Information Framework (IFW)
Information FrameWork (IFW) is an enterprise architecture framework, populated with a comprehensive set of banking-specific business models. It was developed by Roger Evernden as an alternative to the Zachman Framework. The banking-specific business models represent the best practices in banking and are a natural extension to the Component Business Model.
The Information FrameWork (IFW) has built upon the ideas presented by Zachman. However, the objectives and scope of IFW are broader than that of the original Zachman framework. IFW is described and compared with the original Zachman structure, showing the evolution, changes, and rationale behind the changes based on experiences from within the financial services industry. Since 1992 Information FrameWork (IFW) has provided the architectural foundation and framework for a set of models developed to support agile, component-based IT systems. Although these models were aimed primarily for the Banking, Finance, and Securities industry sector within IBM, the ideas and principles behind the architecture and the model have much wider applicability.
The Information Framework can be thought of as a giant filing system, with separate cabinets for further differentiation within the primary categories, and separate drawers within each cabinet for different types of analysis. The IFW diagram contains 50 cells to represent ten basic information types and five types of analysis.
Information types are grouped into:
- organization information, such as information about strategies, organization structures, and skills,
- business information such as data about involved parties, products, and arrangements, business functions or processes, and
- technical information.
The different types of analysis possible by users include:
- selecting the appropriate conceptual categories by which we analyze information,
- defining terms and terminology,
- describing principles for structuring different types of information,
- creating detailed designs that use information, and
- analyzing how to implement these designs.
The Information Framework (IFW) has become part of what is commonly known as the Industry Models. The IBM Industry Models are used primarily for the development of internal company standards and provide an overall integration layer across an organization's existing and future IT investments. With their strong business and IT orientation, IBM Industry Models are designed to be customized to reflect the precise needs of every company using them. Hence, every company will have its own customized industry-specific version of IBM's data, process, and service models, allowing them to represent areas that are unique to their business and constitute competitive advantage. In addition, the models can be easily augmented to embrace industry extensions, jurisdiction, and company-specific extensions easily.
The Industry Models (IFW) has products for the following industries:
- Banking and Financial Markets (Data, Process, Services),
- Insurance (Data, Process, Services),
- Healthcare (Data),
- Telecommunications (Data),
- Retail (Data).
While in some markets IBM Industry Models have become de facto standards, their purpose is not to standardize at the level of an industry, but to provide the basis for defining corporate standards. IBM's approach is to facilitate or embody the most important industry standards, which are most often data models or messaging formats. Architectural elements in the IBM Industry Models are data models, process models, and service models.
Overview of Information FrameWork (IFW)
The IFW business models describe the business of the bank and are an efficient communication bridge between business and technology communities. They are designed to be readily accessible to business users and focus on industry issues in areas such as Customer Insight, Multi-Channel Transformation, Core Systems, and Risk & Compliance.
The IFW comprises:
- Information Models: providing banking data content to address areas such as enterprise-wide view of information;
- Process Models: providing banking business processes content to address areas such as business process re-engineering;
- Integration Models: providing business services content to address areas such as service-oriented architectures;
The IFW business models typically support over 80% of business requirements and can be easily customized and extended to cover the specific requirements of a bank. The IFW business models will assist a bank in implementing a flexible, reusable, extensible, and easily customizable architecture, which in turn will enable the bank to:
- Be more adaptive and to respond quickly to changing customer needs;
- Focus on achieving competitive differentiation;
- Identify and leverage best practice behaviors across the organization
IFW Supports Strategic Information Systems Planning
IFW was designed to accommodate a variety of approaches and methodologies providing a comprehensive structure to manage architectures. Research by Michael Earl suggests that there are five different approaches for strategic information systems planning (SISP), each with different characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. Although the research is based on information systems, the five approaches can be used in a more general sense to understand the different styles of information management. The five different approaches, with a discussion of how they are related to IFW, are illustrated in the diagram below:
How IFW Works
IFW is a 50-cell framework that is used to understand and manage the different types of information.
Much contemporary information is actually very similar from one financial institution to another. It takes considerable effort to get well-structured information to provide and enhance flexibility to meet changing customer demands and new competitive pressures. Information FrameWork saves much of this effort by providing a structured set of models and templates based on consistent architecture so that many of the deliverables from information-related projects are anticipated. These models and templates provide solutions to information-related problems.
Fundamental Factors of IFW
The diagram below shows the eight factors of IFW graphically. The idea is that each factor is useful on its own, and in combination with any of the other factors.
Every architecture framework uses one or more of the factors, in various combinations. But many of the pre-defined frameworks are shown in a table or matrix diagram. According to Roger Evernden, "the problem here is that Enterprise Architecture is multi-dimensional - it has at least eight fundamental factors - and it is very difficult to visualize or work with more than three factors at a time!"
- Domain Categories (Subject Areas) - this factor is all about the subject matter or scope of the enterprise architecture, or an EA project. The subject matter of EA is divided into a number of domains, or sub-domains. The most common high-level domains are environment, organization, business, information systems (data, application), and technology.
- Understanding - this factor is about how to gain awareness of, or comprehend an enterprise architecture. This needs to be done at different levels.
- Presentation - architects need to present architectural concepts and ideas to stakeholders, and very often need to do this in different ways. Presentation examines how architects go about doing this in the most effective way.
- Evolution - enterprise architectures are highly dynamic and constantly changing. Different components change at different paces. There are usually many changes happening at the same time. Evolution is about how to manage changes to architectures in a coherent, integrated, and sustainable manner.
- Knowledge - a lot of what is "known" about an architecture and its components is hidden or implicit. Much of the knowledge is with subject matter experts. Only a very small part is explicitly recorded. This factor examines how EA uses a balance between formal documentation and personal stories.
- Process - there are many processes in EA, from developing new architecture definitions, analyzing old ones, defining visions, governance, etc. Process covers all of these.
- Responsibility - enterprises are formed by people. Everyone has some responsibility for the enterprise architecture. Some people are users; some people make decisions or fund changes; others supply components; and some architect! This factor covers all of these roles and accountabilities.
- Meta Levels - finally, enterprise architectures are very complex, and a key aspect of architecting is to view things at different meta-levels. For example, the metamodel is one of the most vital tools in EA. And a metaframework is arguably the most useful tool of all!
Six Dimensions of the Information FrameWork
The grid structure diagram of IFW shows the first two dimensions:
- Columns and,
- Rows: The columns and rows, represent the types of information and levels of constraint.
- The third dimension is the intersection between a column and a row, representing a specific cell in the grid. This dimension records knowledge about aspects or content of a cell.
- The fourth dimension covers the transition or transformation from one version of IFW to another over a period of time. The time scale can be architectural in duration, covering any period from one to twenty or more years, or project-related, covering any period from one week to five years. This dimension also handles aspects of information management such as versioning.
- The fifth dimension acknowledges that content within any cell in the framework could have several owners. For example, much of the data defined in a data model, such as data about an individual or person, would be true not just within the financial services industry but across the insurance, retail, petroleum, or travel industries. The fifth dimension, therefore, includes information “ownership” at a global, industry, cross-enterprise, enterprise, local, or individual level.
- The sixth dimension includes the project, process, or route map views through IFW. Very often the material in individual cells of IFW is used in different ways, depending on a preference for one methodology or another. This aspect of information management is covered in this dimension. For example, an object-oriented development would use information in the data, function, and workflow columns, but it would typically combine them as objects with related methods and messages-in other words, two or more of the architectural cells of IFW (separated in the first three dimensions) have been combined together because of methodological need (in the sixth dimension).
Objectives of the Information FrameWork
- Provide a strategy for managing information as a valuable asset: The need for a clear strategy for managing information has been a major issue in the 1990s. The focus of IFW is on information, and its primary objective is therefore to provide a strategy for managing information as a valuable asset; hence the name “Information FrameWork.” It was not named after information systems, application development, or any of a number of alternative uses of the word “information,” because IFW can be used in a wide range of information-related projects. Although IFW was initially developed for the financial services industry, IBM did not limit the name by calling it “Financial Services FrameWork,” because the principles and ideas behind IFW can be applied to information in any industry. Whereas the Zachman framework is focused on an information systems architecture, the Information FrameWork is aimed at managing information. ISA “provides a systematic taxonomy of concepts for relating things in the world to the representations in the computer.” It has been said that since the introduction of the Zachman framework it “has been widely adopted by systems analysts and database designers,” whereas IFW is suitable for use in any situation where “information” is created or used. This distinction, which has also been made by other framework developers, is of some importance because the underlying focus of a framework helps to determine the format of the framework itself.
- Provide the means to realize the potential value of the information asset in the most effective manner: Much of the development work in IFW has been exploratory. The Zachman framework was tested in a number of projects, and, where necessary, enhancements were made. In philosophy, a framework is often used as an outline or hypothesis in the production of new knowledge. IFW has been used in this sense, with additions and changes to the basic hypothesis, evolving as IBM gained more experience through practical customer projects. IFW has drawn upon many sources for its intellectual foundation, including the notion of a “framework” from object-oriented theory. A paper by Cockburn states that a framework is “a template for a group of objects that manage a responsibility jointly, using a predefined protocol among themselves,” and goes on to say that the framework itself “consists of the statement of how the responsibility is divided and the definition of the protocol.” In this sense, the components of IFW have responsibility for managing information. The cells in IFW show the division of responsibility, with each cell localizing one aspect of the problem of managing information. The protocol is a methodology that explains exactly how component objects are grouped together in IFW to define solutions.