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


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Building Business Capability (BBC2011): Take-Aways from the Opening Barret-Burlton-Ross Round-Robin Keynote

Guest Post by Kristen Seer Ron asked me to write this a guest post. It’s my first blog post, so I’m not 100% sure what the netiquette is. I suppose I should thank Ron for ‘inviting’ me. Note to self: Never, ever say to Ron, “I took some notes”. The round-robin keynote consisted of the three BBC Chairs representing their respective disciplines – Kathleen Barrett on business analysis, Roger Burlton on business processes, and Ron on business rules. The keynote focused on the following questions. My take-aways about what each Chair said follow each question. What challenges do organizations face today that this conference will prepare you to tackle?
  • Ron focused on the need to integrate multiple disciplines, which is why the conference was expanded from being focused primarily on business rules in years past to including business analysis, business process, and now business architecture. Organizations need critical thinking and business analysts are best positioned to provide it.
  • Kathleen talked about the fear, uncertainty and doubt in the current environment. Organizations must make do with scarce resources – both $ and people. She encouraged participants to leverage the experience and knowledge of everyone at the conference – speakers, vendors and other participants. We need to understand how to make change happen.
  • Roger said we need to become pioneers and advocates of the new approaches.
For each area of the conference, what capabilities do you need to be effective?
  • Roger emphasized that we can’t keep doing what we’re doing – it’s not working. We need to align behaviors, incentives and drivers in order to be effective in introducing change. (You always get whatever you reward.) A key problem is that you need to rewire the house while the lights are still on.
  • Kathleen discussed the importance of looking from the outside-in (i.e. from the customer’s perspective). Customers don’t care about what goes on inside the organization. They care about the relationship they have with you.
  • Ron noted that a large percentage of IT budgets are spent on maintenance – this is just not sustainable going forward. He outlined three emerging areas of capability: business rule management (including traceability from source to implementation), business vocabulary management, and decision analysis.
How do the capabilities relate to the other conference areas, and together, how will they enable you to become even more effective?
  • Kathleen felt that business analysts can leverage their existing skills in facilitation, communication and information gathering, but apply them using a more business-focused approach.
  • Roger pointed out that we are really talking about business architecture. He emphasized that you need to have each of the three areas (business process, business rules, and business analysis) separate but then associate them to the others (e.g., map the business rules to the business processes). Roger recommended checking out the Business Process Manifesto (available soon).
  • Ron pointed out that you need to develop a solution for the business problem first, then look at system design. You also need to align the business solution with the business strategy. Ron reminded everyone that the Business Rules Manifesto (available since 2003, now in 14 languages) provides a grounding in the principles of the business rules approach.
What are the most important takeaways personally and for your organization?
  • Roger said, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” Put things into the context of your own organization.
  • Ron explained that it is possible to achieve an order-of-magnitude improvement in business agility with business rules. He challenged the audience, “Is your SDLC really working for you?” You need to change to a more business-oriented approach. Ultimately, it’s about working smarter, not harder. (Everyone’s already working hard enough!) There are proven approaches and technologies that you can apply right now.
  • Kathleen reminded everyone that we’re on a journey – change doesn’t happen overnight. She recommended taking a hard look at what’s not working in your organization today and  applying the lessons, even in little ways, wherever you can. 
All in all, the round-robin keynote set an excellent tone for the whole conference. Armed with the encouragement from the three Chairs, I set out to discover new ideas, catch up with old friends, and learn about ‘building a more capable organization’.

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Ronald G. Ross

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.