My purpose here is to conjure up a few aspects of the story of one of these Networks of Excellence – the INTEROP Network of Excellence – which has been a true success story and which almost 15 years after its termination I still enjoy the honor and privilege to support as its Ambassador.
If we looked back to the archeology of “enterprise interoperability” we would observe that the phrase has changed its meaning significantly over the years. Changes in word meanings – a process called semantic shift – happen for various reasons and in various ways. “Enterprise interoperability” has changed towards broadening (it has become more inclusive) and amelioration (it has risen in status). In the late 1990s, “enterprise interoperability” was considered as the ability of systems or components to exchange information and use it without requiring a specific effort from the users of these systems.
Today, “interoperability” is about connecting
- (i) people (i.e. making people in one company or between different companies to work together beyond their respective organizational silos and corporate cultures),
- (ii) data (i.e. the simultaneous operation of different data models – hierarchical, relational, etc. – and the use of the different query languages,
- (iii) service (i.e. solving the syntactic and semantic differences as well as finding the connections to the various heterogeneous databases),
- (iv) process (i.e. how to make different processes work together, whether they concern the internal processes of one company or to the processes of two or more companies),
- (v) business (i.e. a harmonized way of working at the levels of organization and company in spite of the different modes of decision-making, methods of work, regulations, culture of the company and marketing approaches, so that business can be developed and shared between companies).
In short, interoperability must consider social, political and organizational factors.