This post is part of my collaborative research with Shinsei Bank on highly-evolvable enterprise architectures. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. I am indebted to Jay Dvivedi and his team at Shinsei Bank for sharing with me the ideas developed here. All errors are my own.
This is the first of what I intend to be a series of short posts focusing on a few important aspects of the information factory perspective that I’m starting to develop. In the previous iteration of this work, I defined Contexts as elementary subsystems where tasks are performed. In this iteration, in keeping with the information assembly line metaphor, I’ve decided to replace Contexts with workstations. The basic idea doesn’t change: a workstation is an elementary subsystem where a worker, in a role, performs a task. I’d like to add a few nuances, however.
First, at least for the time being, I’m going to rule out nesting of workstations. Workstations can be daisy-chained, but not nested. A hierarchical structure similar to nesting can be achieved by grouping workstations into modular sequences, but these groupings remain nothing more or less than sequences of workstations. Conceptually, workstations divide the system into two hierarchical levels: the organization level (concerned with the configuration of workstation sequences) and the task level (concerned with the performance of tasks within specific workstations). This conceptual divide resembles, I think, the structure of service-oriented architectures, in which the system level (integration of services) is conceptually distinct from the service level (design and implementation of specific services).
The purpose of the workstation is simply to provide a highly structured and controlled environment for performing tasks, thereby decoupling the management of task sequences (organization level) from the execution details of specific tasks (task level). Workstations are thus somewhat analogous to web servers: they can “serve” any kind of task without knowing anything about the nature of its content. Each workstation is provisioned with only those tools (programs, data, and personnel) required to perform the task to which it is dedicated. The communication protocol for a workstation is a pallet interface, by which the workstation receives work-in-progress and then ships it out to the next workstation. Pallets may also carry tools and workers to the workstation in order to provision it.
An implementation of the workstation construct requires an interface for pallets to enter and leave the workstation, hooks for loading and unloading tools and workers delivered to the station on pallets, and perhaps some very basic security features (more sophisticated security tools can be carried to the workstation on pallets and installed as needed).