Root-Cause Solution for Problems with Data Quality & Silos: Concept Models

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

Extracted from Business Knowledge Blueprints: Enabling Your Data to Speak the Language of the Business, by Ronald G. Ross, 2020.

These days, every organization of any size tussles day-in and day-out with migrating, correcting, consolidating, and merging data. Huge amounts of costly resources are devoted to the problem. Here's what a seasoned executive recently said about IT in banking, where the problem is particularly acute:

"Up to 80% of all IT activity in banking is absorbed in supporting data integration and cross-application aggregate reporting."

Does all this activity actually resolve any of the underlying problems? No. It's like running in place on a treadmill going faster and faster. Stepping off, of course, is not an option.

If the data were of high quality, that would be one thing. But generally, it's not. Far from it. Organizations have simply been looking at the problem of data quality in fundamentally the wrong way. Time for a fresh perspective.

How did organizations get themselves in the current situation? Basically, a long-term application-centric approach is to blame. Each project often develops its own files and databases. The net result is local, narrow views that must be spliced together through external interfaces. The big picture isn't simply lost — it never existed in the first place. And without a concept model, one that is integrated and holistic, there can be no effective remediation.

What about reengineering business value chains? The heart of the matter is very down-to-earth. Integrating silos will never happen so long as workers in different parts of the value chain remain in different semantic silos.

The problem is not just one of functional silos. People (and machines) need to mean the same things by the words they use.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for these problems. We simply need a better approach. The solution is a concept model.

How exactly does a concept model relate to data? A concept model is not some abstract model of data; instead, it is a concrete model for a different domain, the design of business knowledge.

Still, it's important for data for the following reason. You're simply never going to solve the problems of cross-organizational data integration and aggregated reporting using the same techniques that got you into the trouble in the first place. You need a concept model, a whole new foundation for business knowledge.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Root-Cause Solution for Problems with Data Quality & Silos: Concept Models" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 21, No. 04, (Apr. 2020)

About our Contributor:

Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the BRS Methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:

Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

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