How Information Exchange Actually Works


What we find, however, is that each organization manages information a bit differently, even though the underlaying physical object is the same. Each organization has a different view of the world and designs its software pragmatically to support its work practices.

How Information Exchange Actually Works

For instance:

  • The Engineer who specifies the pump is concerned first about its capacity, and whether or not the material is appropriate to the service, and then about it’s physical envelope dimensions and weight.
  • The Constructor is also interested in weight, but only marginally interested in it’s physical dimensions (at least until something doesn’t fit). But it is very interested in delivery schedule.
  • The purchasing agent is professionally interested that all of the engineer’s requirements are met in whatever is purchased, but treats the property values, more-or-less as text strings. For instance the tag number 32-P-101A is treated as a single text string including the dashes, but the engineer wants to deal with all the individual pieces (Plant 32, Equipment type “P”, Sequence number 101, Spare “A”).
  • The manufacturer is interested in dimensions, but to a far greater level of precision, as well as the precise chemical composition of the material.
  • Standards and regulatory bodies are interested in things that will make the pump blow up and kill people. This includes physical properties, but they want different levels of detail.
  • The Owner-Operator is marginally interested in the physical properties (after all, the pump is there, and it is operating), but is more interested in maintenance schedules and the availability of spare parts.

All of these differences are reflected in different data structures with subtle differences in meaning of even common terms. As a result, making the software of all the participants communicate is like trying to pound square pegs into round holes, except that in this case there are many different shapes of pegs and many different shapes of holes. It is certainly possible to make the software communicate (an in fact many professionals make a good living doing just that) but it is costly and time-consuming.

(In An Introduction to ISO 15926 we give examples of information exchanges hampered by lack of compatibility of data models.)

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