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

Posts Tagged ‘enterprise architecture’

What’s a Business Architecture?

What’s your definition of business architecture? Here’s ours:

a structural representation of a business solution as it relates to creating business value and achieving business goals

Like most practitioners we mean a blueprint. Actually, blueprint doesn’t completely align with the dictionary definitions of architecture.[1] You can take your pick from the following alternatives, but not one of them refers to a representation of what is being built.

1. Art and Science: the art or practice of designing and building structures … in accordance with principles determined by aesthetic and practical or material considerations

2. Structure: formation or construction whether the result of conscious act or of growth or of random disposition of the parts … e.g., architecture and function of the cerebral cortex

3. Specific Result: instance of the exercise of the art or science of architecture … architectural product: architectural work … e.g., the mansions which comprise the entire architecture of the Square

4. Method of Style: a method or style of building characterized by certain peculiarities of structure …

The first definition above refers to architecture as an art and science. That’s what architecture students go to universities to learn, and what professional architects practice daily. Who today really thinks of business architecture as an art and science? It should be – and it probably will be eventually – but it’s not yet. The first definition also highlights principles. Any viable approach to business architecture must enumerate its principles and adhere to them closely. That’s not just so much talk. The approach must provide proper thinking tools so that you can consistently act in accordance with the principles. Do most current approaches to business architecture provide such thinking tools? I think not. If they did, they would feature:[2]
  • Business policies (in the context of business strategy), business rules, and decision engineering. Those things represent the intellect of the organization and the fundamental answer for question why.
  • A carefully factored approach whose component models cover each of the facets needed to communicate effectively with all the different audiences engaged with, or affected by, a business solution.
Let’s face it. Many techniques currently offered for ‘business architecture’ frankly aren’t even really about the business. They’re about – what else – IT’s view of the business. Some related points: 1. We think that business architecture always involves some amount (often pervasive) of organizational transformation, which can be taken to include building a new business solution completely from scratch. Organizational transformation is inevitable, so other than buzzword appeal, there’s really no need to mention it in the definition of business architecture. 2. Architect can be used as a verb (to plan and contrive as an architect). Too bad “architecting” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “designing” or “modeling”. After all, architecting business solutions is exactly what business architects should be doing daily. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1]Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary
[2] These are the two basic principles of the BRS methodology IPSpeak™, which architects business solutions featuring the operational intellectual property (IP) of the business. IPSpeak is comprehensively detailed in our 2011 book Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam).

Continue Reading

When is a Business Architecture a Dumb One?

In a recent discussion on social media I was explaining what I thought would make a business architecture smart. Tom Graves replied that he wasn’t sure what made one smart, but that he did know what makes one dumb. His criteria …  
    • rigid rule-based boundaries.
    • over-reliance on rigid true/false rules.
    • attempts to implement most or all of that architecture through automated ‘business-rules engines’ that can only work with rigid true/false rules.
He went on to say that these criteria suggest that “a first requirement for a smart business-architecture is that it go beyond all these mistakes.” Tom’s emphasis on ‘true/false’ rules needs to be carefully qualified. After all, you do want the internal workings of a rule engine to be based on formal logic. I believe what he really means is an approach that allows no shades of gray with respect to nuanced enforcement of business rules. On that point I hardily agree. In addition, Tom got me to agree with him on two major points about the current state of the industry. In his words …

1. The quest for ‘certainty’ in an inherently-uncertain world is futile. Rules of all kinds exist to help human thinking and human judgment, not to act as a substitute for it.

2. The software vendors … are frankly not far short of committing fraud with many of the claims they make as to the efficacy and validity of their ‘business-rules engines’.

The term business rule unfortunately has been hijacked by software vendors to mean something very different from the original concept. For example, production rules[1] (the basis for the majority of current product offerings) are not business rules. Full stop. This distorted view of business rule needs to be rectified. Don’t let yourself be sucked into it! For real business rules there are three (optional) supplemental specifications for each business rule statement[2]:

(1) level of enforcement

(2) violation (breach) response

(3) violation (breach) message.

It is through these specifications that the richness of behavioral coordination can arise.


[1] Production rules (also called productions) can be used to implement business rules, but are not business rules per se.  Production rules typically provide support for action selection, which results in non-declarative statements. According to Wikipedia, a production rule system (essentially, an expert system) is …

a computer program typically used to provide some form of artificial intelligence, which consists primarily of a set of rules about behavior

Production rule systems are a class of platform whose rule format and operation are aimed toward developers.  According to Wikipedia:

“A production system provides the mechanism necessary to execute productions in order to achieve some goal for the system.  Productions consist of two parts:  a sensory precondition (or ‘IF’ statement) and an action (or ‘THEN’). If a production’s precondition matches the current state of the world, then the production is said to be triggered.  If a production’s action is executed, it is said to have fired.”

[2] Refer to “Breaking the Rules: Breach Questions” http://www.brsolutions.com/2012/06/03/breaking-the-rules-breach-questions/

Continue Reading

The Procedural Paradigm Won’t Scale: We Need Configuration Agility!

It’s been said that I claim the procedural paradigm won’t scale anymore. Guilty as charged! Let me explain. Procedural vs. Declarative In the big scheme of things, you have two basic choices for conceptualization, and ultimately implementation, of business capabilities: procedural vs. declarative. Let’s make sure we agree on what these terms mean. I’ll draw directly on Merriam-Webster Unabridged to make sure we’re on the same page. If the terms don’t mean what they’re supposed to mean, all bets are off. But I guess that goes without saying, doesn’t it?

procedure: 1a: a particular way of doing or of going about the accomplishment of something 1b (1): a particular course of action (2): a particular step adopted for doing or accomplishing something (3): a series of steps followed in a regular orderly definite way

You can spot the seeds of the scalability problem right away with repeated use of the word “particular” and with the phrase “regular orderly definite way” in the definition. Given the degree of product/service customization desired today, and the accelerating rate of change, how much business activity still occurs in a particular and regular orderly definite way? The answer, of course, is less and less all the time. ‘Exceptions’ have become the rule. The essential characteristic of procedures is that they flow. The flow comprises the steps by which a thing is intended to become a different thing (or the same thing in a different state). The essence of ‘procedure’ is therefore that something will be hopefully transformed. For sure, that’s a very basic, very important, very necessary part of any business capability. The problem arises taking procedure beyond that point. Something declarative, in contrast, doesn’t flow. It just states something that must (or should) be true.

declarative: 2: having the characteristics of or making a declaration : ASSERTIVE;  specifically : constituting a statement that can be either true or false

Business rules are that way; they simply give guidance. They don’t do anything. They don’t flow anywhere. They can’t be anything other than true or false. In short, business rules are fundamentally different than procedures. Big-P Process The traditional procedural paradigm (I’ll call it Big-P Process) embeds business rules in procedures (and in process models and in procedural code).What happens when you treat things that could be declarative in a procedural way? You get bloat. You lose business intent. You produce needless complexity. And you also get what I call configuration stagnation. As you scale, these problems grow exponentially. How many business rules are we talking about? Any given business capability easily has hundreds, sometimes thousands of business rules – especially when you begin to factor in the know-how needed to make smart operational business decisions. And don’t our businesses increasingly depend on ever more complex know-how? Is there any end to that trend in sight? At the scale of today’s business, the Big-P Process paradigm simply doesn’t work. It results in ungovernable business operations and unretainable know-how. Big-P solutions are like setting the business in concrete. It’s all so unnecessary and so counterproductive. It’s just not smart. Configuration Agility The key question for agile business capabilities is how the business is configured (and quickly reconfigured) for operation at any given point in time. In the Big-P paradigm, the building-blocks become thoroughly entangled with flow (procedure). The result is essentially a semantic dead zone. Because things that could be expressed declaratively aren’t, the opportunity is lost to use logic to automatically evaluate business rules (read ‘business practices’) for conflicts, anomalies and other logical defects. The future clearly does not lie in that direction. Instead, it lies with granular, declarative, semantically-rich specification of business configurations in building-block fashion. It lies with the paradigm that can produce the optimal configuration agility. In addition to procedures, smart configuration models will feature at least these other building blocks for business capabilities, all specified at the business level:
  • business rules 
  • operational business decisions 
  • structured business vocabularies (concept models, also known as fact models) 
  • business goals and risks 
  • business events
From an engineering perspective, the secret to agile configuration is ‘late binding’ – that is, bringing all the pieces together for execution (i.e., performance of procedures) as late as possible. That way, performance can be as up-to-date and as flexible as possible. Smart configuration models should be the new mantra for enterprise architecture. In a world of constant and accelerating change, I simply see no alternative. Doing more of the same is simply not going to work anymore (and already hasn’t been for a good, long while). [Warning, plug coming]: Smart configuration schemes also address 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, Building Business Capabilities (see http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php) we call systems built using smart configuration models business operation systems (as opposed to ‘information systems’).  

Continue Reading 2 Comments

What Role for Business Rules in *Enterprise Architecture*? One of the ‘Must-Knows’ of Business Rules …

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto[1] http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm FAQ #6 Question: What role should business rules play in enterprise architecture? Reverse-engineering business rules from legacy systems accurately is virtually impossible. The full, original business intent is simply lost. Reconstruction of business logic has been tried time and time again, often aided by automated tools, but measured against time and cost, seldom achieves satisfactory results. What a waste! The solution is simply to stop hard-coding business rules into procedural languages. Rules will change and they will be needed for new business initiatives and platforms. The opportunity costs of continuing to follow traditional practices – not to mention the ‘maintenance’ costs – is simply too great. The alternative is applying rule technology that can support rules expressed in more natural (declarative) form. The Manifesto summarizes these points as follows …

6.2. Executing rules directly – for example in a rules engine – is a better implementation strategy than transcribing the rules into some procedural form.

With computing power so vastly improved, there is less and less reason every day to support business rules using procedural languages. Why are we still programming the evaluation of rules ourselves?! Just as a DBMS removes data management as an application concern, so too does a rule technology for the evaluation of rules. A related issue is compliance – not just regulatory compliance, but compliance with contractual obligations, deals, agreements, licenses, warranties, and so on. If you want to delight customers, keep your commitments. To do so you must be able to determine how your systems actually got the outcomes they did. That way, if there’s a mistake you can correct it. So the Manifesto says …

6.3. A business rule system must always be able to explain the reasoning by which it arrives at conclusions or takes action.

Today, demonstrating compliance is a largely hit-or-miss affair, always after the fact. Does it have to be? No! A state-of-the-art enterprise architecture is one that logs the rules used to make evaluations and decisions just as a DBMS logs all transactions. Compliance based on rules can and should be built-in.


[1] The Manifesto is free, only 2 pages long, translated into 15 languages. Have a quick look (or re-look!). No sign up required. Well worth your time.

Continue Reading

What Role for Business Rules in *Business Agility*? One of the ‘Must-Knows’ of Business Rules …

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto[1] http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm FAQ #5 Question: How do business rules support business agility? Think of business rules as expressing business practices. These practices can cover a wide range of business concerns, including the composition of products, the customization of services for individual customers, operational hand-offs with suppliers, implementation of regulatory constraints, and so forth. Historically, rules have been embedded (hard-coded) in processes, in many different places and often inconsistently. There is no easy traceability for any given rule. Changing rules inevitably requires IT intervention, along with the associated cost and delay. From a business perspective, the resulting business support is simply not agile. Business rules support business agility by providing pinpoint means to evaluate and modify business practices. Rules are expressed and managed independently of processes (a.k.a. rule independence). By that means they can be consolidated (single-sourced) and evolved more rapidly and reliability. From a platform point of view, the Manifesto says it this way …

6.1. A business rules application is intentionally built to accommodate continuous change in business rules.  The platform on which the application runs should support such continuous change.

Clearly some platforms are far better than others in this regard. The quality of their support for rules should be a critical factor in selection and design. Unfortunately, many organizations are trapped as much by legacy platforms as by legacy systems. True business agility requires migration to new platforms as quickly and easily as possible. For example, a central concern of many organizations these days is mobile computing and social media – capabilities not even on the horizon ten years ago when the Manifesto was written. There’s no end to platform innovation in sight – and companies will always want to get on-board faster and faster. Is there any way of doing so without knowing your business rules? No! So the Manifesto recommends …

10.3. Business rules should be organized and stored in such a way that they can be readily redeployed to new hardware/software platforms.

Always remember that business rules are what you need to run your business, not to design systems, at least directly. There will never be a future platform for which you do not need to know your business rules.  


[1] The Manifesto is free, only 2 pages long, translated into 15 languages. Have a quick look (or re-look!). No sign up required. Well worth your time.

Continue Reading

My New Talk and New Take on Business Architecture at BBC2011: The Architecture of Enterprise Know-How

Business Architecture Summit at BBC2011 – Thurs, Nov 3, 2011 – 10:10am I am giving a talk next week called The Architecture of Enterprise Know-How at the Building Business Capability (BBC2011) event in Florida. If you’re there, I hope you’ll come listen. I’ll be plowing new ground. We’ve done some fascinating work the past several years and now it’s time to talk about it … Does the know-how of the company have intrinsic structure at the enterprise level? Can you use that structure to assess and plan operational business capabilities? Where do business rules, business processes, and business analysis fit in? Every company depends on its special know-how, a point so obvious we often overlook it. The products and services we deliver to customers can never be better than our capacity to organize, manage, revise, and deploy that know-how. In a knowledge economy, operational know-how is king. Current techniques for creating enterprise architectures are largely IT-centric. They focus on processes, data and services rather than on business products and the business capabilities to produce and deliver them. We need to change all that using proven, pragmatic techniques that directly engage business managers. The new approach is highly innovative, business-driven, and surprisingly easy.
  • How to conduct a deep, meaningful, rapid assessment of business capabilities
  • How to identify life-cycle-long, enterprise-wide dependencies
  • How to give Finance the crucial, coordinated touch points it needs
  • How to plan for massive customization and reconfiguration of products
  • How to put the ‘business’ into business architecture and business agility
  • How to rekindle the spark of creative thinking in your organization
 

Continue Reading

The Debate Continues … Business Rules in Zachman 3.0 … and the Upcoming Business Architecture Summit at BBC2011

At the Business Architecture Summit in Ft. Lauderdale (BBC2011 – Oct 31 – Nov 4) I will be joining John Zachman and Roger Burlton for one of our rabble-raising 3Amigo sessions. The session is only an hour long, so I’m sure there will be some fast talking(!). One of the first questions I want John to address is: “Where are the business rules in Zachman 3.0?” The following recent exchange represents my current understanding on the matter. I plan to come back on the record after the event to say what I got right and what I got wrong. Question: Can rules address more than one primitive (column) in the Framework? My Answer: Yes, atomic rules can address multiple primitives – e.g., An accounting must be given by the CFO in Delaware on March 15, 2012. (By ‘atomic’ I mean ‘can’t be reduced into two or more rules without losing meaning.’) In this rule you have a thing (‘accounting’), a person (the CFO), a place (Delaware), and a date (March 15, 2012). So even atomic rules are composites, not primitives. Question: Does rules not being a primitive mean that business rules shouldn’t be treated as a first-class citizen? My Answer: What ‘first-class citizen’ has always meant in the Business Rule Manifesto (http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm) and elsewhere is that business rules shouldn’t be subordinate to other kinds of requirements for system design in general, and to what I call ‘Big-P’ processes in particular. Big-P processes are not primitive (think ‘input-process-output’), but rather they amalgamate (think ‘mash-up’) some or even all the other primitives. In other words, Big-P processes are also composite. Composites are about the configuration of the enterprise at any point in time. Business rules are one candidate for that capacity. I believe business rules are a far better choice in that regard than Big-P processes (think ‘business agility’). In any case, business rules being a composite in no way diminishes their importance. The enterprise is not built on primitives alone. If you had only primitives, there would be no configuration, and literally no enterprise.

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Why Don’t Requirements Approaches and IT Methodologies ‘Get’ How to Use Strategy as a Technique? … Not Acceptable!

An enterprise architect recently said to me, “The motivation (why) column of the Zachman Architecture Framework is the most underrated, underutilized construct in architecture.” Absolutely correct. Even worse, IT methodologies (that is, the people who create and use them) don’t realize how far afield they are on the matter. As a result they cause business people to focus on the wrong things … or to drop out entirely. Ironically, IT then becomes the impediment, rather than the solution, to much needed business innovation. A bit of background: The Business Rules Group (BRG – www.BusinessRulesGroup.org) identified the area of business strategy as a missing ingredient for business rules in the mid 1990s. In 2000, we came out with a standard for the area, now sponsored by OMG, called the Business Motivation Model. It’s a highly readable document with lots of good examples (and free): http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/bmm.shtml. It provides standard vocabulary and structure for strategy. Zachman, by the way, was a key participant. I am proud of my role as co-editor and author of the first working draft. My business partner, Gladys S.W. Lam, and I have just come out with a new book that explains how strategy (and business rules) can be an integral part of business analysis. It’s actually not that hard to do (if you have the right people, motivation, scope, and approach), and it doesn’t take all that long (ditto same caveats). Those are big myths. Gladys is generally given credit for some of the key ideas in the standard. She grew up in a highly entrepreneurial environment and has a natural sense of business risks and solution sinkholes. But I digress … See Chapter 4 of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Ruleshttp://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php.

Continue Reading

What is a ‘Business Capability’ … And Can It Be Part of a Business Architecture Methodology?

Suppose you wanted to make ‘business capabilities’ the centerpiece of a business architecture methodology. Could you go out into the business and find existing ‘business capabilities’ in some form? Would a focus on business capabilities help you better design the business as a whole? My answer is at this point in time is … well … I dunno. I’m looking forward to the new Business Architecture Summit (http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/bas/) at the BBC2011 Conference (http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/) the first week of November to shed some light on the matter. There’s going to be some real excitement at the Conference this year on that topic! Here’s our current thinking on the term ‘business capability’ … An IT project always delivers a system and/or database and/or rulebase. But let’s say you want to take a business-oriented approach to solving some problem in business operations. The solution will probably involve significant (re-)automation – but not necessarily. The main focus is finding a winning business solution. What would you call what you deliver as an end-result from such an initiative? Unfortunately, there’s no generally accepted business name for such end-results. In our new book coming out this month – Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php) – we call them simply ‘business capabilities’. Any given business capability is likely to include business processes, business rules, business vocabulary, business roles and more. And it should also feature key performance indicators to measure continuing alignment with business goals.  So my bottom line is this: I know it when I’ve created a business capability, but I’m not sure I would know one beforehand. I’ll let you know if anything I hear from this post or at the Conference changes my mind. Please jump in!

Continue Reading 8 Comments

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.

Continue Reading

Our Clients

[cycloneslider id="our-clients"]