Just as the architect for a building may be tasked with the design of a single family house or a skyscraper, an information technology (IT) architect can design an information system that serves a single organization or one that serves multiple organizations. We (and others) refer to an architectural style for a system that serves a single organization as an enterprise architecture. We use the term pan-enterprise architecture to refer to the architectural style for a system that comprises more than one enterprise. We discuss enterprise and pan-enterprise architectures in detail in the next sections.

Pan-enterprise architecture is of particular importance because biosurveillance is a distributed activity involving many organizations. Although these organizations operate computer systems and these systems often contain data that would be useful to other organizations, data exchange occurs primarily via person-to-person communication or, at best, via batch transfers of data. As we will discuss, an appropriate pan-enterprise architecture can accelerate progress toward the goal of computer-to-computer interoperability.

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