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.
Ensuring the quality of meta-data.
Demonstrating compliance based actual rules, rather than the artifacts and effects that IT systems produce.
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. 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.
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.
John Matthias recently wrote this about our new book, Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules:
“I especially liked the discussion about the mission and goals. I still see business process analysis in organizations I visit where the goals are not articulated well, and the results are not useful. (I’ve done it myself.) It’s easy to get lost among the trees, unaware of the contours of the forest or what direction you’re going.”
Indeed! That’s why we came up with the Policy Charter, which is the deliverable in our approach that lays out the elements of strategy and their motivation. A Policy Charter is all about business goals, business risks, and business policies. It’s not about business process!How do you distinguish between good business strategy and bad business strategy? Noted strategy expert Richard Rumelt distinguishes the good and bad as follows.Good Business StrategyRumelt, p. 20: “good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests. Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.”Rumelt, p. 243: “good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment. And there isn’t anyone more educated about your [business] than the group in [the] room.” Bad Business StrategyRumelt, p. 32: Bad strategy “… is not simply the absence of good strategy. It grows out of specific misconceptions and leadership dysfunctions. To detect a bad strategy, look for …
Failure to face the challenge. When you cannot define the challenge, you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it.
Mistaking goals for strategy. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.”
Rumelt, p. 32: Bad strategy “… is long on goals and short on policy or action. … It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide [its] failings.” He means (and says) fluff.The Three Skills of Good Business StrategyWhat do you need to be successful with strategy? Rumelt (p. 268) says: “… you must cultivate three essential skills or habits.
First, you must have a variety of tools for fighting your own myopia and for guiding you own attention.
Second, you must develop the ability to question your own judgment. If your reasoning cannot withstand a vigorous attack, your strategy cannot be expected to stand in the face of real competition.
Third, you must cultivate the habit of making and recording judgments so that you can improve.”
“I found the course interesting and will be helpful.
I like the pragmatic reality you discuss, while a rule tool would be great, recognizing many people will use Word/Excel to capture them helps. We can’t jump from crazy to perfect in one leap!
Use of the polls is also great. Helps see how everyone else is doing (we are not alone), and helps us think about our current state.”
Trevor – Investors Group
“We actively use the BRS business-side techniques and train our business analysts in the approach. The techniques bring clarity between our BAs & customers, plus more robust requirements for our development teams. We’ve seen tremendous value.”
Jeanine Bradley – Railinc
“Instructors were very knowledgeable and could clearly explain concepts and convey importance of strategy and architecture.
It was a more comprehensive, holistic approach to the subject than other training. Emphasis on understanding the business prior to technology considerations was reassuring to business stakeholders.”
Bernard – Government of Canada
“You did a wonderful job!! The material was organized and valuable.”
Janell – Texas State University
“Sessions flow together well and build upon the concepts for the series which makes the learning easy and better retention.
The instructor is knowledgeable and very attentive to the audience given the range of attendees skill and knowledge of the subject at hand. I enjoy her training sessions.”