Semantic Enterprise Composite Offering
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As an implementation proceeds and extends across the enterprise, there are exciting prospects to shift the locus of knowledge management and tools from vendors and the IT function to practicing knowledge workers. Real prospects exist from this Offering to overcome decades of frustration in breaking down information silos within the organization. In the process, the organization can enable more effective information sharing and interoperability. This approach is generally based upon the languages and techniques of the semantic web, as distilled and refined by the pragmatic lens of business requirements.
The Semantic Enterprise Offering provides an incremental approach to bring interoperability and common understandings with respect to enterprise information. The Offering uses an "open" style. It's important to note that open here is not the same as free or open source. Rather, think of open as in "open world"; there are unknowns and incomplete information. An "open" Semantic Enterprise is one that adopts the languages and standards of the semantic web. These include:
These can be applied to the issues related information interoperability. While flexible, it is often best to utilize the best practices of linked data . While not essential, some principles of Web-oriented architectures are also suggested. The framework is also highly useful for incorporating existing information resources into the enterprise.
Within the overall layer, there is a gradient —or spectrum—of possible styles in what it means to be a "semantic enterprise." One one hand, the more traditional and familiar style is comprehensive, complete, and “engineered” in its approach. This approach may also not strictly adhere to semantic Web languages and standards. On the other, the second "open" style is more adaptive and incremental. This second approach is the basis of this Offering.
In any event, the applicability of either approach—or any gradient between—is a function of objectives, circumstances, and use cases.
This Semantic Enterprise Offering is purposefully geared to knowledge management, information discovery, and IM functions. It is also purposefully designed as an integration layer over existing information assets and infrastructure.
See further the standalone executive overview.
Solution Offering Purpose
The Semantic Enterprise Offering is a Composite Solution and, as such, bridges and transcends many other MIKE2.0 offerings. (See more fully the Relevant
Characteristics section below). Though many of the assets used by this Offering already exist, its reach touches a majority of other Offerings, the exact potential interactions of which are still being defined. There are also many potential assets not yet described in MIKE2.0 nor yet with demonstrable case studies or best practices.This should not be unexpected; MIKE2.0 is a dynamnic approach.
Nevertheless, sufficient assets and elements exist for this Offering to enable its deployment at departmental, prototype, or proof-of-concept levels. Both proprietary and open source options exist across the range of existing elements.
The inherent open, incremental, and extensible nature of this Offering means that scope and risks can be readily managed. At the same time, however, it can accomodate subsequent expansions in scope, sophistication, and depth without adverse effects or modifications to prior efforts.
Solution Offering Relationship OverviewSemantic Enterprise Offering bridges existing Core Solutions with many interactions and Composite Solutions. The offering "sits on top" of existing information, components, and assets. This role is in keeping with the purpose of the Offering to integrate and provide interoperability. The essence of the layer is to provide the semantics and common data model based on RDF that enables tight integration among all existing information sources and formats.
This fundamental role means that all of the solutions in this diagram could potentially be highlighted in red. However, since the basic deployment approach of this Offering is incremental and can be targeted in scope, it is more appropriate to show it as a separate, integrative layer.
Solution Offering Definition
Many enterprise information systems, particularly relational ones, embody a closed world assumption. This assumption is a deafult negative; it holds that any statement that is not known to be true is false. This premise works well in situations in which there is complete coverage of the entities, such as the enumeration of all customers or all products.
Yet, in most areas of the real (”open”) world there is no guarantee or likelihood of complete coverage. Thus, under an open world assumption the lack of a given assertion or fact does not imply whether that possible assertion is true or false. Rather, it simply is not known. An open world assumption is one of the key factors that defines the open Semantic Enterprise Offering. It enables the Offering to be deployed incrementally. It is also the basis for enabling linkage to external (often incomplete) datasets.
Fortunately, there is no requirement for enterprises to make some philosophical commitment to either closed- or open-world systems or reasoning. It is perfectly acceptable to combine traditional closed-world relational systems with open-world reasoning. It is also not necessary to make any choices or trade-offs about using
All combinations are acceptable when the basis for integration is an open-world one.
Matching this logical basis with the simple, flexible, and expressive Resource Description Framework (RDF) data model is ideal. A very powerful basis for data integration and interoperability across a diversity of sources and systems emerges.
RDF is expressed as simple subject-predicate-object “triples”. They represent how data can be transformed into more complex structures and stories. A triple is a “statement”; it is the basic “fact” or asserted unit of knowledge in RDF. Multiple statements are combined as follows:
As these node-edge-node triple statements get aggregated, a network structure emerges. This is known as the RDF graph.
RDF triples can be applied equally to all structured, semi-structured, and unstructured content. By defining new types and predicates, it is possible to create more expressive vocabularies within RDF. This expressiveness enables RDF to define controlled vocabularies with exact semantics. These features create RDF a powerful data model and language for data federation and interoperability across disparate datasets. It also allows starting domains to be expanded in either scope or expressiveness in a building block manner.
Similar to ETL options, there is also a wide variety of "RDFizers" that enable virtually any existing data format from diverse sources to be expressed as RDF. The differences in semantic meanings and relationships from different sources are often written in the RDF ontology language (OWL). This combination of expressive languages, vocabularies, converters means that existing information assets, can now be related and combined. Examples include:
As a result, the mappings of these structures in the ultimate ontologies become the means to codify the enterprise’s circumstances into an actionable set of relationships bridging across multiple, existing information assets.
There are, of course, key deployment and management factors for the Semantic Enterprise Offering. This is also true with regard to similar IM offerings, as described in the related Guiding Principles for the Open Semantic Enterprise. These principles also describe some other important aspects, such as linked data or Web-oriented architecture. However, it is really the unique combination of open-world approach and the RDF data model and its semantic power that provide the distinctive differences for this Offering.
Clearly, the nature of this Offering in semantics, relationships, and integration make it most suited for applications in the following areas:
Yet, as the Offering's potential relationships with most of the MIKE2.0 solutions manifest, any opportunity involving the need to combine or interoperate information could potentially benefit from this Offering.
Here are some of the important reference concepts related to the Semantic Enterprise:
Relevant Characteristics as a Composite Solution
Information integration with meaning, of course, is nearly universal to the objectives of MIKE2.0. Because of this, the Semantic Enterprise Offering significantly overlaps with other Core or Composite Solutions.
As the diagram below shows, more than half of the Core Solutions in MIKE2.0 have some degree of interaction with the Offering. What's more, about one-quarter of them are very important (major). In the same vein, there also are key interactions with most of the Composite Solutions.In these regards, the Semantic Enterprise Offering is perhaps the best exemplar within MIKE2.0 for a Composite Solution.
Relationship to Solution Capabilities
This section now begins relating the Offering to the specific aspects of MIKE2.0.
Relationship to Enterprise Views
The Semantic Enterprise Offering is a potential game-changer in that it offers new ways to directly involve practitioners into most aspects of the Information Development process, while simultaneously providing a vehicle for finally bringing effective information federation to the enterprise. But the transition to ontology-based information management and ontology-driven applications is in its mere infancy. For these latent potentials to be realized, much innovation, development, testing and accumulation of best practices will be required. This transition to a more democratized basis for the information management function will involve many aspects of people, process, organisation and technology.
Mapping to Overall Implementation Guide
There is much substance in the Semantic Enterprise Offering applicable to The 5 Phases of MIKE2. Where major questions and uncertainties reside is in how subsequent increments may work and play out. This is particularly important for this Offering given its inherent incremental nature. Also, because of this nature, this Offering is well suited to smaller initial increments with fast phase transitions.
The Programme Review activity is important for assessing that the Offering is aligning with overall strategy and the methodological approach. It should be performed after each phase or more frequently if appropriate.
Phase 1 - Business Assessment and Strategy Definition Blueprint
Phase 1 tends to emphasize awareness, strategy development, vision, planning and organization. For the Semantic Enterprise Offering, this phase is critical for targeting and bounding the first deployment, as well as for setting key organizational and information development objectives.
Overall Business Strategy for Information Development
In the Overall Business Strategy for Information Development activity, the strategic business initiatives are defined in the context of the semantic information requirements. For Semantic Enterprise engagements, this activity defines the scope and sequencing of information to be inter-related and collaboratively mapped.
The Organisational QuickScan for Information Development is about trying to quickly understand the organisation’s current environment and to begin to establish the vision for where it would like to go. This process sets the ground state from which the various objectives in subsequent phases and increments are based. QuickScan assessments are a core part of this activity as they not only provide a rich starter set of questions but also provide maturity guidelines for organisations. The gap between the current-state assessment and the envisioned future-state gives as early indicator of the progress for the overall programme.
Initial Data Governance Organisation
The Initial Data Governance Organisation is focused on establishing the roles and responsibilities throughout the deployment programme. Communications models, frequencies and methods are also established, which are important to possible issue resolution and prevention throughout the implementation process. The data governance organisation that is established at this point will become more sophisticated over time.
Future State Vision for Information Management
The Future State Vision for Information Management is an important activity for defining the strategic objectives, scope and architecture for the Semantic Enterprise. As this typically involves a large number of different conceptual components and interactions, a systematic approach is important. This activity also defines the future-state business processes for semantic information management. Implementation of Semantic Enterprise techniques and technologies will introduce fundamental changes to business process.
Phase 2 - Technology Assessment and Selection Blueprint
Phase 2 tends to emphasize functional and non-functional analysis, architecture development, policies, standards, and initial component and application selection.
Technology Requirements for the Semantic Layer
Using the Layered Semantic Enterprise Architecture for guidance, technology requirements for the semantic layer are defined in relation to the existing SAFE Architecture and Technology Backplane, and in relation to the goals of Information Development and Infrastructure Development. This activity is used to define the capabilities that are needed for the strategic implementation of this Offering.
This activity gets expressed as the Technology Requirements for the Semantic Layer. At least for initial increments and to lower risk, requirements can be developed quickly if there is an emphasis on the use of open and common standards. Through this approach, strategic requirements do not need to be defined for a multi-year programme as new technologies can be more easily “plugged in” during future release cycles, reducing the amount of time required during the strategy.
Ontology and Vocabulary Design
Ontology and Vocabulary Design, which builds from Metadata Driven Architecture, sets the high-level design goals and management-level architectural framework for what existing information assets will be exposed to the semantic layer, and what major ontologies and instance record vocabularies will be put in place to support that aim. A critical aspect is to identify existing semantic assets in the enterprise (such as schema, taxonomies, industry standards, controlled vocabularies, MDM reference systems, and so forth) that can readily contribute prior efforts in common language. Another key aspect is to identify external vocabularies and ontologies that may contribute to the effort as well.
Though not yet implemented at this phase, other high-level objectives for the ontologies are also included in the design. These additions are from the standpoint of best practice requirements that will enable the resulting ontologies and information structures to provide the input to ontology-driven applications.
Another design aspect is to define the stakeholders and then the goals and mechanisms by which these stakeholders can collaborate and provide guidance to the overall ontology and vocabulary efforts. These efforts begin with assembly and formulation, and then continue with expansion, modifications and refinements.
It is important to get ontology and vocabulary management practices in place from the onset. As Phase 2 involves strategic technology requirements and product selection, the implementation team may still lack sufficient tools. Therefore, projects may need to take a tactical approach in the early stages.
Strategic Non-Functional Requirements
Strategic Non-Functional Requirements for the Semantic Enterprise are defined at a overarching level in this activity. For this Offering to be effective, there must a significant focus on understanding, role, performance and ability to scale to meet future business volume growth requirements. Users will expect the solution to be easy to use from their experience with sites on the public Internet and a quick capturing of requirements at this time will help shape the design in later stages. Note that these requirements should be done quickly – getting a working system in front of users and re-working through prototyping is a much more effective method for meeting usability requirements.
Future-State Logical Architecture and Gap Analysis
The Future-State Logical Architecture and Gap Analysis builds on the conceptual architecture that is already defined and takes it to the level of detail required to make strategic technology decisions. A gap analysis can then be conducted between the current-state and future-state to determine which technologies can be re-used.
Phase 3 - Information Development Roadmap and Foundation Activities
Phase 3 tends to emphasize definitions of business requirements and architecture, plus budgets and schedules. Initial prototypes are generally rolled out in Phase 3. Within Phase 3, the scope of the solution for a specific increment is defined and the overall content model begins to take shape.
Detailed Business Requirements
When developing the Detailed Business Requirements for this Offering, the focus is on the scope and priority of information deserving interoperability attention, and the collaborative means by which the semantics for this federation occurs. Outcome measures appropriate to the enterprise need to be defined.
Transition of Legacy to Semantic Data
The essence of the Semantic Enterprise Offering is to provide an interoperability layer over existing information assets. The Semantic Data Conversion Roadmap provides the plan for which sources are to be converted, how they are to be translated, and with what tools. The roster of sources to be transitioned depends on the specific increment at hand.
Prototype the Solution Framework
The activity to Prototype the Solution Framework helps to rapidly develop the solution. The prototype progressively builds out the overall functionality of the solution and the semantic layer, with all component parts linked and operating. If the prototype is done effectively some of the formalisation of the design activities in Phase 4 may be unnecessary.
Phase 4 - Design Increment
Phase 4 tends to emphasize integration and enterprise-wide implications, more fully developed framework designs, and deployment-grade interfaces and performance.
Information Security Design
Information Security Design defines which information can be seen by users within the collaborative environment. The most important aspects of security design relate to how information is accessed and who can edit content. Group-based access control is typically used to implement security rules. For initial prototypes or in first increments, interaction here may be minor.
Data Integration Logical Design
Data Integration Logical Design is extended in this Offering to include the schema and instance logic splits recommended to implement the semantic layer. This activity provides the ontology(ies) definitions, contributing datastores, and the specific mapping framework to expose that information at the interoperability layer.
Design for User Collaboration
User Collaboration Design provides the mechanisms by which users and communities of interest can provide input into the logic layer (ontologies plus instances and attributes) desired to meet interoperability objectives. It is the activity that defines how users will interact with one another, how internal and external assets will be brought together in the collaborative environment and how users may specifically classify content.
User Interface Design
The User Interface Design activity defines the front-end interface in which a user will interact with the applications layer in the architecture. Certain new capabilities in information navigation and discovery need to be accommodated. For a successful Semantic Enterprise Offering, these interfaces must be intuitive, simple to use, and conforming to modern Web practice.
Phase 5 - Develop, Test & Deploy Increment
Phase 5 tends to emphasize the first meaningful full increment deployment, with subsequent testing and refinement for later interactions or continued scale-up.Through development, testing and deployment activities, the prototype solution is hardened and implemented into production.
Technology Backplane Modifications
The Technology Backplane Development activity covers the development of integration and information management components for the semantics layer. This includes development of interfaces, Web components and security technologies.
Depending on the complexity of the solution, different testing activities will be required although testing is generally not complex. Functional Testing and some level of System Integration Testing will be required at a minimum; Stress and Volume Testing (SVT) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) are also important. Integration to the outside world may also require some specialized testing focused on security, interoperability, performance and usability.
Updates to the Implementation Guide
The Overall Implementation Guide provides many of the key activites for this Semantic Enterprise Offering. However, it is also clear that many gaps and unknowns remain. As these are tackled and refined in specific engagements, this guide needs to be updated and refined on an ongoing basis. The updated guide and related Offering documents will be expanded with respect to both specifics and scope.
With respect to explaining the nature and benefits of the semantic enterprise to key decisionmakers, challenges persist and include:
As an enhancement to existing information assets, adopting the semantic layer is a strategic decision for the enterprise. As such, it that may require different explanatory documents and methods.
Mapping to the SAFE Architecture FrameworkGiven its layered role, this Offering tends to act more as a subsequent set of functions or middleware with respect to the standard SAFE Architecture. This is reflected in the Layered Semantic Enterprise Architecture (see diagram below). Most of the existing SAFE architecture resides in the "Existing Assets" layer. The specific aspects of the Semantic Enterprise Offering is then sandwiched in the so-called "Access/Conversion" and "Ontologies" layers in the diagram. However, these capabilities may potentially affect the applications layer (perhaps to a great extent). This discussed in more detail below.
Mapping to the Information Governance Framework
The starting basis here is the Networked Information Governance framework. This brings a collaborative aspect to a traditional Information Governance (IG) approach. This extension (Composite Solution) facilitates the collaboration on the definition and implementation of common standards, methods, and architecture. It was designed to combine the standard IG offering with Enterprise 2.0.
One of the keys to a successful Semantic Enterprise implementation is that governance can be in placewithout it feeling restrictive. This Offering is enhanced via a number of behaviors not usually encouraged in the context of more traditional models; limiting some of these behaviors with governance controls that are unnecessarily restrictive will mostl likely result in a diminished solution.
More than this composite understanding, however, there are still further challenges with a Semantic Enterprise Offering not as prevalent in the other Offerings. For example, there are governance challenges shared with offerings in:
As the penultimate section to this Offering notes, there may be a different threshold of governance best-suited to this specific Offering.
Mapping to Supporting Assets
As an emerging Offering, the Semantic Enterprise solution has a relative paucity of Supporting Assets at present. Notes regarding existing or proposed ones are provided via Asset category below.
Architecture, Design and Development
The relationship with Guiding Principles for the Open Semantic Enterprise was noted above. Here are some of the other existing MIKE2.0 design assets related to this offering:
Also the information on Related Concepts (above) should be consulted.
Implementation FrameworksOpen SEAS Framework. Open SEAS (Semantic Enterprise Adoption and Solutions) provides guidance to existing tools (most open source, though some proprietary) and a generalized architecture and adoption framework based on this Offering. It follows the same Guiding Principles for the Open Semantic Enterprise and the Layered Semantic Enterprise Architecture.
Products and Tools
These supporting assets are still being documented. See further the section on Assets Under Development below.
Selected External Assets
See the Related Links Semantic Enterprise.
Assets Under Development
As a new Offering in an emerging area, considerable further assets are presently under development.
Kinds of Assets
There are many aspects that make for a complete offering. Some of these are reasonably mature and refined works in process for the Semantic Enterprise Offering. Others need more attention and experience. These various additional assets include methods and papers, templates, capabilities, software, plans, and project examples.
Revisions to Existing Assets
Wiki asset search