Getting at the Rest of the Communication Iceberg
In many respects professionals in our field have a very a limited view of communication. Yes, of course we need to close communication gaps on every project, and among all stakeholders, and with IT. Though never easy, working to close those kinds of communication gaps should be a given.
Instead, we need to talk about a broader kind of communication – the communication of operational business knowledge over time and space. That requires some engineering. Let me put this challenge into perspective.
I recently read an interesting post in social media by Angela Wick about user stories and their role in agile and other requirements methodologies. The post depicted their role as addressing the tip of an iceberg, as in figure 1.
Figure 1. The Role of User Stories in Agile and Other Requirements Methodologies
Many agile gurus describe a user story as a placeholder for a conversation, or a promise of a future conversation. That’s a great characterization because it highlights the crucial point that user stories address only the 10% that you can ‘see’ above the requirements waterline. Over time, each user story must be fully explored and all the hidden detail, the submerged 90%, filled in.
The crucial question is what does all that hidden detail represent? A very sizable portion, certainly far more than half, is operational business knowledge – in other words, business rules.
Once you get that point, a next question naturally arises. Do you really want business analysts and system developers to re-invent and re-specify and re-design all that knowledge from scratch on each new project?! No! There’s nothing agile about that whatsoever(!). That’s simply re-inventing the wheel – over and over and over again.
We have clients telling us that they have achieved proven savings of 75% or more by having relevant business rules available before a project starts.
Pre-existing business rules allows project sponsors to launch projects on the basis of known facts rather than guesswork. It can reduce the difficulty of a project by an order of magnitude and improve the chances of success dramatically.
You should want – actually you should demand – ready-to-reuse, fingertip business rules for projects.
That’s where over-time-and-space communication comes to play. Ready-to-reuse, fingertip business rules represents communication of operational business knowledge across organizational boundaries and through the passage of time.
Read more about the Big-5 business challenges: http://www.brcommunity.com/articles.php?id=b904
 User Stories: You Don’t Have to Be Agile to Use Them! by Angela Wick, http://www.batimes.com/angela-wick/user-stories-you-don-t-have-to-be-agile-to-use-them.html