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Business Role changing?

One interesting trend that I have seen among BR projects is the more active involvement of business vs technical people.  The newest aspect of this involvement is that business (vs IT) people want to get started in identifying those business problems or opportunities that may be addressed by BR management and how they can plan and scope the feasibility of doing so, prior to engaging IT.  Sometimes the reasons are that the IT resources for assisting in this regard are scarce and sometimes the reasons are that the business resources want to initiate BR projects first, prior to going for IT budget money.  Has anyone else experienced this?  If so, what kind of training do the business people need in order to do the scoping and feasibility of *starting* a BR project?  What role should IT play in this start-up phase?

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Neal McWhorter

Barb,

We've also seen a shift to the business more often leading the business rules charge instead of IT. Overall it's a good thing. It can be a bit tricky though because Business Rules don't exist in isolation. Generally we find that we have to look at more than just the business rules aspect of an initiative. Just implementing business rules won't necessarily create any business value. It's understanding how the benefits of business rules can be applied appropriately to the appropriate situations that produces value for an organization.

What I believe we're seeing is the emerging awareness of the need for business engineering. In the manufacturing industry they'd call this product engineering and the difference is really that the former is about delivering services as a product and the latter is about delivering goods as a product. In the manufacturing model, the product designers get feedback from the manufacturing designers to make sure products are able to be produced efficiently and with quality. That model makes sense in the business engineering arena too but current practice is that the business delivers requirements that merely constrain and partially specify what the solution should look like. Imagine if consumer electronics companies were to develop rough designs and sketches and then leave the final definition of the product to the manufacturing design group. We've seen some products that look like they were designed this way and the results aren't pretty!

Business rules are typically the most accessible aspect of business engineering because they're where the most change happens in organizations. But if the goal is that the business be able to specify the complete services design and that IT behaves like the manufacturing design group then some fundamental change has to happen in the business / IT relationship. It means that the business concepts must be represented as real elements in the IT solution so that business rules, business processes and the business entities that underlie them are exposed as concepts that the business can directly maintain. It becomes IT's responsibility to provide underlying services that make these concepts execute resiliently, quickly and efficiently. After all, that's the role of manufacturing design.

Anu Sripada

The trend that you have mentioned gears toward the belief that "Business rules are, of and for the business and not the IT"! I agree that there has been a significant drift toward the business initiating BR projects because more often than not, business rules are embedded in their minds and they are a major source of business rules for application development. In my experience, however, I have noticed that the business does look upon the Business Analyst from IT to actively participate in the initial stages of such projects, as the BA goes a long way into the further steps of the project life cycle. At this juncture, the IT-Business Analyst steps up to play the roles of the Business-Business Analyst and Business Rules Analyst.

Barbara von Halle

Neal, I really appreciate your comment to this thread. We are seeing business rules surface more and more as a business lever by business audiences. We also see that pure business audiences don't necessarily understand the value of or how to create a to-be process model or how to indicate where rules should execute in those models. So, I am thinking that pure business people need quick training in what a process model is, how it supports business directions, and how business strategy/objectives drive the model, and then working sessions uncovering candidate rules for getting there. What do you think?

Barbara von Halle

Anu, I am glad you shared this opinion with us, based on your BR experience. One issue that has surfaced at two of our clients is when a BR project is purely business-focused (trying to decide if automation updates are needed or if new technology should be looked at) and the business people don't have business analysts on their team. How, do you think (or anyone else), is the best way for the business people to acquire business analyst expertise: go through IT for the business analyst resource, bring a business analyst onto the business team as regular member there, or otherwise? I ask, because, prior to IT issues, it may be difficult for business people to "borrow" IT business analyst resources. Has anyone seen a solution to this that works smoothly?

Barbara von Halle

I see three growing BR markets:

(1) BR systems development (analysts harvest rules, architects select BRE and design architecture, developers deploy rules, and sometimes, using FI RMA, rules are updated directly through a web front-end).

(2) BR mining from legacy code (suddenly, huge market) for Knowledge retention (baby boomers retiring), simple legacy understanding, modernization, or BRE deployment.

(3) Business perspective - business leaders using BRs to direct transactions toward specific objectives, where the BR creation happens long before BR systems development (but sometimes in conjunction with BR mining).

Anyone else see these three markets? Which one is growing fastest today?

Tom Debevoise

It seems simplistic to state there is the more active involvement of business vs. technical people. The biggest trend we find is that more business people have technical skills and more IT people have business skills. Businesses that face competitive pressure must do more with less. Managers and knowledge workers need technical skills to perform their jobs, otherwise they would be facing roadblocks imposed by waiting for the IT folks to deliver a spreadsheet or report. The middle segment of business are survivors, they do what it takes to meet their objectives.

This is why I find the move to 'code-free' development tools is so important. Certainly there is some coding in these ‘code-free' tools: business rules suites, BPM modelers, managed query environments. In most cases, you don't need to be a J2EE expert to build your part of the IT environment.

As the ‘code-free’ development becomes more powerful, and the line between business and technical skills blurs, I believe we will see ‘IT’ devolve into systems and telecommunications administrators.

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