Wow, how rare, conversations about concepts.

About five years ago I was kicking around some ideas in a development think
tank that was trying to create a blueprint for large scale inter-company
workflow - what we're starting to call Electronic Commerce now. We had
people from different backgrounds - EDI, E-mail, Forms, Security and
Applications. Without exception everyone was either focused on the data or
the presentation (GUI). The GUI people couldn't grasp the concept of
transactions and the others couldn't see beyond the data. The EDI people
thought this was all irrelevant anyway 'cause "we're already doing this". I
was proposing an encapsulated data model - a more "object oriented"
approach where each data component in a business model would be thought of
as an object with methods that related that object to other data
components. If we used these objects as building blocks and shared them
with the business community at large (a la Java), we could manufacture
sophisticated and naturally integrated business applications that
automatically lend themselves to all sorts of things, including document
exchange. But of course I was wasting my time. The EDI people couldn't see
a world beyond "mapping", the e-mailers had no concept of a business
document and the forms generation people expected every document to be
processed by an end-user.

It's good to see the idea of business components being resurrected (the San
Francisco et al) even if it is really only part of a Java case tool. It
will be a long time before we see any sea change in the way we handle and
store our data, but it's nice to know there are some out there thinking
about it.


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