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Understanding a Top-Level IDEF0 Diagram of an Enterprise

Figure 3-8 presents a typical top-level diagram in an IDEF0 model (it originally appeared as Figure 2-9). This diagram might represent the most general level of detail of a model entitled “Run the Enterprise.”

Figure 3-8

Figure 3-8: A Typical IDEF0 Diagram.

The figure shows the running of an enterprise, broken down into five major functions: 1) Manage the Enterprise; 2) Manage Day-to-Day Operations; 3) Manufacture Products; 4) Provide Management & Technical Information; and 5) Provide Resources. Four of these major functions are shown as boxes positioned in a stairstep fashion that makes the control and feedback loops between the functions simpler to draw. The fifth box (Provide Resources) is shown below the stairstep, since it is a support function that provides resources (people and machines) to be used by the other functions.

By reading the names in the boxes, anyone can get a quick idea of the breakdown of the subject Run the Enterprise, as well as the topics to be modeled in subsequent lower-level diagrams. For example, if the reader wishes to examine further detail regarding the provisioning of resources, he would isolate the diagram for box 5 and study that at a finer level of detail.

IDEF0 graphics are undeniably straightforward and that quality is, in my view, one key to their success. Such elaborations as additional box shapes, dotted arrows, and formalisms for arrow branching structures have been experimented with by modelers since the inception of IDEF0. It seems only natural to conclude that such elaborations would provide additional expressive capabilities to the analyst.

However, I have learned to resist the temptation to elaborate the syntax, since this makes the graphics too complex to fulfill the essential role of the model to communicate. At the early stages of project planning, communication is the key element, and the simple graphics that are quickly learned and employed must remain a basic element of IDEF0.

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