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

TURNING OPERATIONAL KNOWLEDGE & COMPLIANCE INTO A COMPETITIVE EDGE

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Thou Shalt Not Kill … Could Anyone Mistake that Commandment for a Process?! Or the Process with a Concept?

My Analysis: There are three clearly different things involved here …
  • The process of murder transforms a live person into a dead person by killing them.
  • The concept of murder is defined as the act of killing someone.
  • The rule about murder is that there shouldn’t be any of them.
The first is about doing; the second is about knowing; the third is about prohibiting. Three very different things. So it should be in business analysis and analysis of 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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Business Process Models and Business Rules … Separate the ‘Know’ from the ‘Flow’

Business Process Models and Business Rules … Separate the ‘Know’ from the ‘Flow’ Conditional flows are one of the most important features of a business process model. For example, a business process model for handling claims would include multiple conditional flows – e.g., if valid claim, if claim approved, if fraud suspected, etc. A conditional flow simply means that work follows the given path only if the condition is satisfied for a given case. The secret of effective business process modeling with business rules is never embed the criteria used to evaluate a conditional in the conditional itself. Instead, just name the conditional using an adjective (e.g., valid) or past participle (e.g., approved). The criteria for evaluating conditionals should always be expressed separately as business rules. Fortunately there’s nothing particularly hard about that. Example: A claim may be considered valid only if it has an incident date. Following this best practice is how you keep a business process model simple – often by an order of magnitude or more! Frankly, most business processes aren’t nearly as complicated as people think. What’s complicated is the know-how needed to perform the business process correctly. That know-how should be represented by business rules. P.S. I first heard the phrase ‘separate the know from the flow’ from Roger Burlton on 11/30/1999. I immediately made a note because it was so memorable and on-target.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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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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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I talk about business rules – Roger Burlton and I both talk about recent problems of the financial sector

Here’s a short clip about business rules from an interview in Amsterdam not too long ago. I actually agree with what I said … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhv7bGf3r3Y&feature=related There are several related clips there with John Zachman, Roger Burlton, and Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT) worth a few minutes of your time — business rules, decisions, business processes, enterprise architecture, and more.

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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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To: Business Process Manifesto … From: Business Rules Manifesto … Re: How Business Processes and Business Rules Relate

When the Business Rules Manifesto was published in 2003 (http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm), I co-proposed the six items below related to business processes as an additional (eleventh) Article. The Business Rules Group (BRG) decided (probably wisely) to avoid that potentially controversial area, however, and concentrate on the core message of business rules. Since a Business Process Manifesto has been in the works, it’s worth going back over the proposed items. I believe they remain valid. So I dug them out of my Editor archives, cleaned them up a bit, and presented them below. Aside: In 2003 the BRG wasn’t careful about saying “business rule” (instead of just “rule”) and business process (instead of just “process”). But that’s what we meant – real-world rule and real-world process – not technical specifications. I’m very careful about that clarification these days. A great many people have a hard time seeing the difference. Item 1. Business rules guide business processes.

Comment: If this one is not self-evident, all bets are off.

Item 2. Business rules should be substituted for any activity in a business process where the result(s) of that activity can be produced by the business rules.

Comment: This item refers to what SBVR calls definitional rules – business rules that can derive, classify or compute something. For any given ‘something’, there might be only a single business rule, or a very large number of business rules. The ‘something’ could be an operational business decision requiring many dozens or hundreds of decision rules organized into decision tables.

One thing the item doesn’t say is that not all such ‘somethings’ need to be supported by business rules from the very beginning. In fact as Item 8.5 says, they don’t need to be. Business rules are very good for incremental development. (Development of what? Smart business processes.)

Item 3. Business rules can cause business processes to be initiated under appropriate circumstances.

Comment: Circumstances can arise that require the business to respond in a pre-scripted manner – e.g., low inventory status, potential fraud or intrusion, etc. Some business rule(s) should identify the circumstances involved in such ‘spontaneous’ business events.

Item 4. The default explanation or message for any error that occurs in a business process for a business reason is a business rule.

Comment: This item is truly ground-breaking. Business rules express the do’s and ‘don’ts’ of business activity; therefore, any error that occurs under a business process for a business reason is ‘explained’ by a business rule. What else could it be?!

Keeping systems carefully aside, and noting the obvious possibility of providing additional or alternative ‘explanations’, I like to say ‘the business rules are the error messages’. By the way, I’ve been saying that since 1994 – I have the slides (transparencies actually) to prove it. If you have doubts about this item, please provide examples(!).

Item 5. Any delay in the ability to enforce a business rule must be coordinated with business processes.

Comment: In SBVR, behavioral rules are business rules that can be violated. (Definitional rules can’t be.) An example where such delay might occur is a business rule that requires an approval or sign-off on something (e.g., an extra-large order on credit) by somebody (e.g., the branch manager) who is not immediately available. The business process for that particular something must be suspended until some future time.

Note: Additional business rule(s) providing appropriate suspense criteria (e.g., 24 hours) would be wise in such cases. We don’t want an order sitting in limbo forever(!).

Item 6. Business rules cannot constrain the workings of a business process directly, but only the following: (a) the state required for the business process to be performed; (b) the state while the business process is being performed; and (c) the results – that is, the state – the business process seeks to leave behind when finished.

Comment: I think of a business process as being like a black box with respect to business rules. The business rules cannot and should not ‘look’ inside. Instead, all matters of state should be externalized so business rules – and business people – can know it and talk about it. Get ready for this: This item indicts BPMN with its token-based approach to process state. The future lies with externalizing semantics. Sorry guys!

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Well If You Ask Me …

… And somebody did recently: What’s wrong with current business process management (BPM) practices?  1. When a discipline becomes mature, it stops seeing itself as a solution to every problem. BPM is not there. Limitations?
  • It does not provide the order-of-magnitude improvement in business agility that companies need urgently.
  • It is not the solution to compliance issues.
  • It does not effectively provide for massive customization or personalization.
BPM needs to recognize and accommodate peers: business strategy, business rules, business vocabulary, business decisions, and business events.  2. Words matter. Well-defined business vocabulary is not a luxury or an option. It’s fundamental to effective business orchestration. Ultimately, it’s all about business communication, whether person-to-person or automated. I don’t think BPM really gets this. 3. The business world today is already in a knowledge economy (read: know-how economy); the milestone has been passed. We need to start acting and practicing accordingly. You certainly can’t get there with only BPM.

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Now the Shoe’s on the Other Foot … But the Foot’s Not Mine

Many years ago I was flying home after giving a talk at a conference in Boston. It was Friday and I was really tired. Fortunately, I got upgraded to first class, so I slipped off my tie and my shoes (brown), pushed the seat back, and went into a plane stupor (a zombie-like, non-sleep state).  About halfway home my feet started getting cold. Absent-mindedly, I felt around on the floor with my feet for my loafers. I quickly found one and slipped it on. But the other one eluded me. If you travel much on planes, you soon learn that shoes and other personal items get annoyed when unattended and purposely hide in the most inaccessible places possible. All you can do is tolerate the behavior.  I redoubled my efforts to find the missing shoe. I looked everywhere. No brown shoe. Oddly though, I did come up with a black shoe. I immediately did what any sensible person would do, I panicked. Had I been wearing different colored shoes all day long?! All week long!? What must the people at the conference and in my talk have thought?!   I calmed myself. Wait a minute, I was sure I had taken only one pair of shoes with me on this trip. Couldn’t be my shoe. A simple test would tell the tale, I could just try it on and see if it fit. So I did. And it fit perfectly.  Panic returns, decibels higher. My wife had helped me pack the bag. She would never have let me go off with unmatched shoes. Imagine the scene in my house if I walked in wearing shoes that didn’t match. (I’ll let you do the math on that.)  The plane began its initial descent and the man seated next to me stirred to go to the lavatory. Guess what?! Sure enough, one brown shoe and one black shoe. Now this was a situation I had never faced before. I certainly had no process laid out to follow or any experience to guide me. Exactly what are the best tactics for communicating to a perfect stranger he’s probably wearing your shoe?! Some options: 
  1. Make a joke of it. (Since he was wearing a wedding band, he probably didn’t want to go home wearing unmatched shoes either. Would he think it was funny?)
  2. Angrily demand my shoe back.
  3. Exaggerate my search until he asks what’s wrong or figures it out on his own.
  4. Tell him politely, but directly.
  5. Get up and ask a flight attendant to intervene
What kind of problem was this? It’s not about process; it’s about strategy. Don’t confuse the two; they’re very different. The key questions were (a) what were my goals (the ends I wanted to achieve), and (b) what course of action (the means) would best achieve those ends.  Clearly my basic goal was to possess my things. But there was certainly more to it; otherwise I could have just picked an option arbitrarily. So I must have had other goals (e.g., respect others), or perceived risks (e.g., escalation of a confrontation), or more likely, both. Perceiving risk(s), by the way, implies yet other goals (e.g., avoid entanglement with airline security).  Life (and business) is so complicated! Would a process model have helped? No! How likely was this scenario ever to happen again? In 35+ years of frequent travel, the scenario has happened exactly once. And I’ve never had anyone else tell me it’s happened to them. Instead, I needed to devise a strategy, one that best balanced trade-offs among conflicting goals.  Look for more from BRS on strategy in the near future. It’s one of the things we do – and we do it extremely well. A good place to start is with the standard: www.businessrulesgroup.org/bmm.shtml.  It’s an easy read and explains how business rules fit in. Business analysts need order-of-magnitude improvements in the techniques they use. Strategy is one.  How did my shoe saga turn out? Suffice it to say I got home with two brown shoes … and had a good laugh with John Zachman over dinner a couple of months later.

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