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

Basics for Business Architecture: #1 – Structured Business Strategy

Professionals should always focus on business solutions first, then and only then on designing systems. Not just lip service, I mean applying the power techniques of true business architecture[1]. The first of these techniques is structured business strategy. True business solutions of any size or description hinge on strategy. Not project or IT strategy – not business case or project objectives – but real business strategy. Are you sure you really know the difference? Time and time again I find that many business analysts don’t. Here are two quick tests. Test 1. Are you aware of the standard The Business Motivation Model (BMM)[2]. Have you actually read it? If not, I’d say the issue is in doubt. Real strategy is about ends and means, not about change or how you plan, design or engineer such change. Change is inevitably involved of course – but that’s what projects and project plans are about. Test 2. Which of the following is closest to your thinking about alignment?
    • IT needs to be aligned with the business.
    • Business capabilities need to be aligned with business strategy.
If you instinctively went with the former, again I’d say the issue is in doubt. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Refer to the second edition of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam (to be published mid-2015). http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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Good News from Business Rules: #4 – Decision Engineering

Analyzing and modeling operational business decisions has become a new industry focal point in the past few years. Business-and-rule-friendly techniques have emerged[1], and just this year an OMG standard[2]. These resources address such important questions about operational business decisions as:
                  • How are they structured?
                  • How can they be decomposed?
                  • How can you capture related business rules?
Decision engineering also provides an opportunity for a fresh look at decision tables. Just to be clear, decision tables themselves are not new. They’ve actually been around longer than software engineering, at least back to the 1960s. What’s emerging today is a fresh way of looking at decision tables from a business rather than a software perspective, and important new ideas about how they can help address complexity.[3] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Refer to the BRS Primer, Decision Analysis: How to Use DecisionSpeak™ and Question Charts (Q-Charts™), 2013 (free). http://www.brsolutions.com/b_ipspeakprimers.php
[2] Decision Model and Notation (DMN).
[3] Refer to the BRS Primer, Decision Tables: How to Use TableSpeak™, 2013 (free). http://www.brsolutions.com/b_ipspeakprimers.php

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Good News from Business Rules: #3 – Concept Models

When you show business people class diagrams or data models, you’re not really talking business. Class diagrams and data models are design artifacts that inevitably focus on how knowledge about real-world things is to be represented (and manipulated) as data in machines. If we want business people to talk business to us, we must talk business back. That means talking about their words, concepts and meanings. To do that you need to develop business vocabulary in a structured way – i.e., develop a concept model[1]. Practitioners are slowly starting to ‘get’ this. Examples: 
  • IIBA’s recently released Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) version 3 devotes a new section to concept models.
  • A solid standard exists for concept models – OMG’s Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR).[2] Version 1.3 of the standard, comprehensively reorganized – but not changed – is due out this week.
  • Proven methodologies support concept modeling.[3]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Ronald G. Ross, “What Is a Concept Model?,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 15, No. 10 (Oct. 2014), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2014/b779.html  
[2] Refer to the SBVR Insider section on http://www.brcommunity.com/.
[3] For example, BRS ConceptSpeak™. 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

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Good News From Business Rules: #2 – Business-Level Rulebook Management

Practitioners should stop thinking of business rules as simply another form of requirement. The life cycles of business rules and of software releases are distinct. Each has its own audience and its own natural pace. They need to be radically decoupled. Your company’s business rules are a business asset that needs to be managed directly. For effective rulebook managementyou need a special breed of tool, which I call a general rulebook system (GRBS).[1] Such tools are readily available.[2] What kind of support should a GRBS provide? Business rules and the vocabulary on which they are based are central to the problem of supporting continuous change. They need to be right at the fingertips of both business people and business analysts. You also want traceability from original sources through to the points of operational deployment. You want to know who created what rules, for what purpose, when. That’s called corporate memory. Without it, you’ll never achieve the rapid change and business agility you seek. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] “What You Need to Know About Rulebook Management” by Ronald G. Ross, Business Rules Journal, Vol. 10, No. 9 (Sep. 2009). http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2009/b500.html  
[2] For a best-of-breed example, see RuleXpress by www.RuleArts.com.

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Good News From Business Rules: #1 – Rule Independence

Rule Independence[1] means that business rules are expressed directly, rather than embedded (and lost) in the flow of processes or application programs. That way the rules can be managed as an asset in their own right, separately from other artifacts. When people hear ‘separately’ sometimes they think that business processes and business rules are isolated from one another and never ‘talk’. No. You simply want to let them ‘bind’ as close to real-time business operation (‘run-time’) as possible. ‘Separately’ also means you can:
  • Represent business rules in their natural form – declaratively – rather than procedurally.
  • Simplify processes hugely, while at the same time create far more agile solutions.
Rule independence yields another benefit – reusability. By externalizing business rules from applications, you can single-source your business logic. Methodologies for business analysis that are comprehensively rule-friendly do exist and have been proven in practice.[2] They show you how to:
  • Capture, express and validate business rules.
  • Work with the business rules in the context of other deliverables.
  • Set up the business rules to be managed for the long term.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] The idea of Rule Independence was formalized by The Business Rules Manifesto, a 2003 work product of the Business Rules Group. The manifesto is now in 18 languages, with more on the way. http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm
[2] BRS BABusinessSpeak is an example. Refer to the second edition of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam (to be published mid-2015). http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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Fundamental Challenges Facing Your Business: #3 – Managing Operational Business Knowledge

Many or most IT methodologies remain essentially in the Dark Ages with respect to knowledge management. They seem to focus blindly on pumping out code faster and faster. We may be living in a knowledge economy, but we’re sure not acting like it. When I say knowledge management I don’t mean what probably comes to mind. I’m not talking about fuzzy text in vast e-mail archives or tacit knowledge in people’s heads. I’m talking about explicit business rules. Business rules (done correctly) represent knowledge – core operational knowledge. Many companies today are in peril of losing or outsourcing that knowledge. Who’s to blame? Business managers for not ‘getting it’ of course. But that’s just where the buck stops. Ultimately practitioners are to blame. They’re not making core operational knowledge tangible to their managers. How you make that kind of knowledge ‘real’? True business-side rulebook management[1] (which is not the kind BRMS offer).[2] That’s no longer optional either. In a knowledge economy your company simply can’t afford to lose its business rules! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Ronald G. Ross, “What You Need to Know About Rulebook Management,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 10, No. 9 (Sep. 2009), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2009/b500.html
[2] For best-of-class example, see RuleXpress from www.RuleArts.com.

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Fundamental Challenges Facing Your Business: #2 – Business Communication

Do people in your company always mean the same thing when they use the same terms? Almost certainly not, right?! So ask yourself, how good are your business communications and requirements likely to be if people don’t mean the same things by the terms they use? And how good is your automation likely to be? Gurus talk about application or functional silos in organizations. I believe the problem is even more basic than that – organizations today essentially have semantic silos. Look under the covers of any broken process or poor set of requirements and you inevitably find poor communication practices. These days you don’t have the time not to define, structure and manage your business vocabulary. These days a concept model[1] is no luxury. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Ronald G. Ross, “What Is a Concept Model?” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 15, No. 10 (Oct. 2014), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2014/b779.html

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Fundamental Challenges Facing Your Business: #1 – Business Agility

Charles Darwin is reported to have said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Becoming more responsive to change is simply not optional these days. Consider the current state of affairs in IT today. The statistics are depressing. Reliable sources indicate that over 75% of all IT resources go toward system ‘maintenance’. That’s not agile! In the second of edition of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, Gladys Lam and I describe this world as like living in change deployment hell[1]. You might say that legacy systems are poorly engineered, but I believe that misses the mark. Rather, perhaps they are be over-engineered. What happens when you over-engineer something? The solution you produce is too stiff or too rigid or too cumbersome for the real-world problem. Think ‘tree that doesn’t bend with the wind’. The speed of business is accelerating, yet the architecture of traditionally-built systems is rigid and static. The fundamental problem in this regard is embedding business rules within the systems themselves. If you hard-code business rules into application logic, they will be hard to find, hard to understand, and even harder to change. Do we really want to keep building systems that way?! Make no mistake about it – many business rules will change. So if you continue hard-coding business rules into systems, you will be revisiting the code … a lot! That might be a good thing for service providers, but it’s not a good thing for the business. The obvious solution is to engineer business rules separately from functional requirements. Can you do that cleanly and effectively? Absolutely. It’s been proven many, many times. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1]Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, 2nd edition (to be published in mid-2015), an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, pp 8-9. http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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No, ‘Process’ is Not a Dirty Word – Just Not the Right Word

Jim Sinur recently wrote a short, readable and deeply thoughtful opinion piece on www.BRCommunity.com entitled “Is Process a Dirty Word?”. See http://www.brcommunity.com/b812.php. Jim’s basic point is this, “… people frown on the word process these days … [based on] the outdated view that process implies a rigid and inflexible approach to work actions that support a static business model.” I think Jim is right about that … and wrong too. Where Jim is Right. The main point Jim makes is right. Compared to traditional, static process models, processes are becoming highly dynamic. They can “not only can act, they can sense and decide new courses of action, leveraging a combination of pattern recognition and decision features based on events, cases, process instances, and data (big data or not; cloud based or not).” At the extreme, they essentially cease to exist as models “carved in stone”. Jim puts it this way: “In the future the process model will more represent the audit trail of what the process did and the decisions it made.” (Of course I think one can legitimately question whether a process model exists at all if it manifests only as facts about what each execution/performance of the process has actually done, but let’s let that go.) Where Jim is Wrong. Jim points out that “Processes are becoming more goal-seeking in their design and can change in near real time … processes will more commonly seek conflicting goals [and go about] balancing them.” When processes become ‘goal-seeking’ or ‘goal-balancing’, they address the question of ‘why’ (strategy), no longer just ‘how’ (transform). The resulting solution is a system, not just a process. Process is merely one component of such a system. By the way, I’m using system in the general dictionary sense, not in any particular technical sense: a complex unity formed of many often diverse parts subject to a common plan or serving a common purpose.[1] Jim astutely points out that such processes can use “… pattern recognition [to analyze] the audit trails of past executions [and] identify what has worked best in the past under [the same] circumstances.” But surely audit trails (besides being data) are features of systems, not processes. And you’d always want to verify the results against business goals (which may conflict), and business policy (which may have changed). Should we call such processes intelligent? I wouldn’t. They’re just highly flexible. It’s the system that becomes intelligent. So these days I think we should be talking talk about FlexProcess and IntelligentSystem. By the way, can you do FlexProcesses and IntelligentSystems without business rules? Sure. Can you do them well? In your dreams. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, 1a.

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The Governance Process Is What It Is – And That’s Way More Than Meta!

It’s a shame to have to resort to a ‘meta’ discussion to have what should be a direct conversation about governance process(es). After all, what’s more fundamental to an organization than those?! Does the BPM space ‘get’ it? Recent discussion in social media makes me doubt it. So back to ‘meta’ we go.[1] Here’s a recent wrong-headed post in social media that got my attention.

“I don’t see the appropriateness of labeling governance processes (e.g., business planning process, inventory policy process) as ‘meta’. They’re on a par with all the other business processes (i.e., request for proposal process, hiring process, product commercialization process, etc.). The process management process, on the other hand, is a meta process in that it stands above every one of the other processes, both governance and non-governance.”

My goodness! The process management process stands above governance processes? In what conceivable universe?! From a business perspective something is fundamentally flawed about a BPM approach that fails to recognize governance processes as above all others. Let’s think about it a bit. Some definitions …
  • I define ‘governance process’ as ‘process that governs other processes’. It’s ‘meta’ because both subject and predicate are the same kind of thing. (Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary 3b.)
  • I define ‘meta-process’ as ‘process that transforms other processes’. Since ‘governs’ is a specialization of ‘transforms’, that makes governance process a specialization of meta-process. I recognize there can be other kinds (specializations) of meta-process.
In other words there is a governance variety of meta-process that is the class of all processes that govern other processes. One example or instance of that class is THE governance process (singular) that governs the organization as a whole.

Aside: I can’t believe I had to prove in theory that an organization has a governance process!

To take the analysis further, you could specialize governance meta-process beyond THE governance process (singular) for an organization as a whole to suit governance of individual business areas or processes. The results (outputs) of all other specializations, however, should be consistent with the results (outputs) of THE governance process (singular). That’s a fancy way of saying you want to ensure business alignment. In social media, I wanted to initiate a discussion of what form the results (outputs) from all governance processes should take. If you want to talk about process improvement for governance processes, wouldn’t that be a foremost question?! No luck. These BPM participants wouldn’t go there. It leads me to believe they don’t really ‘get’ that governance is always about setting business policies. Indeed, if you want to improve the governance process sooner or later you’ll have to come to grips with business rules. Instead, they seemed satisfied to conclude the conversation with simply “a process is a process is a process”. I’m afraid not! ~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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