7 Circles of Information Management

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The National Digital Twin programme (NDTp) has developed a view on information management, called the 7 Circles, to divide the Information Management space up into areas of concern that can be addressed separately as well as supporting each other.

You may find this breakdown useful to identify areas and associated NDTp deliverables that are of particular relevance to you.

The 7 Circles diagram has an interesting set of “properties” that allows different viewpoints:

  • Each circle is a coherent area of interest that can be considered largely separate from the other circles
  • When going down from the top to the bottom of the diagram, contents get increasingly technical and specialised, with the Core Constructional Ontology being the most abstract area of concern. Additionally, the number of people who need to get involved in these specific areas diminishes dramatically
  • From bottom to top, each circle supports the level above and is supported by the level beneath.

A closer look at the 7 Circles of Information Management

The National Digital Twin (NDT) will bring about better outcomes for the public good only if the data shared through its nodes is right, i.e. fit for purpose for the decision-making processes it needs to support. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations to have the right capabilities and processes in place to guarantee this quality, and this is the focus of the two upper circles of the stack:

  • The highest circle – Information Quality Management – is aimed at the largest possible audience, as everybody in an organisation creates and uses information instances and can contribute to information quality, regardless of their competencies and roles. This circle covers the practices and components that are key to Information Quality within an organisation, including: Information Management governance, establishing roles and responsibilities, training and measuring Information Management performance against KPIs.
  • The practices and components that the highest circle covers, ensure that the right information is delivered to decision makers at the right time. This presupposes the specification of information requirements. This is the focus of the second circle, which sets out a process model based methodology to identify the nature of information required to support the decisions within business processes.

The next three circles focus on the development of a technical framework for information sharing. The Integration Architecture (IA), Reference Data Language (RDL) and Foundation Data Model (FDM) form the common language and data-sharing protocols by which digital twins can communicate securely and effectively to support improved decision making:

  • The IA circle covers the development of protocols that enable the managed sharing of data. All data exchanges supported by the IA are referenced to and based on the two lower circles, the RDL and FDM.
  • The RDL circle relates to the development of the NDT’s RDL, which forms the words of the language. The NDT’s RDL is an evolving ecosystem of IMF-compliant libraries linked together and plugged into entities of the NDT’s FDM.
  • The FDM, built upon a top-level ontology, is a key component of the IMF and a basis for ensuring consistent data across the National Digital Twin.

The two lowest circles are foundational to the common language formed by the RDL and FDM. They ensure that it is as all-encompassing and as extensible as possible. These two circles involve only a few dozen people, with very specialised skill sets (mathematicians, logicians, ontologists etc.)

  • The penultimate circle is the NDT’s Top Level Ontology (TLO), which consists of the top-level categories (“thing”, “class” …) and the fundamental relationships (membership, whole-part, specialisation) between them that are sufficient to cover the scope of a maximally broad range of domains. The Foundation Data Model embeds these fundamental elements. The NDT’s TLO has the particularity of being four-dimensional, i.e, it considers that things extend in time as well as space. The four-dimensional approach is applied consistently across all the upper circles of the stack.
  • The bottom circle, the Core Constructional Ontology (CCO), corresponds to the highest level of abstraction. It formalises the fundamental notions that provide the building blocks for the NDT’s TLO:
    • notion of “parts”, which underpins the notion of “things” used in the TLO
    • notion of “sets”, which underpins the notion of “classes” used in the TLO
    • notion of “tuples”, which underpins the notion of “relationships” used in the TLO.