Approach to Services
Essential Strategies, Inc. can perform a wide variety of services to build company architectures for information systems and to prepare a company for a major systems effort.
To do so requires complete understanding of the perspectives in the systems development process, and the kinds of things each perspective sees.
The perspectives are:
view. (A "business owner" in this case is anyone who participates in the running of the business, not just a stockholder.)
The architect's (information designer's) view.
The technology designer's view.
The builder's view.
The system itself.
Each of these perspectives has a complete view of the world, in a particular set of terms. Communication between people with different perspectives has always been fraught with problems, so recognition of the perspectives' existence is a start in improving communication throughout the systems development effort.
- The scope of the effort, as reflected in industry standard practices and structures.
- The business owner's
Each perspective views the world in terms of:
- Data (what a system will manipulate)
- Function (how it will manipulate it)
- Location (where this will take place)
- People (who will do these things)
- Events and timing (when things happen)
- Motivation (why things happen and what constraints exist on them).
These perspectives and terms can be represented in matrix form, where each perspective is a row, each dimension is a column, and each cell represents a particular body of knowledge, as perceived by one of the players. This scheme for organizing the industry's techniques and methods was pioneered by John Zachman in his "Framework for an Information Architecture." The modeling techniques developed in our industry each fall into one of the cells. For example, data modeling falls into the data column, perspectives two and three. Database design, however, is the domain of the data column, perspective four.
System Development Life Cycle
To develop a systems architecture that properly accounts for these views and these elements, Essential Strategies, Inc. takes a structured approach to the systems development process. This involves addressing each of the perspectives in turn, building each on the one before. ESI's services then include:
– This is an examination of both the scope and the higher levels of the business owner's perspective, to determine the nature of the business, along with its objectives, priorities and constraints. This involves creating high level data and function models, outlining the organizations and locations of the business, identifying the planning cycle, and documenting overall goals and objectives. ESI can define these models and review them to ensure that they represent the strategic direction of the enterprise.
Optionally, strategic planning may also include a preliminary examination of existing systems and technology, in order to set direction for expansion or redeployment of those systems and technology.
– This is the complete evaluation of the nature of the enterprise and its business, and identification of system needs. This is done along several lines: First, from the business owner's perspective, it consists of the detailed modeling of each perspective's dimensions: data, function, loction, people, timing, and motivation. Second, each of these dimensions is then analyzed in detail to determine its essential structure (its "essence")from the information designer's point of view. Third, it begins the process of examining current systems, the parameters of a technical architecture, and transition strategy.
– Design has both internal and external dimensions: Internally, it is necessary to define database structure (data), processing sequence and structure (function), network structure (location), sequencing and event logic (timing), and business rule algorithms (motivation). Externally, it is important to design the behavior of the system as it will be experienced by the user (people). ESI has experts available in all of these areas.
– Construction is the builder's view. Thanks to advanced CASE tools, systems can often be partially or completely generated automatically. This is particularly true of systems concerned with maintenance of and access to databases. ESI and its associates can build systems or simply teach clients how to use the available tools to build and maintain them themselves.
The tools also make it possible to wrap the design and construction into an iterative process where prototypes are built, reviewed, and the design modified in response to what is learned.
– Transition is often the most expensive step of all. It involves comparing the business user's current perspective with a new one which takes advantage of all the systems work being done. If the system is at all sophisticated, it will change the way business is conducted. This in turn will require significant redefinitions of processes, roles, and organization structure. A substantial education program is likely to be required.
Only the manager responsible for the department affected by a new system can assume responsibility for the system's success. ESI consultants can help, however, through assistance in business process re-engineering, the development of training programs, help with project management, and assistance with data conversion.
– Once a system is in place and operating, it cannot be forgotten. There will continue to be requirements for changes and upgrades. An active IT department will even monitor usage of a system, to try to anticipate required changes. ESI can help with progams to monitor system effectiveness.
Of course none of this makes any difference if the people involved are not educated as to the implications of these efforts as well as trained in the specific tools and techniques being brought into the enterprise.
Essential Strategies, Inc. has several courses prepared to teach requirements analysis, data modeling, and related subjects. These are provided on an in-house basis. In addition, if you have specific education requirements, we would be happy to work with you to develop any needed courses. For more details, click here.
Essential Strategies, Inc. also provides more specialized modeling, analytical and strategic planning services. Among the areas where ESI has expertise are: