How Interchangeable Parts Can Improve Your Capabilities Many of us learned in school about Eli Whitney, Marc Isambard Brunel, Henry Leland and others who pioneered the idea of “interchangeable parts”, a concept which accelerated the industrial revolution. Over 200 years ago, standard, identical parts drove explosive growth in manufacturing as assembly line production replaced hand-crafting for many goods. In recent decades the ability to customize within any given set of standards, through modular design & production techniques, has shown that the same principles of interchangeability still apply. By building parts that are standardized & effectively identical, each part can freely replace another of the same type. This allows for easy assembly and repair of a system, and minimizes the time and skill required. Another result is that the “division of labor” is more easily accomplished – people can focus on their core responsibilities while being assured that their work will integrate with everyone else’s without having to manage a large set of customized requirements. The use of interchangeable parts unlocks potential that is otherwise lost to managing unnecessary complexity. These same concepts can be applied to your CCM framework. Some of the more obvious examples are the standards that govern images (EPS, TIFF, JPG, PNG, etc.) and documents (PDF, AFP, HTML5, etc.) where organizations often choose a limited set of input or output standards to be used. These are important but simple standards to establish, and most organizations have adopted standards in this area. However, a common gap we often experience in our CCM solution development at BelWo is that organizations miss the opportunity to establish a set of “standard data models”, or standard specifications for the technical layout of certain data and templates, to enable broad, modular reuse of components across their CCM framework. Whether it’s because of poor governance or poor architecture design or just sheer scale, it is easy for organizations to lose control of the complexity of their CCM applications. Standard data models, applied appropriately, can help solve that problem. Let’s explore some of the concepts of standard data models and how they can be used effectively in CCM. What is a standard data model in CCM? In a CCM solution, a standard data model should include a database model and a template model:
- Database models are either relational or flat models that show the field definitions, parent/child arrays, etc. for all data sources in the framework, as well as their relationships to each other. These are typically visualized in a hierarchical or tree format, and typically implemented as XSD (XML schema definition) files that define certain interchange points in an application.
- Template models show how data elements from the database model are represented in the variable composition from your CCM system. These are blocks of layout logic that might range from simple & common uses like address blocks and key lines, to more complex business blocks like transactional tables, targeted messaging areas and content insertion logic.