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Patterns of Information Management

October 29, 2013

This post co-authored by Mandy Chessell and Harald Smith.

Information patterns form the basis of a whole new architectural approach to systems design that, like its analog in the construction industry, is essential to assuring durability, usability, flexibility and utility of IT solutions. Rob High, CTO IBM Watson, Foreword to Patterns of Information Management

Whether working with traditional operational systems, data warehouses and business intelligence solutions or addressing the emerging challenges of big data and cloud solutions with high-volume sensor streams, social media feeds, cognitive systems and virtualized information sources, organizations have many complex supply chains of information to manage.

An information supply chain defines how a particular type of information flows between IT systems to support people and processes in the organization. As organizations look at any given information supply chain or the interactions between them, they must ask and answer detailed questions about the approach required such as:

  • “Why is this approach the best way to design the integration?”
  • “What are the benefits and liabilities it brings?”
  • “What forces are present that will impact the design?”

There are many design decisions that must be made in order to architect an information supply chain. For example:

  • When do you access information in place, or replicate it to a new location?
  • Should the information reside in a physical or virtual environment?
  • When does integration of information occur and how is it triggered?
  • How is the information reengineered, secured and monitored?

Consider a few alternatives in simply providing information about customer activity to support a solution for better and more responsive Customer Insight as highlighted in the recent IBM Redguide publication: Smarter Analytics: Driving Customer Interactions with the IBM Next Best Action Solution.

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Information about customer activity is the driver for the solution. But there are multiple alternatives to collect and provision that information: intercepting messages in process queues, periodic extraction of data from databases, notifications triggered by specific information updates or explicit calls for application records. Each approach has pros and cons, dictated by factors such as volume of information, frequency of change or difficulty of application change.

In looking at these challenges and decisions, underlying patterns emerge - patterns that can assist architects in making reasoned decisions about whether given approaches are applicable and the inherent consequences of their choices.

“A pattern-based approach is powerful because the resulting system behavior is determined by the way technologies are combined; the design choices are heavily affected by nonfunctional requirements, such as the amount of information, the arrival rates of new values, the level of quality that can be assumed, and the processing required to make the information useful. The patterns link together into a pattern language that spans from the holistic system level views for enterprise architects down to the design patterns of integration developers.” - Patterns of Information Management

IODBlog-POIM2.jpgAs noted in a recent TDWI Q&A: Patterns of Information Management: “Patterns are written in a plain, natural language. This makes them accessible to both business and technical people alike. The patterns lay out choices and how to select them – pros and cons – with worked examples and references to known uses. This provides insight through common conditions that readers are likely to have experienced themselves. Linked together, the group of patterns forms a comprehensive description of a topic area.”

Join us at Information On Demand 2013 as we explore some of the ground-breaking pattern work by Mandy Chessell and Harald Smith to address the many challenges of Information Management.

Think through some of these questions to support Information Management solutions:

  • What processes must a given solution support?
  • What information do these processes need?
  • Where is the information located?
  • How is this information managed?
  • How are the processes provisioned?
  • How is the solution validated?
  • How is the solution secured?

By looking at these issues in context of your Information Management needs, you can leverage the broad range of reference patterns to inform your work and facilitate understanding key forces, trade-offs and opportunities to design and deliver more effective information solutions.

Take time while attending IOD to stop by the Bookstore where you can get your own signed copy of "Patterns of Information Management" by Mandy Chessell and Harald Smith on Monday, Nov 4 from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., and check out this related session earlier the same day: