Thursday, January 14, 2010

Delivering Integrated Information from Data Silos Using MODS

Lyn Robinson of the Burton Group wrote an excellent paper describing a "Methodology for Overcoming Data Silos" (MODS).; a "groundbreaking project structure" for bridging silos and delivering integrated information from decentralized, disparate information systems.

Interesting concept. A lot of thought, time and money has gone into breaking down information silo's over the past few years. Robinson recognizes that this is frequently unsuccessful or, at best temporary, but that the need for integrated information remains very important - even mission critical. So instead of re-engineering the underlying information systems into a single integrated replacement, MODS proposes to implement an information bridge that fills the need for integrated information from across these silos.

So how does it work? "Each MODS project results in the definition of a few relevant and important enterprise data types, as well as a registry that tracks and reconciles the instances of those data types in the disparate silos throughout the enterprise. This registry functions somewhat like the old card catalogs for books in a library. Using a MODS registry, businesspeople can discover where to find particular types as well as instances of relevant data within the disparate silos scattered all over the enterprise." And, it's supposed to be cheap (well, cheap in comparison to development projects).

Wow. Cataloging data - maybe a librarian should be called in! Robinson describes a typical MODS pattern as "establishing a registry or system of record for a particular set of closely related enterprise data types. The scope of these data types should be determined by a conceptual data model, which defines the needs the business has for information regarding a particular business topic. The best MODS projects are narrow in scope, so the more specific the business topic, the better". Here are the steps in the pattern:

  1. Model the relevant data.
  2. Clean and Understand the Relevant Data
  3. Classify
  4. Convey
  5. Control
As I read this approach, I got to thinking, this is a possible application best served by a TopicMap. After all, TopicMaps were originally developed for indexes or catalogs. It seems like a natural fit. TopicMaps can implement many of the features MODS calls for: data typing, data relationships and styled queries. And I also began to think about social networking features like folksonomies and how these might apply to MODS.

A lot of my personal focus is related to content management and publishing. As I consider this, Content Silos are just as prevalent in publishing companies as other information type silos are in other organizations. So MODS may well have a place in content management.

So, in the next several blog posts I'm going to explore TopicsMaps and perhaps Folksonomies as technology solutions for implementing a MODS project for content in publishing.

Stay tuned...