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

Just Organizational or Application Silos? … Worse, You Have Semantic Silos

Difficulties in communicating within organizations are by no means limited to communications among business workers, Business Analysts, and IT professionals. In many organizations, business workers from different areas or departments often have trouble communicating, even with each other. The business workers seem to live in what we might call semantic silos (reinforced by legacy systems).  A well-managed, well-structured business vocabulary (fact model) should be a central fixture of business operations. We believe it should be as accessible and as interactive as (say) spellcheck in Microsoft Word. Accessible business vocabulary should be a basic element in your plan for rulebook management, requirements development, and managing know-how.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  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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What is a ‘Business Capability’ … And Can It Be Part of a Business Architecture Methodology?

Suppose you wanted to make ‘business capabilities’ the centerpiece of a business architecture methodology. Could you go out into the business and find existing ‘business capabilities’ in some form? Would a focus on business capabilities help you better design the business as a whole? My answer is at this point in time is … well … I dunno. I’m looking forward to the new Business Architecture Summit (http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/bas/) at the BBC2011 Conference (http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/) the first week of November to shed some light on the matter. There’s going to be some real excitement at the Conference this year on that topic! Here’s our current thinking on the term ‘business capability’ … An IT project always delivers a system and/or database and/or rulebase. But let’s say you want to take a business-oriented approach to solving some problem in business operations. The solution will probably involve significant (re-)automation – but not necessarily. The main focus is finding a winning business solution. What would you call what you deliver as an end-result from such an initiative? Unfortunately, there’s no generally accepted business name for such end-results. In our new book coming out this month – Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php) – we call them simply ‘business capabilities’. Any given business capability is likely to include business processes, business rules, business vocabulary, business roles and more. And it should also feature key performance indicators to measure continuing alignment with business goals.  So my bottom line is this: I know it when I’ve created a business capability, but I’m not sure I would know one beforehand. I’ll let you know if anything I hear from this post or at the Conference changes my mind. Please jump in!

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I Wrestle with a LinkedIn Business Rule … Find Out Who Won

The subtitle of my Business Rules Concepts handbook (now in its 3rd edition) is ‘Getting to the Point of Knowledge’. I wasn’t trying to be cute, I meant it literally. Here’s an example. Try entering a URL in a LinkedIn invitation. I don’t know if it’s a new business rule or not, but I tried it for the very first time just the other day to point someone in the right direction on an EA question. Not allowed. I didn’t know that. I was informed and now I’m a wiser member of the social community. This is an example of what in our new book ‘Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules’ (Oct, 2011) we call real-time business operation systems (BOS). It takes a just-in-time (JIT) approach to the delivery of know-how. (A business rule always encodes know-how.) In my LinkedIn experience I was informed of the latest business rule in-line in a self-service, JIT manner. Violate business rules (the latest one or any of them) and if you’re authorized and capable, you’ll get back a ‘training’ message. Here’s what LinkedIn said back to me: We’re sorry, you cannot include website addresses in invitations. Please remove the website address and try again. Here’s a more direct statement of the business rule in RuleSpeak: A LinkedIn invitation must not include a URL. The RuleSpeak version conveys the same information as the LinkedIn message, just more succinctly. As I’ve been saying since at least 1994, the business rule statement is the error message. It’s the error message from a business, not system, point of view. That’s why it’s called a business rule. If you do want a friendlier version (as LinkedIn did) that’s fine. Think for a minute about your operational business processes. Many of your business rules either change frequently, unexpectedly or both. How can you keep all your operational staff up-to-speed? Constantly send them off to training classes?! Flood them with tweets or e-mails?! Not going to work. In a world of constant change, a system is not state-of-the-art unless it addresses continuous re-training. Business rules do. Ultimately there’s no alternative. I’ve been saying that for a long time too.

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Business Analysis & Business Rules – Announcing Our New Book and BBC 2011 Conference – **Special Discounts** for Friends and Colleagues

Let me mention two important things happening soon and special discounts for them – Both discounts good only through **Friday, September 30**   1. ANNOUNCING OUR NEW BOOK … Coming in October! BUILDING BUSINESS SOLUTIONS: BUSINESS ANALYSIS WITH BUSINESS RULES … an IIBA Sponsored Handbook (304pp) … It’s all about taking Business Analysis to the next level of capability.  http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs >> Receive 25% off the book’s list price of $39.95 if you pre-order now. Use discount code **BBS1001**.  2. BUILDING BUSINESS CAPABILITIES CONFERENCE (BBC 2011) … Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/  The must-attend conference of the year covering all things ‘business’.  Four conferences in one for a total of 9 tracks on pace this year to be a sell-out!  >> Receive a 15% discount on registration. Use discount code **RRBBCFL**.  * Business Analysis Forum, the Official Conference of the IIBA. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/baf/ * 14th annual Business Rules Forum Conference. http://www.businessrulesforum.com/ * The 1st annual Business Architecture Summit. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/bas/ * The Business Process Forum. http://www.businessprocessforum.org/

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Where are Your Business Rules … In a Big-P Process Dead Zone?

On an EA LinkedIn group last week, Nick Malik wrote the following about business rules in Zachman Framework 3.0: I’ll bite. If the ‘enterprise ontology’ is similar to the periodic table of elements, then business rules are molecules. They are compositions of elements with specific implications, embedded in event handling logic. Why would you expect to see them, or models of them, on the Zachman Framework? OK… that was my humble, and perhaps uninformed, opinion. You are the master of business rules. You tell me where you’d see them.” Nick, You know the definition of ‘master’, right? Same as ‘expert’ … someone who has made all the known mistakes. Zachman and I have had over-dinner conversations for many years about the question of where business rules fit (or don’t) in the Framework, even more so in the past couple of years. I won’t speak for John, but I think he agrees. Yes, business rules are ‘molecules’ and yes, they are ‘composites’. So you don’t see business rules anywhere in Framework 3.0. Instead, if you look at the new cross-column thin gray lines, at row 2 in particular, some or many of those could be business rules. Aside: For convenience, here’s a zipped pdf of the new 3.0 version (with permission): ZF3.0.zip [approx 1.5M]. Visit Zachman’s new website for all the latest. The thing about molecules or composites – unlike the primitives – is that they can be conceived in many different ways. Each conceptualization leads you to a different representation approach, and each representation approach leads you ultimately to a particular implementation strategy. Some implementation strategies, of course, are better than others (by a mile!). Moving Beyond the Big-P Approach At the risk of over-simplification, you have two basic choices for conceptualization, and ultimately implementation, of composites: procedural or declarative. Historically, we have embedded business rules in process models and in procedural code. We have taken the column 2 (how) primitive, process, and used it to create composites. At the scale of today’s business, this Big-P process paradigm simply doesn’t work. Why? The thin gray lines in Zachman 3.0 are really about how the business is configured for operation. (At row 6 the thin gray lines represent the current actual configuration of the operational business.) In the Big-P paradigm, all building-block ‘molecules’ become thoroughly entangled with flow (input-transform-output). The result is essentially a semantic dead zone. You’re never sure what things really mean, and you can’t easily disentangle them. There are no built-in impediments to replication … and no opportunity to use logic to automatically evaluate configurations (models/designs) for conflicts, anomalies and other logical defects. Aside: The Big-P approach also has implications for data models. In current practices, there is no way to automatically perform any meaningful verification of data models either. The future lies with granular, declarative, semantically-rich specification of building-block composites (‘molecules’) for configuration. I know I used the ‘S’ word there (‘semantics’) but I’m simply talking about structured business vocabularies (SBVR-style fact models). Fact models, by the way, must cover anything with a name, including instances from columns 2-6, so they too are composite rather than primitive. Aside: Was I happy to see John use the ‘O’ word (‘ontology’) in 3.0? I think I know why he did it – to emphasize the Framework is not a simple taxonomy, but rather something rigorous enough to potentially reason over. I’ll let others judge that choice. Re-factoring the Big-P Paradigm Clearly, business rules are one building-block composite for disentangled forms of enterprise configuration. Another thing not considered a primitive – Nick mentioned them – are events. They too possess the granular, configurable potential of business rules. And yes Nick is right – events and business rules have a very close relationship, one not widely appreciated. (If the industry did, it would already be taking a very different approach to process modeling.) Aside: But no, Nick, I would not ’embed’ business rules in ‘event handling logic’ … no more than I would embed ‘event handling’ in business rules. Unfortunately, expert systems do allow you to do that. What else do we need as building-block composites to configure an enterprise at a given point in time? Let me propose decisions – but with caution. ‘Decision” is the buzzword de jeure. No, decisions are not a cure-all, no they do not replace business rules or events, and no they do not solve all our problems. But in proper perspective, yes, they are most definitely a building-block composite. Smart Configuration Models Big-P configuration of the enterprise is like setting it in concrete. To replace that flagging paradigm we need smart configuration models. Such models will feature at least: (a) business rules, (b) business events, and (c) operational business decisions. And of course, structured business vocabularies (fact models). Smart configuration models should be the new mantra for enterprise architecture. In a world of constant and accelerating change, I see no alternative. By pinning down the primitives definitively in 3.0, Zachman has opened the door to a whole new realm of rich architectural potential. But there’s more. Smart configuration schemes must address additional challenges facing business today. These include business governance and compliance – essential in a world of constant change – and just-in-time (JIT) delivery of know-how for operational workers. In our new book coming out the end of September, we call systems built using smart configuration schemes business operation systems (BOS), as opposed to ‘information systems’. I think you’ll find these new ideas quite exciting. Watch for them!

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Audit Trails and Tracing the Impact of Operational Errors … It’s Ultimately about Compliance and Business Rules

Robin Bloor wrote  a very interesting piece about why business needs explicit audit trails for data: http://www.dataintegrationblog.com/robin-bloor/the-quality-of-data-is-not-strained/ Here’s the gist: “… data has no explicit audit trails, so we lose information, some of which may be critical. This has the effect of hiding the record of and the impact of data errors.” He says all data should be time-stamped. I agree … but it’s not enough. I’ve believed for decades (before it was conceivably practical) in the concept of the ‘perfect machine’. In the perfect machine, there are really no such things as changes or deletes; instead, all data just get time-stamped when created and the newer data takes active preference over the older. That gives you built-in audit trails — of data — and more importantly, (mechanized) business memory.  There is, however, at least one circumstance in which data really does need to be deleted (purged). That’s when the business is required for legal reasons to expunge all ‘records’ about some sensitive matter (e.g., the legal transgressions of a minor at age 18). In other words, there are *business rules* that sometimes require true ‘deletes’. Business rules can trump ‘perfect memory’.  Actually, there are business rules for virtually all ‘changes’ made to operational data. Failure to apply the correct business rules consistently is the rrot cause of poor data quality. And good luck trying to reconstruct after-the-fact what really happened (what business rules were actually applied) at some past point in time when things downstream go awry. And they will, of course.  What’s needed is not just an audit trail of changes to data, but an audit trail of all business rules tested at each point in time some data ‘changed’ (or was created or deleted). If the system automatically logs the relevant business rules, then you have a true, complete and indisputable record of ‘history’.  I’m talking here about nonething less here than built-in (mechanized) methods of addressing compliance. No human intervention. Compliance across the board … with external regulations, contracts, agreements, deals, business policies … whatever.  If you want your business to be both extremely agile and highly compliant (which is to say, always meet operational expectations), there’s untimately no alternative. How else can you support one-on-one customized relationships with a million customers? Of course, first you would have to know your business rules. There’s the rub. Do you?! 

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Business Rules & Events: Two Questions for Zachman re: 3.0

The next time I have dinner with John, I have two questions for him. (He knows I always have new questions for him every time I see him, so he’s more or less prepared for it after all these years.) If anyone talks to him sooner, be sure to ask John these two questions … and please post the answers(!). 1. Where are business rules? (I think I know what he’ll say about this one.) 2. Why did events disappear in this rendition of the Framework? (I don’t know the answer to this one, and though subtle, it may prove to have the most important implications of any adjustment he’s made this time around.)

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Zachman 3.0 Announcement – Our First-Look Notes Part 2

Our Editor for BRCommunity.com, Keri Anderson Healy, attended the announcement event last week for version 3.0 of the Framework. Now she’s back home and has had a chance to share the rest of her notes. If you missed the first post, here’s a zipped pdf of the new 3.0 version again (with permission): ZF3.0.zip [approx 1.5M]. An official version will be posted on http://www.zachman.com soon. Visit Zachman’s new website for the latest!  
  • Terms in some of the Column names changed.

 “Location” was previously used for the “Where” Column, which caused some people to put in instances (e.g., “Sacramento”). So, Column 3 now uses “Distribution Networks.” 

The “Who” Column now uses “Responsibility Assignments” to emphasize that it covers roles rather than the individuals.

  •  Better artifact terms for the “When” Column.

 The “When” Column previously used the terms “Cycle” and “Event” for artifact models, which were often misunderstood. The Column 5 primitive models now use “Interval (for “Cycle”) and “Moment” (for “Event”). For example, Row 2 now features “Business Interval” and “Business Moment”.

  •  Swapped the sets of names shown on the left and right sides of the graphic.

 The Model Names used to be shown to the left, and the Audience Perspectives on the right. These have been swapped.  

 As part of the ongoing work to improve communication about the Framework, the “Audience” labels now use “Perspective”.  

 Also, use of “Planner” was removed because it conveyed the wrong idea about the nature of the audience for the top Rows. Row 1 now uses “Executive Perspective” and Row 2 uses “Business Management Perspective”.

  • Did not swap the sets of names shown at the top and bottom of the graphic.

 Zachman seriously considered moving the Classification Names (What, How, Where, Who, When, Why) to the bottom of the graphic and moving the Enterprise Names to the top.  At the last minute he decided not to because a practitioner shared a compelling story with him about how W-H-W-W-W-W inspired an important discovery in his work.  

  •  New emphasis that the Framework does not show a decomposition.

 To communicate that going down the rows does not indicate decomposition, crooked arrows are now shown between each of the Rows. These crooked arrows emphasize that moving from one Row to the next represents a transform. (Credit was given to Ron for this suggestion.)

 Note: The transforms relationship can be one-to-many, but that’s something you need to manage very carefully.

  • Alignment shown for two dimensions of the graphic – at the top/bottom and on the two sides.

 For horizontal alignment (across a Row), make sure your tool supports the primitives and then helps you manage the compositions.

 For vertical alignment (up/down a Column), you cannot just ‘push the button’ (do the transform), then forget about managing the vertical relationships. Change is inevitable, so vertical alignment must be maintained.

 

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Zachman Framework 3.0 Announced Tues, Aug. 23 … Quick Notes

Here’s a zipped pdf of the new 3.0 version of the Zachman Framework (with permission): ZF3.0.zip [approx 1.5M]. An official version will be posted on http://www.zachman.com soon. Visit Zachman’s new website for the latest!  Our Editor for BRCommunity.com, Keri Anderson Healy, attended the announcement event – she reports an excellent turnout. The following are some quick first-look notes from Keri (my own comments appear in brackets). 
  • The Framework has a new subtitle: The Enterprise Ontology (TM). Zachman considered changing the main title word “Framework” to “Ontology” but decided to stay with the former. 

[Keri and I both think that was a good decision.]

  • Some new terms appear as replacements, aiming to better convey the ‘business’ message. Zachman explains:

“Because I came from an ‘information’ community I had initially used words like ‘data’ in column 1. Big mistake!  People thought the Framework was about IT! The first thing people saw was the word ‘data’.

[The Framework has always been about business engineering – that was clear even from the earliest talks I heard Zachman give in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In truth, I would have never guessed it would still be an issue 20+ years later.]

  • Faint grey lines now appear crossing column boundaries in a row. These new connections better convey that the Framework supports two kinds of models: engineering (the primitives) and manufacturing (the composites).

The Framework is well-known for its depiction of the engineering primitives (the columns, which are normalized – one thing in one place). The engineering models, however, don’t do anything in and of themselves. The enterprise also needs its manufacturing models – the composites. So these new faint gray lines have been added as a reminder that the composite models also exist and they are also important.

Note: These new faint gray lines are meant as ‘for example’ connections. In this sense they are like the examples shown in the Framework for the primitives in the columns.

  • Adjustments have been made to row 6 to better convey what it is about. In early versions of the Framework graphic, row 6 was depicted as just a sliver. It has always been ‘the enterprise’. Row 6 is different in nature from the five rows above it, which are engineering specifications for things in the enterprise, rather than the actual things themselves     
  • The rows are now color-coded and each cell icon reflects the color theme of its row. At the request of various Framework users, however, the background coloring has been removed from the cells of rows 1-5 so users can annotate their own specifics over the cell graphics.      
  • For rows 1-5, the color progression is red, orange, yellow, green, blue. Rather than the next-in-series indigo, row 6 is color-coded orange emphasizing that it represents the realization of what row 2 specifies.

[The row 2 / row 6 alignment is consistent with the business-engineering theme that Zachman so ably promotes.]

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