Construction principles for the information professional

As early as the 1990s, Jaap van Rees argued that there was a need for information science as a discipline alongside computer science[1]. According to him, information science emerged from computer science in a similar way that traffic engineering arose from automotive technology. With only a few cars, there's not much coordination required. However, as the number of cars increases, the skill of their integrated application becomes indispensable. Van Rees distinguished between the roles of architect and constructor. The architect focuses on "beauty," quality, and fitting the design into its environment. The constructor ensures feasibility and functionality within technological constraints.

Principes van informatiemanagement, Decentralisatie van besluitvorming binnen de organisatie, Impact van besluitvormingsbevoegdheid

In its simplest form, this gives rise to a matrix with four elements. One element represents the architect of the organization as an information-processing entity, or the information professional architect. Additionally, there is the architect responsible for the means of information processing, known as the computer science architect. Regarding the constructor, the same distinction applies: an information professional constructor and a computer science constructor.

Information professional architect, Construction principles, Advancing technology, Computer science architect

This classification remains relevant today when considering all the designations of IT specialists. It helps to better identify the quadrant in which someone operates based on their role and discipline. Moreover, individuals may be active in multiple quadrants as long as they remain aware of their position.

For the execution of their profession, they all apply principles.

The information professional architect determines which information principles are applicable to the design of the information-processing organization, while the constructor applies them as norms during construction and implementation. Construction principles are more universal because each design materializes in the tangible reality through construction. Something either works or it doesn't—there's no in-between. This makes it clear that a construction principle cannot defy the laws of nature. An inadequate structure collapses.

The interaction between architecture and construction lies in the advancement of technology. Different technologies enable different constructions. Consequently, the architect gains the ability and limitation of making alternative choices.

In a series of short columns, I aim to address the still-valid information construction principles that guarantee better information structures. Over the past decades, the emphasis has often been placed on the possibilities offered by advancing technology for these structures. The information science aspect has been somewhat overlooked, resulting in occasionally unstable or poorly maintainable "information structures."

The following information principles will be covered:

  1. Meaningless identity designation
  2. Decoupling points for complexity reduction and flexibility, maximizing independence of components
  3. Language consistency
  4. Clear distribution of responsibilities and functional separation for administration
  5. Delegating decision-making authority as low as possible
  6. Detaching authorization from identification/authentication
  7. Single registration of master data
  8. Separating data and metadata in storage and processing
  9. Applying standard patterns without deviations.

Advancing technology also enables several construction principles for computer science:

  1. Separating application functions from data storage
  2. Developing in a device-independent manner
  3. SQL versus linked data
  4. Prohibiting invisible connections.


[1] EAN 9789026721557 (*this book is only available in Dutch). He still makes the valid distinction between the study of information technology (computer science) and the study of information processing.

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