An information enterprise is an organization that is effective and efficient at providing individuals throughout the organization with timely, relevant and accurate information for reporting, analysis and decision-making purposes. The foundation of an empowered information enterprise consists of business processes, transactional systems, information technology infrastructure, an information repository and meta data. Each of these components, along with the need for integration across components, presents a challenge for both business and information technology professionals as they attempt to create an information enterprise. In this column, I will define these components and examine the challenges and opportunities that are unique to each.

For discussion purposes, I have grouped business processes into two categories: infrastructure and core. Infrastructure business processes are activities such as payroll, purchasing and call center activities that are conducted in the same manner from one organization to another and from industry to industry. While there may be slight variations, these processes are generally very similar across enterprises. Infrastructure business processes are so well defined that they can be outsourced without impairing the ability of the organization to function effectively. What makes one industry different from another, apart from product or service offerings, are the business processes associated with the industry's core activities. For example, the business processes associated with drug discovery are radically different from those that support retail operations. Understanding and integrating core and infrastructure business processes helps to define the information enterprise.

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