State of the Art Solutions in Enterprise Interoperability

State of the Art Solutions in Enterprise Interoperability

Silke Balzert (Institute for Information Systems at German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Germany), Thomas Burkhart (Institute for Information Systems at German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Germany), Dirk Werth (Institute for Information Systems at German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Germany), Michal Laclavík (Institute of Informatics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia), Martin Šeleng (Institute of Informatics - Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia), Nikolay Mehandjiev (University of Manchester, UK), Martin Carpenter (University of Manchester, UK) and Iain Duncan Stalker (University of Teesside, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-892-5.ch012


More than 99% of European enterprises are SMEs. While collaboration with other enterprises provides potential for improving business performance, enterprise interoperability research has yet to produce results which can be used by SMEs without the need for high start-up costs (e.g. learning, infrastructure and installation costs). Therefore the Commius project (funded by the European Union) aims towards the development of such a “zero costs of entry” interoperability solution for SMEs, allowing them to reuse existing and familiar applications for electronic communication. This chapter provides an overview of the research field “Enterprise Interoperability.” Based on a four layer interoperability framework, this chapter will examine which technical, process-based and semantic solutions for enterprise interoperability are available at the moment and which strategic motives drive or prevail SMEs to engage in E-business activities.
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Definition Of Enterprise Interoperability

Following the understanding of the IEEE definition given in the introduction, interoperability is defined as a property of a technical system and is being strictly regarded as a technological phenomenon. Even though this appears to be only a partial perspective, there are several definitions that mainly describe interoperability as an aspect of technical systems (Lewerenz, 1999). From a technical point of view, the main prerequisite to enable interoperability is the possibility to exchange data based on a common gateway enabling interactions (Roser, 2008). This leads to the conclusion that in this pure technical coherence, interoperability just constitutes a system feature.

The reference object of enterprise interoperability however is not such a technical system but rather a complex organisational system: the cooperating enterprise itself. An enterprise however can not be seen as a pure system-based object; strategic, social and market related issues have to be considered as well. Thus it becomes necessary to transfer the understanding of a mainly technical interoperability into a new business-oriented domain, which also emphasizes economic aspects of interoperability. Nevertheless, in the context of enterprise interoperability the technical understanding can be considered as the foundation on which interoperability occurs. Hence a shared base in the meaning of common standards and gateways is a crucial requirement to enterprise interoperability (Gerst & Bunduchi, 2007).

A business-orientated understanding of interoperability on the other hand consists of several aspects beyond purely technological interoperability. So enterprises are no self-contained systems with predefined gateways: the most decisive requirements to enable enterprise interoperability are less the technical circumstances than the ability of business partners to collaborate. Besides the fact that the given technical landscape must support collaboration in general, business partners furthermore need to have a common understanding why they seek a partnership.

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