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Finding your XML management team

As XML use among businesses grows, it may be wise to form a management team to recommend best practices and to deal with standards organizations.

Although XML can help integrate applications and create Web services, XML metadata and standards issues potentially threaten long-term IT system stability and operations. XML is now becoming a standard for payload and message format, query and result-set definitions, and application and modeling metadata, leaving virtually no corner of the development space untouched. This rapid and continuing XML expansion will require manual management during 2001-2002, until the XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) application programming interface (API) is incorporated into more development tools and repositories.

During 2001-2003, IT groups will experience an explosion in the amount of XML metadata generated and stored by each layer of the application supply chain. Unified Modeling Language (UML) tools and configuration management/version control (CM/VC) suites will evolve to manage such data during this period. By 2003-2004, the pace of XML evolution will slow as critical mass is reached and the weight of legacy constraints changes.

To support the exchange of externalized business process, products will need to support XMI; Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI); and Web Services Description Language (WSDL). The UML will also evolve to better support the visual representation of business processes. The XML management team

Because comprehensive integration will be slow to evolve, form a group within your company that can manage XML. This group should be charged with defining best practices, maintaining a corporate XML repository, and interacting with XML standards bodies. The team can primarily be composed of members of the IT department, but it should also comprise members of the various business units participating in the design of unified XML business documents and logical data definitions. It is imperative that companies begin to actively participate in industry groups and standards bodies chartered with creating XML definitions. Only by actively driving standards can companies gain competitive advantage and ensure that standards meet business needs.

Technical members of the XML team should include data and infrastructure architects, testing and operations staff, application architects, and component center-of-excellence asset managers. During 2001-2003, a major function of this group will be cataloging where XML is created, stored, and manipulated. Although an organization can survive without actively managing XML, failure to manage it will inhibit the ability to exploit these information assets and will impede holistic business analytics. Data and object modeling tools

The natural repository for most XML metadata will be in modeling tools and integrated development environments (IDEs). However, especially in the case of IDEs, although tools are often good at producing code, such tools lack the ability to manage the code or leave this as an optional facility.

Additionally, each tool will have its own metadata representation and repository. Although attempts have been made to create a unified repository, they have met with little success, and we believe that federated repositories are more likely to succeed. This emphasizes the importance of the XMI specification, and leading vendors such as Rational, Microsoft, and IBM are currently incorporating support for this API into their tools. This specification enables tools to exchange meta-information directly. Repository management

In addition to exchanging information among tools, it is also necessary for this information to be placed under version control. Currently, this consists of using CM/VC tools during development and content management tools during deployment. Players in these spaces are beginning to partner or expand functionality and, by 2003, these categories will merge into overall process and management suites. Because of the integrated process and workflow management capabilities incorporated into content management tools, they will become the hubs that connect disparate repositories and tools.

It's imperative that the XML group works toward versioning and configuration process consistency. You can't simply manage XML documents; you have to manage the document, as well.