The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Integration of Business Models as Viewpoints on an Enterprise Architecture

Existing business models provide useful abstractions of the design and operation of an enterprise.  However, optimization of the enterprise requires multiple viewpoints, and these viewpoints must reflect a consistent underlying design.  Integrated models are essential to management of continuous change and optimization at an enterprise level.

When each viewpoint represents the current state of the enterprise, then the enterprise itself determines the consistency of the viewpoints.  However, when we consider a future state of the enterprise, there is a need for a unified representation of the future state to ensure that the viewpoints are consistent.  This is essential for a full understanding of the implications of changes since changes from one viewpoint will likely have effects in other viewpoints. 

In the Object Management Group (OMG) we have developed and continue to develop specifications for business modeling viewpoints.  These define models that are useful as stand-alone abstractions of the business, and support the development of viable software products.  However, there is increasing concern that these models should be integrated-that they should be viewpoints on a more comprehensive model of the enterprise architecture.

The OMG recently chartered an Architecture Ecosystem special interest group to consider approaches to integration of models.  Preferably the solution would support integration of not only models defined by OMG, but other models as well.  So the solution should not require changes to existing modeling specifications, but should provide a means to integrate heterogeneous modeling technologies.

Integration of these models involves aligning the representation of the same concepts that occur in different models.  Sometimes the same concept will have different names, and sometimes the same name will be used for different concepts.  Sometimes the same business entity appears differently in different viewpoints.  Consequently, the reconciliation of model elements becomes an issue of semantics-their meanings.  If elements from two viewpoints represent the same thing, then they should be represented once in the integrated, enterprise architecture model.

There has been a lot of discussion about semantics.  Should OMG specifications be represented in RDF (Resource Description Framework)?  Should the integrated enterprise model be a semantic model?  How do the OMG SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Rules) and the ODM (Ontology Definition Metamodel) specifications fit into this picture.  How big would a semantic model be?  Does it only represent concepts that appear in viewpoints, or does it require the representation of related concepts in order to properly qualify the concepts of interest. 

I think we need to back up a bit and consider the problem we are trying to solve.  Ultimately we want a model of the enterprise that supports multiple viewpoints, stored in a database to be accessed and updated from multiple viewpoints.  So let's think about this as a database problem.

There's nothing new about views of a database.  A view defines a subset of the database that supports a certain purpose.  So each modeling viewpoint needs to have a view of the database to store or display that model. 

But first we will need a data model for the enterprise model database.  The database must store a union of the sets of data elements that make up the viewpoint models.  The challenge is to reconcile the elements that represent the same concepts in different viewpoints.  For that we need semantics.  We can consider if that means we need to create a semantic model or just a mapping of data elements performed by humans.

The other problem we must solve is the integration of updates.  If two or more modelers are working on different viewpoints that include some of the same business elements, what happens when they put their models back into the database?  Again this is not a new problem.  That's what locking is for.  When a viewpoint is retrieved, the elements are locked so that they can't be changed until the changed viewpoint is stored.  However, simple locking may prevent other modelers from doing their work, and changes to elements in one viewpoint may have implications to related elements in other viewpoints, so an update could make the enterprise model inconsistent. 

Consequently, there must be a discipline and supporting technology for updates that not only prevents conflicting updates, but provides a mechanism for reconciliation of changes that goes beyond the scope of changes made by a viewpoint.  This is similar to the problem of managing the development of engineering designs for complex products.

So I see these as two distinct problems: (1) defining the unified data model and mapping the viewpoints to it, and (2) reconciliation of updates.  I don't have the solutions, but I think this is a useful perspective for development of solutions.

Web 2.0 four years later and five years out

There is a good interview of Tim O'Reilly that validated many of the posts we've made in this blog over the last 5 years. He also published a white paper that goes into more details.

The way business value is generated in the future will be changing, as we have the intersection of sensors and edge computing with large databases of information and context. The kinds of skills needed by the personnel will be changing as well. As value is generated by having people focus on the unique aspects of the business instead of being involved in "normal". Some may think this mimics science fiction, but really it will just become the new normal.

The interview provides some good examples and greater understanding of a holistic view of the intersection of technologies that we'll likely see coming out of this downturn.

Can MiCare/PHR + VistA/EHR provide a new model for wellness (HWR) in the US?

In 2008, the Department of Defense (DoD) developed a prototype, Personal Health Record (PHR), and piloted it at Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC). A PHR is typically a health record that is initiated and maintained by an individual.

MiCare is designed to help members of the military and their families more effectively to manage their health and wellness, regardless of their location. They will need to seek care inside and beyond the Military Health System. In essence, MiCare serves as a patient-centric health record, aggregating documentation and information from all sources of healthcare in a location accessible to the beneficiary. Based on the success or the pilot, the DoD is now determining how to expand it more widely according to InformationWeek.

It is important to note that PHRs are not the same as EHRs (Electronic Health Records). An Electronic Health Record (EHR)refers to an individual patient's medical record in digital format. The Veterans Affairs (VA) EHR system is called the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA). Like the data recorded in paper-based medical records, the data in EHRs are legally mandated notes on the care provided by clinicians to patients. There is no legal mandate that compels a patient to store his or her personal health information in a PHR.

Can the combination of a patient maintained health record like MiCare and a clinician maintained health record like VistA provide a new model of Health and Wellness Record (HWR) that improves wellness, quality, care, and reduce overall healthcare costs?

Let's hear from you.

LinkedIn and other social networking activities

It seems like there are quite a few people I know who use LinkedIn to communicate across their network, since I still get requests relatively regularly, where most of the other social networking tools have died out. They seem to still be adding capabilities to their product, so they must be doing OK.

I mentioned in an entry the other day that social analysis will be one of the IT approaches to addressing the knowledge transfer issues of the retiring workforce and succession planning ... and more active tools like LinkedIn or social extensions to semantic Web activities would be a good set of tools. Who enters and who consumes content are a very useful part of the context of the information. Some of the early tools that I have experimented with in the past have all gone belly up as well.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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