1. Introduction

Information is an essential dimension of any business.  In fact, “... organisations, themselves are information systems”.   Communication of information within and among organizations comes in the form of conversations, commitments, contracts, and transactions.  Industries and professions often communicate in a jargon that is incomprehensible to outsiders.  The challenge for informa-tion systems is to facilitate organizational communication, sometimes translating from one group's jargon into terms that are meaningful to others.  The information systems profession will only be successful in this endeavor to the extent that it builds systems based on a fundamental appreciation for the meaning of business language.

Business language analysis produces models of the information that is used and exchanged among business organizations.  It follows in an engineering tradition of separating analysis from design and using models to create shared understanding across teams of people working on a technical problem.

It is always important to understand the purpose and intended audience of any model or modeling activity. Various aspects of the business domain can be modeled.  Requirements models treat es-sential, or logical aspects of data and data processing systems.  Design models explore physical aspects of information systems.  There are also models of objective reality, including business process models, organization charts, charts of accounts and plant layouts.  And, finally, there are models of the information representation of things important to the business.    Business lan-guage analysis creates models of this latter type.  It is a method for analyzing business semantics:  the meaning of business information.  It treats information of all types, from inventories to goals, from processes to rules and procedures, whether accessed by computers, bound up in documents, or present in human brains.

This article will discuss the limitations of a purely engineering paradigm for understanding busi-ness information needs.  It will explore an alternative way of thinking about business information systems using concepts from general systems theory that view the information system as the mind of a living system.  It will present object orientation as the most hopeful approach to realizing an architecture based on cooperating mental agents.  It will propose business language analysis as the conceptual framework for information system construction.  It will show how business language analysis identifies terms in actual use in the business, and then classifies and links those terms using a set of generic business concepts.  It will recommend specific activities and work products, which will produce a model of business language.  It will suggest usage of the language model by various information systems development activities.

This article will present preliminary findings from the author’s experience.  Business language analysis is exploratory, and invites participation and feedback.  The article will conclude with suggestions of the areas where future work should proceed.