Introduction

Business today is inextricably intertwined with information system technology.  From the smallest home office business supported by a shrink-wrap business suite, to the multinational corporation with multiple monolithic legacy applications, it is impossible to be in business today without confronting the issues of supporting the business with software.  The articles in this issue of IBM Systems Journal are based on the premise that a set of interlocking semantic frameworks are necessary in order to understand and create the software solutions for the enterprise of today and the future.
The Enterprise Solution Structure (ESS) project is IBM’s response to this challenge.  As indicated in the introductory article to this issue[1], ESS has provided substantial experience in real world engagements, based on lessons learned from a number of previous projects.  This has led to a refined set of technical reference architectures and solution customization techniques.  The success of this undertaking is based on standard architectural principles and semantics, starting with an understanding of how business issues drive information systems requirements, as shown in Figure 1.  The figure shows that a set of standard business concepts can organize the particular knowledge about a any given enterprise.  This organized business knowledge gives rise to requirements for enterprise information systems.  These requirements can be satisfied in two general ways: one by the traditional custom development approach, and the other by matching patterns of requirements to patterns of existing assets.  Both of these approaches lead to the development of enterprise solutions, but the ability to reuse existing assets provides major economies.

This article is a contribution to the discussion of appropriate business concepts for organizing enterprise knowledge.  It provides a set of standard business concepts, and guidance as to how to use them to instantiate organized knowledge about specific enterprises.  This is a high-level semantic framework which has been developed over a considerable length of time.  The concepts that are presented here have been abstracted from experience with many specific enterprise business models, various IBM generic industry reference models, and several years of experience in organizing business terminology for specific businesses.  The ESS project has produced several versions of a business meta-language, and this article represents the current state of this work.