Home > Articles > Software Development & Management > Agile

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Common Information Model

common.jpg

Context

An organization is looking to improve the methods it uses to develop and integrate IT systems into its operations.

Problem

An organization is struggling to integrate its IT systems and business operations. This integration may be required to increase its efficiency, embrace new technology, expand its business, and/or improve its customer service.

Organizations today have many IT systems that have been developed over time. They are struggling to innovate while trying to maintain and manage existing IT systems. Market forces are driving organizations to become more integrated, to support new channels (such as mobile), exploit new platforms (such as cloud and big data), and support a more social way of working both inside and with external parties such as customers and business partners. What can they do to provide a stable foundation for maintaining a state-of-the-art IT capability?

Example

A fictitious travel agent, GKDMR Travel, has many systems that have been acquired over the years as the business has grown. Its systems are getting old and it wants to make better use of modern approaches such as mobile, social media, cloud-based deployments, open source software, and analytics. The company’s budget is not large, but it anticipates having to change some of its systems to accommodate its vision. However, many of the existing systems will remain and there is a need to interface them to the new systems.

Forces

  • Existing systems provide key capability to the organization. They are expensive to replace and must continue to operate while any changes are made to them.
  • An organization’s information is distributed among its existing IT systems, in people’s heads, in unmanaged files on employee laptops, in paper documents, and externally on the Internet, or in business partner systems.
  • The information within an existing system is rarely as good a quality as the organization that owns it believes.
  • An organization will use inconsistent terminology across its many departments, professional disciplines, and internal fiefdoms. Sometimes the same term is reused for different purposes, or even when the meaning is consistent, assumptions about its timeliness, precision, and accuracy will differ among the different groups inside the organization.
  • The database schema of an application does not document all the information available through the application interface. Some key values are derived. For example, GKDMR Travel’s booking system records all the trips a customer has booked with the company to the database. This information is visible in the database schema. However, GKDMR Travel operates a loyalty scheme, which provides discounts to customers who book trips regularly with it. The loyalty scheme was added to the booking system after it went into production. As such, to save time, the loyalty status was not added to the database schema. Instead it is calculated in the application logic whenever a new holiday is booked. As a result, an important piece of information about a customer that could be useful for analytics or another customer service application is locked in a single application’s logic.

Solution

The organization should develop a shared understanding of its information’s terminology, meaning, and structure in order to facilitate agile and effective integrated operations.

Information is at the heart of an organization’s ability to service its customers, deliver on its promises, and collect the expected rewards for its services. The types of information that an organization holds are stable, although the scope of information available has been growing recently with the digitization of many aspects of our lives.

The organization can develop a set of common information definitions that captures:

  • The meanings of key concepts, facts, events, and activities used by the organization
  • The preferred structures that should be used to store and exchange this information
  • The types of values that must be captured to describe them

These common information definitions are implemented as a collection of models and definitions. This collection covers the portion of the organization’s information that needs to be shared and synchronized. It must represent many perspectives on this information and be consumable in different programming environments. Collectively, these models and related artifacts are called the common information model.

An organization can choose which types of models to create, and to which level of detail. The focus will depend on where change happens most often and where the cost of change is high or notoriously error prone.

The different types of models may not be entirely consistent. However, the closer they are, the less transformation is required as information flows around the enterprise.

Consequences

Benefits:

  • If an organization can understand the information it uses, then it is better able to assess which systems are important, how best to manage the information it has, what types of information need to be made available to new applications, and where special care must be taken to protect valuable or sensitive information.
  • A well-formed common information model creates an adaptable definition of how information should be represented and shared at key places where the organization needs to synchronize or control its operations. Without it, information sharing can be ad hoc and developed as a number of inflexible point-to-point solutions.
  • When a new project is started, the common information model is an invaluable planning tool for identifying what type of information is needed, where it is located, and how it should be structured in the new capability.
  • When an existing application built to the guidelines of the common information model must be maintained, the development team has the common information to guide its understanding of the existing code.

Liabilities:

  • For a common information model to deliver value it must be treated as an asset, with an owner who is responsible for its ongoing maintenance and executive support to ensure it is properly governed and to encourage use of the common information model content.
  • The contents of a common information model must be easily consumable by the teams that are building and maintaining the IT systems. Ideally, physical artifacts such as interfaces and schema would be generated from the common information model and included in the developers’ working toolset. Thus it becomes easier for the development team to use the common model rather than create its own. The common information model will be welcomed and adopted when it saves the development team time and effort.
  • In some organizations, where data modeling is not widely understood, the generated physical artifacts are the only part of the common information model that many developers see. In this case, these physical artifacts should include comments and annotations covering the semantic definitions of the model.

Example Resolved

GKDMR Travel has three major projects that will be assisted through the creation of a common information model:

  • It is building smartphone and tablet applications for its customers and customer-facing staff. These applications will be specialized to the needs of the users being served and will integrate with the existing systems that GKDMR Travel has running. The people using these applications will also receive printed documentation and may use the company website, too. GKDMR Travel needs to develop these applications quickly, but at the same time believes the information these applications display should be consistent with the other information these people see.
  • It wants to offer real-time alerts and actions to support its traveling customers with relevant information, rebooking when weather and other factors disrupt travel and offering other relevant offers. This capability is going to need information from existing systems that is integrated with external information.
  • It wants to improve the management reporting on the state of the business and the trends they see. The aim is to optimize the operations of the business.

The plan is to create a common information model that includes the following:

  • A glossary of terms2 that describes the meaning of the different types of information that will be used by customers and staff who are using the new capability. This includes the information displayed by the new applications along with the existing systems.
  • A model of the objects that will be used in the mobile applications, ensuring they display consistent structures and each field in the structure has a consistent name so it can be matched with printed information and the information on the company website.
  • A model of the service interfaces that define how information will be exchanged between the existing systems and the new ones.
  • A persistence model that describes how data should be consolidated and linked together.

The consistency that occurs between these models will speed up the collaboration between the different teams by implementing new capability and extending and enhancing the existing systems, which will then enhance the quality of the resulting applications.

Known Uses

Some of the key uses of a common information model within an organization are

  • Creating a consolidated repository of information from different sources, such as a data warehouse, operational data store, and master data management hub.
  • Defining canonical information services for exchanging information in a service-oriented architecture, or for consumption by a business process management (workflow) engine.
  • Identifying the information that needs to be supplied to the corporate reporting platform.

Related Patterns

The following patterns are specializations of the common information model pattern. Each supports a different purpose and style of usage for the common information model:

  • Concept Beads pattern: Supports simple, fine-grained models of core concepts. Suitable for an organization that needs to quickly assemble simple applications that would benefit from consistency in implementation since they use many common concepts.
  • Continuous Fabric pattern: Supports an organization where there is high value in understanding the relationships between people, assets, events, and activities; this provides a blueprint for how the landscape of information links together.
  • Encapsulated Views pattern: Supports an organization that wants to develop common interfaces to information irrespective of how or where the information is stored. This style is called information virtualization and is a common approach in service-oriented architectures.
  • Unifying Context pattern: For an organization that has historically operated as multiple independent units and wants to become more consistent and integrated in its use of information.

The sections that follow describe these patterns in more detail.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020