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

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Posts Tagged ‘processes’

BPM and the Knowledge Economy: Nothing But Widgets?

BPM often overreaches. Understanding, modeling and managing a business capability effectively requires a balanced view of six basic questions, not just one, as given in the table below. I follow Zachman in these matters, so yes, the table is Zachmanesque.

Interrogative

Basic Business Question

Kind of Model

1. What What inventory of things needs to be managed to support business activity? structural model (e.g., concept model[1], data model)
2. How How do transforms of things in business activity need to take place to add value? process model
3. Where Where does business activity occur? network model
4. Who Who collaborates with whom to undertake business activity? interaction model (e.g., organizational chart, use case)
5. When When does business activity take place? temporal model (e.g., schedule, event model, milestone model)
6. Why Why are results of business activity deemed appropriate or not? strategy model (e.g., Policy Charter[2], constraint model)
  If your business does nothing but manufacture or produce physical widgets (forget all the meta-data about those widgets), you will probably emphasize question 2 (i.e., process) above the others. Your overall approach and architecture will reflect that. You will naturally gravitate toward BPM. That tendency has at least three basic risks, even for organizations that do fall into the nothing-but-widgets category:
  • Your metrics will largely focus on process productivity (e.g., throughput, bottlenecks, latency), rather than strategic goals and alerts centered on external risks. E-suite executives tend to be much more focused on the latter.
  • Your mindset will be procedural, rather than declarative, which can cause you to embed business rules in process flows rather than externalize them. As a result your process models will be unnecessarily complex and your overall solutions un-agile.
  • You approach will fall woefully short in addressing the intellectual capital that underlies your processes. Such operation business knowledge ranges from simple meta-data, to the business logic that underlies operational business decisions.
Fewer and fewer business problems these days fall into nothing-but-widgets category. Even for widget-centric businesses, at least three needs are increasingly urgent:
  1. Ensuring the quality of meta-data.
  2. Demonstrating compliance based actual rules, rather than the artifacts and effects that IT systems produce.
  3. Retaining, teaching and repurposing intellectual capital.
These are not strengths of common BPM practices. ~~~~~~~ Read more about the future for processes: What is the Future for Processes? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/11/09/what-is-the-future-for-processes/ Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/19/are-processes-and-bpm-relevant-in-the-digital-economy/ Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/ Quality and Tolerances in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/29/quality-and-tolerances-in-the-knowledge-economy/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Refer to Refer to Business Rule Concepts:  Getting to the Point of Knowledge (4th ed), by Ronald G. Ross, 2013, Chapter 1 and Part 2.  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_concepts.php 
[2] Refer to Building Business Solutions:  Business Analysis with Business Rules by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, 2nd ed. (Sept, 2015), an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, Chapter 4.  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php 

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The Future for Processes: What about Cognitive Computing?

People are asking why current processes are so dumb. For example, why can’t they:
                                • learn from experience?
                                • be more goal-driven?
                                • dynamically balance between conflicting goals?
                                • self-adapt?
Some people suggest use of cognitive computing to help make processes smarter. I doubt anybody today really knows how far this idea can be taken. I can, however, say two things with certainty:
  1. If you don’t know what your business rules are (i.e., what rules guided previous executions), can you really expect a machine to figure them out? A machine can undoubtedly identify patterns, but that’s a far cry from demonstrating compliance, guaranteeing consistent results, or customizing appropriately case-by-case.
  2. Suppose self-adapting processes do become reality. The question I have is what will keep such processes from going out of bounds? How do you avoid them doing things that are undesirable, self-defeating or even illegal? These are critical questions that will always bring you right back to business rules.
~~~~~~~ Read more about the future for processes: What is the Future for Processes? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/11/09/what-is-the-future-for-processes/ Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/19/are-processes-and-bpm-relevant-in-the-digital-economy/ Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/ Quality and Tolerances in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/29/quality-and-tolerances-in-the-knowledge-economy/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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The Future for Processes: What about Case Management?

Many ‘processes’ people are looking to implement these days are clearly best viewed as case-oriented – e.g., patient care, mortgage applications, etc. Individual cases must be orchestrated through various states, often with undesirable or wayward transitions. There is significant variation in the paths that various cases take. Things just don’t always move along as predictably as on a production line. For such problems you’ll want a more case-oriented style of modeling than simply old-style flows. (For business practitioners that technique may or may not prove to be CMMN.) You might not use traditional process modeling at all. Whatever your approach you’ll definitely want to be very clear about what milestones are relevant, and which business rules apply for each. That puts a premium on business rules. ~~~~~~~ Read more about the future for processes: What is the Future for Processes? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/11/09/what-is-the-future-for-processes/ Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/19/are-processes-and-bpm-relevant-in-the-digital-economy/ Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/ Quality and Tolerances in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/29/quality-and-tolerances-in-the-knowledge-economy/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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What is the Future for Processes?

To understand the future of processes, you must dig a little deeper than many people do. Process thinking goes back well over a 100 years, to the origin of modern iron and automobile production. The raw materials and finished goods of such manufacturing and production processes are literally spatial – 3-dimensional. What can you do to significantly improve productivity in a 3-dimensional world? The answer these days is simple: You build robots. Robotization has literally changed the world during the past 30-40 years. Rather than manufacturing and production processes, however, the world is now increasingly focused on white-collar and digital processes. What 3-dimensional presence do the raw materials and finished goods of these processes have? Well, exactly none. The raw materials and finished goods of these processes aren’t physical and simply have no spatial presence whatsoever (except maybe for paper artifacts). Robots (at least physical ones) aren’t an option. That fact of life makes a huge difference in how you have to think about automation for such processes. Instead, the raw materials and finished goods of such processes are all about your operational business knowledge – your intellectual capital – and your capacity to express and apply it. That capability, in turn, depends directly on your business terminology and business language. For white-collar processes you have no choice – the world is semantic. So you must deal with the subject matter semantically. That takes us in a very different direction than most professionals currently foresee. For one thing it takes us toward natural language and away from diagrams-for-everything. That’s a huge shift in mindset. Imagine having a business conversation with your smart phone about gaps and ambiguities in business policies and in the meanings of the vocabulary you use to talk about subject matter knowledge. Don’t think that’s possible? Have you watched your kids talking to their smart phones lately? Sooner or later businesses will realize that operational business knowledge differentiates their product/services and enables their ever-more-automated processes to function. Capturing, managing and re-using that intellectual capital puts a premium on structured business vocabulary (concept models[1]) and on business rules expressed in structured natural language[2]. Those business rules are the only way you have to ensure quality from white-collar and digital processes. ~~~~~~~ Read more on this topic: Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/19/are-processes-and-bpm-relevant-in-the-digital-economy/ Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/ Quality and Tolerances in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/29/quality-and-tolerances-in-the-knowledge-economy/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com
[1] Refer to “What Is a Concept Model?” by Ronald G. Ross,  Business Rules Journal, Vol. 15, No. 10 (Oct. 2014), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2014/b779.html
[2] e.g., in RuleSpeak®. Refer to http://www.rulespeak.com/en/

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Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that process and BPM are meaningless across the board in the digital economy. If you’re manufacturing or producing a physical product, you still do need to think in terms of a modeled and managed business process. Other the other hand, if your products are non-physical – for example, money, time, skills, information, meta-data, etc. – you’d better have a major re-think. The old rules of the game simply don’t apply to white-collar work. Nor do they apply if your business model is about digitally leveraging other people’s idle assets – think Uber. You must still consistently satisfy contractual obligations and regulatory constraints in this new digital world of course. But that’s a business rules problem, not a process problem. A major characteristic of the new digital world is that activity is never static in any sense of the word. You simply get no points for hardwiring repetitive behaviors. You must:
  • Continuously make informed operational decisions in the blink of an eye (actually often faster than that).
  • Selectively respond to changing circumstances with subtle adjustments.
  • Be as dynamic as possible, yet still produce outcomes of predictable, consistent quality.
These too are business rule problems, not process problems. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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How Business Rules, Events and Processes Should Relate: Eight Simple Principles

I’ve written on this subject many times before, but let me summarize my position concisely. By the way, I expect heavy flak on the last point. See what you think. (1) Business rules should be expressed declaratively based on common business vocabulary.

An implication for business rules: No direct invocation of functions.

(2) No reference whatsoever should be made to events in expressing business rules.

Exception: Some business rules (a small minority) truly apply only at the time a given business event occurs. Example: A hotel guest must be given fresh cookies upon check-in.

(3) Behavioral rules (unlike decision rules) should always be evaluated immediately when any relevant event occurs. Such ability supports real-time compliance. (Read about behavioral rules vs. decision rules on http://www.brcommunity.com/b623.php.)

One Implication: You have to know what those relevant events are.

(4) The events to which a declarative rule applies can (and should) be determined automatically.

USoft proved the principle 20 years ago. SBVR’s treatment of business rules is based on the assumption.

(5) It’s important to determine the events automatically for behavioral rules because that way you can take programmers out of the business of event detection and management.

The benefits of doing so would be immense.

(6) Events bear a direct relationship to business rules in the sense that behavioral rules need to be invoked automatically when events occur.

How else can you achieve comprehensive consistency of behavior?!

(7) Business rules bear no such direct relationship to processes.

Do we really want programmers and designers to remain in the business of event detection and management forever?! In my opinion that’s a very bad idea.

(8) Some (many?) business capabilities (e.g., highly social ‘processes’) could be modeled and run without business process models altogether.

How would it work? You need:

  • Declarative business rules.
  • Work milestones (states through which loosely organized work still must progress).
  • Automatic event identification (as in USoft).
  • Event detection and management (as in Tibco).
 

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Your Current Requirements Approach: A Very Big Question Mark

Each business rule usually produces multiple flash points.  Don’t know what a flash point is? I think you should! See a brief explanation: http://goo.gl/pl9sT. Why is this insight so important?  The two or more events where any given business rule needs to be evaluated are almost certain to occur within at least two, and possibly many, different processes, procedures, or use cases.  Yet for all these different processes, procedures, and use cases there is only a single business rule. Now ask yourself this (the very big question): 

What in your current IT requirements methodology ensures you will get consistent results for each business rule across all these processes, procedures, and use cases?

Unfortunately, the answer today is almost always nothing In the past, business rules have seldom been treated as a first-class citizen.  No wonder legacy systems often act in such unexpected and inconsistent ways(!).  Organizations today need business operation systems where business governance, not simply information, is the central concern. Business rules should be seen as one of the starting points for creating system models – not something designers eventually work down to in use cases.  That’s the tail wagging the dog. By unifying each business rule (single-sourcing), and faithfully supporting all its flash points wherever they occur, Business Analysts can ensure consistent results across all processes, procedures, and use cases.  Is there really any other way?! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Excerpted from Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, An IIBA® Sponsored Handbook, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2011, 304 pp,http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs  

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Where Rules Fit in the Zachman Framework … Conspicuous in Their Absence?

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto[1] http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm FAQ #8 Question: Why aren’t rules found in any of the cells of the latest Zachman Framework? The Manifesto says clearly (principle 1.1) that rules should be considered a first-class citizen of the requirements world. Yet rules cannot be found in any of the cells of the latest Zachman Framework. Contradiction? No. For an artifact to appear in a cell of the Framework it must represent a primitive. An artifact that references multiple primitives is considered a composite Rules are intrinsically composite. Even atomic rules can address multiple primitives. (Atomic means “can’t be reduced into two or more rules without losing meaning.”) An example: An accounting must be given by the CFO in Delaware on March 15, 2015. This rule refers to a thing (‘accounting’), a person (the CFO), a place (Delaware), and a date (March 15, 2012). Simply because an artifact is composite, however, doesn’t necessarily make it unimportant. Consider what Zachman calls integration relationships – the connections tying the six primitives together. Integration relationships serve to configure the enterprise at any given point in time. No integration relationships, no enterprise. To illustrate, Zachman frequently rolls the Framework into a cylinder and looks through it like a telescope. The primitives must be tied together through that empty cylinder by integration relationships. What can serve in that role? Traditionally, integration relationships have been implemented by procedural means – hardcoded into application programs. Unfortunately, that’s like setting the business in concrete. It also plays havoc with process as the simple, straightforward primitive it should really be. A much better alternative is rules. Rules, by comparison, are far easier to change. So consider rules as the first-class candidate to achieve configuration agility for the enterprise  


[1] The Manifesto is free, only 2 pages long, translated into 15 languages. Have a quick look (or re-look!). No sign up required. Well worth your time.

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Externalizing Semantics from Business Processes … Why the Procedural Approach is a Flawed Paradigm for the Knowledge Economy

For IT professionals the state of processes has always reigned supreme. In procedural approaches the internal state of a process is represented by some token. Most computer languages use that approach (the token generally falls through lines of code sequentially). Many current approaches to business process modeling do as well, at least implicitly. But why should business people care about the internal state of any process? For example, if a business person asks How far along are we in processing this order? the person is really asking: Has the order been credit-checked? Has it been filled? Has it been shipped? (etc.). In business operations it’s the state of each operational business thing that matters. True business agility cannot be achieved so long as business processes are perceived as managing state internally (privately). That’s a fundamentally flawed paradigm for business operation today. Instead, business processes must externalize semantics so business people can understand and manage the state of operational business things directly. Externalizing semantics is accomplished by means of SBVR-style structured business vocabularies (concept models) and single-sourced business rules. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This post excerpted from our new book (Oct, 2011) Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules. See:  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php  

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