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Justification for an Enterprise Model

by Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.
Published: March 1, 1998

Purpose

Models are created not only to represent the business needs of an application but can also depict the business information needs of an entire organization. An enterprise model is one or more models used to document the process and data for an organization, business or enterprise, and serves as the point of planning and integration for all information systems management. The enterprise process model represents the major processes of an organization; an enterprise data model depicts the major data requirements of an organization. With the exception of the level of detail, the techniques used in building enterprise models are the same as those used to construct application data and process models.

Many companies have purchased a conceptual model of data and process for their industry. Frequently, this serves as the foundation for constructing an enterprise model for the organization, and assists in refining those models that have already been constructed, if appropriate, adding to the integration of requirements across applications or subject areas. This integration is essential if an organization is to realize the benefits of increased productivity and reduced systems development and maintenance costs.

Technology independent, the Enterprise Models provide a stable, cohesive view of the corporate information resource for both data and process. It should be developed by an interdisciplinary team who understands the enterprise's requirements for data and the processes that act upon that data. Building an Enterprise Model can be done concurrently with application development, as long as the application efforts are tailored to reflect the decisions made by the Enterprise Modeling team where appropriate.

In many cases, the development of Enterprise Models solidifies the business' views of its essential functions and data needed to perform those functions. This effort should result in a single, enterprise agreement of the information and functions that the enterprise needs to be a cohesive, competitive force in the marketplace.

Scope

The recommended scope of an Enterprise model project could include:

Overview of Enterprise Modeling for appropriate business and IS associates (data and process)

Decision on the logical divisions of Enterprise Subject Areas For an insurance company these areas may include: Account/Customer, Policy, Claims, Financial and Reinsurance, Legal, HR, Actuarial, IS, Operations, etc...) Each subject area would be the focus for a set of activities that are commonly called Business Area Analysis. Many companies find that there are 8-10 logical subject areas, which can be prioritized into 4 or 5 core areas and 3 corporate areas (Legal, HR, and IS). One of the first decisions for the project team would be the order of priority for completing the Business Area Analysis for each subject area.

Business Area Analysis for a chosen area and repeated for all subject areas, which includes the creation of data and process model for the chosen subject area, using a purchased model, if one is available, as a foundation and reference guide.

Integration of current application models into an enterprise view (e.g., combining the different treatments of Policy into a single accepted view) Co-ordination of simultaneously proceeding application development modeling with enterprise efforts (strategic view versus tactical view, while incorporating the strategic perspective of the entire enterprise)

The level of detail in an enterprise data model usually includes: Entities, Relationships, some Attributes, Subject Areas. It does not include all attributes, subtype entities, and domain values for coded attributes. Development of an Enterprise Model of data and processes usually does not require the same amount of time to develop as a set of fully attributed application models.

To co-ordinate the efforts of the various application or maintenance teams, effective communication methods and a solid understanding of the synergy of enterprise and application modeling will be essential. Active managerial support, at all levels, of the modeling activities will help ensure that this communication will flourish. It is also imperative that the core team members remain constant for the life of the Enterprise Model project, to achieve continuity and consistency in business requirements knowledge and modeling techniques.

The Enterprise Model will provide the framework for the development and maintenance efforts of the IS/business partnership. A key principle of most Information Strategic plans is that IS will adhere to an overall set of strategies in building these systems. An Enterprise Model enables an organization to manage its data and processes efficiently and effectively, thereby fulfilling this Key Principle.

Process

The process of creating an Enterprise Model is an iterative one. There are certain functions that are done more than once, as new requirements information is gathered, and as new applications are modeled. For example, the analysis and synthesis of the work done to date can proceed while the modeling of applications continues. These applications would be modeled under the guidance of the enterprise work already accomplished and the resulting application model would be included in the enterprise model, expanding the focus of the enterprise model.

Enterprise modeling does not require the detailed development necessary in the application models; requiring the same level of detail was a flaw in the approach to enterprise modeling in the 1980's that gave modeling the poor reputation it currently holds in certain circles. The Enterprise Model serves as a framework for the IS development and maintenance process (methodology), and prevents the construction of stove-pipe applications and islands of redundant data. Data and process modeling is a fundamental function for projects of all types, accelerating the project's ultimate delivery. The Data Administration group should be a catalyst and reference point, informing a team about other efforts and how those groups solved a problem. They should serve as the source of reusable objects (entities, attributes, definitions, abbreviations, etc...) and should enable development and maintenance to proceed faster, secure in the knowledge that their efforts will be integrated into the rest of the enterprise. Data Administration, in its role as the administrator of the corporate meta data repository, can provide corporately defined objects for reuse and the guidance to ensure their effective use.

Initial Enterprise Modeling Task Plan

Modeling overview for appropriate business and IS associates (data and process)

The purpose of this task is to educate participants in the basic principles of data and process modeling. Those business and IS associates who will be involved in the creation of the company's models should attend this overview.

Enterprise Subject Area Division

An organization is divided into logical subject areas, and each area should be the subject of a Business Area Analysis. This effort will define and validate the logical subject areas for the organization, and should include establishing the priorities for completion of the Business Area Analysis for each logical subject area.

Business Area Analysis for a chosen area (repeated for all subject areas)

After the subject areas have been defined, one should be chosen as the first area to undergo a Business Area Analysis.

It is recommended that the Account/Customer/DistributionChannel area be chosen as the initial subject area for analysis, since the rest of the subject areas would rely on many of the entities, attributes, relationships and definitions created and refined by the Account/Customer/Distribution Channel area. This effort would include the creation of data and process models for the subject area.

Subsequent areas may find information from other modeling activities which will require some refinement and integration into the emerging Enterprise Models. BAA development should include an analysis of the suitability of the information found in these documents, which may reduce the amount of time ultimately needed for a BAA.

Integration of Current Application Models into an Enterprise View

(e.g., combining the different treatments of Account into a single accepted view)

During the data and process modeling activity, the currently available models that pertain to the subject area would be reviewed and revised to reflect the enterprise view. Since many applications have been developed in isolation, each application model may treat a certain area differently. This integration will eliminate the conflicting views and create a single, uniform view of the entities, attributes, relationships and definitions for the subject area. This consolidation will enable reuse of these entities, attributes, relationships and definitions across applications and in the business community.

** It is strongly recommended that any changes identified during this integration process be implemented into existing applications to preserve the consistency of the enterprise view of information (data and process). If these modeling integration activities are not incorporated into the existing applications, the modeling efforts will have been solely an intellectual exercise.

Coordination of Simultaneously Proceeding Application Development Modeling w/Enterprise Efforts

(strategic view versus tactical view).

Questions arise during every enterprise modeling effort concerning the balance of strategic (enterprise) modeling versus tactical (application) modeling. These efforts can occur simultaneously as long as the tactical modeling team communicates regularly with the strategic modeling team. The tactical team must be expected to incorporate objects developed by the enterprise team so that reusability is achieved and maintained. The strategic team must recognize the needs of the application modeling team for robust, flexible objects that can accommodate multiple applications. This amalgamation is common in model-driven development and is successful in organizations that recognize the need for both types of models.

The activities and durations associated with each task will be determined by the level of discovery needed for a task and the composition of the team assigned to fulfill it. In general, a BAA and basic model development for a particular subject area should be completed in 6 to 8 weeks, with dedicated staff. However, the first BAA will require the longest duration, since it will include the formation of a team, the education into the IAA and Enterprise Modeling concepts and techniques, and the initial efforts at information discovery for the team and its subject area experts. It should be noted that most of the activities will require the services of an experienced facilitator and an experienced modeler, and reserving their availability must be accounted in the development of the activity schedule.

In conclusion, the development of Enterprise Models is an activity that requires commitment from Senior Management (to approve the project and to require adherence to the modeling purpose and results), from business management and staff (to provide knowledgeable, dedicated and empowered resources for the duration of the project), from IS management and staff (to provide knowledgeable, dedicated and empowered staff for the duration of the project, and to adhere to the modeling principles and results in systems development and maintenance). The development and usage of enterprise models requires the active commitment and involvement of staff and management to turn this concept into reality.

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Recent articles by Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D. - Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., is an acclaimed data management professional, consultant, author and speaker in the fields of enterprise information management, data stewardship and governance, data warehousing, data modeling, project management, business requirements management, IS strategic planning and metadata management. She holds a doctorate in Management Information Systems, and is a certified data management professional (CDMP), a certified business intelligence professional (CBIP), and holds several insurance certifications.

Anne Marie has served on the board of directors of DAMA International and on the board of the Insurance Data Management Association.  She is a member of the MIS faculty of Northcentral University and has taught at several universities. As a thought leader, Anne Marie writes frequently for data / information management publications on a variety of data-oriented topics.  She can be reached through her website at http://www.alabamayankeesystems.com and through her LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/annemariesmith.