Kicking Tires About Terms
There is nothing a motorcycle enthusiast likes better than talking about bikes. There is even a special term to describe it, kicking tires. The language to describe motorcycles and scooters has had to evolve with the changing industry. Sport, tour, and off road -- which describe types of bikes -- were not part of the industry language thirty years ago. Iron butt and squid rider describe different styles of riding. Vtwin, twin, and triple all refer to engine configuration and are universally understood throughout the industry.
Language is a basic building block of business. When language unique to the business is not understood or the misuse of terms begins to invade a business, project failure, loss of income, and increased costs emanate. Robert Frost said "Good fences make good neighbors"; well-defined terms make good business. Unfortunately inaccurately or undefined terms are at the root cause of failed projects. CIO, COO, and all the other "O's" do not want to hear that projects are failing because of a language problem. How unglamorous! Who is to blame?!
But the truth of the matter is that business is changing so fast and people are moving between different business lines that a deep understanding of the terms and language is not shared across the business. This lack of understanding translates into unclear policy and misunderstood system requirements.
Shared knowledge is the answer; the question is how this can be done in near real-time. Business must take seriously the job of managing the concepts, terms, and facts -- the core knowledge of the company. This core knowledge must be stored in common repositories and made available. Applications must be designed and built to tap into these business repositories and provides workers with information 'just in time'. We must automate knowledge transfer as well as we have automated inventory management.
One way to accomplish this is to tie all error and exception messages to rules. I have found this a very effective way to deliver knowledge in real-time. This concept was first introduced in 1998 by Ron Ross in Business Rule Concepts. The more difficult challenge to implementing this idea is delivering the data that fired the rule, a challenge I hope the vendors are working on. Once this hurdle is overcome we will be one step closer to using shared knowledge when kicking tires about our business.
 Ronald G. Ross. Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge. 2nd ed.: Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2005. Available from http://www.BRSolutions.com
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