Ideas on Enterprise Information Systems Development

This blog is devoted to ideas on Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) development. It focuses on Lean Thinking, Agile Methods, and Free/Open Source Software, as means of improving EIS development and evolution, under a more practical than academical view. You may find here a lot of "thinking aloud" material, sometimes without scientific treatment... don't worry, this is a blog!
Every post is marked with at least one of Product or Process labels, meaning that they are related to execution techniques (programming and testing) or management techniques (planning and monitoring), respectively.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Enterprise Information Systems Patterns - Part I

This post aims to start the discussion on design patterns for EIS. We have just started a Github project, which right now is just a rough sketch, however, it already shows some basic ideas, implemented in Python with BDD (specloud, should-dsl, and Lettuce). By checking the features (*.feature files) you can understand the patterns requirements, and by checking the specs (* files) you can understand how the code implements them.

We decided to start by revisiting ERP5 concepts, separating them from ERP5's underlying platform, Zope, and, in some cases, even reinterpreting them. The concepts are the following:

Concept 1: Resource
A resource is anything that is used for production. It can be a material, money,
machine time, or even human skills.
Concept 2: Node
Is something that transforms resources. For instance, a machine, a factory, a
bank account.
Concept 3: Movement is a movement of any Resource from one Node to another.
Concept 4: Path*
It describes how Movements are used to implement business processes.

ERP5 also has the concept of Item, an instance of a Resource. Until this point, we
decided not to use this, otherwise it would be necessary to create classes for
instancing the other three abstract concepts.

The core idea is to use the concepts as Lego parts. This mean not using
subclasses in general, but masking the abstract concepts through
configuration. For instance, a Movement is firstly configured as a concrete
movement, such as transferring goods from supplier to customer. After that, it
can be instantiated. Of course, at some point extra coding is necessary, and we believe that methods for implementing specific algorithms will emerge
on the coordinator element, the Path instances.

We therefore define two new "patterns": Mask, which means to define an abstract concept and turn it into a concrete concept by a proper configuration, and Coordinator, which is an object (also maskable) that coordinates others to realize a given business process. Maybe these patterns already exist with others names and/or similar purposes, however, we will check this more carefully as the project goes forward (we are really iterative & incremental).

The motivation for this project is that people like to say that frameworks are like Lego, but when you need to subclass their concepts, instead of using them as is, I think this is not the "Lego way" of doing things. We only use masks to provide useful labels for users, but the intention is not to extend the original concepts.  When I mask a Movement as a Sale, I am only setting its mask attribute to 'sale'.

The only concept that will be extended is Path (nothing is perfect!), since it will be used to implement the specific algorithms necessary to appropriately integrate movements - realizing the business process.

We probably won't supply something really useful for programming, because we are not considering platform issues, therefore, if you need a ready to use ERP framework in Python, check ERP5. The intention is to discuss how to build highly configurable frameworks, instead of proving a real framework. After we get the basic configuration machinery done, we are going to use BLDD to implement didactic cases: from the business process modeling to coding and testing.

(The Change Log maps this series of posts to commits in GitHub)

1 comment:

  1. Great! I support all Open Source ideas against expensive market systems.

    James Daniel Correia de Freitas