Welcome to the March 2012 issue of Precision Matters - the Precision Design Technology (PDT) Newsletter.
Modelling is a technique used to simplify and to communicate concepts.
A model is an abstraction from reality. Its purpose is to allow us to concentrate our attention specifically on those features we have abstracted. We ignore all other features not relevant to our immediate purpose.
For example, the model of an aircraft, whose purpose is wind tunnel testing for lift and drag, will not model seats and passengers, though it may model their distributed load. Our attention will there be concentrated on the aerofoil structure of wings and tail, and on the aerodynamic resistance of the aircraft shape. A separate model, for the same aircraft, whose purpose is airline sales, may well model seats and passengers – and even pilot uniforms.
Because a model is an abstraction from, and therefore a simplification of, reality, a model can be a useful communication tool. We often need to set down our knowledge in a form others can comprehend.
Models Are Everywhere
Architects use plans, elevations, details and artist’s impressions to present their designs to customers and the wider world. Solicitors use simple diagrams to show a home buyer the steps needed to complete a property purchase.
Models are indeed everywhere.
Models allow us to concentrate on particular aspects of a subject. In the architect’s plans, the plumbing, heating and lighting designs may be presented on separate models, but they are derived from an integrated model of the whole structure.
Models have different focus and scale. Businesses draw up organisation charts for departments, groups, divisions. These may be aligned with models of product process flows, ordering and warehousing, packing and shipment and sales, marketing and accounts processes. Architects show models of an entire project covering several hectares, models of blocks of units, homes or retail and models of individual unit designs.
Models as Communicators
The primary reason for making a model is to communicate a concept to someone other than the person responsible for the model. For communication to succeed, both parties have to understand the model in the same way.
When we create a model, the symbols we use, the symbology, of the models must be understood by those for whom the model is intended, the audience.
Most people would gather something from the floor plans of a house – walls, windows, doors, stairs etc; these are concepts we all have to deal with in daily life, so their representation in a model is acceptable, you can imagine the house layout even if the scale is not immediately apparent.
However, models of electronic circuits, oil refinery controls and spacecraft designs may not be so familiar and may use symbols we don’t know about. In these cases, communication is less successful and may fail completely.
Modelling Business Function and Process
In the work we do with businesses, modelling is a technique we use all the time to represent process and function within a business.
To model complex business functions effectively we have to simplify these into elements we can include in our models. There are surprisingly few elements needed to model a business.
Business Rules and Activities
Activities describe the actions that occur; they may be performed by people or by machines. Activities may depend upon specific conditions or rules. The rules are associated with the flow of data through the business. The combination of activities, data flows and rules describe a business process.
This form of model may appear too simplistic. Our view is that these elements fully describe any business process. More complex processes simply use more elements in combination to describe them.
Effective Business Models
By using these simple elements in combination, business users are able to understand models presented to them and create their own models where they have specialist subject matter expertise. While some models may lack the detail necessary to complete the modelling process, others will be used to ask further questions of the business that will fill in the detail.
Once constructed, models may be used to explain business processes to others, to ensure interfaces to other models are consistent or to construct IT solutions for selected parts of business models.
I will talk more about business modelling, its benefits and uses, next month.
The Newsletter Archive
If you want to review any of the previous Newsletters, they are all available at the Newsletter Archive page
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Yes you can, so long as you accredit it to Robin Oldman, Precision Design Technology Ltd. and attach the following biography to the article at the bottom:
Precision Design Technology, (PDT), the IT systems experts, provides world-class consultancy and solutions for IT information systems to help its customers develop affordable, high integrity software for business. Normally high-integrity software is prohibitively expensive - PDT provides a solution at a price business can afford.
EUR ING Robin Oldman, COO at PDT, writes and blogs on behalf of the company. Robin also manages the development of the user interface for the SPECIFY4IT tool-set that bridges the gap between the client user and the system supplier. The SPECIFY4IT tool-set is capable of delivering high-integrity business software faster and more cheaply than conventional development methods.
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