Characteristics of Enterprise Wide IT Systems

There are obvious characteristics of enterprise wide IT systems. A few of these characteristics are or should be nearly perfect up-time, scalability to handle an expanding data set, a common software architecture used by all users and a common terminology shared by users.

There are other characteristics of enterprise wide systems that are often overlooked when describing essential characteristics.

* Common versus Restricted Access

You need common data repositories for documents like military specifications, company procedures, standard forms and commonly used drawings. However, you must be able to place data in restricted data repositories as well. For example, a contract may require a company to limit access to the customer’s proprietary drawings; then only the people building the product and performing quality control on it may be allowed to see these drawings. While Human Resource files exist for every employee, these files should only be available to those with a need to know basis.

* Universal Metadata and Document Identification Formats

Will document identifiers be automatically generated by the data management tool, or can employees create their own? If employees can create their own document identifiers, what format will be used to prevent problems when two people use different naming conventions? Differences between work sites can create problems when regional data repositories are combined; if document IDs were uniquely created by each site and the duplication is solved by adding the cage code as a second component to the unique ID, now you run the risk of creating confusion by generating multiple results when someone searches only by drawing number.
How will customer or supplier provided documents be input in a way that fits with your metadata format? Whatever method is chosen must be common across the organization, or your customer’s documents in your database could conflict with your own. For example, a configuration manager requesting 20 drawing numbers from U0000010 to U0000029 may find that someone has already used U0000016 per their own document ID creation process. This creates confusion for the project requesting a block of numbers when employees pulling a whole batch of drawings based on the drawing number find that one of these things is not like the others – an unrelated drawing in what would otherwise be a logically related set of drawings for the same owning project.

* Universal (or Nearly Universal) Workflows

Document management systems use workflows to move items from one lifecycle state to another, route items from person to person, gather signatures and stamps of approval and generate tasks for employees such as notifying a drafter of the need to update a drawing per the latest Engineering Change Notice. Common workflows should be created up front to handle common tasks like document creation and approval, drawing creation and modifications and technical data package generation. Document management systems also need to have these universal workflows maintained so that modest idiosyncrasies on one project such as an added customer review do not result in the creation of dozens of “niche” and separate workflows. If workflows are not universal, the complexity of the system increases. The IT support requirements grow more complex. Employees learn the most common workflows and the exceptions they must deal with. Database migrations and software upgrades become more complex when there are workflows unique to your organization that are not part of the out of the box enterprise IT system.