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
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 Enterprise Toolset implements the integration framework. It uses an
agent-based architecture to integrate off-the-shelf tools in a plug-and-play
The components of the Enterprise Toolset are:
a Procedure Builder for capturing process models,
an Agent Toolkit for supporting the development of
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
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.
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.
- a review of the
state of the art
in enterprise modelling techniques, tools and methods;
- two early demonstrators using off-the-shelf software;
- the public demonstrator of the toolset applied to the generic business
problem of bid management.
- the Enterprise Ontology.
Last updated 25th July 1997
by Jussi Stader