Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence

TURNING OPERATIONAL KNOWLEDGE & COMPLIANCE INTO A COMPETITIVE EDGE

We systemize tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge

Blog Enabling Operational Excellence

Requirements Management and the Business Motivation Model

Guest post by Cecilia Pearce ~~~~~~~~~~~ I have just completed the “Business Analysis with Business Rules: From Strategy to Requirements” on-line training session given by Ron Ross and Gladys Lam.[1] This approach has additional benefits where requirements are concerned. During the session, it became evident that some of the requirements processes defined by BABOK® – Requirements Elicitation, Prioritization and Traceability – may be simplified when following the Business Motivation Model (BMM)[2] approach. The BMM approach emphasizes starting with strategy for addressing the business problem. Being top-down and structured, it ensures that defined requirements are based on the business goals identified for the organisation. Since the source of the requirements is therefore known, their prioritization is simplified. Requirements linked directly to the goals will have a higher priority, whereas other requirements, depending how linked to the goals, may be allocated a lower priority. Traceability of requirements also benefits from the BMM approach. The requirements are already associated with the goals, possible business risks are identified, and relationships are traced to business processes, business milestones, and key performance indicators. The requirements elicitation process is just another benefit of the BMM approach. Requirements are defined with the goals in mind. The Policy Charter[3], a deliverable in the style of the BMM, illustrates the goals in more manageable segments and links the requirements directly to the identified goals. It allows the business stakeholders to ‘see’ their end result more clearly and understand what steps are required to get there.
[2] BMM is the strategy standard originally developed by the Business Rules Group, and subsequently adopted by OMG. See http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/second_paper/BRG-BMM.pdf.
[3] Business Rule Solutions’ Policy Charter was a basis for the BMM, and is consistent with the standard.
 

Continue Reading

Understanding Strategy as a Key Business Analysis Tool: It’s Not Business Process!

John Matthias recently wrote this about our new book, Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules[1]:

“I especially liked the discussion about the mission and goals. I still see business process analysis in organizations I visit where the goals are not articulated well, and the results are not useful. (I’ve done it myself.) It’s easy to get lost among the trees, unaware of the contours of the forest or what direction you’re going.”

Indeed! That’s why we came up with the Policy Charter, which is the deliverable in our approach that lays out the elements of strategy and their motivation.  A Policy Charter is all about business goals, business risks, and business policies. It’s not about business process! [2] How do you distinguish between good business strategy and bad business strategy? Noted strategy expert Richard Rumelt distinguishes the good and bad as follows.[3] Good Business Strategy Rumelt, p. 20: “good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests.  Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.” Rumelt, p. 243: “good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work.  Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment.  And there isn’t anyone more educated about your [business] than the group in [the] room.”  Bad Business Strategy Rumelt, p. 32: Bad strategy “… is not simply the absence of good strategy.  It grows out of specific misconceptions and leadership dysfunctions.  To detect a bad strategy, look for …
  • Failure to face the challenge. When you cannot define the challenge, you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it.
  • Mistaking goals for strategy.  Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.”
Rumelt, p. 32: Bad strategy “… is long on goals and short on policy or action. …  It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide [its] failings.”  He means (and says) fluff. The Three Skills of Good Business Strategy What do you need to be successful with strategy? Rumelt (p. 268) says: “… you must cultivate three essential skills or habits.
  • First, you must have a variety of tools for fighting your own myopia and for guiding you own attention.
  • Second, you must develop the ability to question your own judgment.  If your reasoning cannot withstand a vigorous attack, your strategy cannot be expected to stand in the face of real competition.
  • Third, you must cultivate the habit of making and recording judgments so that you can improve.”
Good stuff!


[2] The standard for organizing business strategy is provided by the Business Motivation Model (BMM). See www.BusinessRulesGroup.org
[3] Rumelt, Richard [2011].  Good Strategy Bad Strategy:  The Difference and Why It Matters.  New York, NY:  Crown Publishing, a division of Random House Inc.

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Are You Struggling with Requirements? Project Off-Track?

Guest Post by Senior Consultant to Large Organization I am struggling on a project right now where the requirements were never properly collected in the beginning. So we’re now going back to our requirements to try and sort out what the business really wants.   As this process of validating the original requirements started, I had just decided to read your new book[1].  While reading about Policy Charters[2] it immediately came to my head that this activity was never done formally with the business!  Honestly I have heard different business people state goals to us all the time as we were building this system, but nobody on the original scoping or blueprint team ever once did a formal strategy to determine what the business wants and how we can give it to them. I hacked together a simple Policy Charter in Powerpoint to show the business the strategy.  It made a big difference to finally have everybody on the team sit in one room and see how different business goals and their business tactics actually link to each other via business risks, which then precipitate other business tactics or business policies.  We never had an overall view of the business goals like that before. Now I feel the business finally sees how complex their goals were and the consulting team really understands them too. So even though it is very late in the game, doing the Policy Charter has still helped a lot in our efforts to get our project back on track. I just wanted to let you know that your new book has been very helpful so far. I love it! I will be recommending it to all my colleagues.


[1] Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php
[2] Ronald G. Ross, “Becoming Strategy-Driven:  The Policy Charter,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 10, No. 6 (June 2009), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2009/b483.html

Continue Reading

A Buzzword Like ‘Decision’ that Covers Everything May Soon Cover Nothing

One thing that concerns me about ‘decision’ or ‘decision management’ is that everything potentially becomes a decision. Software vendors love it when complex problems can be reduced to a single buzzword. Engineers of true business solutions should hate it. I’m sure I’ll be accused of negativism, so for the record, let me say that top down analysis of operational business decisions is extremely useful, either along with, or outside of, business processes. We have a highly pragmatic approach for decision analysis based on ‘question charts’ (Q-Charts). We use it extensively to capture decision rules. But do I think that decision analysis is the most important part of delivering a winning business solution? Not by a long shot. Your strategy for the business solution is much more important. Even that’s not enough though – strategy only tells you why. We need business models that cover all aspects of a business solution (think what, how, where, who, and when). So no, it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) all boil down to ‘decisions’ … unless by that you mean anything and everything. And what good is that? I’m always very careful to say ‘operational business decision’ instead of simply ‘decision’. Immediately that excludes governance decisions (e.g., creating a business policy) and strategy ‘decisions’ (as in MBA-school ‘business strategy’). That’s an important first narrowing of the field. Something else commonly mistaken for an operational business decision is a simulation of “what would happen if we did this operational task right now”. For example, let’s run a claim by all the behavioral business rules and see if the claim is acceptable before we do it for real. That’s simply a test, not a decision. That’s a second important narrowing of the field. Clearly we need a solid definition of what a decision is and isn’t in the context of business analysis. We define an ‘operational business decision’ as: a determination in day-to-day business activity requiring know-how or expertise; the resolving of a question by identifying some correct or optimal choice. To make such decisions you need decision rules (think classification or inference rules) that ‘map’ cases to outcomes. Decision rules are one type of definitional rule. The two types of business rules in SBVR are definitional rules and behavioral rules. Business capabilities do usually involve large numbers of decision rules, but they also always involve large numbers of behavioral rules. Behavioral rules are rules you can violate, like speeding through a school zone. There’s no decision to that … you either are or you aren’t speeding. Well, you may have made a personal decision to speed, but let me tell you, City Hall doesn’t care. Personal decisions – out of scope too, a third important narrowing of the field.

Continue Reading

Why Don’t Requirements Approaches and IT Methodologies ‘Get’ How to Use Strategy as a Technique? … Not Acceptable!

An enterprise architect recently said to me, “The motivation (why) column of the Zachman Architecture Framework is the most underrated, underutilized construct in architecture.” Absolutely correct. Even worse, IT methodologies (that is, the people who create and use them) don’t realize how far afield they are on the matter. As a result they cause business people to focus on the wrong things … or to drop out entirely. Ironically, IT then becomes the impediment, rather than the solution, to much needed business innovation. A bit of background: The Business Rules Group (BRG – www.BusinessRulesGroup.org) identified the area of business strategy as a missing ingredient for business rules in the mid 1990s. In 2000, we came out with a standard for the area, now sponsored by OMG, called the Business Motivation Model. It’s a highly readable document with lots of good examples (and free): http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/bmm.shtml. It provides standard vocabulary and structure for strategy. Zachman, by the way, was a key participant. I am proud of my role as co-editor and author of the first working draft. My business partner, Gladys S.W. Lam, and I have just come out with a new book that explains how strategy (and business rules) can be an integral part of business analysis. It’s actually not that hard to do (if you have the right people, motivation, scope, and approach), and it doesn’t take all that long (ditto same caveats). Those are big myths. Gladys is generally given credit for some of the key ideas in the standard. She grew up in a highly entrepreneurial environment and has a natural sense of business risks and solution sinkholes. But I digress … See Chapter 4 of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Ruleshttp://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php.

Continue Reading

Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think

Several comments on a must-read HBR article for an organization considering any IT project of significant size …. Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think by Bent Flyvbjerg and Alexander Budzier  Harvard Business Review – September, 2011 http://hbr.org/2011/09/why-your-it-project-may-be-riskier-than-you-think/ar/1 I found several points in this article particularly insightful:   1. “As global companies become even more reliant on analytics and data to drive good decision making, periodic overhauls of their technology systems are inevitable. But the risks involved can be profound, and avoiding them requires top managers’ careful attention.”   >>I’m afraid the large majority of IT professionals don’t really get this … even if they say they do. Prevalent IT requirements methodologies don’t address it well at all. It’s essential that the approach a company takes involves business people to develop business solutions based on business goals before creating system designs. There’s a business problem first, then and only then a technology problem.   2. “Insufficient procedures for financial reporting and internal controls …” >>We see this time and time again as IT designers create very ‘open’ designs that are not based on a common set of business concepts and do not embed a common business perspective. The inevitable result — “revenue leakage” … and as this article points out, much worse. Again, there’s a business problem first, then and only then a system problem. 3. “When we broke down the [IT] projects’ cost overruns, what we found surprised us. The average overrun was 27%—but that figure masks a far more alarming one. Graphing the projects’ budget overruns reveals a “fat tail”—a large number of gigantic overages. Fully one in six of the projects we studied was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200%, on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%. [Only one in six? I think that figure is too low!] This highlights the true pitfall of IT change initiatives: It’s not that they’re particularly prone to high cost overruns on average … It’s that an unusually large proportion of them incur massive overages … By focusing on averages instead of the more damaging outliers, most managers and consultants have been missing the real problem. ” >>The point is simply that IT ‘change initiatives’ are risky propositions, and need to be addressed with … what else … upfront business strategy. That’s what we call a Policy Charter, and we’ve been guiding organizations through its creation for more than a decade. Doesn’t take that long … if you have the right people and the right motivation. Skip it … and pay the consequences!

Continue Reading

HarvardBiz and Use Cases?!? Yes, Seriously … And Seriously Misguided!

HarvardBiz  The Case for Starting a Design Revolution http://s.hbr.org/nXsdOk
 
This article is fundamentally misguided. I’m surprised to find such an article associated with HBR. Use cases are about designing systems, not developing business solutions for business problems.
 
All change initiatives should start with a clear, structured view of business goals and business risks, and what business policies and business tactics will best solve the business business problem. I’m talking, of course, about business strategy. That’s the conversation that business leads want to have. Get them engaged in a discussion of system interaction and GUIs and you’ll inevitably miss the big picture.
 
What if your business *is* about eCommerce? No matter, you still need thought first given to business strategy — the goals, risks and policies needed for a winning business solution. Good requirements will flow naturally from that base. This have always been a notoriously weak area of IT requirements methodologies. Just don’t believe IT professionals who say use cases will solve your business problems. Design attractive systems, yes (done correctly). Guarantee business success? You’re counting on nothing more than good luck.

Continue Reading 5 Comments

A Rigorous Definition of Fluff … Good Thoughts on Strategy for Business Solutions (and Other Things)

I always thought my business partner, Gladys S.W. Lam, pioneered use of the word fluff for all things superficial, especially in written material. She uses it well and often (for example, she might very well use it for these very words). However, now there is evidence of other expert users of the word.  Just to be sure of the meaning of fluff:  [MWUD 2b]: something essentially trivial and lacking importance or solid worth.  In Good Strategy Bad Strategy The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt (Crown Publishing, a division of Random House Inc., New York, NY, 2011) fluff is described (p. 32) as “… a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments. It uses ‘Sunday’ words (words that are inflated and unnecessarily abstruse) and apparently esoteric concepts to create the illusion of high-level thinking.”  Rumelt makes some excellent points. About business risks he says (p. 42): “If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. Instead, you have either a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.” Good stuff!  What do you need to be successful with strategy? Rumelt (p. 268) says: “you must cultivate three essential skills or habits. First, you must have a variety of tools for fighting your own myopia and for guiding you own attention. Second, you must develop the ability to question your own judgment. If your reasoning cannot withstand a vigorous attack, your strategy cannot be expected to stand in the face of real competition. Third, you must cultivate the habit of making and recording judgments so that you can improve.”  A Policy Charter is the deliverable in our methodology Proteus used to lay-out the elements of strategy and their motivation (know-why). By the way, did you know that know-why is actually in the dictionary? I’m not sure I actually know why.  How do you distinguish between good business strategy and bad business strategy? (Rumelt doesn’t say anything about ugly strategy, as far as I know.) He says (p. 20)“good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests. [I like that!] Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.” He also explains (p. 243) that “good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment. And there isn’t anyone more educated about your [business] than the group in [the] room.” Exactly right.  Rumelt says bad strategy (p. 32 ) “… is not simply the absence of good strategy. It grows out of specific misconceptions and leadership dysfunctions. To detect a bad strategy, look for … Failure to face the challenge. … When you cannot define the challenge, you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it. Mistaking goals for strategy. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.” Bad strategy “… is long on goals and short on policy or action. … It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide [its] failings.”  He means (and says) fluff.

Continue Reading

The ‘Up’ Why and the ‘Down’ Why

I had a major case of deja vu reading a recent post by Tom Graves, “The Two Kinds of Why”, at  http://bit.ly/qgJ40i #baot. I’ll tell you why in a second. Believe it or not it has to do with our business card. Zachman and I have had a continung conversation over many years about business rules and the Zachman Framework. We’ve moved forward inch by inch. You have to admire a man who is 76 years old and never tires of listening and learning. I certainly do. John has a version 3.0 of the Framework coming out very soon if not already. I can pretty much guarantee you won’t see business rules in the ‘why’ column. Graves says, “One side of Why creates a question: literally, it starts a ’quest’. For most of us, that’s the exciting bit. The other side of Why is the answer to the question, the end of the quest. That was the question, here’s the answer: The Decision. End of story.” Oh not so! Strategy should be viewed as a continuous feedback loop. You put some stakes in the ground, the ‘down’ why’, but you continuously test those ‘decisions’ to see if they hold up in the light of day. Do they achieve what the ‘up’ why (the ‘quest’) set off to achieve? We believe a conversation about strategy (both the ‘up’ why and the ‘down’ why) is exactly the one business leads are looking to have.  Our deliverable for that,  called a Policy Charter, addresses both questions, two sides of the same coin.
  • Looking down from business goals.  What are the best business tactics and business policies to achieve the business goals, and how are the associated business risks addressed?
  • Looking up toward business goals.  What is the business motivation for each of the business tactics and business policies, and why are they appropriate? 
We’ve looked at the world like this since 1996 and it’s proven highly productive in many scores of engagements. I submit to you as evidence Exhibit A below, our original business card from 1996. (I always liked it … I designed it. Obviously, I shouldn’t give up the day job!) See the intertwined why’s? Hard to miss. Finally, business rules are boring?! Not! See  http://goo.gl/0tLD3    

Continue Reading 2 Comments