Mapping Business and IT Concepts

In the introduction to this discussion we noted a symbiotic relationship between businesses and IT systems.  We said that this relationship calls for the ability to capture and portray business and technical information in a way that makes them easy to interrelate.  In this section we will discuss some key relationships that bridge between the concepts in the business system architecture and the IT system architecture.

Figure 9 is a graphic portrayal of some of the key relationships that bridge these two conceptual architectures.  The concepts on the left are the concepts previously discussed here, while the concepts on the right are explored in detail in a companion article in this issue on the conceptual framework for IT systems.[14]

 

 
Figure 9

 

The first thing to notice is the single relationship between the business situation and the total set of IT concepts.  What this is saying is that information technology is intrinsic to the business situation, most especially in the form of the legacy environment that is always present in any business.  As we have seen, the business situation provides both motivation and constraint on what the business can aspire to accomplish, and the current state of available and actual information technology is a major factor in this situation.

Another business concept that maps to the whole world of information systems is the concept of business function.  As we’ve seen, business function is a major partitioning concept which provides a means of considering generic, or logical organizations.  This viewpoint is also a powerful means to partition information systems along functional lines.  Each functional partition contains both human and technological capability, and through its recursive decomposition, or fractal nature, this concept allows meaningful partitioning of the complete IT architecture at any number of levels.

The concept of business behavior is a key to organizing IT functionality.  Behavior is defined and performed by such software components as workflow engines.  The behavior of a component is made externally accessible through the component’s interfaces.  It is also drives and is embodied the IT concepts of collaboration (which is a sequence of operations that realizes a use case scenario).

The most salient feature of Figure 9 is the number of relationships between the IT concept of component and various business concepts.  We have already seen that components actually perform business behavior, within the boundary of automation, and capture key information about external human behavior as well.  Components, as modular units of technological functionality also provide the expression of business semantics, such as the existence and interrelationships among business resources and business outcomes.  Business role-players and the commitments among them are also subjects to be supported and expressed in software components.

It is easy to see that several of the IT concepts are closely related to the concept of business resources.  All hardware, software, and combinations in the form of devices, systems and applications constitute resources of the business.  The IT concepts that express these hardware and software resources are component (as we’ve seen) and node, a hardware platform onto which components in the form of deployment units can be placed, as well as connection, a kind of network or communication path (LAN, WAN, dial-up, infrared, wireless, satellite, etc.) that joins two or more nodes, thereby supporting interactions among components.

Finally, note that nodes, or hardware platforms, are directly related to business locations, where such platforms can exist in physical space.