Part 04: Standardization

This part is a summary of the most important descriptions of the International Business Communication Standards Association (IBCS-A). The Association describes the Basic visualization principles in the chapter “Express”. After that, the Association describes the possibility to standardize the visualization of Information in the chapter “Unify” in “Semantic Rules”.  As a HICHERT(R)IBCS CERTIFIED CONSULTANT, I do follow this rules because they improve tremendously business communication.

Semantic Rules

Semantic rules help to clearly relay content by using a uniform notation (IBCS Notation). They comprise the third part of the IBCS Standards with the SUCCESS rule set UNIFY based on the work of Rolf Hichert and other contributors of the IBCS Association. As they are manifested by convention, semantic rules must first be more widely accepted to become a standard.

Unify means “Apply semantic rules”

UNIFY covers all aspects of applying semantic notation in reports and presentations. Applying semantic notation means that reports and presentations follow this governing principle: Similar content should be visualized in a similar manner; what looks the same should also mean the same. On the flip side: If the content is not the same, it should not look the same.

In many specialized disciplines such as engineering, music, and architecture, semantic notation standards are a matter of course. The world of business communication lacks such notation standards, one of the main reasons management reports are sometimes hard to understand. For example, no common agreement on the meaning of various style elements such as titles, line markers, axes, highlighting indicators, etc. used in business charts exists yet.

The chapter covers semantic rules for all important and frequently recurring aspects of meaning in the context of business communication, such as terminology (e.g. words, abbreviations, and number formats), descriptions (e.g. messages, titles, and legends), dimensions (e.g. measures, scenarios, and time periods), analyses (e.g. comparisons and variances), and indicators for highlighting, scaling and other purposes.

UN 1 Unify terminology

Terms are the non-visual part of business communication. Unified terms and abbreviations as well as unified formats for numbers, units and dates accelerate understanding.

UN 2 Unify descriptions

Descriptions are textual elements that describe the visual elements in reports and presentations facilitating comprehension. The following suggests unified layouts for every kind of descriptions.

UN 3 Unify dimensions

Data in reports and presentations can be viewed from various perspectives called dimensions. For example, all business measures, such as sales, profit, margin, etc., constitute a measure dimension, all months, quarters, years, etc., a time Dimension.

Identifying dimensions via uniform visualization will help to understand reports and presentations. This section suggests visualization standards for measures, scenarios, time periods, and structure dimensions.

UN 4 Unify analyses

Analyses are carried out in order to understand certain business situations, e.g. finding the greatest variances from a plan or calculating the monthly average. This section comprises analyses regarding different dimensions such as scenario analyses, time series analyses, and structure analyses. A section covering different adjustment analyses is added.

UN 5 Unify indicators

Indicators in reports and presentations serve different purposes, e.g. highlighting and scaling. Using the indicator with the same design for the same purpose will help to identify the situation much faster.


About Tobias Riedner
Tobias Riedner foundet in 2015. He works and worked as innovator, consultant, analyst and educator in the fields of business intelligence and data warehousing. He learned a lot from the best consultants, managers und educators in the past and shares his knowledge worldwide. He works for a steady growing traditional company which is a leader in industry 4.0.