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THE ENTERPRISE NEWSLETTER

 Issue No 3:
XML AND BUSINESS

The Business Implications of XML,
the Successor to HTML

Printable PDF Version

Contents

Major Shifts of the 90s


PERTH, AUSTRALIA - September 18, 1998: In the previous issue we discussed the coming Competitive Armageddon. Distinct from the Year 2000 problem, where we know the exact date and time of its coming, the competitive Armageddon will hit most organizations only a few short years later. The problem is, we don't know exactly when and how bad it will be. For some enterprises, its competitive destruction will be as bad as the comet in the recent film "Deep Impact". Like some cities in that film, many organizations will not survive. But for others who plan and act now, they will not only survive -- they will prosper in the resulting turmoil. This newsletter -- The Enterprise Newsletter  -- is issued quarterly to help you prepare today to be one of the winners of tomorrow.

Welcome to the third issue of The Enterprise Newsletter. My name is Clive Finkelstein. The title indicates our focus. Our Mission is for The Enterprise Newsletter to become a key vehicle to communicate innovative applications of Information Technology to Enterprises. While the contributions to this third issue come mostly from Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd (IES), I do hope that you and others will also provide input for later issues. Please feel free to share with all of us your experience, insights or comments. Email material or suggestions to me at <cfink@ies.aust.com>.

Our objective is to help you and your enterprise become a "best practice" example of the application of IT to business. We want you to become "10 out of 10". For emphasis, we use the acronym "TEN" to refer to The Enterprise Newsletter.

Clive Finkelstein
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter

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MAJOR SHIFTS OF THE 90s

In the 1990s, we are experiencing three major shifts, or transformations, in the Computer Industry. Their impact extends far beyond that industry. They are also transforming business and society. They are moving us from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.

The First Shift has already occurred: the impact that the World Wide Web is having on business today. With the introduction of web browsers in the early 90s, the Internet -- already 20 years old at that time -- moved into the mainstream as organizations rushed to establish their own web site.

The first generation web sites -- using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) -- were used as billboards to the world. They provided static advertising and marketing information for the benefit of customers and suppliers.

The second generation web sites are now being deployed to add interactivity and additional content that provide further assistance, but they are still essentially "static" in their ability to bring real, bottom-line benefit to the business.

The Electronic Commerce sites also being established today are part of the third generation. They do have the potential to generate revenue and profit for the business. But many of these electronic storefronts are like the Lemonade stands of our childhood -- the first tentative ventures into a new world of business. More is needed before the full potential of Electronic Commerce can be realized, as I will shortly explain.

The Second Shift began in the mid 90s: the emergence of Java as a programming language able to be executed anywhere regardless of platform or operating system. The shift to Java is gathering steam, but it will take many years yet before its full promise of "write once, run anywhere" can be realized.

Java has been one of the greatest threats to Microsoft's domination of the desktop. Its incorporation as a standard programming language into many operating systems is well underway. For example, IBM has already included Java in its OS/390, AIX and OS/400 operating systems, as has Hewlett-Packard. Of course Sun, the developer of Java, has also included it in their Solaris operating system.

Microsoft may still succeed in converting the open architecture of Java into a language that is "Open, but Windows-Dependent". But the impetus behind the shift to the Internet -- with its open architecture reality -- may now be too great even for Microsoft to succeed in usurping Java for its own benefit.

The Third Shift is the focus of this TEN issue: the emergence of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) in the late 90s. This shift is just starting. It promises to be as significant as the first two. It has the ability to bring real, bottom-line benefits to business -- in cost-reduction, in greater efficiency, in greater competition and in greater revenue. The following topics address XML in more detail. Links are provided so you can learn even more.

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XML AND BUSINESS

The coming two years are critical to planning and preparing for the new world of business that will soon be upon us. There are two factors that need to be considered. They relate to Senior Management Interest and to Computer Industry Interest.

Senior Management Interest

Senior management now recognize the importance of IT as a competitive weapon. Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Engineering provide methods that management and IT staff can use to ensure that information systems are aligned with corporate goals. Most industries have examples of organizations that are achieving this alignment spectacularly. This has been due to active involvement of their senior management. It has been due to the catalyst role of their Data Administration (DA) departments. It has also been due to the active contribution of DAMA (the DAta Management Association). But these messages need to be communicated more widely.


Computer Industry Interest

Just starting to emerge is one of the most significant developments of the Computer industry since the World Wide Web and Java moved to their present positions of importance. For the next 2 - 5 years this will be one of the most important aspects of the Internet, and of systems development in general. It has the potential to move Metadata and Data Administration also into the mainstream of systems development.

I am referring to the emergence of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) - the successor to HTML for the Internet, Intranets and Extranets. XML incorporates Metadata in any document, to define the content and structure of that document and any associated (or linked) resources. It has the potential to transform the integration of structured data (such as in relational databases) with unstructured data (such as in text reports and/or web pages).

XML uses the Extensible Style Language (XSL) and the Extensible Linking Language (XLL) to achieve this integration. For example, XML, XSL and XLL allow the easy integration of dissimilar systems for multiple world-wide customers and suppliers in any industry. It permits the ready integration of those systems, regardless of whether they are legacy systems and databases, current EDI systems or Electronic Commerce. It represents the future direction of Metadata and the important role that Data Administration will take in systems development.

To illustrate some XML concepts, the following example shows the inclusion of metadata tags (surrounded by < and >) for customer fields - such as <name>. This defines the text that follows as a customer name, until terminated by the ending tag </name>.

<customer-detail>
<name>XYZ Corporation</name>
<address>

<street>123 First Street</street>
<city>Any Town</city>
<state>VIC</state>
<postcode>3456</postcode>

</address>

</customer-detail>

From this simple example of XML metadata, we can see how the meaning of the text that follows is defined. We can also see that Search Engines of the future can use these definitions to be more accurate in identifying information to satisfy a specific query.

Even more effective applications become possible -- such as an organization defining the metadata used by each of its suppliers' separate inventory systems. This will enable that organization to place orders via the Internet directly with its suppliers' systems, for fulfilment of product orders that it requires.

Interest in XML, Metadata and Data Administration will grow strongly over the next 2 - 5 years. The XML specifications are now essentially complete, while the XSL and XLL specifications are still evolving. Some XML support is already included in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0. We will first see XML supported more completely in the next versions of Internet Explorer and of Netscape Communicator. This will shortly be followed by XML support in DBMS products, in CASE and Modelling tools and in Client / Server development tools.

More information on XML can be found by going to - http://www.xmlinfo.com/. Microsoft has developed a number of scenarios of typical XML applications at - http://microsoft.com/xml/scenario/intro.asp.  

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SELF-STUDY COURSES TO HELP

There are steps that you can take now, to prepare today for the coming shift to XML.

XML assumes that your metadata has already been defined. This is necessary not only for the new systems that you want to develop, but also for the legacy systems that you may need to integrate with those new systems.  XML will enable this integration to be carried out dynamically. The following self-study courses on data modelling and metadata are designed to assist you in this preparation.

Certified Business Data Modeller Course Series

A knowledge of Data Modelling will enable you to define the metadata required by XML. It will also enable you to eliminate redundant data versions and redundant processes, to develop integrated data bases for the Internet and Intranets. This is not just the responsibility of Data Administrators. It requires business knowledge as well. The Certified Business Data Modeller (CBDM) course series has been developed to assist you, specifically for self-study use by business staff and IT staff.

The CBDM series comprises two concepts courses: Data Modelling Concepts and Business Normalisation Concepts, together with the Data Modelling Case Study Workshop. This workshop enables you to apply the skills that you have learned in the concepts courses to a real-life case study. Your case study solution is entered into the Student Edition of Visible Advantage, an enterprise modelling tool that is supplied as part of the CBDM series. The resulting encyclopedia is then emailed for the CBDM Exam, to qualify as a Certified Business Data Modeller.

We have found that many organizations have used the CBDM series to train both business staff and IT staff very cost effectively. They are then able to work together jointly on projects in a design partnership, developing a Strategic Information Systems Plan (SISP) as described in TEN #2 and developing detailed data models, for early delivery of priority systems to take advantage of the competitive opportunities that are now opening up.

The courses can be taken at work or at home - at any convenient time or place. Three alternative delivery options are available:

  • By PowerPoint delivery
  • By Corporate Intranet delivery
  • By inhouse Classroom delivery.

The latter two delivery options are very cost-effective if more than 20 people from the one organization are to be trained. They also enable a tailored case study to be used, which is developed specifically for your organization. More detail is available by looking at the Course Delivery Options below. From this point, you can then place an online order for the CBDM course series specifying the delivery method of your choice.

By acting now, you will be taking a positive step to develop business and IT skills in data modelling that can be used for data base design and client / server development today, and for XML development tomorrow. This will help you ensure the survival and prosperity of your organization for the future.

Use the following links to read how these skills can be easily learned by both business and IT staff:

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AUTHOR

Clive Finkelstein is the "Father" of Information Engineering (IE), developed by him from 1976. He is an International Consultant and Instructor, and was the Managing Director of Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd (IES) in Australia. 

Clive Finkelstein's books, online interviews, courses and details are available at http://www.ies.aust.com/cbfindex.htm.

For More Information, Contact:

  Clive Finkelstein
59B Valentine Ave
Dianella, Perth WA 6059 Australia
 
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+61-8-9275-3459
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clive.finkelstein@ies.aust.com

(c) Copyright 1995-2015 Clive Finkelstein. All Rights Reserved.


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