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 ‘operational business knowledge’

Agile: Tail Wagging the Dog?

wag-the-dog[1]I’m deeply concerned that agile software development is taking us giant steps backwards in terms of achieving true business agility.  At some companies we visit things are simply out of control. The software development tail wags the business dog.

It’s not just me who thinks so. Here are some comments from recent conversations on social media:

“The business is now at complete mercy of IT Agile to the point where it’s cut out of critical product and service decisions. … IT agile delivery being seen as equivalent to agile/entrepreneurial business which is very far from the case.”

Donna Luehrman, MBA, CBAP

“Agile software development methodology is often antithetical to longer-term business agility and a short-sighted antagonist to the discipline required to achieve it.”

Howard Wiener, President, Codiscent Americas

Agile software development will never get you to agile business because it does not address operational business knowledge (business rules) in a direct or innovative fashion. By coding faster and faster many businesses are simply becoming more and more un-agile. Untold millions of dollars are being sunk into instant legacy. Worse, it may take untold billions of dollars to service that legacy over time. That’s not operational excellence; that’s operational negligence.

If your current approach is based on user stories and use cases and the like ask yourself these questions:

Question 1. Do you address business rules directly in your requirements approach? By ‘directly’ I mean in a systematic, traceable way. Or, do you implicitly assume IT will just somehow get them right?! I think that’s a very bad idea and a very big risk for operational business excellence.

Question 2. What are you doing to ensure governing rules are understandable by business workers and SMEs in the specific way that the business wants them to be interpreted and applied? What are you doing about rules that aren’t automatable? Aren’t those important? And what are you doing to coordinate and disseminate this knowledge to line workers in a systematic, repeatable way?

Is there a place for agile software development? Of course. Just not when it comes to basic operational business knowledge (business rules).

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Read more about the Big-5 business challenges: http://www.brcommunity.com/articles.php?id=b904

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Getting at the Rest of the Communication Iceberg

communication[1]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.[1]

Figure 1. The Role of User Stories in Agile and Other Requirements Methodologies

Angela WickMany 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.

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Read more about the Big-5 business challenges: http://www.brcommunity.com/articles.php?id=b904

[1] 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

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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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Agree/Disagree? Digital Mind Essential for Business Analysts

digital-mind[1]Let’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?

The most valuable asset of a business analyst is a digital mind.

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

My reasoning: I almost certainly don’t agree with the statement in the way you think I might. It’s not the business analyst who needs a digital mind. It’s our machines that need the digital minds.

As we increasingly disintermediate customers and company workers, we will no longer have our workers in the loop to convey and apply operational business knowledge at the point of interaction to make things right. Machines will have to do that work. And those machines must be equipped with the knowledge to do so.

The key to launching us successfully into the digital age is setting up deep knowledge reservoirs in the company. Obviously, they will be digital.

The first and most basic step toward treating knowledge as a first-class citizen is true business rules. Business rules represent explicit operational knowledge. By the way, because of the need for compliance and traceability, business rules (think obligations) will never go away.

There are, of course, other ways in which knowledge can be applied to processes, ones where traceability and compliance aren’t so important – for example, machine learning and neural nets. Those technologies can also be used to build digital minds for your organization.

As a professional, how do you future-proof yourself? The secret is to make yourself indispensable both to the business and to machines in the business with digital minds.

Given that insight, what is the most valuable asset of the business analyst in the long term? It’s not agile, it’s not empowerment, it’s not even critical thinking. It’s the ability to communicate deeply and creatively using concise terminology about the problem space. If you’re still speaking in codes and data fields – in ITSpeak – I’m afraid you’re not on the critical path.

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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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What is the Future for Processes?

To understand the future of processes, you must dig a little deeper than many people do. Process thinking goes back well over a 100 years, to the origin of modern iron and automobile production. The raw materials and finished goods of such manufacturing and production processes are literally spatial – 3-dimensional. What can you do to significantly improve productivity in a 3-dimensional world? The answer these days is simple: You build robots. Robotization has literally changed the world during the past 30-40 years. Rather than manufacturing and production processes, however, the world is now increasingly focused on white-collar and digital processes. What 3-dimensional presence do the raw materials and finished goods of these processes have? Well, exactly none. The raw materials and finished goods of these processes aren’t physical and simply have no spatial presence whatsoever (except maybe for paper artifacts). Robots (at least physical ones) aren’t an option. That fact of life makes a huge difference in how you have to think about automation for such processes. Instead, the raw materials and finished goods of such processes are all about your operational business knowledge – your intellectual capital – and your capacity to express and apply it. That capability, in turn, depends directly on your business terminology and business language. For white-collar processes you have no choice – the world is semantic. So you must deal with the subject matter semantically. That takes us in a very different direction than most professionals currently foresee. For one thing it takes us toward natural language and away from diagrams-for-everything. That’s a huge shift in mindset. Imagine having a business conversation with your smart phone about gaps and ambiguities in business policies and in the meanings of the vocabulary you use to talk about subject matter knowledge. Don’t think that’s possible? Have you watched your kids talking to their smart phones lately? Sooner or later businesses will realize that operational business knowledge differentiates their product/services and enables their ever-more-automated processes to function. Capturing, managing and re-using that intellectual capital puts a premium on structured business vocabulary (concept models[1]) and on business rules expressed in structured natural language[2]. Those business rules are the only way you have to ensure quality from white-collar and digital processes. ~~~~~~~ Read more on this topic: Are Processes and BPM Relevant in the Digital Economy? http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/19/are-processes-and-bpm-relevant-in-the-digital-economy/ Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/27/measuring-quality-and-defects-in-the-knowledge-economy/ Quality and Tolerances in the Knowledge Economy: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/10/29/quality-and-tolerances-in-the-knowledge-economy/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com
[1] Refer to “What Is a Concept Model?” by Ronald G. Ross,  Business Rules Journal, Vol. 15, No. 10 (Oct. 2014), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2014/b779.html
[2] e.g., in RuleSpeak®. Refer to http://www.rulespeak.com/en/

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