Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence

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Posts Tagged ‘requirements’

Are You Struggling with Requirements? Project Off-Track?

Guest Post by Senior Consultant to Large Organization I am struggling on a project right now where the requirements were never properly collected in the beginning. So we’re now going back to our requirements to try and sort out what the business really wants.   As this process of validating the original requirements started, I had just decided to read your new book[1].  While reading about Policy Charters[2] it immediately came to my head that this activity was never done formally with the business!  Honestly I have heard different business people state goals to us all the time as we were building this system, but nobody on the original scoping or blueprint team ever once did a formal strategy to determine what the business wants and how we can give it to them. I hacked together a simple Policy Charter in Powerpoint to show the business the strategy.  It made a big difference to finally have everybody on the team sit in one room and see how different business goals and their business tactics actually link to each other via business risks, which then precipitate other business tactics or business policies.  We never had an overall view of the business goals like that before. Now I feel the business finally sees how complex their goals were and the consulting team really understands them too. So even though it is very late in the game, doing the Policy Charter has still helped a lot in our efforts to get our project back on track. I just wanted to let you know that your new book has been very helpful so far. I love it! I will be recommending it to all my colleagues.


[1] Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules  http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php
[2] Ronald G. Ross, “Becoming Strategy-Driven:  The Policy Charter,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 10, No. 6 (June 2009), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2009/b483.html

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Batting 1000 on Amazon: Our New Book “Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules” Hits Eight 5-Star Reviews (of 8) on Amazon

Our new book has been extremely well received this far – very gratifying. See the Amazon reviews: http://goo.gl/8lk4u and more comments: http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions_reviewers.php Two reviewers, George McGeachie and Maria Amuchastegui, made same criticism, both giving the book a 5-star rating anyway. So let me clarify. George McGeachie wrote: “The point about business rules and deployment is made on page 9, where you say that requirements evolve before deployment, and business rules evolve after deployment. In reality, I would expect business rules to evolve alongside requirements, and continue evolving after deployment.” We were trying to make a simple point. This time the point was perhaps expressed too simply. A full expression of what we meant to say would be: “A great many business rules exist before requirements, some business rules evolve alongside requirements. Unlike requirements, however, business rules continue to evolve after deployment – sometimes quite rapidly.” Elsewhere in the book we express the idea that your business would need its business rules even if it had no software at all. I think that implies many (probably most) business rules do exist prior to requirements. But thanks George and Maria – point taken.

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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.

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Business Analysis & Business Rules – Announcing Our New Book and BBC 2011 Conference – **Special Discounts** for Friends and Colleagues

Let me mention two important things happening soon and special discounts for them – Both discounts good only through **Friday, September 30**   1. ANNOUNCING OUR NEW BOOK … Coming in October! BUILDING BUSINESS SOLUTIONS: BUSINESS ANALYSIS WITH BUSINESS RULES … an IIBA Sponsored Handbook (304pp) … It’s all about taking Business Analysis to the next level of capability.  http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs >> Receive 25% off the book’s list price of $39.95 if you pre-order now. Use discount code **BBS1001**.  2. BUILDING BUSINESS CAPABILITIES CONFERENCE (BBC 2011) … Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/  The must-attend conference of the year covering all things ‘business’.  Four conferences in one for a total of 9 tracks on pace this year to be a sell-out!  >> Receive a 15% discount on registration. Use discount code **RRBBCFL**.  * Business Analysis Forum, the Official Conference of the IIBA. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/baf/ * 14th annual Business Rules Forum Conference. http://www.businessrulesforum.com/ * The 1st annual Business Architecture Summit. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/bas/ * The Business Process Forum. http://www.businessprocessforum.org/

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Requirements are Rules: True or False?

This is an excerpt from our new book: Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules coming out in October. Watch for it! “Requirements are rules.” Perhaps you’ve heard the argument. Maybe you’ve even made it yourself. Are they? No! Basic reasons why requirements are not rules:  Business people don’t naturally think of a ‘requirement’ as a ‘rule’. To ensure the best possible communication with business people, use of ‘rule’ should remain consistent with the real-world understanding of ‘rule’. Say ‘rule’ to business people and they will naturally think “guide for conduct or action” or “criteria for making judgments or business decisions.” If a business person says ‘rule’ he/she almost certainly means a rule for the business (e.g., no shirt, no service), not ‘requirement for a software system’. Many ‘requirements’ never become rules. The “no shirt, no service” rule doesn’t happen to be automatable (at least easily). Many other rules of the business are – e.g., no credit card, no sale. When interpreted into an implementation form, the business rules ideally should still be recognizable as a form of rule. The same cannot be said, however, for other aspects of a business model, say processes. In designing a business process for implementation, why would you ever say, “Now it represents rules.”?! Rules are rules, processes are processes, locations are locations, people are people. Each can be cast into some design-level counterpart (e.g., GUIs can substitute for face-to-face communication between people.) Nonetheless, each retains some sense or reflection of what it was originally (or should anyway). Looking at operational business design any other way inevitably leads to a break-down in communication and needless complexity.  Avoid confusing business people or IT professionals – or yourself – by calling requirements ‘rules’. Requirements are not rules! But Are Business Rules ‘Requirements’?? Clearly, requirements are not rules. What about the reverse question? Can it be helpful to think of business rules as requirements? To answer it’s essential to keep in mind what business rules are about. In plain English, business rules are about guiding and shaping day-to-day operations of the business. Business people would need business rules to operate the business even if there were no systems. The business rules just are what they are. And if well-specified, they essentially speak for themselves. All the following, though, are certainly true about business rules:
  • They should arise from, or at least be approved by, business people.  
  • They should be considered very carefully in designing a system.  
  • They should be automated whenever possible.
All said and done, whether business rules are a form of requirement is really a judgment call. The best answer is whichever is likely to prove most productive for your work.

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HarvardBiz and Use Cases?!? Yes, Seriously … And Seriously Misguided!

HarvardBiz  The Case for Starting a Design Revolution http://s.hbr.org/nXsdOk
 
This article is fundamentally misguided. I’m surprised to find such an article associated with HBR. Use cases are about designing systems, not developing business solutions for business problems.
 
All change initiatives should start with a clear, structured view of business goals and business risks, and what business policies and business tactics will best solve the business business problem. I’m talking, of course, about business strategy. That’s the conversation that business leads want to have. Get them engaged in a discussion of system interaction and GUIs and you’ll inevitably miss the big picture.
 
What if your business *is* about eCommerce? No matter, you still need thought first given to business strategy — the goals, risks and policies needed for a winning business solution. Good requirements will flow naturally from that base. This have always been a notoriously weak area of IT requirements methodologies. Just don’t believe IT professionals who say use cases will solve your business problems. Design attractive systems, yes (done correctly). Guarantee business success? You’re counting on nothing more than good luck.

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What vs. How … Could We Get This Straight?

Some professionals view the interrogatives what and how as peers, each addressing a distinct area of engineering solutions (e.g., designing systems). Other professionals characterize ‘requirements’ as the what, and the design for a system as the how. Contradiction? No, just a bit of confusion over perspective. 
  • From the perspective of designing a system, both what (data) and how (processes) must be addressed. Both interrogatives (as well as the other four – where, who, when, and why) are essential for engineering a complete, robust solution.  
  • From the perspective of IT methodologies, requirements are always incomplete, so what the requirements say must be transformed into a system model that indicates how the requirements will be supported. 
In other words, the former use of what and how is based on an engineering point of view; the latter use is based on an IT-methodology point of view. Don’t confuse business people or IT professionals – or yourself – by failing to make the distinction.

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