Integration Without Business Rules. Really?!
The original version of this column appeared in the Data Base Newsletter (March/April 1994).
Consolidation is not the same thing as integration. What does it really take to integrate business practices? Let me illustrate with a thought experiment.
Imagine that the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, and Japan are completely-closed societies. However, to invigorate their sports, each allows one visitor for one day each century to bring a new game idea.
For the 1800s, baseball is chosen. Abner Doubleday arrives in each country and talks about bases, runs, strikes, balls, innings, and all the other things of baseball. At the end of the day he leaves. Nobody knows what happens until the next visit, a hundred years later.
As it turns out, each country has embraced the game enthusiastically, and each now has a century of competitive results.
So taken are the countries with the game, they express a desire to merge their results and to begin an international league. A commission is chartered for that purpose and hires business architects.
The initial results are promising. Each country uses the same nouns (i.e., bases, runs, strikes, batters, etc.) and many of the same verbs (e.g., 'run is scored in inning'). A data model emerges that meets general approval.
Then the trouble begins. Not surprisingly, substantial differences have arisen over a hundred years in how each country plays the game.
- In Japan, a batter loses so much face after one strike (not a foul ball) he is immediately retired.
- In Canada (being a tolerant country), an unlimited number of strikes per at-bat is permitted but, to compensate, only two outs per inning.
- In Cuba (being a socialist country), strikes are charged to the pitcher, rather than to the batter.
- In Jamaica (suffering from earlier British influence), only two bases are used, the ball is bowled, 'pitch' refers to the playing field, and games may continue for two days.
Can the results be merged? Yes and no. Because they are based on the same words, they can be consolidated (lumped together). However, because each country plays the game differently, they cannot be integrated (compiled meaningfully).
What does it take to achieve true integration of business practices? Without common standards for how the game is played, integration is impossible. To play ball you need business rules and a shared rulebook.
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