By Lisa Woods, Senior Collaboration Consultant at Allegient

imageIt’s exciting when the state-of-the art in several disciplines gives rise to a brand new one. And it’s thrilling to watch someone extrapolate concepts from one arena to another in a way that makes connections jump out as if they were obvious all along. It’s like magic.

Authors Robert Glushko and Tim McGrath perform such a conjuring feat in their new book, “Document Engineering; Analyzing and Designing Documents for Business Informatics and Web Services”. This practical guide synergizes old ideas about software design with new thinking in content management, enterprise collaboration, data modelling, and business process analysis to define document engineering as both a philosophy and a profession. Glushko and McGrath not only make the case for document engineering, but lay out a flexible approach and toolset that can help the practitioner get there. And along the way they use one of my favorite business concepts–patterns–in lieu of the frustrating One Size (fits no one, actually) fundamentalist attitude that usually plagues books pushing business methodologies.

image A “document” is here a set of information assembled for a (business) purpose; Document Engineering involves deconstructing, modeling and assembling documents in a way that facilitates information exchange across systems and enterprises while maintaining implementation-agnostic components for reuse. The document engineering mindset and iterative approach described by McGrath and Glushko emphasizes the importance of examining document content in context(s), representing documents and processes via models that illuminate various facets of use, and leveraging the results to produce conceptual models that don’t change when the technology does, as well as implementable document assemblies that can be enabled using (particularly) XML and web services.

It’s been apparent for some time that substantial cross-pollination was possible and desirable across the fields of information architecture, user interface design, database design and business process reengineering; Document Engineering is the logical career evolution for many business and systems analysts who, like myself, actively look to apply geekery (e.g. data modeling) as well as soft skills (e.g. negotiating) to the task of facilitating data exchange and designing business systems that enable rather than define how this occurs.

About Lisa Woods

Lisa Woods is a Senior Collaboration Consultant at Allegient and has a special interest in facilitating organic growth of collaboration tools in the context of defined business processes (in other words, improving user adoption of tools like SharePoint to get things done). Contact Lisa at