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

Deep Subject Matter Expertise Irrelevant – Agree/Disagree?

learningLet’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?

Deep subject matter expertise is irrelevant for a business analyst, especially in agile business analysis.

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

My reasoning: Actually I agree that deep subject matter expertise is generally irrelevant for a business analyst. Where I disagree (strongly) is that it’s especially true for agile business analysis.

Agile business analysis is no silver bullet. It doesn’t imbue you with magical powers to learn faster. Failing faster to learn faster is simply churn. There’s no end to it.

We’re missing the big picture. Exploring ‘deep subject matter expertise’ you’re not familiar with is a matter of having the right architectural tools to probe knowledge. It’s that deep operational business knowledge that makes subject areas hard.

So you simply need the right architectural techniques to map the knowledge of a domain explicitly. You need to be able to ask probing questions about the domain intelligently without wasting SMEs’ time.

The architectural techniques you need are true business rules and concept modeling (structured business vocabulary). By the way, business rules and concept models can be made to work equally well for both agile and waterfall – and anything in between.

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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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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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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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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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Toothless ‘Rules’

The following statement came up recently in discussing business rules at Global Holdings. (Not the real name of the company.) The statement has significant problems. Sometimes simple is too simple.

Global Holdings must review the corporate account of ABC Company.

Problem 1. In general, it is not a best practice to mention “us” in specifying business rules. Do that once, then every other business rule statement should mention “us” too. That’s clearly not practical or useful, and in most cases, not even intuitive. So the current specification should be revised simply to:

The corporate account of ABC Company must be reviewed.

Problem 2. The ‘rule’ doesn’t pass basic tests of practicality or usefulness. What point would it serve to have a business rule saying that something must be reviewed without indicating one or more of the following?
    • some method (how?)
    • some location (where?)
    • some role (by whom?)
    • some timing (how often?)
    • some potential goal or constraint (is there potential fraud?)
In other words, the statement mandates a review based on criteria not encoded. Those absent review criteria probably represent the true business rules. To say it differently, a ‘rule’ that simply kicks out work for a human to do is probably not a business rule at all! Problem 3. As it stands, the practical effect of the statement would be to require ABC account to be reviewed as soon as it comes into being (and indicate a violation if it is not). Very few things must be reviewed for unspecified criteria at the very time they are created. Real business just doesn’t work that way. Bottom Line: Unless additional specification is provided, this simpleton ‘rule’ should be discarded. It’s basically just toothless. http://www.brsolutions.com/

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Three Basic Principles for Business Architecture

Here are what I firmly believe are three basic principles for business architecture. To me they are just common sense, but they are certainly not so common in prevailing industry practices. 1. Business architecture should be of, by and for the business. (Otherwise, why add the modifier “business”?!). Our rule of thumb is that if business people don’t use a methodology term naturally, then it has no place in *business* architecture. Ever hear a business person use the term “business use case” or simply “use case” without prompting from IT?! The technique is an obvious misfit for *business* architecture. This is simply a case of IT trying to elevate its own tools to a problem it frankly often doesn’t understand. 2. The blueprinting techniques used for business architecture should apply exactly the same no matter how wide the scope – project, business process, whole business, whole supply chain, etc. These are all business problems (first), just sitting in different ecosystems. Also, it should make no difference whether automation is anticipated or not. (Actually, running business operations by hand may be harder in some respects than if automated. Anyway, systems do sometimes go down.) If a blueprinting approach fails in these regards, it’s not about *business* architecture. 3. A major shortcoming in most current approaches is the absence of attention to specifying semantics and knowledge. These need not be interpreted as anything arcane – they’re not. Basically, ‘semantics and knowledge’ simply means defining business vocabulary – words – in an organized manner, and practicable rules to run the business by. Now what business person hasn’t heard of “words”, “definitions”, and “rules”?! Yet traditional IT methods treat them as alien (or not at all). In a day and age of IBM Watson, how could such practices not be seen as archaic?! ~~~~~~~~~ P.S. Yes, such blueprinting techniques for business architecture do exist, and we practice them – in-depth – all the time with our clients. This is what our book Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php) is all about, as well as our on-line training based on it (http://www.attainingedge.com/online-training-business-analysis-with-business-rules.php). www.BRSolutions.com

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Business Rules vs. Choices Made in Designing Systems … Not the Same Thing!

A colleague and I were recently discussing business rules. In the course of conversation he used this example: A customer may have only one address. Hold on! That’s not a business rule. Rather, it’s a design decision (probably a poor one) some IT person made in creating a system model. The business wouldn’t (and couldn’t!) make a real-world business rule about customers having only one address. But a design decision might be made to record only one (in a system). Eventually we agreed the desired business rule probably was: A customer may have only one preferred address.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  This post excerpted from Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (2011). See:  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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Looking to Find Out What Decision Analysis is About? Make Business Processes & Business Architectures Smart? Design Business-Friendly Decision Tables? Write Business-Friendly Business Rules? >>> Free downloads …

As part of the April announcement of the new 4th edition of my book Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge, I’m pleased to make available some additional complementary (and complimentary!) downloads: Decision Analysis – A Primer: How to Use DecisionSpeak and Question Charts (Q-Charts) – 49pp http://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers (free) Decision Tables – A Primer: How to Use TableSpeak – 121pp http://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers (free) Tabulation of Lists in Rulespeak®: A Primer Using “The Following” Clause – 16pp http://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers (free) We’ve comprehensively written-up state-of-the-art experience and insight in these important areas. I hope you will make the most of them! P.S. Do have a look at other items of interest: http://goo.gl/WPV7O  

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Use Agile for Areas Subject to Regulations?

The Question: I asked for feedback on LinkedIn about using agile for target business problems focusing on an area subject to regulations, contract terms & conditions, agreement/deal provisions, business policies, etc. (Sound like your area?) The best reply I got back …       Guest Post by Sujatha Ramesh Sr. Manager, Business Solutions at LearningMate “In highly regulated environments, documented evidence of decisions, impact and approvals are a necessity. Agile practices discourage maintaining extensive documenting, relying on ‘sitting next to the team and explaining’ instead. You will generate precious little proof of what transpired and the decisions taken in doing so.”

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Are Business Rules Good for Incremental Design? You Bet!

You can find definitions and discussion of all terms in blue on Business Rules Community: http://www.brcommunity.com/BBSGlossary.pdf From Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, An IIBA® Sponsored Handbook, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, October, 2011, 304 pp, http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Discussion …  First a definition to make sure we’re on the same page …

incremental design:  developing a system through repeated cycles (iteratively) and in smaller portions at a time (incrementally)

Business rules are unsurpassed for step-by-step enhancement of deployed know-how in business capabilities over time (incremental design).  The Business Rules Manifesto[1] puts it this way:  “An effective system can be based on a small number of rules.  Additional, more discriminating rules can be subsequently added, so that over time the system becomes smarter.”  That’s exactly what you need for know-how retention and to move pragmatically toward the know-how economy Support for incremental design with business rules is quite straightforward.  For example, a decision task might start off manual (performed by humans).  As time and resources permit, decision rules for handling the simplest cases can be captured and encoded, removing these cases from the manual workload.  Perhaps you start supporting a modest 20% of all cases.  The only required changes to the system to support additional cases are to specify:

(1) What new cases are covered (by providing appropriate selection criteria). 

(2) What new outcome(s) are needed (if any) for the new cases covered. 

(3) What new (encoded) decision rules should be used for the new cases. 

At a subsequent time, you ramp up to 50% of all cases, then perhaps 80%.  You may never get to 100% – nobody is talking about taking humans completely out of the loop for every operational business decision(!).  The net result is simply applying human resources where best suited, the really hard cases.

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