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

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Posts Tagged ‘single-sourcing’

Single Source of Business Truth

Re-engineering knowledge work is the central problem of the knowledge economy. In recent work at Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and current work a major bank in Canada we used RuleSpeak® to create what I call a “single source of truth for operational business IP (intellectual property)”. This is far more than a conceptual data model. Beyond structured business vocabulary its central feature is comprehensive rules. It may be like what some professionals call a “conceptual ontology” (as opposed to an operational ontology to be embedded in IT systems). But we would never use the term “ontology” in our work.  Most business people and SMEs simply wouldn’t ‘get’ that. The idea is that all audiences (or subcommunities) in an organization should work off a single trusted source of explicit know-how (business vocabulary and business rules), no matter what their specific responsibilities:
    • producing training materials for line workers.
    • making changes in operational policies.
    • providing proof of compliance for auditors.
    • creating new products.
    • communicating with IT.
Here are some key observations about our work to create a single source of business truth:
    • Our primary audience is not IT. Yet our work is of sufficient precision that straightforward translation into an implementation form can basically be taken as a ‘given’.
    • Our approach recognizes that people are the essential ingredient in business (as opposed to other kinds of knowledge problems). People can violate rules. For coordinating the work of people, direct support for behavioral rules, not just definitional or decision rules, is a must.
    • Our work could not be undertaken without a structured natural language for business rules like RuleSpeak. The non-IT audiences do need rich business semantics, but they have no desire whatsoever to become semantic programmers. They simply would not commit if the work were conducted on that basis.
    • No one today knows what the optimal syntax is for expressing all forms of business know-how in all circumstances. I suspect there isn’t one. That fact, plus the exponential increase in computer capability for processing natural language, indicates clearly that focusing on syntax is simply the wrong direction. RuleSpeak is based on, and was one of the reference languages for SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules, on OMG standard), which supports a non-syntax approach. A language for ‘speaking’ with computers that is not a computer language – now that’s an idea whose time has definitely come!
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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.

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What Role for Business Rules in *Requirements*? 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 #2 Question: How do business rules fit with requirements? Rules are all around us in the real world – in the games we play, in the laws and regulations of society, in the limits we set for our children – everywhere. Yet for whatever reason, rules are seldom featured in requirements and IT methodologies. That’s very strange if you think about it. So the very first point of the Manifesto aims to correct that omission, and by doing so, to bring better balance to requirements …  

1.1 Rules are a first-class citizen of the requirements world.

This first point does not suggest that business rules are more important than other requirements – for example, process models – but rather, co-equal. How can you organize or model any kind of activity without knowing the rules?! That understanding leads to the second point of the Manifesto

1.2 Rules are essential for, and a discrete part of, business models and technology models.

The “discrete part of” in this statement is crucial. It means that rules should not be embedded in other deliverables – for example, use cases – so that the rules can be written once and then applied everywhere (single-sourcing). It also means the rules can be validated directly with business people and subject matter experts. The result is better requirements – and better communication. Another result is rule independence. The rules can now evolve independently of other architectural components, often much faster. By not hard-coding rules into application programs, much more agile business solutions can be achieved. The Manifesto makes the point 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.

 


[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.

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