Why Semantic Arts Exists

Semantic Arts exists to help organizations transition to a newly emerging paradigm of information systems based on flexible data structures and deep semantics.We exist to help organizations transition to a paradigm of information systems based on flexible semantic data structures and deep semantics.

There is now more than enough evidence that these new approaches work, they work at scale, and they are orders of magnitude more flexible than traditional technology. Currently there is no canned package that will convert your organization to semantics, and maybe there never will be. We believe that for most organizations, the semantic journey will require discipline and conviction more than fancy software.

Most of the information systems industry is heavily invested in the status quo. But if you look very closely we think you'll agree that there isn't much "status" in this "quo." In the current state of the art, application software packages take years to install, and make change more difficult rather than easier. Implementation and integration projects consume tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and fail more often than they succeed. Outsourcing, Cloud hosting and Software as a Service have made things cheaper, but not better, as they are not addressing the fundamental problems that arise from an application-centric world view.

We exist for those organizations that are ready to commit to this change. We will commit our best people and their best efforts to helping you make that transition. For over a decade we've applied ourselves to getting better and better at the application of this technology in preparation for the next project.

Interested in learning more? Read Dave McComb's book called, "The Data-Centric Revolution".

How Semantic Arts Works

Transformation is a joint endeavor. We work with our clients. Depending on the nature of the work, we will spend between 1/4 and 1/2 of our time on site.

We generally try to create what we call the "heartbeat" of a project, which typically involves three or four days on-site every three or four weeks. These visits will include solicitation, discovery, data gathering, education, facilitation, demonstration and review of work completed since the previous visit. Each visit results in things for us to work on and things for you to work on. The period of the heartbeat is long enough to get enough significant work done so that the next session together will be productive and move the project to a higher plane.

Historically, we have contracted for individual projects. It is clear to us now that the most progress will be made by a few companies who make a longer-term commitment. We will continue to execute in a project-by-project mode, but we will be jointly designing the road in front of us even as we traverse it.

If you are interested either in a specific project, or in what we call the "Strategic Adopter" program, please contact me at mccomb@semanticarts.com or (970) 490-2224.

Background of Semantic Arts

The company that is now Semantic Arts, Inc. was originally incorporated as 'First Principles' in Denver, Colorado in 1989. Through the early 90s First Principles specialized in providing enterprise-level application and architectural consulting. In 1996 First Principles, which moved to Fort Collins as part of a joint venture project, was acquired by Velocity.com and operated as a wholly owned subsidiary performing the R&D function for an ASP-based software development environment.

The principals of First Principles re-incorporated in June 2000, also in Colorado, as Semantic Arts, Inc. Semantic Arts is a "S" corporation, wholly owned by the principals. It is incorporated in and registered to do business in Colorado.

Semantic Arts assists clients who have allowed their software systems to deteriorate to the point that improving business systems has become an exercise in frustration. We don't sell hardware or software, and we don't represent vendors. As a result, we are free to start with two inputs: your existing situation and your aspirations.

We are well-informed, completely objective, and have our clients' needs absolutely foremost in our minds.

Our objectivity is one of our key values. We do not represent any software or hardware products or companies, nor are we a front for software developers or implementers. What we do is strategic consulting, helping people determine their requirements, planning architectural options, making selections and guiding their execution.

What it is like working with Semantic Arts?

We think you'll like working with us. You'll find us to be highly engaged in your situation and at the same time we will respectfully challenge current thinking. We have a reputation for speaking straight without being offensive.

There are a few things you won't get from us that you might get from others:

No Bait and Switch— We're not recruiting new consultants for this project, nor pitching senior consultants with impressive resumes, then delivering junior staff to do the work.

No Hidden Agendas — While we have in our collective past designed and built ERP systems and many client/server, n-Tier and web-based applications and architectures, we are not angling for an implementation project. What Semantic Arts does is help enterprises define and migrate to their ideal software architecture.

No Ponderous Reports — We don't find long final reports to be terribly productive, if that is defined as helping a client transform their infrastructure. We prefer to have worked toward broad agreement and consensus before the final report is delivered.

Guiding Principles

These are the four guiding principles that we use in our architectural design work:

Human Scale — Monolithic applications are disproportionately hard to change and very hard to replace. Small apps can consume many times their weight in interfaces. One of the cornerstones of our practice is helping clients reallocate functionality appropriately to human-scale applications.

Loose Coupling — A tightly coupled system is one in which changes in one area affect many other areas. Modern technology can help a great deal, but achieving loose coupling is primarily a matter of design discipline that starts at the architectural level.

Reuse Through Shared Services — In most mature organizations, we've found that over 50% of the functionality implemented in the traditional siloed systems consists of capabilities that could be implemented once and then shared, for a great saving in cost and increase in consistency.

Incremental Deployment — We've found that most successful projects migrate to the future through a series of measured steps. Avoiding "big bang" implementations and "bet the farm" conversions is one of the best ways to move forward without undue risk.

What Are We About?

Semantic Arts, Inc. specializes in helping mid-to-large organizations renovate their software systems. The focus is on companies whose existing systems are becoming hard to maintain or are threatened with technical obsolescence. We help these companies craft an architecture that allows new systems to co-exist with their legacy systems in a way that allows the legacy systems to be gradually retired.

We offer a range of complexity reducing services, from consulting workshops and hands-on projects to seminars, where we help you assess your current situation and plan an orderly migration to a rational future.

Our solutions are driven by a core set of guiding principles that have our clients long-range interest in the forefront. We show you how to revitalize your application architecture so that when your strategy changes, you can respond; when the market changes, you can adapt; and when technology changes, you can advance.

Software Architecture

All software has architecture. When you put several systems together in one enterprise, the result is often accidental and expensive. A software architecture is a long-term design of the major building blocks of your systems and how they interrelate.

The role of the architect

The architect is an advocate of the client, not an agent of the software or hardware vendor, and is not myopically focused on the completion of a development project at hand. The architect is committed to ensuring that a long term succession of projects actually adds up to a more livable environment; where new functionality and new technology can be added easily; where change is welcomed, not resisted, and where system maintainers can confidently practice their craft.

How are software architects different from ...

... technologists? Technology experts typically know a lot about a single architecture. They tend to see that one architecture as the solution to all problems. They can be quite helpful once the architectural planning is done.

... requirements analysts? A part of the architectural process looks something like requirements. The difference is that a requirements analyst tends to try to reduce needs to a checklist of features, a simplified approach that can be detrimental to the architecture.

... quality assurance personnel? If you employ an architect to oversee a project and ensure architectural integrity, you may wonder if this isn't somewhat like the QA function. The difference is, QA is about doing things right. Architecture is about doing the right things.

How is Semantic Arts different from other software architects?

We bridge the gap between firms that understand only the high level processes and concepts of Architecture—who therefore implement only in the abstract, and those who have expertise in a particular technology and only implement what they know.

We dig deep into a client's existing situation, as well as their needs and aspirations, and build a detailed, coherent road map of a future, architecturally inspired environment.

Fast Facts


Years of Experience


Data-centric projects


Consultants and developers


Combined years experience with semantic technology

Our Mission
For 15 years we’ve been helping large enterprises understand what the information in their so-called information systems actually means (semantics) and how to incorporate that into their future systems (enterprise architecture).