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Short Description

Onboarding (of an actor1) is a process that is run for a specific (set of) actor(s) on behalf of a specific party, that terminates successfully if and only if the party has (a) established the suitability of the actor(s) for executing certain kinds of actions on its behalf, (b) ensured that their mutual rights and duties are properly specified and will be appropriately enforced, and (c) provided the circumstances/contexts within which the actor is enabled to do so.

After an actor has been onboarded successfully by a party, we say that they have set up an employee-employer relationship, i.e. we can say that the actor now works for that party, as modeled in the party actor action pattern. This is prerequisite for engaging in an agent-principal relationship, that is elaborated on in the party actor action pattern as well.

So, onboarding consists of three parts that the party typically executes consecutively:

  1. The party establishes the suitability of the actor for executing actions of certain types on its behalf, so that the actor, once it is onboarded, is capable of working as the party expects it to. Typically, the party will be looking for the actor's capabilities, capacities, characteristics and the like. To establish these, the party may decide to rely on e.g., diploma's, certificates, track-records and the like.

  2. The party ensures that rights and duties of the actor (towards the party and/or others, as appropriate) are properly specified, and can be enforced if necessary. Typically, this will take the form of a contract between the party itself and another party that has sufficient control over the actor, and where the actor is the subject of the contract. This ensures that the actor, once it is onboarded, can also be relied upon to work as the party expects it to.

  3. The party has started the process of continually providing all circumstances and/or satisfying all conditions that are needed for the actor to execute the tasks (actions) it needs to do. This includes e.g. providing the actor with roles/permissions, access to the policies that guide the execution of such actions, resources to work with, etc. We envisage the actual (continuous) running of this process not to be part of onboarding, but as part of the governance process of the capabilities that the party chooses to have and maintain.

We use the relation works for to model the fact that a party has successfully completed these three steps. Equivalently, we can say that an actor and a party are in an employee-employer relationship. Thus, every agent-principal pair in the relation is acting on behalf of MUST also appear as an employee-employer pair in the relation works for.

The Parties, Actors and Actions pattern describes how this concept fits in with related concepts.


An organization that doesn't reject a job application of an individual out of hand, effectively starts the onboarding process for that person. Step 1 typically consists of examining that person's CV, its diploma's, certificates etc., doing an interview and perhaps a job assessment. Step 2 comprises of the contract negotiations that, if successful, result in a signed job contract. Then, after the organization has instructed its various departments to provide the person with e.g. a desk, equipment (phone, computer, ...), badge, etc. the person is onboarded.

An individual that is an employee for an employment agency has an employment contract with that agency. Another organization may need temporary employees, and requests the employment agency to produce candidates. When the employment agency complies, the organization will start to onboard all of them, sign a contract with the employment agency for the candidates (actors) of its choice, and making sure they are supplied with whatever they need to execute the tasks they are hired for.

Similarly a bank will onboard a customer by doing a Know-Your-Customer (KYC) check (step 1), making it sign a contract, and supplying it with a bank-account, and - depending on the contract - a debit/credit card, banking app, etc.

Note that the banking app, once installed on the customer's mobile phone, is also an actor that is expected to work for the bank, and hence must be onboarded. This consists the app contacting the banks business service that runs the onboarding process. This process will then electronically establish that the app is what the bank expects of it (step 1), "sign a contract" (step 2) which is basically the registration of some information which would include the customer that is expected to operate the app, and then provide the app with what it further needs to operate within the (electronic) context of the bank.

Your typical SSI wallet app that is deployed on a mobile phone is said to work for the person that operates the wallet app (which is different from the banking app in the previous paragraph). While this may be different for the various wallet apps, we expect that the person would first go and shop around to see which wallet app has the features it likes (step 1). The contract (step 2) is implicit: the rights and duties are defined by the capabilities of the wallet app. When the user installs the app on its mobile phone (step 3) onboarding is complete. The process in which the user provides the app with rights (e.g. to the phone's storage, NFC, or other capabilities, etc.), or retracts such rights, is outside the scope of the onboarding process.


The purpose of the onboarding process is to ensure/establish that an actor that does not work for a party in an employee-employer relationship (see the parties, actors and actions pattern), but for which there is a request to start working for that party:

  1. is capable of executing such actions ONLY according to the applicable policies of that party;
  2. is provided with the means to execute such actions, and
  3. is stimulated (if not: forced) to not execute any other actions;


  1. One might ask whether or not parties could also be onboarded. We choose to not think about this, as we already have the concept of outsourcing. So, hiring people from an employment agency would be a form of outsourcing, even though these people will be provided with the means for doing the tasks they are assigned. A party that hires its own people however is considered a form of onboarding.