Meaning of Entity, Its Characteristics and Examples

In public administration studies, government body  is often described as an entity. But then again, a government building is also denoted as an entity. This is pretty confusing. Why the same word is given to both? They are not similar. In fact, while the first one is a group of humans, the latter is an object made from bricks and cement. Tradition tells us to not equal humans with objects, but in many different books, authors writing both fictions and nonfiction seem to still use the word entity for spiritual beings, aliens and ghosts. Now this is even more mind boggling, but there is no point in wasting time on this.

For an organization, actually, entity is a formal term. It is used in both business and governmental conversation. But of course, it has a meaning which would start looking very simple to you once you see some of its examples and characteristics. All of them are discussed below.

Meaning of Entity

Entity is a word that tags a person, location, thing, planned occasion or even an idea in an organizational environment for the ease of keeping them separate from one another. This helps a worker or manager record and save them categorically or individually within an index so they can be scanned and identified quicker for additional tasks. Grammatically, therefore, entity is always a noun. But then why are ghosts and aliens called entities? The answer is that this is the way speakers imply that they are not similar to humans. They are completely separate groups.

Those who work with records in an organization must always understand its entities. Otherwise, they run the risk of misinterpreting them. To understand it, take a look at the portion of of federal Discretionary Cuts table.

Do you think as an employee of President Obama, without knowing what each entity means within this table, you can prepare a report that defends these cuts? No you can't, for you have no knowledge of their relevance. If you are scared of what is shown above just head to examples. They will help you better understand the entities. By the way, the screenshot shows all public entities. What this means is that they are just public organizations.

Examples of Entities

Previously, we came to know that entities can be anything ranging from humans to ideas. But how do they look? Think about a university. It surely is an entity, but at the same time it has many more parts. If we just throw them within person, location, thing, planned occasion and idea this is how they would look:

Persons: Students, faculty, staff and even alumni because many of them from high positions help the university by being donors or job recruiters of new graduates. Some become famous and that helps the university look attractive to prospective students.

Locations: Campus building, classrooms, departments, library, parking lot, cafeteria, facilities, bookstore and office under which we have the admission and records, dean's office and so on.
Things/objects: Desks, boards, markers, computers, projectors, light bulbs, podiums, fees and so on.

Planned occasions: Graduation ceremony, university holidays (campus closed), first day of the quarter, deadline for professors to post final grades, job fair and orientation for freshmen or master's students.

Ideas: Courses, sections, semester/quarter, enrollment, university policies and so on.

Characteristics of an Entity

In general, all entities have characteristics which must be taken into consideration to understand the process of the organization. Here is their list along with their explanations. We will also use the examples from above.

1. Presence: Simply put, the entity is present in reality.
Example: Think about the university and all its components. You know they exist. This is what the presence is all about.

2. Significance: The organization has a need for the entity.
Example: The university must have professors to teach the students.

3. Approval: The organization has said in writing that they are going to either keep or buy it. This means that all recorded entities are approved.
Example: The computers, desks and every other item we have above have been approved by those who run the university.

4. Visibility: It is tangible or intangible. While tangible is connected to anything that can be physically touched. fall under it. Intangible is connected to those that cannot be touched.
Example of tangible entities: Humans, locations and objects can be touched. Hence, they are tangible.
Example of intangible entities: All the examples given under planned occasions and ideas are all intangible. They exist in our minds. We cannot touch them.

5. Attributes: The attributes describe the entity so we can identify it.
Example: Let's use course here. Think about attributes that describe it. Some of them are course title, course number, course description, the days when it is taught and the number of units it has.

6. Strong or Weak: A strong entity is of main importance to the organization. It is independent.The weak one is connected to the strong entity and thus, it is dependent.
Example: The employee goes to work for the university, making him the strong entity. Same cannot be expected from his first and last names. They are dependent on him and that makes them weak entities.
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