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A Paradigm Shift to Accelerate Analysis

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by Alec Smyth - Senior Consultant and
Warren Hayford - Managing Principal

Copyright 1995-1996 Visible Systems Corporation


The Universal Model: A Paradigm Shift to Accelerate Analysis

The Universal Model:
A Paradigm Shift to Accelerate Analysis

Every development methodology comes with a paradigm invisibly attached. The assumptions and expectations of its practitioners are largely a product of familiarity with specific tools and techniques.

The conventional Information Engineering analyst approaches problems with a paradigm in which every organization is assumed to be unique. The modeller begins with a blank slate and develops a custom model one entity at a time.

By contrast, an Object Oriented analyst never leaves home without an extensive class library. And the use of a class library encourages a view of software development as "design by exception." Under this approach reuse is the norm.

The two paradigms are at extremes of the evolutionary range which John Zachman has emphasized in his work. Zachman uses manufacturing to describe his three levels of evolution.

In the first level, everything is custom made. The advantage at this level is that the customer gets exactly what is requested. The downside is the cost. Each customer pays for all of the design and set up charges as well as the cost of the unique talents required to develop the product. This is the evolutionary level which many of the large Information Engineering projects have taken place. So much time and money are spent on getting exact custom requirements (in the form of data and process models) that the customer has to "pull the plug" before anything is developed.

This situation has led to the second level, in which items are mass produced. The industry specific templates being sold by Information Engineering vendors fit into this category. The basic premise here is that all organizations in an industry are exactly alike. Therefore the data model that works for one works for all. The cost of these templates is significantly lower than the completely custom model which gives them great appeal. The downside of this approach is that the business strategies and goals of an organization change the focus and therefore the rules that are depicted in the data model. Therefore a significant effort is still required to re-model the affected areas. In addition the detailed attributes in the template reflect the terminology used in one organization and rarely mean the same thing to another organization.

The detail and rework defined have led to the third level described by Zachman, in which items are assembled to order. At this level, functions are the focal point. The development of a customer solution is to develop all of the pieces which may be necessary and assemble them to order for a customer. In the Information Engineering world, this means starting with core sub-models of common functions and customizing the model by adding organization-specific attributes and names. A model assembled for a specific company from universal object classes provides the benefits of a fully customized solution with several advantages. It is more stable than a model built from scratch, because it is built from pre-tested components. It translates easily into either relational or object oriented implementations. But above all, it takes only a fraction of the time to develop.

The IES Group has announced the release of a "Universal" model which meets the criteria of Zachman's third evolutionary level. We have leveraged the experience of our consultants and clients to develop this "Universal" model. The model consists of approximately 35 distinct yet interrelated business objects.

A client purchasing the model will be able to easily customize it by populating it with their priority performance measures and other key attributes, labels which are specific to the organization, categories which will be used for reporting and analysis, and IES consultants are familiar with the model and how to take advantage of it at your organization. By using the "Universal" model you will be bringing vastly greater experience to bear on every modeling situation and be able to meet those ever shortening deadlines being imposed by today's rapidly changing business environment.

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More Information

If you are interested in learning more about how making this exciting paradigm shift can help your organization, please please contact us as detailed below.

North America

Visible Systems Corporation
201 Spring Street Lexington MA 02421 USA
Phone: +1-781-778-0200 Fax  +1-781-778-0208

Web Site:


Clive Finkelstein, Managing Director
Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd
PO Box 246, Hillarys Perth WA 6923 Australia
Phone: +61-8-9402-8300 Fax: +61-8-9402-8322

Web Site:

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