Sunday, October 30, 2005

Semantic Unification of Business Information Systems

Business Information Systems continue to grow increasingly powerful as we become better at being able to represent the various types of information in the enterprise. The walls between performance management, content management, knowledge management, and business process management, will continue to crumble in the next couple of years as enterprises realize the strategic value of developing information models that leverage all of these technologies to form rich information tapestries within which the fabric of good decisions can be woven. Whether one considers a relational or multidimensional database, all the documents in a content management system, all of the data being passed through web services, or the trillions of web pages available, it seems obvious that there is value in developing semantic models that can unify the understanding of this data across these various domains.

While there is a lot of research and implementation of techniques of semantic integration of metadata stored in relational databases used by performance management vendors (e.g. CWM, or the Common Warehouse Metamodel), there is definitely a renewed interest in standards-based metadata representations of web content, leading to the "semantic web". Naveen Balani presents a very thorough overview of the semantic web that is well worth reading in his article on IBM's Developer Works entitled, "The future of the Web is Semantic".

The Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries. You can think of the Semantic Web as an efficient way to represent data on the World Wide Web, or as a database that is globally linked, in a manner understandable by machines, to the content of documents on the Web. Semantic technologies represent meaning using ontologies and provide reasoning through the relationships, rules, logic, and conditions represented in those ontologies.

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