Metaphor - ISO 15926 Is Like English on Your Cell Phone

If you and I were not close together but needed to talk about something, we might decide to use our cellular telephones. There is a great deal of complexity hidden from the view of the casual user. One of us could be in a digital roaming area while the other is in an analog area. One, or both, might be in a vehicle traveling at high speed down a highway—moving from one cellular area to another very quickly. We could be on different continents. All this is handled automatically by the software and circuitry that makes up the cellular telephone network.

None of this would do either of us any good, however, if you spoke Mandarin and I spoke Cantonese. Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects within the same language family, but are far enough apart that it is difficult for native speakers of one to understand native speakers of the other. Thus, to communicate with cell phones we would have to agree to speak the same language. In that China has one of the highest populations of English speakers of any country in the world, it is quite possible that we both speak English.

To talk to you using English, I would first translate the words and sentence structure from Cantonese to English. When you heard me speak, you would translate the words and sentence structure from English to Mandarin and (hopefully) understand what I said.

ISO 15926 is like talking on a cell phone

In this metaphor, ISO 15926 takes the place of English. ISO 15926 is a common "language" for exchanging information about capital projects. It would not matter how either of us stored our plant information, at the interface we would "translate" it to and from ISO 15926.

This is quite a good metaphor in that each of us would continue to think and work in our native language (me, Cantonese; you, Mandarin) but would encode/decode the message to the common language of English more or less on the fly. Similarly, organizations that use ISO 15926 to communicate with each other can continue to use proprietary systems internally.

This is a good metaphor in another way as well. The complexity of managing the call is hidden from cell phone users. You and I can contact each other by simply calling each other's cell phone number. You don't have to call a different number if I am away from my office. I don't have to use a different protocol if you have a digital phone or an analog phone. You don't have to know if I am at home or at ball game. The cellular network figures out where we are and directs our calls through the closest transmission tower. Similarly, by using ISO 15926 we will all be spared the detail of matching our own information systems to those of our business partners.

A major difference is in what people will have to know about ISO 15926 in order to use it. This metaphor implies that users will have to know ISO 15926 almost as well as they know their native tongue. In fact, most people will not even have to know how to spell ISO 15926--it will simply be built into whatever computer system they are using. To extend the cell phone metaphor, it will be as if an intelligent English translator is built into both cell phones. I would speak my native Cantonese into my phone and you would hear your native Mandarin in yours.

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