Information Engineering

Information Engineering

Information Engineering (IE) or Information Engineering Methodology (IEM) is an approach to designing and developing information systems. It has a somewhat chequered history that follows two very distinct threads. It is said to have originated in Australia between 1976 and 1980, and appears first in the literature in 1981 in the Savant Institute publication 'Information Engineering' by James Martin and Clive Finkelstein.

Information Engineering first provided data analysis and database design techniques that could be used by database administrators (DBAs) and by systems analysts to develop database designs and systems based upon an understanding of the operational processing needs of organizations for the 1980s.

The Finkelstein thread evolved after 1980 into the data processing (DP)-driven variant of IE. From 1983 till 1986 IE evolved further into the business-driven variant of IE, which was intended to address a rapidly changing business environment. The then Technical Director, Charles M. Richter, from 1983 to 1987, played a significant role by revamping the IE methodology as well as designing the IE software product (User-Data} which helped automate the IE methodology, opening the way to next generation Information Architecture.

The Martin thread was strategy-driven from the outset and from 1983 was focused on the possibility of automating the development process through the provision of techniques for business description that could be used to populate a data dictionary or encyclopedia that could in turn be used as source material for code generation. The Martin methodology provided a foundation for the CASE (Computer-Aided Software Engineering) tool industry. Martin himself had significant stakes in at least four CASE tool vendors - InTech (Excelerator), Higher Order Software, KnowledgeWare, originally Database Design Inc, (Information Engineering Workbench) and James Martin Associates, originally DMW and now Headstrong (the original designers of the Texas Instruments' Information Engineering Facility and the principal developers of the methodology). At the end of the 1980s and early 1990s the Martin thread incorporated Rapid Application Development (RAD) and Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and soon after also entered the object oriented field.

Information Engineering Methodology is an architectural approach to planning, analysing, designing, and implementing applications within an enterprise. It aims to enable an enterprise to improve the management of its resources, including capital, people and information systems, to support the achievement of its business vision. It is defined as: "An integrated and evolutionary set of tasks and techniques that enhance business communication throughout an enterprise enabling it to develop people, procedures and systems to achieve its vision".

Information Engineering has many purposes, including organisation planning, business re-engineering, application development, information systems planning and systems re-engineering.

The Variants of Information Engineering

There are two variants of Information Engineering (IE). These are called the DP-driven variant and the business-driven variant.

DP-Driven Variant of IEThe DP-driven variant of Information Engineering was designed to enable IS Departments to develop information systems that satisfied the information needs of the 1980s - which was largely a DP-driven development environment. Most of the Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) tools available today support this DP-driven variant of IE.

Business-Driven Variant of IEIE was extended into strategic business planning and developed the business-driven variant of Information Engineering. This variant was designed for rapid change in the client/server, object-oriented environment of the business-driven 1990s.Business-driven IE is documented in the later books by Clive Finkelstein.

Stages in the Information Engineering

Information Strategy PlanningThe fundamental objective of Information Strategy Planning (ISP) is to develop a plan for implementing business systems to support business needs.

Outline Business Area AnalysisThe OBAA answers a range of questions related to implementation of a business area. Select tasks to include in a particular project that provide support for business decisions and objectives. Specific information needs and priorities for the business area are needed.

Detailed Business Area AnalysisThe purpose of a DBAA project is to provide detailed models as a solid basis for system design. The methodology helps find the right answers to the right questions. Applying the methodology is never an end in itself.

Business System DesignThe purpose of a Business System Design project is to specify all aspects of a system that are relevant to its users, in preparation for the technical design, construction, and installation of one or more closely related databases and systems. The key tasks are therefore structured to produce unambiguous consistent specifications, with the volume of detail necessary to make planning and technical design decisions.

Technical DesignA Technical Design project prepares an implementation area for construction and installation. The key tasks are structured to produce a system and database that meet the user's acceptance criteria and are technically sound.

ConstructionThe objective of the Construction stage is to produce a system, as defined in the technical specification, on time and within budget. The system should be of an acceptable quality, and contain all necessary operating and user procedures. The task is complete when the acceptance criteria for the business system are met.

TransitionTransition is defined as the period during which newly developed procedures gradually replace or are interfaced with existing procedures. The execution of a Transition project obviously demands a thorough understanding of both the system to be installed and the systems to be replaced.


Some techniques that are used during an IE project are:

Entity analysisidentifies all the things that the enterprise may want to hold data about. The analysis classifies all of the things into different entity types, revealing how they relate to each other. Which is being described in the entity model.

Function analysis and process dependencytakes a function (a major business activity) of the enterprise and breaks it down into elementary business processes. From this, two diagrams are prepared: the process decomposition diagram, which shows the breakdown of a business function, and the process dependency diagram, which shows the interdependencies of business processes.

Process logic analysisdescribes the sequences of actions carried out by a business process and shows which data are used by each action.

Entity type lifecycle analysisdescribes the significant business changes to entities and confirm that processes have been modelled to effect these changes

Matrix cross-checkingcreates cross-references between data objects and processes to verify that they are necessary and complete.

Normalizationprovides a formal means of confirming the correctness of the entity model.

Cluster analysishelps define the scope of design areas for proposed business systems.

Data flow and data analysismakes a comparison possible between the business area models and the systems currently supporting this area, these current systems are analyzed using data flow and data analysis techniques.

Software Tools Supporting Information Engineering

Information Engineering Facility (IEF) from Texas Instruments Software. This was subsequently sold to Sterling Software and then to Computer Associates. It still exists, in an evolved form within the Advantage suite. As of 2006 referred to as ALL:Fusion Gen, capable of generating J2EE and JAVA web applications in addition to legacy client/server and mainframe platforms.

Information Engineering Workbench (IEW) Later renamed to Application Development Workbench (ADW) from KnowledgeWare. Knowledgeware was also acquired by Sterling Software. The product no longer exists.

Others included Bachman's Data Analyst, Excelerator and others. See Computer-aided software engineering for more info.

The business-driven variant of IE is supported by Visible Advantage, an Integrated CASE (I-CASE) tool and by Visible Advisor, a hypermedia Methodology product.

Metastorm's ProVision product provides support for many types of modeling techniques using a repository based tool.

Visio provides diagramming support to some of the Martin techniques.

Books and Papers

1. Martin, James and Clive Finkelstein. Nov 1981. "Information Engineering", Technical Report (2 volumes), Savant Institute, Carnforth, Lancs, UK.

2. Macdonald, Ian. 1986. "Information Engineering" in "Information Systems Design Methodologies", ed TW Olle et al, North-Holland.

3. Macdonald, Ian. 1988. "Automating the Information Engineering Methodology with the Information Engineering Facility", in "Computerized Assistance during the Information Systems Life Cycle", ed TW Olle et al, North-Holland.

4. Finkelstein, Clive. 1989. "An Introduction to Information Engineering : From Strategic Planning to Information Systems". Sydney: Addison-Wesley.

5. Martin, James. 1989. "Information Engineering" (3 volumes), Prentice-Hall Inc.

6. Hares, John. 1992. "Information Engineering for the Advanced Practitioner", Wiley.


* [ The Complex Method IEM]
* [ Rapid Application Development]
* [ Training Information Engineering Hogeschool Utrecht, Netherlands (Dutch)]
* [ Study of Information Engineering at Hogeschool van Amsterdam in Almere(Netherlands) (Dutch)]
* [ Study of Information Engineering in Hamburg (Bachelor and Master)]

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