3.1    Introductory Discussion of Terms

There are a number of alternative definitions of the term "enterprise modeling", and a number of alternative terms used for comparable activities. Both issues are discussed in section together with an outline of the chapter.

3.1.1 Assorted definitions of enterprise modeling

What is meant by enterprise modeling? Contemporary definitions are both numerous and diverse (italics added):
"[Enterprise modeling is] the process of understanding a complex social organization by constructing models." (Rumbaugh, 1993:18)

"Enterprise modelling is an approach to model business and operational processes with a goal to enable simulation of operations within the enterprise. It provides a framework for understanding and assessing the organizational structure and processes of the entire enterprise." (GeoMatics, 1996)

"...enterprise modelling is widely used as a catch-all title to describe the activity of modelling any pertinent aspect of an organisation's structure and operation, in order to improve selected measures of the organisation's performance." (Fraser, 1994:2)

"Enterprise modelling is a technique for capturing and validating information systems requirements." (Nellborn and Holm, 1994:172)

Although it is somewhat questionable to present the definitions out of context, the samples provided above indicate that what constitutes enterprise modeling is not widely agreed upon. However, there are some properties in common for most definitions (explicitly or implicitly stated): Recalling the three initial empirical studies, the characteristics can be seen to match the observations: The modeling process was perceived to be challenging, the projects developed models, they had explicit purposes for modeling, they modeled organizations in some sense, and they stressed the need for an overall view of the enterprise (referred to as holistic thinking).

3.1.2 Closely related terms

Even if the term enterprise modeling seems to have come into widespread use only quite recently, the concept is not new. Explicit models of various aspects of organizations and work have been developed for decades within numerous communities of research and practice, e.g., information systems development (Hirschheim, Klein and Lyytinen, 1995:44). Bansler and Bødker (1993:170), referring to Couger (1973), state that flow-charting of work processes was developed as a technique by Fredrick Taylor and the Gilbreths at the beginning of the 20th century, at the dawn of a management tradition that has become known as Scientific Management (Hitt et al., 1989:40ff). In a sense, early enterprise modeling efforts may even be attributed to prehistoric man, creating cave paintings of his tribe hunting mammoths and wild oxen.

However, different communities have developed approaches fit for their particular purposes. Terms with high relevance to enterprise modeling include real world modeling (Opdahl and Sindre, 1994), conceptual modeling (Rolland and Cauvet, 1992; Sølvberg and Kung, 1993), business modeling (Katz, 1990), process modeling (Curtis et al., 1992), process mapping (Johansson et al., 1993), data modeling (Hirschheim et al., 1995) and information modeling (Hanseth and Monteiro, 1994). Even if terms have somewhat different meaning, the approaches used and problems encountered have much in common.

Real-world modeling is more general than enterprise modeling, as the domain may be anything perceived to exist in the real world (not just enterprises). Conceptual modeling can also be considered as a more general concept than enterprise modeling, as the domain of a conceptual model can be more general than an enterprise. Business modeling is synonymous to enterprise modeling. Process modeling is a specialization of enterprise modeling, in the sense that a process may be seen as just one out of many possible aspects of an enterprise.
Consequently, in addition to a single term for different concepts (being a homonym), there are different terms for more or less the same concept (the terms being synonyms). Hence, a wide variety of communities are working on problems closely related to enterprise modeling.

3.1.3 Outline of the chapter

The diversity of the definitions presented in section 3.1.1 and the number of related terms discussed in section 3.1.2 lead to a need for clarifying how enterprise modeling is understood in this thesis. However, there are a few issues that need to be investigated first.

In their treatise on conceptual and philosophical foundations of data modeling, Hirschheim et al. (1995:3) reveal and criticize the lack of an explicit ontological and epistemological basis in most approaches to modeling. Their considerations are equally relevant to enterprise modeling, and consequently, section 3.2 is dedicated to discussing two alternative worldviews and their impact on theories of enterprise modeling, human sense-making and communication. The section is closed by a discussion of Boland and Tenkasi's (1995) theory of knowledge production and use, being an integrating framework and the main analytical device in this thesis.

Section 3.3 discusses models and modeling in general, and particularly in light of the theories presented in the preceding section. The concept of enterprise modeling is revisited in section 3.4, and observations from the three initial empirical studies are interpreted according to the theories.

The chapter is closed by an outline of two taxonomies intended as additional analytical devices for the proceeding chapters -- a taxonomy of purposes of enterprise modeling and a taxonomy of types of work that can be modeled.