Quality is not an act, it is a habit


.......... Facts and

Facts and Language

Für Elise

Are you a music-lover? And more in particular, a lover of classical music? Are you visiting concerts or operas in a theatre like the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam or the Scala of Milan on a regular basis? Do you perhaps sing or play music yourself? If so, have you ever been amazed by the enormous development that making music has gone though from the early Holocene until nowadays? Or about the extent of its success in our society, both in social and economic sense? Here is the key question, then: What is in your opinion the root cause of this enormous development and that widespread success?

No doubt your thoughts go in the direction of famous composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and many others who with their beautiful pieces of music have greatly advanced the love for music among the general public, just like in tennis Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with their splendid ways of playing have pushed tennis as a worldwide spectator sport to unprecedented heights. But then, please ask yourself also how it is possible that the music of the great composers can nowadays still be performed so beautiful or even more beautiful than in these composers' own times, when they themselves could still tell people how it should be played. And that brings me to the image above in which the beginning of a piece of music is shown. Each time Rob Arntz and I give our course about our way of conceptual modeling of information, we begin with showing this image to our participants with the question of which piece of music this is the beginning. And invariably there are some participants that immediately give the right answer, because they can read music notes: "Für Elise" by Beethoven.

Musicians can differ from each other and think differently about music in many ways, but when they play together to perform a piece of music for an audience, they try to play - whether or not led by a conductor - as an 'ensemble'. They can do that in particular, because they can all read the music to be played from sheet music or music scores that are written in a language they all know and understand. Many things can be told about why this common language was developed and how it has been given its present form over time. Much can be found on this on Wikipedia and other websites. What Rob and I care about is the parallel that can be drawn between performing music with high quality and the creation and keeping maintainable of a high-quality information environment in organizations and companies. In both cases the first requirement is the use of one language that is understandable and essentially the same for all parties involved.

What that particular language is in the music world is clear from the foregoing. But what is that language for establishing a high-quality information environment? That is nothing but the standard language spoken in the company, for instance Dutch or English. That language must simply be used to form meaningful verbalizations of concrete examples of all kinds of facts that are relevant to the company. Such concrete verbalizations in the common language within the company can be understood, verified and validated by all parties involved in the realization of the information environment, both from business and IT. And then, it is not difficult anymore to build good applications based on that for whatever use within the company.

Even more similarities can be pointed out between the world of making music and the worlds of information services, for instance the significance of good and mutually accepted definitions of all language elements for the use of the common language. If you wish, you can find more about that on our website. But as a final consideration, I would rather put some other questions to you.

Have you ever during a concert of the Concertgebouw Orchestra asked yourself why the brass section back left would not go out of its way to hoot out the violin section in front of them? Or why the cello section on the right would not play its way through the score at high speed, so they might go home a quarter of an hour earlier than the rest? Of course, you didn't, did you? But how is it with the answers to this kind of questions within the various business units involved in information services in your own company?

I sincerely hope no different than with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

- Peter Alons, November 2022




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