Jan van Til
This consult extensively describes the Time Travelling concept with a view to its application in (future) information systems.
Time Travelling easily fires one’s imagination… in a wrong direction. In order to create a really useable and useful Time Travelling concept a comprehensive description is needed.
Therefore this description starts with a business (not an industry!) Vision on Time Travelling. Secondly, Time travelling is Positioned with respect to its firm application. Drivers for change and Objectives are subsequently described. Next, the Strategy for Time travelling is formulated. Finally the foreseen Constraints and Risks are documented.
First of all: Time Travelling is an important means to another end: pro-active operation in environments that find themselves more and more on a business footing. It’s because of the key importance of this concept and its foreseen application in future information systems that it is separately described.
With Time Travelling one ‘jumps’ to a chosen point in time – past, present or future – and then ‘travels’ forwards or backwards, at a self-selected pace, in order to re-view (or pre-view) ones registrations (or predictions) of consecutive situations.
Each registration (or prediction) of a situation can be compared with a single frozen frame of a film. Rolling these single static frames show the movie. Over and over again; as often as one likes – it’s always the same sequence of frames (movie). However: what one makes of it fully depends on the situation one faces at that very moment.
With respect to each relevant situation each separate frame (a situation) contains all pieces of relevant information exactly as they existed at the moment that frame (situation) came into being.
A few examples of pieces of relevant information are – big and small (!): configurations, issued commands, received responses, predictions (yes, predictions too!), contracts, procedures, business rules, gathered knowledge, the colour of presented messages and hard- and software configurations. So, information ranges from the smallest piece of information to very large constellations like whole configurations of information.
Time Travelling shows all these interrelated information objects – frame by frame. Each frame being a coherent picture in its own right.
As far as past situations are concerned, one uses factual information as stored in (ones) information sets. Future situations use predicted information that is produced (over and over again) on the basis of available historical (factual) information. Factual information is only used; never changed or destroyed. That would be ‘killing’ for Time Travelling. Produced predictions will be used in decision making and are considered as factual information too!
The Time Travelling concept is positioned as a Core Concept for future systems. The Time Travelling concept is an integral and integrating part of those systems and cannot be separated from them without seriously degrading their power.
Time Travelling can be used by virtually all relevant processes: Planning, Monitoring, Controlling, Calamity Control, Systems Management, Knowledge Management, Training, Costing, Billing, Contracting etc.
It’s all these widely differing, yet interdependent situations that require Time Travelling to be able to (re)produce, to play-back/forward any relevant sequence of situations and events.
The Time Travelling concept is tightly connected with the Event Management concept. Event Management focuses on the dynamics: the events that turn existing situations into new ones. Time Travelling focuses on the statics: the situations themselves.
Drivers for change
Today a multitude of information provisioning tools deeply permeated our society and businesses. As a consequence we now face a radically changed ‘world’ in which increasing numbers of events, originating from ‘anywhere’, take place in ever decreasing periods of time. It’s the boom of digital technology that made her far-reaching contribution.
Adequate handling of this stream of events, however, is still considered as ‘business as usual’ – but, nevertheless, becomes more and more a serious headache.
At the same time human qualities like patience and resilience diminish. Most organisations get irritated and respond with rigid procedures, nailed up contracts and agreements etc. A lot of organisations face an emerging show-me culture. Growing misunderstanding, failures and distrust finally end up in claims, disrupted business relations and loss of image.
The qualitative change almost everyone is facing, asks for a qualitative change in information provisioning as well. Common approaches and solutions are not able to solve the problems at hand. Popular elements such as time stamping of some of the relevant information objects and logging of other events one values, cannot satisfy today’s needs any longer.
Today’s dynamics require quite another approach. An approach that supports very loose coupling of information objects by using strong invariants.
It is such coupling that allows for a great variety of combinations of information. Combinations that are determined by specific interests, that vary over time and that depend on the situation at hand. It is such coupling that enables presentation of all information in its proper context by default.
Virtually all processes benefit from this new approach, since they all lack an adequate, consistent etc. insight in the (varying) key information that is needed to perform their activities.
For Time travelling the following – pro-active – objectives usually apply:
One wants to be able to reproduce any relevant sequence of representations of situations and events in order to be able to thoroughly playback, evaluate and study calamities, near accidents and other important situations.
One wants to be fully transparent to oneself, to ones customers, to ones shareholders and to other relevant parties.
One wants to have enough relevant and coherent information to be able to produce any knowledge one needs to take adequate decisions regarding all situations at hand.
One wants to be able to reproduce any relevant sequence of representations of situations and events in order to be able to fast and thoroughly analyse errors and correct them correspondingly.
The crucial hinge points underlying the Time Travelling concept are Time and Space. This closely resembles reality: in reality, every object and every event are always (no exception!) related to the dimensions of time and space.
In order to get the Time Travelling concept into operation, every representation of any relevant object/event first of all needs to be explicitly related to the dimensions of time and space. No exception! You – by all means – need to know when and where (information about) objects became relevant, changed and finally lost their relevance to you.
By consistently relating any relevant information object to the hinge points time and space, all those information objects become very loosely connected.
· This enables you to register any event (by juxtaposition), as of any moment in time – depending on your varying and various interests.
· This enables you to reproduce situations at any desired level of detail (of course: within the dynamic boundaries that reflect your interests over time).
· This also supplies any object with all possible individual space for its further developments.
And it’s this loosely connectedness of information objects that supplies you with the robustness you need to get the Time Travel concept into smooth operation.
It is difficult to choose an adequate implementation strategy for Time Travelling. This is (mainly) caused by the nature of Time Travelling: it is both an integrated and integrating aspect (it is a Core Concept).
By design the whole future system needs to be prepared for Time Travelling right from the start. Activation/implementation of the concept should, in general, start with the key tasks.
The Time Travelling concept is fairly unknown to the industry – and will therefore largely lack in their products.
The Time Travelling concept counts as a Core Concept for all future systems. At the same time the Time Travelling concept is fairly unknown to the industry. This results in products that (still) largely miss Time Travelling on a conceptual level.
As a consequence one needs to clearly differentiate between what one really wants (ones vision) and the ever changing products the market is able to supply at any point in time. One therefore – in advance – needs to design for a system that is able to assimilate future product changes in order to be able to realise – in the end – ones vision with respect to Time Travelling.
July 2008, 2008 © Jan van Til