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For nearly three thousand years information has been organized in the purposeful and self-contained package that we call a document. The technology for encoding and exchanging documents has profoundly changed, but the concept of a document has remained surprisingly stable. Documents formalize the interactions between enterprises and their customers or clients, and it natural and intuitive to view documents as the input requirements and as the output results from many kinds of processes. These document exchanges follow common patterns. Models of business organization like supply chains, business-to-business marketplaces, and auctions can be composed from simpler two-party patterns of document exchanges.

The Internet and its supporting technologies like XML and web services give us great efficiencies and flexibility in how we create, manage and share information to conduct business and collaborate with others. But taking full advantage of these new technologies requires that we continue to think of documents in an abstract and technology-neutral way.

Document Engineering helps us specify, design, and implement these documents and the processes that create and consume them. It synthesizes complementary ideas from information and systems analysis, electronic publishing, business process analysis, and business informatics to ensure that the documents and processes make sense to the people and applications that need them. A document-centric philosophy unifies these different analysis and modeling perspectives.