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We Need to Focus on Business Processes

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  1. Abstract
  2. Traditionally: Focus on Technology
    1. Example: Populate a PO Directly From 3D Model Database
    2. What is the Problem?
  3. Alternative: Focus on Business Processes
  4. Next


The barrier to interoperability between software applications is not technology. The barrier is business processes.

Traditionally: Focus on Technology

Every organization today is under relentless pressure to reduce costs. One way to reduce costs is to increase productivity, and nowadays, this is usually accomplished by automating manual tasks by writing some computer application.

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Fig 1 - Problem Space

Plant design nowadays involves work processes that (more-or-less) take information from one or more software applications, transform it somehow with a manual process, and enter the results into another application. These work processes may range from precise, documented procedures to heuristics and rules of thumb that "people are just supposed to know". In most organizations there are hundreds of them.

Example: Populate a PO Directly From 3D Model Database

There are several 3D plant modeling applications available commerically. There are also several purchasing applicataions available commercially. But none of the purchasing applications, out of the box, will populate a purchase order directly from any of the 3D modelling applications. But building purchase orders based on the contents of a 3D model is something every EPC has to do a great many times. In order to do this, every organization has to develop work processes for selecting a range of objects from the 3D model, extracting a material report in some format, transforming the report into something the purchasing application can understand, then importing it to a purchasing application.

If this sort of thing has to be done often enough, there is an opportunity to increase productivity and reduce errors by automating it. Using today's technology there are a great many ways to do the automation:

  • Commerical Middleware
  • Custom database alterations (Oracle, SQL Server)
  • Custom programming (C, Java, Visual Basic, ...)
  • Neutral file (Excel, Notepad)
  • XML Neutral file

What is the Problem?

The problem here is similar to that of point-to-point mapping, of which we have written at length, elsewhere in this Primer.

  • The costs of setup and configuration
  • Repeating costs for setup and configuration
  • The cost of interpretation (because meaning is often inferred from the context)
  • Exposed complexity
  • The new global, distributed work execution model amplifies the problem
  • Aging Workforce (these are the people who understand the context of legacy systems)

Alternative: Focus on Business Processes

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Fig 2 - A New Approach

The traditional approach is to automate an existing work process.  The better way is to focus on the business task we want to accomplish, which, in the purchasing order example above, is to get descriptions of certain components in a 3D model into a purchase order.  If we solve the problem by modeling the information in a way that preserves the meaning of the data values, we will be able to use the solution more than once.  It will take longer to model the information in this way, but we will never have to do it again just because the software vendor issued a new version, or because we want to use different software on a new project.


There are a number of issues associated with the need for interoperability, or with current attempts at interoperability. This section shows how ISO 15926 will help.

How ISO 15926 Will Make Your Life Easier


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