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Monday, April 21, 2008

Information is like water - essential to our survival

Being able to communicate is absolutely essential for humans. As social beings, communication is a key part of our lives and what enables us to create and participate in various social structures. As humans, we need to belong to and participate in social groups or communities, from families to nations.

Communication is essential for any kind of collaboration (process two or more people work together toward a common goal). An enterprise can be defined as “…people getting together and collaborating to achieve a common goal” and communication is therefore vital for any enterprise to succeed. Although humans typically communicate and collaborate most effectively when we meet face-to-face in small groups, this is not practical in many situations. We often need to collaborate with people located elsewhere and sometimes we also need to communicate over time. We might also need to communicate with more people than is possible to communicate with face-to-face in a physical meeting. To enable collaboration in these cases, we create messages which we encode into various types of digital content (text, images, video, sound) and make accessible to the intended users via information technologies. In a sense, information could be compared to water:
  • Information, like water, is essential to our survival. Given that collaboration is what an enterprise is about, information is also essential for the survival of enterprises.
  • Information, like water, needs to be managed so that it is supplied to the enterprise users when and where they need it.
  • Information, like water, needs to be of sufficient quality to be suited for its intended uses.
  • Information, like water, is managed in a system which collects it from various sources and distributes it to the users.

The analogy with water can also be used to illustrate the purpose of different disciplines dealing with information within enterprises:

  • EIM (Enterprise Information Management) is about ensuring that the users will get access to the information (water) whenever or wherever they need it. EIM is about ensuring that the information (water) is consistent, that is it is of sufficient quality and that it will be delivered (flow) to the users in a timely manner.
  • MDM (Master Data Management) integrate information (water) from various sources, store it in a repository (reservoir), cleanses (purifies) the information so that it is of sufficient quality, and makes it accessible to any application (water supply system) that needs it.
  • SOA is an architectural style that defines how applications (water supply systems) should architected for ensuring interconnectivity, modularity and reuse of key software capabilities (pipes etc).
  • Enterprise Architecture (EA) is usually performed by an EA team (city planning department) which besides organizing the business and IT resources so they align with the business strategy also creates the principles, rules and guidelines for how the information (water) should flow throughout the organization (city).

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