Towards a framework for enterprise modelling and integration


Budgetted at over £2.6 million, the Enterprise project is the UK government's major initiative to promote the use of knowledge-based systems in enterprise modelling, aiming to support organisations effectively in the Management of Change. The project focused on management innovation and the strategic use of IT to help manage change. It supports the use of enterprise modelling methods which capture various aspects of how a business works and how it is organised. The aim of enterprise modelling is to obtain an enterprise-wide view of an organisation which can then be used as a basis for taking decisions. During the Enterprise project, the Enterprise Toolset was developed. The Toolset uses executable process models to help users to perform their tasks. It is implemented using an agent-based architecture to integrate off-the-shelf tools in a plug-and-play style. The approach of the Enterprise project addresses the key problems of communication, process consistency, impacts of change, IT systems, and responsiveness.


Businesses have a need to increase their relative and absolute performance. This need is brought about by a combination of factors both internal and external to the business. Examples of such factors are the needs to: improve customer satisfaction; improve financial performance; decrease cycle times; and adapt to growth and recession cycles. To achieve successful management of change, businesses need to be able to monitor and improve their performance against strategic objectives. This ability needs to be supported by methods and tools which help model, analyse and improve various aspects of how a business works and how it is organised. For this, existing modelling methods need to be improved and where necessary replaced with a framework for integrating methods and tools which are appropriate to enterprise modelling and the management of change. The Enterprise project is aimed at providing a method and computer toolset which will help capture aspects of a business and analyse these to identify and compare options for meeting the business requirements.


The framework for integrating methods and tools is solidly based on an ontology for enterprise modelling. It supports a generic core of practical knowledge based modelling tools and methods for business application and was developed in accordance with existing and emerging standards in open systems and knowledge representation.

The Toolset

The Enterprise Toolset implements the integration framework. It uses an agent-based architecture to integrate off-the-shelf tools in a plug-and-play style. The components of the Enterprise Toolset are: a Procedure Builder for capturing process models, an Agent Toolkit for supporting the development of agents, a Task Manager for integration, visualisation, and support for process enactment, and an Enterprise Ontology for communication.
The Procedure Builder is a graphical tool for describing and recording business process models. The output from the Procedure Builder can be exported for use directly by the Task Manager. In addition the Procedure Builder can produce reports containing the process diagrams and associated process information.
For the agent-based architecture of the Enterprise Toolset we investigated a variety of externally available solutions and concluded, at that time, that none of them was mature enough to use as-is or met all our requirements. We therefore developed our own agent-based solution which is supported by the Agent Toolkit. One of the essential principles guiding its design was to make the creation of new agents as easy as possible. We wanted to be able to support as-yet unspecified tools as agents without any redesign of the Agent Toolkit or any other component of the Enterprise Toolset in order to accommodate these new tools. We also wanted to ensure that an organisation's existing applications and tools (i.e. their legacy systems) could be accommodated.
The Task Manager is the interface between the user and the Enterprise Toolset. It directly supports the user in performing their current tasks. The Task Manager plans user tasks and the use of agents based on the information available from the Procedure Builder's process models and agent registration information. Appropriate agents are identified at run-time at the last possible moment, so that the most suitable agent can be identified, taking into account which agents are available at that time. The Task Manager also monitors the progress of a task's enactment, keeping track of which tasks are currently active, which have been completed, etc. The visualisation of this progress is supported by the process diagrams captured with the Procedure Builder. The Task Manager can also help the user to recover from failures, determining alternative routes of action. The Task Manager effectively puts an extra layer of control on top of the agent services. It coordinates the use of agents at the level of the user's tasks and lets the user participate in this coordination, according to the tasks in which the user is engaged.
Independently developed tools are likely to use different terminology which can lead to conflicts and ambiguity when the tools are integrated. To resolve such issues, we developed the Enterprise Ontology as a standard terminology for use in the Enterprise Toolset. It is a set of generally useful terms that are frequently used in enterprises, each carefully defined to conform as best as possible to common usage. Every organisation will have their own set of terms that they use, so the ontology can be extended to suit the specific needs of the organisation. Committing to this ontology has the advantage that terms are used consistently and unambiguously throughout the enterprise. The ontology thus provides the basis for communication between agents, whether they are human or software agents.


The inclusion of the end-user organisations Lloyd's Register, Unilever and IBM enabled the evaluation of the toolset in the context of real business applications. Lloyd's Register uses the results for more effective modelling and re-engineering of business processes for strategic planning. Unilever initially uses the toolset within its R&D activities. IBM UK intends to exploit the results in modelling its own internal organisation as well as providing technical input via its Business Modelling Method BSDM (Business Systems Development Method). Logica's work was concentrated in the early stages of the project, addressing how pragmatic methods and current commercial tools can be used to support business process re-engineering. AIAI, as the main developer of the toolset, brings a world-leading technical capability in KBS technology and applications to the consortium. Together with Pilkington Optronics, AIAI developed a public demonstrator which addresses the problem of bid management.

Public Deliverables

The benefits of the project are delivered to the wider business community by the partners themselves. These are the key public deliverables: Other information dissemination activities will take place.

AIAI Last updated 25th July 1997
by Jussi Stader