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

Who Said We Said This About Business Agility?!

who-said-that-decorative-sticker-2894[1]I do NOT believe the way to achieve business agility is to “build a business knowledge-base that captures all the business rules and mental knowledge in an organization to prepare for change” (as one commenter recently wrote). I do NOT believe that, nor does the Business Agility Manifesto (https://lnkd.in/e5JCFc4) say to do that. As one of its three authors I am 100% certain.

The Manifesto’s message is that change initiatives should be conducted in more knowledge-aware and knowledge-centric fashion than today. As you develop business capabilities (conduct projects) the knowledge should be made explicit (e.g., as business rules, concept models, etc.) and retained. That approach permits not only the given business solution to be more agile, but as the knowledge is managed and extended, solutions built subsequently as well. You build on success.

We three authors spoke together November 10 on the Opinion of Gurus panel at the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference in Orlando, Florida (a spectacular event!). We specifically said NOT to go about things the way the commenter said. So who’s the guilty party that says we do?!

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Wanted: A New Knowledge Paradigm

ParadigmShift[1]My inner geek gets as excited as the next professional about all the technological innovations adding up to what gurus are calling the digital platform or digital business – or simply digital. This new wave of technological capability features social, mobile, cloud, big data, and more. It promises a host of new capabilities to accelerate innovation including robotics, 3D printing, internet of things, cognitive, and augmented reality. WOW!!

But there’s a little voice inside me counseling caution. When have new platforms or channels ever fixed major business challenges?!

It’s all too easy to get caught up in ChannelMania, a state of virtual panic about introducing the next big thing, keeping up with the Joneses technologically. In the frenzy you can easily lose sight of the hidden business costs.

We should step back, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves some fundamental questions.

  • How well can we really manage yet more channels?
  • Do we deliver consistent business results to our customers?
  • Are we happy with our current lot in managing change?
  • Does the company have any real strategy to address ever-accelerating complexity?
  • With all the new agile methods, is the business actually becoming more agile?

It’s not too hard to envision what real operational excellence would look like.

  • Your customers would get consistent business results through any of many channels.
  • Rolling out business change would be faster and cheaper.
  • You could demonstrate compliance at every turn.
  • You could manage complexity at scale.
  • You’d provide stellar customer experience at inhuman speeds.

The question, of course, is how do we get there? I argue that we need a new knowledge paradigm. I call it Business Knowledge Engineering.

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Read about the new knowledge paradigm: http://www.brcommunity.com/articles.php?id=b900

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IT Departments Should be Evacuated – Agree/Disagree?

Fire_Exit_Doors[1]Let’s put you on the hot spot. You are forced to agree or disagree with the following statement, and defend your answer. What would you say?

Evacuating the IT department to weave IT into the business optimizes business capabilities.

Here’s how I answer: I agree. How about you?

My reasoning: Almost 20 years ago, John Zachman made me read an article by Peter F. Drucker in Forbes Magazine called The Next Information Revolution. It made such an impression on me I still have a yellowing copy of it pasted on a cabinet in my office.

To make a long story short, the article relates how in the 1400s and 1500s there was a period of time when printers of books dined with royalty and noblemen. Printing was such a revolutionary and scarce skill they were the heroes of the day.

By the late 1500s, however, printing had become such a commodity that the occupation had completely lost its luster. No more dining with kings and queens.

My point is this: The days of traditional departmental IT staff having unfettered access to the financial assets of the corporate budget will end sooner than you might think. The current way of building business systems is unsustainable. If you think the cloud was something, just wait!

I look at agile software development as the death throes of traditional IT. Beyond it there’s nowhere left to go to accelerate except to elevate the level of human interfaces with machines. Economics will demand it.

As traditional IT loses its grip, IT will of course become better woven into the fabric of the business. And that’s going to be a great thing for optimizing business capabilities.

Knowingly or not, business analysts are playing a founder’s role in that shift of power back to the business side. Yes, some days it feels like an impossible struggle, but time, economics and technology are on your side.

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Mark Your Calendar: The annual Building Business Capability (BBC) conference is November 6-10, 2017 at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, FL. The BBC is the place to be for professional excellence!

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Agree/Disagree? Digital Mind Essential for Business Analysts

digital-mind[1]Let’s put you on the hot spot. You are forced to agree or disagree with the following statement, and defend your answer. What would you say?

The most valuable asset of a business analyst is a digital mind.

Here’s how I answer: I agree. How about you?

My reasoning: I almost certainly don’t agree with the statement in the way you think I might. It’s not the business analyst who needs a digital mind. It’s our machines that need the digital minds.

As we increasingly disintermediate customers and company workers, we will no longer have our workers in the loop to convey and apply operational business knowledge at the point of interaction to make things right. Machines will have to do that work. And those machines must be equipped with the knowledge to do so.

The key to launching us successfully into the digital age is setting up deep knowledge reservoirs in the company. Obviously, they will be digital.

The first and most basic step toward treating knowledge as a first-class citizen is true business rules. Business rules represent explicit operational knowledge. By the way, because of the need for compliance and traceability, business rules (think obligations) will never go away.

There are, of course, other ways in which knowledge can be applied to processes, ones where traceability and compliance aren’t so important – for example, machine learning and neural nets. Those technologies can also be used to build digital minds for your organization.

As a professional, how do you future-proof yourself? The secret is to make yourself indispensable both to the business and to machines in the business with digital minds.

Given that insight, what is the most valuable asset of the business analyst in the long term? It’s not agile, it’s not empowerment, it’s not even critical thinking. It’s the ability to communicate deeply and creatively using concise terminology about the problem space. If you’re still speaking in codes and data fields – in ITSpeak – I’m afraid you’re not on the critical path.

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Mark Your Calendar: The annual Building Business Capability (BBC) conference is November 6-10, 2017 at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, FL. The BBC is the place to be for professional excellence!

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BPM and the Knowledge Economy: White-Collar Work

Make no mistake, the future lies with automation of white-collar work. Fewer and fewer business problems these days focus on manufacturing and production processes, i.e., the nothing-but-widgets category. For all the non-widget-centric business activity in the world – which includes just about all every conceivable form of white-collar work – the following needs become paramount.
  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.
What would I do to correct the shortcomings of BPM for non-widget-centric business activity? Our answer is to become more why-centric, as opposed to narrowly how-centric.[1] You should focus on business capabilities, not just business processes. That shift has several essential features:
  • Understanding business strategy as something distinct from business processes (and BPM). Business goals and business risks should be drivers of business process design – not the other way around. You need to be strategy-driven, not simply process-driven.
  • Designing core metrics around business goals and business risks – the things that concern C-suite executives the most.
  • Realizing that for white-collar work the 3-D world of widgets has vanished, and that tolerances and quality can be expressed only in terms of business rules.
  • Treating business rules as a first-class citizen, externalized from process models.[2]
  • Identifying operational business decisions (based on encoded business rules) as a crucial focal point in re-engineering business processes.
  • Including a Why Button as part of every business solution. Pressing the Why Button leads immediately to the business rules that produced the results you see from any process.
~~~~~~~ Read more about the future for processes: BPM and the Knowledge Economy: Nothing But Widgets? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/11/16/bpm-and-the-knowledge-economy-nothing-but-widgets/ 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: Ronald G. Ross, “The Why Engineer™,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 14, No. 11 (Nov. 2013), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2013/b727.html
[2] Refer to the Business Rules Manifesto, now in almost 20 languages: http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm

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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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Pleased to Announce Release of Our New Book Edition!

Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Edition) … Just Out! http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php Get it on Amazon: http://goo.gl/HXxN1f What It’s About: How to develop business solutions working directly with business leads, create blueprints of the solutions, and then use those blueprints for developing system requirements. Engineering business solutions, not just requirements.We have applied the techniques described in this book successfully in hundreds of companies worldwide. Kind Words from a Practitioner: “We have based our whole business rules analysis practice on the methodology and techniques developed by the Business Rules Solution team. This book is an integral part of our practice. It’s an easy to read, useful guide with real life examples – we use it daily and couldn’t do without it!” – Michelle Murray, Inland Revenue Department NZ New in this Edition: How Business Architecture corresponds with your projects and requirements work. Developing a Concept Model and how it will help you. How business rules align with the new terminology in the recently released IIBA® BABOK® Guide version 3. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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Your Approach to Business Analysis: The Big Picture

Let’s stand back and think for a moment about the future of your business and its approach to business analysis. What’s really important? My elevator pitch would comprise the following insights.

Insight 1. Order-of-magnitude improvements in business agility are possible … and proven.

Every year for the past 15 years at the Business Rules & Decisions Forum Conference[1], we’ve heard one case study after another about how companies have dramatically improved business agility. Time and time again they report having reduced the cycle time of deploying changes to business rules by an order of magnitude or more. Extensive applied experience exists in the field – such initiatives are not at the bleeding edge.

What’s actually required? Two things: Some new techniques and vision. Are we to be forever prisoners of legacy? Only if we let ourselves.

Insight 2. Doing more of the same, just faster, won’t get you there.

You’ll never get to agile business via agile programming and development. Not ever.

A requirements development and design methodology should result in high-quality systems that are inexpensive to maintain and cost-effective to enhance. How well is yours really doing that in that regard?

Insight 3. It’s not about working harder, just smarter.

Most of us are frankly already working about as hard as we can. That’s not the problem. Rather, it’s about working smarter – and producing more effective business solutions. For that you need (true) business architecture.[2] It includes business strategy, business processes and business rules, and business vocabulary (concept model).[3]

Insight 4. It’s about building business capability, not better business software (though that will happen).

Quick Quiz: Which of the following is/are directly about software?

  • Business rules.
  • Business architecture.
  • Business strategy.
  • Business processes.
  • Business vocabulary.
None of them! Of course you can use software to manage and implement any of them, but that’s a very different matter. If they’re not about software, then what? Architecting real solutions for real business challenges. Building business-oriented, business-based business capability. Any business software solution that doesn’t base itself today on these new fundamentals will be LOD – legacy on delivery. It’s time we move beyond instant legacy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Refer to http://www.businessrulesforum.com/. The Business Rules & Decisions Forum Conference is part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, the official conference of the IIBA: http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/
[2]Refer to Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, 2nd edition (to be published mid-2015), an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, pp 8-9. http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php
 

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Attn: All ‘Capability’ Advocates – Where’s the Proof?! No Imponderable Opinions Please!

I asked: What is a Business Capability? How Do Business Rules Relate? The Missing Man in Business Capabilities? http://goo.gl/JLLdx Ralph WhittleGuest Post by Ralph Whittle, independent consultant This is a most interesting topic, but one I fear will NOT yield answers to your questions. Considering all of the LinkedIn “capability advocates” who have actively participated in other various discussions, why have they NOT responded to your posting during its six months listing? Perhaps the “capability advocates” have realized that they can respond to your posting, but ONLY with indeterminate comments, and these are NOT real answers! At the end of their typical response, you will still NOT have the very much needed “guidance (aka business rules)” you mentioned, just more imponderable opinions!  I too, wish to see the formally accepted “guidance (aka business rules)” on capability modeling and mapping, along with some real industrial strength examples. Abstract examples are good, but they need to be supported with real ones. Where are the seminal documents, articles and research papers from any historical capabilities related archives, which describe how capabilities are designed and developed? Since capability modeling and mapping are usually associated with the Business Architecture, where is the analysis of the approach that was used to determine that capability artifacts meet specific architecture criteria? For that matter, where is the formally documented and accepted capability modeling and mapping, ontology and metamodel? Surely these documents exist, but where are they?  Maybe as in your posting, my questions may get responses, but not answers!

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What is a Business Capability? How Do Business Rules Relate? The Missing Man in Business Capabilities?

There seems to be widespread difference of opinion about what a “business capability” is. When I use the term, however, I simply mean the ability of the business to conduct some form of operational activity. What does the business need for that? It clearly needs people, technologies, data, and processes. And it also needs guidance (aka business rules). Business rules are not just things you document; they are things you run the business by. That intelligence, that intellect, is perhaps the most important business capability of all.

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