Inmon Associates, Inc.

The Government Information Factory (GIF)
by Bill Inmon

The GIF is a blueprint or framework for how information systems need to be built in the government. Based on the notion and success of the data warehouse centric Corporate Information Factory (CIF) that is found in the business environment, the GIF describes the architecture of how government information systems need to be structured.
The architectural structuring of government information systems is a difficult subject because there are many parameters that need to be factored into the architecture and balanced accordingly – the need for merging and managing data across multiple government agencies,

  • the need for a holistic approach to security – looking at both break in and surveillance security,
  • the need for distributed metadata management and integrity of metadata across the enterprise,

  • the need for a “pathfinder” facility for the organization to be able to easily find data and reports,

  • the need to handle archival data in an efficient and agile manner, without losing data and without costing huge amounts of dollars, the need for the management of many technologies as a cohesive whole.

In addition, the GIF must satisfy the classical information needs of the CIF which include – reconcilability of information when there are discrepancies,

  • ability to respond to new and unknown requirements in an agile and timely manner,
  • ability to store and use when needed historical data,
  • ability to manage large amounts of data without becoming overwhelmed by those volumes of data and the budget required,
  • integration of data from many disparate sources,
  • the need to support data mining and analytical processing,
  • ease of access of data.

Those two sets of requirements - for both the GIF and the CIF – require a considerable balancing act. Architectural tradeoffs are made judiciously and the different components of the architecture are placed properly so that ALL objectives are met. In building the GIF framework, many different factors had to be constantly kept in mind

  • what is the cost of the framework. Creating a framework which is going to cost unrealistic amounts of money is an exercise in futility,
  • what technology is required. Does the technology exist today? Is the technology likely to exist tomorrow? It makes no sense to create a framework that does not have a technology foundation of reality
  • is there a migration path from where an agency is at today to where the agency needs to be tomorrow. If you can’t get to where the framework tells you that you need to go, the framework is an exercise in futility.

  • does the framework fulfill all the information needs of tomorrow’s government agency. If anything has been left out, then the framework is less than as effective as it could be.
  • can the framework be used by normal professionals. If the framework requires a Phd in mathematics and in physics then the framework is not going to be very successful because there are only so many people who are qualified to go around. On the other hand, the GIF does require normal professional information processing skills. An unreasonable set of personnel requirements and qualifications for implementation greatly limits the applicability of the GIF.

  • are the levels of performance that the organization needs to operate going to be met. If the transactions and processes which the organization runs on a daily basis are not going to be run in a timely manner, then the framework will fail.

In many ways the Government Information Factory is like a city planning map. The layout of where components need to be placed and how those components need to work with other components is what is found in the GIF. Like using a city map, building the city is a long term project. Also, like using the city map as a basis for building the city, the GIF can have first one component built, then another. The city can start to function as soon as the first part of the city is built. There is no need to try and build 100% of the city map before the city starts to become a useful place to live and work. The GIF is a high level framework that balances all of these objectives in a well thought manner. The GIF can be used immediately by the information executive to answer such questions as – what should I build next?

  • what should I build next?
  • where are the pitfalls with today’s information systems?
  • how have other people solved the problems I am facing?
  • from a high level design perspective, how should I structure things?
  • how can I achieve my objectives on a limited budget?
  • what does my long term vision look like?
Currently the GIF consists of a high level diagrammatic overview, a description of the different components of the GIF, a large document describing some considerations in the implementation of the GIF, and a representation data model for the government.

The GIF was started on Sept 15, 2001, inspired by the events of a few days earlier. It is anticipated that the GIF will be in a state of completeness ready for public usage on approximately Jan 1, 2003.

The GIF is designed for all government agencies – Federal, State, local. The GIF is designed for both large agencies and small agencies.

For more information about the GIF please contact
Lynn Inmon email us.

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Copyright ©2003 by W. H. Inmon, all rights reserved.