Epistemology and Ontology: Bringing eBusiness "Home"
Congratulations, the next mountain is in sight ...
In extending information technology (IT) processes beyond a given, narrow business domain - such as a single company or even a subcompany unit - we almost always encounter difficult problems in melding or bridging differing
Under the rubric "Business Process Management"
(BPM), there are additional issues to address. BPM
seeks to integrate the estimated 80% of business
process activities that today are performed outside the
IT environment with the 20% that operates inside the IT
infrstructure. One reason activities were previously left
outside the systems environment is that trying to
package them within systems disciplines is hindered
by further cross-functional and cross-process collisions
Although resolving conflicts in worldview sounds and is
challenging, there are competitive, cost control and compliance pressures that make failure not a viable option. Today's imperative is to work toward effective trans-enterprise process flow and data integration so that, for example, your system and my system can be bridged or, better still, melded smoothly and without expensive start up investments.
To do so, the short story is that to accomplish these goals we need to begin "internalizing" within individual companies the appropriate eBusiness standards.
Below are several supporting propositions:
1. Every one of the hundreds of thousands of substantial companies and institutions are worlds unto themselves - especially with respect to information processes and data standards. Indeed, most have a considerable ways to go internally to arrive at a coherent internal worldview.
2. Inter-entity divergences in world-view are deeply-based, practical barriers to integration, collaboration, etc. It is roughly equivalent to the obstacles between people created by language conflicts.
3. In the world of physical products, we benefit greatly from various end-to-end standards - e.g., a #303 size can of peas stays a #303 can of peas from the point that the can is packed and sealed to the point in the consumer's kitchen that the can is opened for use.
4. In contrast, today's eBusiness standards - e.g., an EDI order or a UBL (universal business language) XML order - survive only gateway to gateway.
The "standard" transactions typically are "born" in some alien language and later are "standardized" and "packed" at an outbound gateway. On arrival at the receiving gateway, the transactions are ripped open and transmuted into some other alien language. If we packed and repacked cans of peas at each level in the supply chain, the end user price would be high and the peas probably would arrive no longer round. Indeed, many of the supposed shortcomings in EDI have to do with the inherent waste, confusion and risk caused by the multiple repacking of transactions.
5. Therefore, we need to begin bringing eBusiness standards "home" to use end-to-end. That is, we need to begin using eBusiness standards "natively."
6. As a corollary, we need a "back to basics" approach that emphasizes "raw data" and dispenses with much of the complexities of abstraction and aggregation. (See bucket reduction)
Reduction in abstraction reduces the extent and significance of differences in worldview - the closer one stays to bedrock transactional reality, the fewer "world view differences" there will be to bridge. Using "raw data" as the basis of end-to-end transaction "conversations" avoids definitional confusion and conflict.
7. Some complex epistemological and ontological realities buttress the arguments for bring home essential standards while jettisoning abstraction and aggregation. If interested, see the "long" story.