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Unisys uses UML to bridge business-IT gap

NEW YORK -- Unisys Corp. yesterday announced the availability of its Unisys Business Blueprinting consulting and development service. The Blue Bell, Pa.-based company's offering is designed to help companies link business processes to the software and systems that support those activities, while also providing business and tech people equal visibility into the process.

The company is developing 14 customized versions of Business Blueprinting for verticals as diverse as life insurance, airline reservations and Web publishing. Ralph Welborn, a managing partner and vice president of Unisys' business transformation team, said that Unisys wants to teach executives and technologists to talk to each other. Welborn explained Business Blueprinting in greater detail for SearchWebServices.com.

How would you describe Unisys Business Blueprinting?
It is a set of linked models that help support changing business processes in specific domains. There are two big differences between what we offer and the competition. The first is the ability to model Internet Protocol (IP) separately from the underlying technology, based on standards. Other products from IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers don't tie in the top-level business layers to the bottom of the stack, and that is significant. And the second is traceability.

By 'traceability,' I mean linking a set of models, so the disconnection between the business and the IT side is eliminated. We leverage Unified Modeling Language (UML) to reconcile the differences between one set of models and another, so the gap between the business side and the technology side is lessened. Can you define that further?
People make business decisions using Excel, Word, Post-its, whatever. From a business perspective, they express business processes a certain way, and then they hand it over to IT people to do something with it. But that requires someone to interpret what they are saying, so business people and technology people often end up going back and forth across this semantic gulf. We are tackling that semantic gulf by building a standards-based model. As we build out those business requirements, we do it in a language used by the business guys and executed by the technology guys. We're taking the costs out of the problem of reconciling the semantics.

Each layer of a project is traceable. You can see where business processes link to, and what applications and infrastructure are used. If you have to change that business process to introduce a new product, you can see what the implications are [and] what infrastructure changes will be required. For those doing the work in an IT shop, tying business process to IT systems isn't always practical, given the complexity of truly implementing those changes. How much is this really happening?
We are the first vendor to come down this path. Everyone is moving in this direction, but they do not have a way to express it in a standards-based way. We have a standard set of expressions and models, and use UML. How we model the business process is usable to the business guys and executable to the tech guys up and down the stack. If you make a change in one place, you can quickly see the impact a layer below and a layer above. That is the difference.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Read why UML can be helpful to XML developers

Learn more about UML in our glossary

Many vendors have talked about the importance of linking IT with business processes. Are you late coming to market with this product?
I believe we are the first to market. No one else is doing what we are doing. I don't know how long that opportunity will last, 12 or 18 months. Unisys focuses an inch wide and a mile deep. We are focusing directly [and] aggressively in these areas, and I believe we are significantly ahead of what is out there right now. Is the marketplace driving this offering?
We went to our clients and heard frustration. They had this asset here and this application there. And they had no idea how to leverage those assets elsewhere in the company, to tie it in to what everyone else in the company faced. Agility [and] the need to adapt is critical. The way to engender alignment is through shared semantics across [the] business and the technology side. Having traceability through the infrastructure is the only way to do that.

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