Zachman @ IRMAC – Charisma Versus Chaos

 Is it possible to more completely grasp the idea of “enterprise”? 

And thereby submit that enterprise to the will of executive leadership?

John Zachman, well-known evangelist for enterprise architecture and originator of the Zachman “Framework for Enterprise Architecture”, says “yes”.

Canada’s DAMA affiliate IRMAC scored a coup last week by hosting Mr. Zachman on his road show for an update of the famous Zachman Framework.   Mr. Zachman gave a comprehensive tour of the Framework, the reasoning behind it and the advantages that adopting organizations might enjoy.

Mr. Zachman’s key message was that the application of normalization and ontological modeling to low-order, high-entropy organizations – i.e. organizations which are failing due to high cost structures and sclerotic inflexibility -- would reverse that state.  The sciences of organizational normalization and ontological modeling, defined by the Zachman Framework, unlock enormous benefits for organizational stakeholders

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Why Work-Shy? BPM Is All About Work. That's How To Define It And How To Sell It.

You'd expect the BPM-savvy practitioners and evangelists such as found on LinkedIn's "BP Group" to be able to easily come up with a good definition of BPM   .  A specific and actionable definition.  You'd be wrong.

In a BP Group forum discussion entitled "Can Anyone Make One Sentence Describing BPM", most of the answers were generic and non-actionable and often sounded like mission statements -- the kind of feel-good mission statements that are ridiculed by cynical business writers -- or worse the statements were self-referential ("BPM is about improving your processes").  In fairness. participants shared many worthwhile insights.  It's just that the there was a general and disappointing failure to answer the question in a useful way.

Let's look at what would be a good top-level definition of business process management -- and then why a good definition is important.

On the forum, Kenneth Beard came the closest to a good description of BPM with his "scientific management of work activity to enable informed decision-making", although I would make the case that final phrase in this definition is outside the scope of a definition of BPM.

Your host proposed the that BPM can be simply defined as "the modelling and management of repetitive work", which is certainly not original, but this concise definition emphasizes a fundamental concept, specifically the centrality of the question of work to the definition of BPM.

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Software, Ontologies & "The Semantic Ceiling"

Is it possible that even with today's excitement and real achievement in software and technology, especially around mobile, M2M ("machine-to-machine"), the IOT ("Internet of Things"), analytics, so-called "big data" and machine learning, just to name a few hot topics du jour, that there is a major roadblock to further easy progress in technology?

After decades of achievement in the development of software technologies and software engineering, the software industry is rightly acknowledged as having contributed enormously to every aspect of business, social and personal life.  It is a general belief, fostered by both science and culture that a "long revolution" based on IT will continue on, bringing ever more amazing, delightful and useful innovations.

This expectation of progress can probably be depicted as a linear function with a nice upward slope.  While "Whiggish" expectations of continual progress are nice, the reality of software engineering is less rosy.  The realization of future progress based on software technology may not be so easily achieved and the immediate future of software development may be disappointing.

Why is there a potential for disappointment?

The current state of software engineering and data management is characterized by what could be called a "semantic ceiling".  On the software engineering side, the newest software products and software development are, while often quite wonderful, still rather limited in what they accomplish:  mashups, social applications, situational applications, modeling tools, more SOA, point business applications etcThe scope of these new applications is typically either siloed or trivial in some sense

Especially on the data management side, the growth of data resources has exacerbated the data chaos that confronts both business and individual trying to make use of technology.  For this reason, it is not surprising that master data management (MDM) is a hot area in the software business.

The idea of a semantic ceiling is the idea that further progress in software engineering will only be possible with the development and deployment of a new layer of semantic technology.

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The Future Is Personalized -- But Will You Be Subject Or Predicate? (Part I)

Amit Kapur, former COO of MySpace, has a fascinating short item today entitled "The Future Will Be Personalized"  (http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/16/the-future-will-be-personalized/ Nov 16th, 2010).  He has a terrific graph about signal-to-noise ratios and information production and overload. And he identifies various new technologies coming out of academia as a remedy for the near-impending collapse of our human ability to sift through the deluge of data.  Identifed solutions include, in particular, natural language processing and semantic technologies. . . . read more

FOIS '10 -- Dr. Rector's Talk, Note Taking, Blogging & An Ontology Use Case

For the final Invited Talk, this afternoon Dr. Alan Rector, of the University of Manchester, gave a very nice overview of ontology, contained within a talk covering ontologies and clinical systems.  The talk was widely appreciated by the audience, and from your host's perspective, Dr. Rector's overview of the state of the art was terrific. As a bonus Dr. Rector included at least a dozen or so pithy insights about what you might call "the ontology business".  . . . read more

The Big Red Box On Wheels -- "Ontologies-Of-The-Personal" Since FOIS '01

Almost 10 years ago, your host attended FOIS '01, in Ogunquit, Maine.  Having been introduced to the world of software ontologies in conversation with Prof. Graeme Hirst of the University of Toronto, your host developed a serious interest in the world of ontologies, on both a personal and a business level. 

His specific interest in ontologies is modelling of the work activities of the "autonomous human actor".  A short essay on this interest can be found here:  www.personalontologies.com. Your host's overall interest in ontological engineering is mainly from business and journalistic perspectives, a natural inclination given his IT career which started in IT market research, then progressing to enterprise software sales.

Over the course of 10 years it is possible to observe that as a subject of serious ontological engineering research, the autonomous human actor has gone from "invisible" in the years 2000 and 2001 to "slightly more visible" now, in 2010.  It's an interesting phenomenon how "the human" is, in most software schemes, what can only be described as "the least privileged subject".  It is true that If one removes "autonomous" from the formula "autonomous human actor", the "human actor" at least is privileged, but in your host's view, generally only as a captive agent of the organization. . . . read more

FOIS '10 -- Ontological Diversity, Not A Tower Of Babel

A celebration of diversity is not what one would expect from what a colleague characterized as the "dry world of ontology".  Yet this was the topic of several presenters at today's morning sessions at FOIS 2010.  Especially, at this morning's "Invited Talk", by John Bateman, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bremen, the topic of ontological diversity was presented as both requirement and artifact for successful ontological engineering. . . . read more

FOIS '10 -- Workshop On Ontology Education -- Demand & Supply

Yesterday's FOIS 2010 Workshop participants enjoyed scheduled morning presentations by Antony Galton, Fabian Neuhaus, Barry Smith and Michael Grüninger. This blog item is a report of those proceedings, along with a few editorial comments. A companion blog item will offer some analysis of the intersection of ontological engineering and practical opportunity, from the perspective of sociology and business.

Ontological engineering may be reaching a tipping point in capability and acceptance, and if that tipping point is reached, the construction of dramatically more powerful and effective software would be expected in the foreseeable future (although how steep the post-inflection-point curve is, remains to be seen.) But this ideal vision will only be reached if the market for ontology sciences, services and products takes off. . . . read more

FOIS '10 -- First Day Of 6th Int'l Conference On Formal Ontologies In Information Systems

Almost 10 years ago, the idea of ontologies as applied to information systems was still in its infancy.  Your host attended FOIS 2001, only the second-ever FOIS conference, and was nevertheless intrigued by the possibilities -- not only from a research and engineering perspective, but also from that of business and evangelization.  

Now in 2010, your host's role as sales manager for an open source BPM platform provider gives him opportunities to see how the application of productized ontological science can make an impact in addressing some of the vexing challenges of today's organizations.  . . . read more

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