three principles of articulation
systems should be articulated in the same way that a large truck
is articulated. There is a flexible joint connecting the cab part with
the trailer part. Among other things, this helps the truck to negotiate
Articulation means both separation of parts and connection of parts - decoupling and recoupling. Many writers refer to this (rather imprecisely) as loose coupling.
Separation of parts
Connection between parts
In other contexts, articulation also means clear expression. This gives us a third principle of articulation.
Clarity of structure - this demands models of various kinds.
This is perhaps what analysis is all about.
Examples of these principles range from small data structures to large corporate business structures.
|Customer is identified by credit card number.||In other words, the customer is regarded as identical to the account.|
|Billing currency is hard-coded into credit card number.||In other words, a credit card cannot change its billing currency.|
|Customer moves from USA to UK - wants to change billing currency. (But wants to keep credit card.)||From the perspective of the credit card organization, this is an event, followed by a demand.|
|In order to respond to this demanding event, the credit card organization was obliged to cancel the old card, issue a new card, and transfer the balance.||This inflexible structure does not allow the customer to change billing currency.|
|Any useful customer history is probably lost.||Even if the old and new accounts are linked, what are the chances that any MIS program or enquiry will trace the link and reconstruct the customer information?|
|Separation of customer from account|
|Connection of same customer to many accounts
|Separation of billing currency from credit card number - now we can change billing currency on the same credit card|
|PRODUCT and BRAND||The same goods and services are presented to the customer under multiple
For example, a joint venture between a supermarket and a bank may result in the bank's financial products being sold to customers under the supermarket's brand name.
|CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP and CUSTOMER INFORMATION||Customer information can be easily bought and sold. Customer relationships are not so easy to transfer. Many business IT strategies either confuse or disconnect these two important business objects.|
Workflow management systems can help articulate the relationship between sales staff and design staff, using the concept of proxy to channel communications effectively in both directions.
For an elaborated example, see the Liam O'Croder case study (pdf).
For a more general discussion of workflow, workload and work control, see the workflow factsheet (html).
|Oil Company||Separating "upstream" from "downstream" operations.|
|Insurance Company||Separating "manufacture" (building insurance products) from "retail" (selling insurance).|
For some companies, the primary strategic challenge appears to be connecting that which is separated, to deliver the benefits of synergy, economies of scale, and so on, especially following a merger. For other companies, the primary strategic challenge appears to be separating that which is connected, to enable more rapid and flexible response to customer demands and market conditions. The principles of articulation aim to keep these two challenges in balance.
The principles of articulation also give us a useful perspective on
several questions of business structure and strategy. Enterprise models
can help determine whether a given strategy is balanced or imbalanced.
|Integration||Supply Chain Integration, Vertical Integration, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)|
|Channels||e-commerce, Disintermediation, Reintermediation|
This lack of articulation can be experienced in several aspects:
|Hylton Boothroyd, Articulate Intervention: The Interface of Science, Mathematics and Administration (London: Taylor & Francis, 1978)||Brilliant and practical notes on the building and use of models, with
important discussion on the inclusion of the modeller and modelling process
in the model.
(Long out of print, but a few libraries have copies; if you ever come across a copy in a second-hand bookshop, snap it up.)
|Douglas Flemons, Completing Distinctions (Shambala, Boston & London, 1991)||An eclectic and convoluted book, drawing on Gregory
Bateson and Eastern thought. Contains some rare insights, but be prepared
for wide-ranging allusion and fancy notations.
(out of print)
Technical update March 28th, 2001.
Copyright © 1999 Veryard Projects Ltd