System Requirement Engineering for Enterprise Interoperability

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The European Interoperability Framework

The purposes of the EIF are to: (1) inspire European public administrations in their efforts to design and deliver seamless European public services to other public administrations, citizens and businesses which are to the degree possible, digital-by-default, cross-border-by-default and open-by-default; (2) provide guidance to public administrations on the design and update of national interoperability frameworks, or national policies, strategies and guidelines promoting interoperability; (3) contribute to the establishment of the digital single market by fostering cross-border and cross-sectoral interoperability for the delivery of European public services.
EIF provides a model to be applicable to all digital public services. It is composed of four layers of interoperability (legal, organisational, semantic and technical), a crosscutting component of the four layers (integrated public service governance) and a background layer, which is the ‘interoperability governance’. Each component is described hereinafter. Fig. 5 illustrates the EIF model.
Legal interoperability is about ensuring that organisations operating under different legal frameworks, policies and strategies are able to work together. This might require that legislation does not block the establishment of European public services within and between Member States and that there are clear agreements about how to deal with differences in legislation across borders, including the option of putting in place new legislation.
Organisational interoperability refers to the way in which public administrations align their business processes, responsibilities and expectations to achieve commonly agreed and mutually beneficial goals.
Semantic interoperability ensures that the precise format and meaning of exchanged data and information is preserved and understood throughout exchanges between parties.
Technical interoperability covers the applications and infrastructures linking systems and services. Aspects of technical interoperability include interface specifications, interconnection services, data integration services, data presentation and exchange, and secure communication protocols.
Interoperability governance refers to decisions on interoperability frameworks, institutional arrangements, organisational structures, roles and responsibilities, policies, agreements and other aspects of ensuring and monitoring interoperability at national and EU levels.
30 Decision Support for Ineroperability Readiness in Networked Enterprises Integrated public service governance covers all layers: legal, organisational, semantic and technical. Ensuring interoperability when preparing legal instruments, organisation business processes, information exchange, services and components that support European public services is a continuous task, as interoperability is regularly disrupted by changes to the environment.
The EIF also gives guidance, through a set of 47 recommendations, to public administrations on how to improve governance of their interoperability activities, establish cross-organisational relationships, streamline processes supporting end-to-end digital services, and ensure that existing and new legislation do not compromise interoperability efforts. The recommendations can be found in (EIF, 2017).

The Framework for Enterprise Interoperability

The FEI aims at structuring the concepts of the Enterprise Interoperability domain. The framework has three basic dimensions: interoperability concerns, interoperability barriers and interoperability approaches (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007). The interoperability barriers refer to incompatibilities between systems. Interoperability concerns regard enterprise levels such as processes and services where interoperation can take place. Finally, interoperability approaches refer to the ways for applying solutions and thus, removing interoperability barriers. These three dimensions are described as follows:
Interoperability barriers
According to FEI, there are three major interoperability barriers: Conceptual, Technological and Organisational. These barriers are ‘incompatibilities’ or ‘mismatches’ which obstruct the sharing and exchanging of information (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007). The interoperability barriers are described below.
The conceptual barriers are concerned with the modelling at the high level of abstraction such as the models of a company, as well as the degree of the programming.
The technological barriers are concerned with the lack of a set of compatible standards to allow using heterogeneous computing techniques for sharing and exchanging data between two or more systems.
The organisational barriers are concerned with the incompatibilities of organisation structure and management techniques implemented in two enterprises.

Interoperability concerns

Hereinafter, the four main Enterprise Interoperability Concerns are described. Although the definitions are mainly given from a point of view of IT based applications, they apply to non-computerised systems as well (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007).
The interoperability of business referring to work in a harmonised way at the levels of organisation and company despite the different modes of decision-making, methods of work, legislation, the culture of the company and commercial approaches.
The interoperability of process concern aims at making various processes work together. It is meant by linking different process descriptions to form collaborative processes and perform verification, simulation and execution.
The Interoperability of services concerns with identifying, composing, and operating together various applications by solving the syntactic and semantic incompatibilities as well as finding the connections to the various heterogeneous databases.
The interoperability of data is concerned with finding and sharing information coming from different databases, and which can furthermore reside on different devices with different operating systems and databases management systems.

Interoperability approaches

The FEI defines three approaches, i.e. three ways in which a solution may removes an interoperability barrier (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007).
A federated approach is established while the interoperation is in progress. It means that there is no common format defined, and nothing is forced by one system or another. Involved systems are required to distinguish and adjust to requirements “on the fly.”
A unified approach is characterized by a standard format that describes the systems’ interactions on a meta-level. This model provides a mean for semantic equivalence to allow mapping between diverse models and systems. This approach may encounter some loss of data, as the systems’ individual needs are not prepared to be reproduced instantly. This approach is fit for improving interoperability for collaborative or networked enterprises.
An integrated approach is distinguished by a standard format that is used by all constituents’ parties. This format is not fundamentally a standard but must be agreed by all participants to develop models and build systems. This approach is appropriate when creating and implementing new systems rather than re-engineering existing systems for interoperability.

Enterprise Interoperability conceptualisation

One of the first attempts to formally conceptualise the interoperability domain was made by (Rosener et al., 2004) in the INTEROP NoE project. The resulting conceptualisation is called Ontology of Interoperability (OoI). This ontology had been enhanced during the INTEROP NoE project by (Rosener et al., 2005), (Ruokolainen et al., 2007). The OoI final version had been documented in the INTEROP NoE project’s derivable DO.2 (Paul Johannesson et al., 2007).
In the following years, the OoI had been integrated with concepts from FEI (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007) and Enterprise-as-a-System concepts for adding a specific vocabulary to the enterprise domain. The resulting ontology is called the Ontology of Enterprise Interoperability (OoEI) (Naudet et al., 2010), (Guédria and Naudet, 2014). The OoEI is a meta model, which formally describes the system’s concepts and their relations, regarding interoperability. Hereinafter, we describe the main concepts of the OoEI.
The OoEI includes a systemic model centred on the notion of the system and its properties, and a decisional model that constitutes the basis to build a decision-support system for enterprise interoperability. Regarding the systematic core, the ontology considers that an enterprise is a System that has a Structure, which materialises the organisation of the system’s elements and their relationships at a given time. A Relation is a link between two things, whatever the nature of this link. A System also has Objectives (the system’s goals at a given time) and Functions that are sets of actions the System can execute in its Environment, in order to realise its Objectives. The Behaviour of a System can be defined as the manifestation of function in the course of time. The Interfaces are used to establish a connection between the concerned System and its Environment. Finally, the decisional model conceptualises the relationships between Problems and Solutions, regarding a System. The ExistenceCondition concept represents the source of a given Problem and specific Indicators define it.
In addition, OoEI implements the Interoperability concept as a subclass of the Problem concept. Problems of interoperability exist when there is a Relation between incompatible Systems in a super-system that belong to it. The Incompatibility concept is a subclass of a more generic ExistenceCondition class aiming at explicitly formalising the fact that Incompatibility is the source of interoperability problems. For representing the Enterprise Interoperability domain, the three interoperability dimensions from the FEI are considered. They are the concepts Interoperability Barrier, Interoperability Concern and Interoperability Approach. Fig. 7 illustrates the main concepts of the OoEI.
Further, the OoEI also integrates with Enterprise-as-a-System (EaaS) concepts. It allows in particular to have a general view of the enterprise and to have a model that stays valid whatever the kind of studied enterprise. This ontology extension was based on the enterprise sub-systems (decisional, physical and information systems) defined on the GRAI Integrated Methodology (Chen et al., 1997). The integrated concepts are described hereinafter and illustrated in Fig. 8.
The concept of Enterprise Level represents the layers of the enterprise in general. The Enterprise Business concept is used to denote the enterprise Function such as delivery of products and services to customers. The Decisional System ensures the overall objectives of the enterprise taking them as inputs to send orders to the Physical System. To determine how to control the operating system in order to achieve the system goals and objectives, the Decisional System communicates with the environment relating to the system’s goals, accepting orders, making commitments and exchanging any other information with the environment that is necessary.
The Decisional System relies on models of the Physical System to make its decisions. However, for these models to reflect reality to a sufficient degree, the Decisional System must receive information, or feedback, from the Physical System. Therefore, the Information System is critical for the propagation of decisions to the lower levels of the Decisional System and the Physical System.

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Enterprise Interoperability development

To achieve a higher quality of interoperability, a certain number of Interoperability Requirements (IRs) should be satisfied (Chen, Dassisti, Elvesaeter et al., 2007), (Daclin et al., 2016b). These requirements define the needs of stakeholders regarding interoperability and describe what systems must comply for being considered as interoperable. As soon as IRs are not fulfilled, interoperability problems can appear and hinder interoperation between partners. Consequently, this becomes a problem that must be solved.
Assessing the enterprises’ ability to interoperate is frequently the initial step toward the identification of interoperability problems and the proposition of interoperability improvements (Panetto et al., 2016). Therefore, enterprises should benefit from the use of interoperability assessment approaches for determining their systems’ strengths and weaknesses regarding interoperability.
When improving the system’s interoperability for avoiding or solving interoperability problems, changes may be necessary (Guédria et al., 2015), (Agostinho et al., 2016). For example, when there is a need for including or excluding particular enterprise systems function; for adding or eliminating processes’ connections among companies; or even for restructuring data storage devices. However, such changes at the enterprise systems level embody an immediate evolution and present a disturbance to the networked enterprise (Agostinho et al., 2016). Hence, the alignment between enterprises systems should also be taken into account when assessing and improving systems’ interoperability.
In the subsection 1.3.1, we give more details regarding the Interoperability Requirements related work. It is followed by the main characteristics of an interoperability assessment in subsection 1.3.2. In the subsection 1.3.3, the importance of strategic alignment between systems is investigated and brought forward. Finally, in subsection 1.3.4, we present relevant work addressing the study and the relations between enterprise interoperability and strategic alignment through the enterprise architectures techniques.

Table of contents :

General Introduction
Research context and motivation
Research questions and the contribution of this thesis
The structure of this manuscript
Chapter 1 – Enterprise Interoperability within Networked Enterprises
1.1 The Networked Enterprise
1.2 Enterprise Interoperability
1.3 Enterprise Interoperability development
Chapter 2 – Enterprise Interoperability Assessment: state of the art
2.1 Systematic literature review
2.2 Comparative analysis
2.3 Contribution positioning
Chapter 3 – System Requirement Engineering for Enterprise Interoperability
3.1 System Requirement Engineering
3.2 Definition of the interoperability requirement interdependencies
3.3 Discussion on how to improve the Maturity Model for Enterprise Interoperability
Chapter 4 – Towards an ontology-based system for interoperability assessment
7 Decision Support for Ineroperability Readiness in Networked Enterprises
4.1 Knowledge-Based Systems and ontologies
4.2 An approach for developing a KBS using an ontology as knowledge model
4.3 Gathering information and knowledge
4.4 Developing the Ontology of Interoperability Assessment
4.5 Prototyping the Knowledge-Based System for Interoperability Assessment
4.6 Discussion
Chapter 5 –Evaluation of the thesis contribution
5.1 The Factory Group case study
5.2 Evaluating the proposed contribution based on the TFG case study
General conclusion


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