A Wiki for Business Knowledge in Executable English

The problem of business-IT alignment is of widespread economic concern, and is largely caused by a semantic disconnect between business people and technologists. The business people speak English, and the techies have to translate that English into something a computer can understand — often a low-level, step-by-step way to complete a task. The margin for error is great. The situation is a bit like the childhood game called Telephone — by the time the message gets to the last person, it has changed dramatically from the original. The problem is made worse by the fact that the business requirements often change during a project.

According to a Forrester Research paper: “Aligning IT strategy with business strategy has been one of the top three issues confronting IT and business executives for more than 20 years. Polling of CIOs and business executives conducted in 2004 revealed that aligning IT and business goals remains their No. 1 or 2 priority.”

A Business Analyst Wiki

As one way of addressing the need for alignment, there is an online system that functions as a kind of Wiki. It supports the collaborative writing and running of business and database applications, as rules in open vocabulary, executable English. There is no programming at the level of Java or C. Rather, each task is specified at the business analyst level, and then the specification is run directly as though it were a program. Shared use of the system is free.

Since the rules are in English, they are indexed by Google and other search engines. This is useful when looking for rules for a task that one has in mind.

Semantics of Executable English

The system integrates the semantics of data, with a semantics of an inference method, and also with the meanings of English sentences. The system uses a lightweight, yet precise method for reasoning with the meaning of English words and phrases. There is no need to maintain a dictionary or grammar, yet the English semantics are strict. This is achieved via a trade off — if an author wants the system to treat two sentences as having the same meaning, he must write rules that say so. One can write using jargon, acronyms, and logical notations, and one can also write in French, German and so on.

The system accepts rules, and small numbers of facts, typed or copy-pasted directly into a browser. One can run the rules, again using a browser. For larger amounts of data, the system uses information in the rules to automatically generate and run SQL over networked databases. From a few highly declarative business rules, the system typically generates SQL that would be too complicated to write reliably by hand. However, the system can explain its results in step-by-step hypertexted English, at the business or scientific level. Similarly, the system can answer questions using data in the form of RDF triples, and it can explain the results in English.

In addition to its use from browsers, the system can be used as a component in a Service Oriented Architecture.

Shared Use is Free

As mentioned, shared use of the system is free. There is nothing to install — you can simply point a browser to www.reengineeringllc.com . You will see examples that you can view, run and change, including Billing, Biomedical, Semantic Web, Supply Chain Management, and Financial applications. You are cordially invited to write and run your own examples.

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