What Does it Mean to be Business-Driven? (Part 1)

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal , and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

Let's start with the following given: Businesses do not exist to manage hardware/software environments but, rather, hardware/software environments exist to support the business. This should be self-evident, but in the midst of such a fast-paced technological revolution, sometimes we lose sight of it. As a result, we often find the tail seeming to wag the dog.

Clear-headed people on both the business side and the IT side know it shouldn't be that way. The "IT" projects the company decides to undertake should always in fact be 'of the business, for the business, and by the business.' But saying it is one thing figuring out how to accomplish it is another.

Fortunately, a business rule methodology offers the well-organized roadmap you need to put the business back in the driver's seat. In Part 2, I'll outline the particular ways in which it structures the requirements development process to accomplish this. First, however, we should examine the relevant mindset issues. These are equally, if not more, important.

  • There should only be one kind of project. In days past, IT had its projects and the business had its projects, and these projects were seldom if ever woven together. Clearly this outmoded approach will not work in the 21st century. These days, virtually every business project involves some automation and most IT projects have direct impact on the business. What we must come to therefore is a single kind of project with a unified approach to follow.

  • The business side has the knowledge to solve business problems. Clearly IT can help with that, but to a large measure, IT's role should be largely focused on 'systemizing' and implementing the solution.

  • One implication is the following. What the system turns around and shows the business side during actual operation should look much like the requirements that the business side put in up-front. I don't mean that in a figurative sense I mean it in a literal sense. Business knowledge in; business knowledge out. What that means, of course, is business rules.

  • Achieving this requires that the business questions should be asked first, before addressing the system and implementation issues. Although this seems like an obvious point, it often doesn't happen that way in practice.

  • Capturing business knowledge up-front will mean new participatory roles for the business-side. We will need deeper, more focused involvement on their part. We will also require commitment of the most valuable commodity of all their time.

  • In return, the business side has the right to expect the most conservative use of their time possible and ready-made structures (thinking tools) to help them organize their business knowledge in the optimal ways.

  • What this really means is an approach that emphasizes being able to ask the right questions, at the right times, and laying out the right forms (or deliverables) the answers should take.

  • Finally, we must appreciate that the business questions are usually highly complex in their own right. As with any complex problem, this means the questions and answers need to be carefully factored that is, not jumbled together as rambling statements but specifically addressing one particular aspect of the problem at a time.


In the second and concluding part of this discussion, I will discuss how we have addressed these 'mindset' issues in our business rule methodology, ProteusTM.

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Standard citation for this article:


citations icon
Ronald G. Ross , "What Does it Mean to be Business-Driven? (Part 1)" Business Rules Journal Vol. 3, No. 5, (May 2002)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2002/b103a.html

About our Contributor:


Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal , and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the IPSpeak methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:


Ron serves as Executive Editor of BRCommunity.com and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997., now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on http://www.brsolutions.com/category/blog/. For more information about Ron visit www.RonRoss.info. Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

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