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Xml - Applications for Business Process Analysis & Design

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XML | Applications for Business Process Analysis & Design

Introduced in 1996, Extensible Markup Language (XML) was initially intended to function in the place of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) as the standard format used to define online document structure (Obasanjo, 2003). These intentions are proving inevitable as business organizations begin to realize the real potential found in the family of XML technologies. Potential in terms of improvement in information management practices measured by a company’s reduction in time and overhead. One such organization that has actually realized these benefits in several facets of their operations is Freightliner, a division of Daimler Chrysler who designs, manufactures, and sells specialized commercial vehicles and will be detailed later (Kotok, 2003). XML has proven to be more than simply an advanced version of HTML. It is helping to create a common language for intra and inter-organizational business processes (Obasanjo, 2003).

Several aspects unique to XML set it apart from its parent Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and sibling HTML. These are the same aspects spurring a community of software developers, enterprise leaders, and standards commissions to focus on this budding technology as the lingua franca of document exchange (Geyer, 2003).

The meta-language not only defines webpage format but also is actually able to provide descriptions of tabular, structured, and semi-structured data. Network protocols, relational databases, program configuration files, web pages, technical drawings and business documents are all examples of these common data forms found in everyday business operations (Obasanjo, 2003).

Like HTML, XML incorporates tags that bracket words and attributes. XML, however, uses these tags to define the data leaving the task of interpretation up to the application employing the data. This undefined vocabulary feature allows extensibility in that industry specific terminology is no longer a programming hurdle as in the past (Bos, 1999). XML applications can easily be tailored to plug in and bridge the communication between once stand-alone software. Resource intensive new software investments can be avoided by making use of existing databases and familiar programs.

XML can be used with a large assortment of other languages and is not specific to any one operating system or vendor. It is text based and Unicode compliant and can be translated into the many commonly used written languages (Walsh, 2003). This allows for more businesses that run a variety of platforms and operate internationally to take advantage of this technology.

Along with XML comes a family of helpful resources designed to automate frequently used tasks and offers services to make writing the language efficient and user friendly. These applications like XLink (standardizes hyperlink addition to a file), XPointer (points to a specific part of an XML document), and XSL (an advanced style sheet language) are simply plug-in style tools with more still under development (Bos, 1999). The ease of use will translate into less investment in education and highly trained software programmers. This along with the fact that it is relatively easy to consume generalized pre-fabricated xml-based software will allow for its market acceptance.

Potentially standing to make the most use of this technology is the financial services industry. In this industry the commodity is content, which must be delivered accurately, on time and often in a highly standardized environment. This has sprouted a standardized form of XML-based information transfer called fnXML. This software is bridging the gap between the various financial institutions to offer more reliable results to customers and industry partners (Kotok, 2003).

Another example of a company making use of XML based software is the before mentioned Daimler Chrysler division’s, Freightliner. This company designs, fabricates, and sells various types of heavy-duty vehicles. Each vehicle is broken down into components and referenced with a data code element. This code is unique to each element. As the finished product is further defined more and more attributes are associated with these elements, Freightliner refers to those attributes as contextualized components. Receiving inventory from production partners, retooling

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