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Why a Common Reference Model is Necessary to Achieve Pay Equity by 2025

By Debra Logan | June 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

CIO Leadership, Culture and PeopleDiversity and InclusionPay Equity

The goal of Gartner’s EPIC project is to create a transparent and accepted process and methodology around pay equity data and its analysis.  To do that, we need a reference model.

So, what is a reference model?

According to Wikipedia:  A reference model—in systems, enterprise, and software engineering—is an abstract framework or domain-specific ontology consisting of an interlinked set of clearly defined concepts produced by an expert or body of experts to encourage clear communication.

Although we’d not normally use it as a source, the Wikipedia definition is essentially correct for our purposes here.  Even so, its still a bit jargon-y but that’s just how we like to talk in software engineering.

Colloquially, a reference model can be likened to a musical score. The instructions for the instruments  are represented in a way that produces harmony. It replicates the score as the composers imagined it.  Interpretations and variations allowed, but taken as a whole, it still needs to be recognizable as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, if that is what you say you are performing.  The audience doesn’t need to know how to read or play music, but they can still recognize and appreciate the composition.

It is going to take an orchestra to achieve our goals vis a vis pay equity.

We believe that one of the reasons that a solution to making pay equitable has eluded us to date is the interdisciplinary nature of the challenge.  Pay equity is an issue that lies at the intersection of law, data science, talent management and, when done properly, technology.  Like the musical score for the various players in the orchestra, the reference model allows each to play their part.

Here are some of the formal characteristics of a reference model:

  • Abstract framework or domain-specific ontology consisting of an interlinked set of clearly defined concepts produced by an expert or body of experts to encourage clear communication.
  • Represents the component parts of any consistent idea, from business functions to system components, as long as it represents a complete set.
  • It shows a set of concepts (abstract entities) the relationships between them and their interaction
  • Includes a clear description of the problem that it solves, and the concerns of the stakeholders who need to see the problem get solved
  • Technology agnostic: A reference model typically is intended to promote understanding a class of problems, not specific solutions for those problems. As such, it must assist the practitioner by aiding the process of imagining and evaluating a variety of potential solutions

Up until now, all the musicians have been in different rooms, playing their part solo.  We’ve got to put them together in the same room if we want to hear the symphony.

The EPIC reference model will bring the players together, allow them to communicate and all play their parts.    It is this collaboration and common frame of reference that will enable us to solve the persistent problem of pay equity.

An example of a reference model that played an important role in helping to meet another set of challenges, see  The legal community, technology companies, legal services companies and Gartner were all able to use this reference model to bring law & technology together to solve come difficult issues around legal discovery in the age of digital information as it became ‘electronic evidence’.

Our next EPIC blog will examine the e-discovery reference model and how it can serve as a blueprint for EPIC going forward.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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