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SAP (Sybase) blog post

SAP (Sybase) blog post

for David Dichmann, Product Line Director at SAP

What’s in a Model?

PowerDesigner is built on the concept of models, and when I talk to people who are new to approaching enterprise architecture this way, I get a lot of questions. “What’s the use of models?” they want to know. “What’s the value?”

A key value of models is that they give us a way to simplify, understand and explain complex topics. When you buy furniture at IKEA, for example, it comes with an instruction set — or model — of the step-by-step process you should to follow to assemble the thing. If it weren’t for that model, flat-pack furniture wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is!

Like those assembly instructions, many models are a type of graphic diagram. Those include information models, data models, business process models (we do this thing first, and another thing next, etc.) and context diagrams, which represents the environment that an organization’s IT system resides within.

There are also many types of models that aren’t graphical, such as business models, system models, business requirements documents, use cases and excel spreadsheets, as well as all kinds of lists of things such as people, inventory, and stuff we need to do.

In business, we use models to help us define and describe who we are, what we have, how we operate, and what we intend to do in the future, so that we can understand each other better, and work together more efficiently.

When we look at how models are used in industry — any industry — they’re much more than just diagrams or lists. Models also capture knowledge, which is what makes them different from plain old drawings. In this way, models become a kind of living knowledge base. You can reuse them, adjust them, and apply standards to them so that everyone who creates them follows the same protocol.

Another value of models, then, is that they provide a true common ground from which a group of people can communicate and collaborate.

When all of the different models in an organization come together, so that we can understand and explain how we do things in context with what we do, why we do it, and where we’re going in the future, the models and become an asset to every stage of every decision process in the entire enterprise. Now that’s value.