Information Systems


They have re-organised the page on me, but I'm pretty sure that 12manage is the same web site that I've found, lost, found, lost and finally found again.

Essentially, it's a resource listing just about every management tool, technique, fad, and jargon under the sun. So if you've ever wanted to learn more about Business Process Re-engineering or Six Sigma, this is the place to start.

Protégé - an ontology builder

It's funny how you can think you pretty much know all the top-tier Open Source applications that are available ... and then you find a program like Protégé.

An open-source (MPL) ontology builder and knowledge base engine, the program is clean, responsive and easy to use. It's Java-based, which all too often is a synonym for "slow and clunky" or "really ugly" but in this case, just download the installer (even a standalone JAR installer worked first time on Windows) and it's up and running in 2 minutes.

The obvious comparison in terms of quality (again, thinking of Java programs here) is FreeMind, a thoroughly capable mind-mapping software program.

Signs of a failing project

An abbreviated version of the list from Bob Lewis's excellent column, Keep the Joint Running:

Goals The goals no longer make business sense
Scope The scope keeps expanding
Plan Tasks are "stuck" at 80%; tasks take over a month; or no task planning at all!
Optimism Project manager "hopes" everything is going well
No demo Can't produce a working demo by the appropriate point in the project
Testing Continuous testing and bug lists aren't shrinking
Team The team members want the project killed

Browser-based InfoPath forms in SharePoint

Another running post, this one aims to collect information about using InfoPath to post browser-based forms on SharePoint 2007:

  • This page suggests that it's possible to force browser-based display of forms within SharePoint, even if the InfoPath client is available. I think this is desirable behavior because it creates a consistent user experience and allows easier testing for the person deploying the form.
  • The XmlFormView webpart appears to be another way to host forms in a SharePoint browser.

Securely expose SharePoint in an extranet scenario

I'm currently looking into the feasibility (and danger) of exposing a SharePoint 2007 install on a public website in an extranet-type scenario.

While there's no doubt that Microsoft has greatly improved the security of their products in recent years, I'm still naturally wary whenever it comes to using their systems in an unprotected environment. The other problem with using SharePoint in a public environment is the Active Directory question -- how do you manage identity in a federated environment, especially when not all participants may have Active Directory installed?

Some interesting resources I've discovered to date include:

Being flexible about categorization

These quotes from Kelly Green caught my eye from an actKM discussion:

Information systems require clearly delineated properties. I think many people involved in this space would agree that this is an artificial boundary and that the boundaries in "real world" are more elastic.
Ontologies are good for illuminating subjects -- but they seem to also constrain them.

Maybe the Web world needs a space for "fuzzy categories" -- call them "associations" or "resemblances"? Where a topic can be 70% related to 'fluffy bunnies'?


Strange attractors

The four key elements of modern enterprises are people, process, technology, and content.

Patrick Lambe has produced a fantastic diagram (p.15) which shows how many information-related disciplines (and many which people think are not related) can be placed on a visual diagram where the job's "attraction" to one of these poles is noted by how close it lies to that pole. (NB: Patrick uses the term "business" instead of "process".)

Chaos, information ecosystems and information management

Thought for the day:

  1. Modern organisations collaborate on demand, producing an unstructured and informally managed set of information flows and feedback loops.
  2. At a sufficient point of complexity, the results of these information flows will exhibit characteristics of a non-linearly dynamical or chaotic system.
  3. Many natural ecosystems are non-linear and mapping information flows from this free-flowing collaboration would exhibit many characteristics of an ecosystem. (Let’s call this information map an information ecosystem.)

Getting started with ontologies

The term "ontology" isn't well-understood by lay people. Part of the confusion stems from its similarity to another term dealing with classification, the better-known "taxonomy". (There is a great primer document on the differences between ontology, taxonomy and classification available online.)

The word "ontology" is derived from Greek words meaning "the study of being or existance". Personally, I find it helps to think of ontology as the "science of thing-ness". So ontology asks the questions: What is this? What is that? And (critically) how does this relate to that?

Frameworks for Enterprise Architecture

The three largest Enterprise Architecture Frameworks are the Zachman Framework (developed by John Zachman for enterprises), the DoDAF (developed by the US military), and the TOGAF (a more technology-focused framework developed by The Open Group).

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