framework ranging from single data items known as primitives to complete processable electronic documents. The architecture collects the data items into modules that assemble the parties, resources, locations and events (the Who-What-Where-When details) transmitted between trading partners. CICA encourages reuse of data and promotes semantic interoperability that helps translate the substance of business messages across industry and geographic or linguistic boundaries. In April 2002, another Gartner report proposed a vocabulary- and grammar-based approach to developing XML standards (Can Language Help Build XML-Defined Standards? Gartner document COM-16-1430).

Knox encourages a CICA-like approach for XML business development. Her report says, “CICA can transform XML standards development, and will enable creating and processing XML messages on demand.” In its conclusion, the report encourages users to “push their standards organizations to use the CICA framework when developing XML-based specifications.”

David Barkley, chair of ASC X12, notes, “The Gartner report validates our belief that XML can indeed play an important and contributory role in e-business when it builds on the valuable experience collected over two decades with EDI. ASC X12 has offered our entire XML reference model, including CICA, to UN/CEFACT for consideration as a standard worldwide, not just for North America.”

The Gartner research note ASC X12 Proposes CICA for XML Specification Definition (January 2, 2003, document T-18-8060, $US 95) is available from the Gartner Inc. Web site, The ASC X12 Reference Model for XML Design can be downloaded from the ASC X12 Web site,

To learn more about ASC X12, visit