The Information Flow Model (IFM) is used to understand the sources and destination of information flow, which is required to execute the business process as shown in Figure 3.5.
In IFM, information or data generators and processors are brought together to explain the flow. This could be documents, e-mail, or voicemail. The contents of the flow could be text, images, or diagrams. The purpose of the flow is to take the process further to its logical conclusion. For example, a customer order is to be processed for delivery or to be rejected, and necessary data or information input has to be provided progressively in the process.
IFM is generally a high-level model showing main flows, internal flows of information from sources, such as product catalogs, and manufacturing schedules. Customer profiles and accounting information are not shown. These are presumed to be present.
In an information flow model, each processing stage is described as one of the following stage classes:
1. Data Supply where data suppliers forward information into the system.
2. Data Acquisition the stage that accepts data from external suppliers and injects it into the system.
3. Data Creation internal to the system, data may be generated and then forwarded to another processing stage.
4. Data Processing any stage that accepts input and generates output (as well as generating side effects).
5. Data Packaging any point at which information is collated, aggregated and summarized for reporting purposes.
6. Decision Making the point where human interaction is required.
7. Decision Implementation the stage where the decision made at a decision-making stage is executed, which may affect other processing stages or a data delivery stage.
8. Data Delivery the point where packaged information is delivered to a known data consumer.
9. Data Consumption as the data consumer is the ultimate user of processed information, the consumption stage is the exit stage of the system.
Data moves between stages through directed information channels pipelines indicating the flow of information from one processing stage to another and the direction in which data flows. An information flow model is represented by the combination of the processing stages connected by directed information channels. Once the flow model has been constructed, names are assigned to each of the stages and channels. An information flow model can be used to identify the source of a data quality problem. The effects of a data quality problem might manifest themselves at different stages within an information flow, perhaps at different data consumption stages.
However, what may appear to be multiple problems may all be related to a single point of failure that takes place earlier in the processing. By identifying a set of data-quality expectations and creating validation rules that can be imposed at the entry and exit of each processing stage, we can trace through the information flow model to the stage at which the data quality problem occurred. Fixing the problem at the source will have a beneficial effect across the board, as all subsequent manifestations should be eliminated!