Building Business Capability 2010 Experts Panel: Emerging Trends

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Panelists

Kathleen Barret President and Chief Executive Officer, IIBA
Kevin Brennan CBAP, PMP, V.P. Professional Development, IIBA
Roger Burlton Founder, BPTrends Associates / Process Renewal Group
Paul Harmon Executive Editor, BPTrends
Gladys S.W. Lam     Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC and Publisher, BRCommunity.com
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC and Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal

Moderator

Kirsten Seer  Senior Consultant, Business Rule Solutions, LLC

Topics

  1. To the panelists: What do you think are the most important take-aways from this conference?
  2. To the audience: What do YOU think are the most important take-aways from this conference?
  3. Will additional certification tracks for business rules and business process be added to the Business Analyst certification?
  4. Are there three separate realms business analysis, business process, and business rules or are they all part of the same discipline?
  5. In the future, do you see business analysts within IT, within the business, or within a whole different sector?
  6. Where is 'data' in this discussion of the future vision?  Business intelligence is key.
  7. It's already hard to explain the role of the BA won't it be even harder if we converge these three disciplines?
  8. Where does the OMG fit in this picture?
  9. What specifically are we doing to get into the C-Suite, not only from a BA perspective but also in terms of re-educating the C-Suite on business process and on business rules?
  10. How far into the future do you have to look to see some of these process and rules tools being able to interface with each other, to help with traceability and communication between the different areas?
  11. Would this conference be a good place to try to integrate with the project management people?
  12. Wrap Up

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Welcome & Introductions
Kristen Seer :   Good afternoon everyone.  Welcome to the Emerging Trends panel.  My name is Kristen Seer, and I'll be your moderator.
     I really enjoy moderating this panel and, because we always put it at the very end of the Conference, I'm always very thrilled to see how many faces there are still out there after three days!  At the beginning of the Conference we talked about Roger running the marathon, and really, when you think about it, attending a conference of this size — with this many options to choose from in terms of the speakers and so on — is really like running a mental marathon.  So, kudos to all of you for sticking it out to the very end.  Excellent stamina!
     Hopefully we'll provide you with a real treat so that sticking it out to the end will be worthwhile.  And we actually have some treats for you, both figuratively and literally.  Last year, Gladys started a precedent at the conference of giving away things during the panel, so I naturally had to pick up on that, and now it seems to have become something of a tradition.
     Those of you who know me know that I'm a chocolate addict, so of course I opt for giving away chocolates.  I brought some gourmet chocolate bars — two are dark chocolate (which we all know is good for you ... and doesn't have any calories). <laughter>  We also have some t-shirts that were from this morning's Process Says No session.  So, if you're not a chocolate person (although I can't imagine who wouldn't be) you can have one of these "specially made" shirts.
     Before we start I'd like to point out two things about our illustrious panel.  The first is that, for the very first time, Gladys Lam is sitting on a panel.

panelists

Yeah!  <applause>

Kristen

Gladys has always been behind the scenes; she's always been there, welcoming everybody.  She's really the face of the conference.  But she's never actually sat on a panel.  So, for all of those of you who — not just this year but over the years — have been corralled into sitting on her Practitioners' Panel, now's your chance to turn the tables on her.  Ask her the tough questions and put her in the hot seat. <laughter>

Here's the second thing I'd like to point out about our panel.  You may notice that we've brought back our three Chairs from each of the streams:  Ron for the Business Rules; Kathleen for the Business Analysis; Roger for the Business Process.  But we've also doubled them — we've added Gladys for Business Rules, Kevin Brennan for the Business Analysis, and Paul Harmon for the Business Process.  You may not be aware that this is the team that was largely responsible for picking the speakers and putting together the program for the conference.  I don't know about you but I thought that this year the quality of the speakers and the richness of the content in the presentations was really excellent.  So, I think we should give them a hand for all their hard work. <applause>

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To the panelists:  What do you think are the most important take-aways from this conference?
[Kristen]   Let's get to our panel.  We've called this the "Emerging Trends" panel, and I've had the great pleasure to moderate this panel since its inception a couple of years ago.  Usually what we do is look ahead to see what the things are that are surfacing in the industry.  And every year I hear our panel — these experts — talking about "Well, people in this organization have started playing with this, and going in that direction." or "I read this blog or this article by this person who had some really interesting ideas." or "This industry over here seems to be being very innovative in this area, and this is starting to emerge as a trend."  And the common theme of all this is the people.  There's nothing magical about trends — it's the people that set the trends.
     If you think about it — if you take it a step further — all of you are really the trend-setters because you're all going to be going back to your respective organizations and introducing the new ideas that you've picked up here at the conference.  You'll be applying some new techniques; you'll be taking back the lessons-learned that other organizations have spoken about here.  And you'll be introducing all this into your organizations.
     Maybe you're a lone business analyst that's here, and you're going back and trying to insert some of these techniques into your business analysis.  Or maybe you manage a group of business analysts, and you want to introduce them to a new methodology.  Or maybe you're over in the IT department, and you've picked up some really cool technology ideas.  Or you're on the business side, and you can see the business benefit of all of this.  It's all of you that are the trendsetters.
     So, this year we thought we'd do something that's a little bit different — we'd like to talk about what are the things that you're going to take back to your organizations.  At the very beginning of the conference we had a Round Robin with our Chairs, and they had a series of questions that they were asking:  "How do you deal with this Conference?" and "How can you get the most out of the Conference?"  Their last question was:  "What are the most important take-aways you will gain from this Conference — both for you, personally, and that you can take back to your management?"  So, I'm going to ask each of our panelists to address that question.  And after that I'll turn the questions over to you.
     Paul, would you like to kick this off?  What do you think people should take away with them from this Conference?

Paul Harmon

I would say the fact that business analysts and business process management and rules people are all at the same conference. 

We started exploring this about a year ago.  I remember Kevin asking me a question:  Assuming that business process management does as well as you think it does, where do the employees come from that actually implement it?  That sat me back at the table because I thought, Well, of course there are business process practitioners out there.  And then I thought, Who do I know who's a business process practitioner?  Where did they come from?  How many of them are there?

If companies really get serious about business process — as more and more of them say they're going to be — where are the people going to come from?  You can flip that around and look at the business analysts and think, Well, they have a pretty well-defined job. 

But, on the other hand, many of them are looking for career paths, and there are lots of jobs out there.  There are jobs like 'business architecture' which becomes very important if you're trying to do process work beyond a certain point.  Then there are all the jobs of business process Centers of Excellence, where people go to help other people.  There are all the jobs of coordinating; most companies have lots of process work going on — Six-Sigma, Lean, architecture redesign — and nobody to coordinate all of that.

This is hardly my idea or Kevin's.  If you are following SAP you will have noticed that about four years ago they came out with the idea that there should be this job title of 'business process expert'.  These were going to be the people who would try to bring all this together.  So, yes, I think this is happening.

In 2003 we thought very narrowly about business process.  More recently we've thought much more about rules and process being two sides of the same coin — that rather than trying to drill down in process, defining decisions with rules is much more efficient and effective, and helps business people much more.

Now, these are great concepts and ideas, but if nobody is there to implement them in a company — if no one helps see that they are realized — then they will remain just a bunch of ideas.  We've had process come and go before.

So, I think the fact that we're all here would be my biggest take-away — that there is a growing consensus developing.  There are a number of people who, yes, are going to look at things differently but they are also finding they have in common the idea that they want to use certain kinds of concepts to try to really improve the performance of their organization.

Kristen Seer

Okay!  Kevin, can you address this as well?

Kevin Brennan

One of the things that I keep hearing from the business analysts who are here is that they understood, coming in, that business rules and business processes were important things.  They did business process definitions; they did rules.  But they told me that they had no idea how much there is to it — how much bigger and more complex these disciplines are than they had realized.  I've had people say, "I didn't know there were business rules engines, where you can go in and actually model the business rules and engage them in your applications!"

And so I think that is one of the big things I hope people will be taking back — that there is a whole range of knowledge out there that they may not have been aware of previously.  I think it has been really helpful for all these practitioners from different viewpoints to come together to see how much they have in common and how many challenges they share.

Kristen Seer

Thanks.  Gladys?

Gladys Lam

As you all know by now, I'm more of a practitioner.  I like to just do things.  So, I'd like to say that the take-away is:  What you learned here, what you saw that's new ... go try to do it — just do it!  It's not going to be perfect, as you've heard here.  Building a better business capability — it's a huge job!  But until you start, it's not going to happen.

You heard from multiple speakers that you will be better off when you do it than if you never start.  You will iterate through and do it again and make it better and better each time.  It's not going to be perfect, so just do it.

Kristen Seer

Okay.  Roger?

Roger Burlton

What I would say is:  I see this as being a real watershed event in that for the first time you've got things coming together that show we're stronger together than we are apart.  As someone said, We need to hang together; otherwise, we'll hang apart.

We're getting to the point where we're moving from the old marketing model of "early adopters" to where we're now crossing the chasm into "early majority."  I think we're crossing it; we're getting there.

Individually, we would never have gotten there; we have to get there together and be more about providing a total solution.  We can't have the attitude, "Well, I did my bit.  Too bad you didn't do yours and everything failed."  We're together on this.

So, that's my take-away.  That, plus my t-shirt. <laughter>

Kristen Seer

Kathleen?

Kathleen Barret

I'm in the Gladys-school of "just do it," but my perspective may be a little bit different.  Obviously, you want to just do the things that you've learned here, but I think one of the biggest lessons I had is the same one I had last year when Ron and Gladys approached IIBA to say "Would you like to do this with us?" and that is that you don't have to go it alone.  There are other people in your organizations that can make you successful.  Really, as BAs, you are not operating in isolation.  There are peers that you have that maybe have a little bit different focus — on rules, on process — but you're working toward the same goal:  improving the business.

So, find out where those people are.  Engage those people and help them join your struggle to raise the profile of the value you bring to your organizations. 

In summary:  Don't do it by yourself.  Engage others who have a common goal, and you will accomplish amazing things in very short order.

Kristen Seer

And last but definitely not least — Ron?

Ron Ross

I'll reiterate something that I said in the beginning.  (When was that?  Tuesday morning, I think.)

Roger Burlton

Wasn't that two years ago? <laughter>

Ron Ross

Orders of magnitude improvements in productivity and agility are possible and they are proven.  And I hope by now you've heard some of the sessions talk about how they've gone about achieving just that.

A second thing is that it's not more of the same.  The rich content that you've heard here — on the process side, on the rules side, and in the best of the analysis side — represents the state of the art.  It's not that it's unexplored territory; it's proven.  But you really have to step up to that.  If your company's not doing some of the things that you heard at this conference over the last three days, you're just not state-of-the-art these days.

The last thing I want to say is:  Stop listening to the gurus of software development, and start listening to the people who are talking about business capabilities.  That's what your business needs — real solutions to real business problems.  Everything starts from that.  There's no reason for IT if that's not the end result.

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To the audience:  What do YOU think are the most important take-aways from this conference?
[Kristen]   Okay.  So, now what I'd like to do is turn it over to all of you.  I'd like to know from you:  Do you agree with our experts?  Do you think those are the most important take-aways for you to go back to your organizations with?  Are there other things you've picked up on as you've listened to the speakers that you think are more applicable or more critical to your organization or to your own personal development?  Who wants to tackle that?

Audience

I'd like to say, first of all, that this is my first conference, and I was very, very impressed.  I've been to a lot of training classes, and I was impressed by the global representation from all the companies here and all the people here.  I've had people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany in my sessions.  I think that's very impressive and I'm very happy to have attended the conference.

My take-away is pretty obvious:  We are a professional organization of business analysts — that's what I represent — and it's very rewarding to realize that it's a profession these days:  that we can get certified; that we have very specific skills and crafts that we bring to our organizations; that we can really go anywhere in the world once we have these skills, and find jobs and really expand our opportunities.

So, that's my take-away:  this is really quite a profession.  And it's only going to get more interesting.  We definitely need to keep changing, and it's conferences like this that will keep our skills honed.  <applause>

Kristen Seer

Other hands?  Okay, over there?

Audience

First of all, I want to thank you very much for putting together such an outstanding collection of sessions.  It's been a remarkable event in that regard.

I think one of the cornerstones of learning is learning what it is that you don't know.  And I, in that regard, have had my eyes opened quite wide during these sessions.  There's this whole domain of business rules and decision tables and business process modeling and improvement that I thought I knew a little bit about, but I learned that all I could really do is spell it. <laughter>

Things are going to be much better.  I have a lot of work to do, and so thanks very much for occupying my free time for the next year.  <applause>

Audience

I would like to echo the comments of the previous two.  I would like to say that I've realized over the past several days that, "Oh my gosh, we're in trouble!" <laughter>  What the heck have we been doing?  What have we NOT been doing?

But also, by coming to this conference, I have realized that, yes, there are practitioners who do have that experience and that we can borrow from their experience, lean on that experience, and go to them for help.  There may be others out there who are in just as much trouble as we are, but there are also people who can help us get out of trouble. 

Having that resource available is quite valuable.  And also valuable is having the software vendors to help enable us in getting us out of those situations where we have our business rules programmed down in our legacy code and can't seem to get them out.

So, this has been a very eye-opening experience for me.  I would like to thank the panel and the Board for putting this conference together.  Thank you.  <applause>

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Will additional certification tracks — for business rules and business process — be added to the Business Analyst certification?
[from the audience]    I have a question.  I put this to Gladys earlier, but I'd like to put it to Kathleen and the rest of you.  Recently I was certified as a Business Analyst, and I'm wondering if there's any thought about putting on additional certification tracks for business rules or for business process?

Kathleen Barret

Funny you should ask that.

Roger Burlton

Was that question planted? <laughter>

Kathleen Barret

There's something called a "post-implementation review" that our team is going to be discussing, and I just might see that kind of thing in the future.  Now, IIBA as an organization realizes that we've just started on this road, so the answer is:  Hmmm, yes, a very distinct possibility for doing things like that. 

And don't worry.  We'll keep you posted on anything we're doing along those lines.  That's probably going to be part of our discussion later on.

Roger Burlton

So, can we rename it the "IIBABRBPM"? <laughter>

Kristen Seer

I think it should be "Business Capability Analyst" — get them all under the same umbrella.

Thank you very much.  Another question over here?

Audience

I want to pick up on Roger's comments about synergy and give you a theme for next conference, which would be "convergence" — both convergence in terms of these disciplines and what I see emerging as a convergence from an enterprise perspective.

Panelists

Yes. <agreement>

Audience

I don't really have a question.  I just want a chocolate bar. <laughter> <applause>

Gladys Lam

What's the business rule for that?

Ron Ross

I notice that this process is broken and rules are being violated.

Roger Burlton

Ron, one thing you always taught me was that if somebody violates a rule there should be consequences.

Ron Ross

There should be ....  a rap on the wrist? ... sharing your candy?

Roger Burlton

I think sharing is good ... with EVERYbody.

Audience

I really appreciated what Roger said about us being much stronger together.  What I would like to see is our CBAP certification amended to include things from these other disciplines. 

How many certifications can you have?  Do you really need twenty certifications?  I think our certification would be much stronger if it included this cross-pollination of these other disciplines.  I would love to see that happen.

I actually think that when we say we're a "Sr. Business Analyst" we should have these other disciplines under our belt.  I think this should be part of the exam.

Kathleen Barret

I think it's a question of (I hate to say this) "time" because, like Gladys, I'm a do-it girl and I want everything to happen yesterday.  But this conference has been an education for everyone.  We've been educated here; we've been talking to decision-makers in organizations.  It's been a learning experience for them.  So, I think it's a matter of time, but we'll get there.  I think time is accelerating.  That recognition will happen, I'm sure.

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Are there three separate realms — business analysis, business process, and business rules — or are they all part of the same discipline?
[from the audience]    I wanted to address a couple of things that people have been talking about here involving convergence and business capabilities and certifications — things that cover all of these various realms of knowledge.
     I started my career around 1980, and the very first job I had as a business analyst was doing business process modeling.  All these years later I'm now doing enterprise business analysis according to Jason.[1]  I personally feel that there is definitely a single discipline — call it "business capability"; call it "business analysis"; call it whatever you like.  And, Roger, if you want to call it the IIBABRBPM, I will not be trying to register that trademark. <laughter>

Roger Burlton

I bet the URL is available!

Audience

I feel that all three of these things are all part of the same discipline.  And I just wanted to get your feelings about that. 

Do you feel that we have a space for business process and a space for business rules and a space for business analysis?  Do you see these three continuing to maintain separate realms in their own disciplines?

Or are you seeing convergence?  Are we agreeing on convergence of these three, as working together, belonging together? 

Kathleen Barret

I've always thought of rules and process as just what business is.  So, as being just what business is, it's fundamental to business analysis.

Honestly, this was a test for us this year.  We were going to see how this would fly. 

And what I see now is that it does work and that our challenge next year is to do exactly what she is saying:  Identify the alignment and provide that insight so that when you come to this kind of event, it's very clear we're speaking the same language.  We all know that terminology is so important —  how this applies to business analysis, or how business analysis applies to the application of business rules or business process.  Yes, this definitely has to happen. 

I fundamentally believe that it's all part of the same thing.  But it's a question of how focused we need to be on the specialization in order to get that holistic view of what has to happen.

Ron Ross

Let me add a little bit from the business rules perspective. 

I do think that every business analyst and every business process person should know a good deal about rules.  It's just part of the toolkit.

However, I think that in the business vocabulary space and the definition space/business rule specification space/decision table space, there's a lot of expertise.  Some people are going to be better at it than other people.  So, within the larger umbrella (whatever it is), I think you'll see some people who are more comfortable doing this as opposed to doing that and who will drill down on that. 

The main point is this.  We're all in this together (as Roger said).  It's a team effort, and we each contribute our own skills.  We need to learn how to do that in a way that facilitates the other people ... so that it doesn't hinder them; it enables them to do a better job on what they're doing.

Roger Burlton

My educational background is as an industrial engineer.  In engineering, if you're going to put up a building, you need mechanical engineers, you need civil engineers, you need all the different kinds of engineering.  You also need the engineers who know how all the pieces fit. 

That doesn't mean that they're expert at any one field.  But all those areas do have to understand each other, to a certain degree, and to work with one another to make a total team.  So, the question is how much needs to be commonly known as a baseline and, then, how can you specialize in one particular area to become a real expert?

Audience

First, I'd like to say that I'm happy to see the IIBA involved in a conference as prestigious as this because, as a BA, I've frequently felt like the red-headed stepchild that no one acknowledged.  No one knew what I did; no one really cared.  So, it's nice to see that there's this cross-pollination among the three disciplines. 

It seems like this is the right match for us because if there is anything about the business process, the business rules, or the business analysis that's not covered by one of these three disciplines then this is the group that is going to figure it out and figure out how to add it to the discipline.  So, I'm really happy that we've done this and that we will, hopefully, continue this for a number of years.

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In the future, do you see business analysts within IT, within the business, or within a whole different sector?
[from the audience]   Great conference — thank you!  My question to you is:  Most of the business analysts that I've encountered here are from the IT side of the organization — they belong to IT.  Yet, a lot of the progression and a lot of the focus is on the business.  In your opinion, with your foresight (or maybe wishes/hopes/dreams), do you see business analysts in the future within IT, within the business, or within a whole different sector?

Kathleen Barret

Yes.  <laughter> <applause>

It depends.  That's the other answer. 

Kevin should answer this because he's seen a lot of different situations.  But first I'd like to say that every organization needs to go through the process of understanding what it requires in order to solve its own business problems.  So, there's no such thing as "one size fits all."  It depends on the maturity of the industry, the competitive landscape, and the regulatory pressures.  It depends on where the organization is, in particular, in its life cycle, in terms of implementing large systems, etc.

The reason we have those re-orgs that we all hate is because there is generally a business driver behind them.  So, where the BAs fit really is (hopefully) a reflection of the particular business need at that time.  They belong where they belong.  But I do think it's very important that they sit in the area that's going to provide the greatest value to the organization, in helping it identify what it needs to do.

Kevin Brennan

Ron said it right earlier — the key thing is not to think in terms of business and IT alignment.  The problem we have to solve is one of business strategy — business capability alignment.  That's not about where we sit; it's about what we do.

Gladys Lam

That's right.  And for the BAs, the focus should be on the business solution — an entire business solution.

I'd like to challenge everyone here to re-address what the measurement of "success" for a project is.  Often, in the past, if a system went into production and your database didn't go down and the system came up Monday morning, everyone was really happy.  You would have beer and pizza parties right away, right?

But what I like to see is that being pushed out a little bit.  Go out into the field and see how your system is being used in the field.  If it's in the field and people are still using little sticky notes — writing up notes and then sticking them all over their screens — that means that your system hasn't achieved what it was supposed to achieve for the business.

In other words, the success is not a system going into place with the production not going down and your data being converted successfully.  The success of your project should be how the business is going to benefit from whatever it is you did.

Roger Burlton

Part of the challenge here is that the term 'BA', all by itself, has such a broad connotation for so many people.

In some organizations, some BAs are just writing specs for code and that's their job.  With all due respect to everybody else here, people in the rules space are actually a lot closer to the business, and people in the business process space are a lot closer to the business.  But we somehow have to work more together.

That doesn't mean to say that every BA is going to become expert in rules and process and become a business architect.  Some are going to be quite happy to be doing what they are doing now — someone has to write those specifications.  It's a question of how we weave all these different types of competencies together.  That's going to be our challenge.

Ron Ross

The crystal ball is pretty cloudy here, but I can say that the future doesn't hold less innovation; it holds more innovation ... and of kinds that we don't even anticipate now.  You see things coming along like the 'cloud' and the economics of outsourcing to places like India.

I'm going to predict (and we can come back here in 15 years and see if I was right) that in fifteen years time a lot of companies won't have an IT department per se.  I think what they will have is something relating to the governance of their business capabilities — whatever it's called — because that's the core stuff that makes the business run.  The platforming is just a side issue.

I like the observation that was made earlier:  If you have these skills that we're talking about, you won't be without a job.  Every organization has to be engineered.  This is what people don't understand today, but John Zachman makes this point very well.  Enterprises are really complex.  You need to engineer them.  Gradually we'll catch up with that, and that's what we'll be doing.  It's a very exciting area to be involved with.

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Where is 'data' in this discussion of the future vision?  Business intelligence is key.
[from the audience]   Back to the conversation about the conference and the three groups coming together ... I want to state out loud the four-letter word that I think we're missing and that's data.  I want to encourage you to invite some business intelligence people into this group because I think that's the only major piece that was missing here.  It's very critical.  When we talk about "emerging trends," business intelligence is going to be key for all of us.

Ron Ross

Could I ask you to define what you mean by 'data' because that can mean a lot of things.

Audience

Yes, it can!

There are groups like DAMA that have conferences around data.  There's 'business information' ... I know that in the rules space, you guys talk a lot about how important information is and about understanding terminology and information.  I think that we do need to make sure that we don't miss the point that, when we talk about rules and process, there's information (or data) that we have to share.

Ron Ross

There's no limit to how smart decisions can become.  We're just beginning to scratch the surface.  I would have loved to have spent time in the predictive analytics conference here because of the kind of decisions — the kind of quality of decisions — that you can make based on data.  That's why I asked the question; that's what I thought you meant, and we haven't even begun to see that yet.  It's a very exciting area.

It might be a little ahead of things to join that now, however, because we're just getting grounded in basic skills.  But it's certainly something we should think about.

Roger Burlton

I would agree.  For example, I think that the nature of process is to transform one kind of information into another kind (in addition to transforming physical things, of course).  So, you can't really do process without it.  And it's pretty hard to apply rules if there's nothing coming in to assess against.  So, it's already part of the connection.

Ron Ross

Let me add this — getting back to DAMA.  I have been going to DAMA conferences for ... fifty years?  (I don't know ... a l-o-n-g time.)  The future of business does not lie with "data definition"; it lies with the semantics of business vocabulary.  And those are not the same things.

So, I'd like to be careful that we don't get off on the wrong track and be thinking and trying to communicate with business people by using data models and class diagrams, thinking that we are communicating "business" because we're not.

Audience

I agree — you can't.

Ron Ross

You can't — you can't get there from there.  That's why we've emphasized structured business vocabulary, fact models, semantics, SBVR ... the kind of analytical tooling that we need to speak business to business.

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It's already hard to explain the role of the BA — won't it be even harder if we converge these three disciplines?
[from the audience]    I have a couple of observations.  One is that I really, really enjoy having my head blown.  And my mind was blown during this conference because I came here looking for some ways of organizing things and I found multiple ways of organizing things, which is very exciting.  So, thank you everybody for helping expand some horizons way beyond what I thought I was going to get.
      Another comment I have is:  On the subject of combining disciplines or combining certifications (etc.), my observation is that a lot of organizations are having trouble understanding what a BA is.  To add to the mix of "what is a BA?" by saying "Yeah, it's also business process and it's also business rules" and saying that you want to see that in the certification — that might be making the task of clarifying how important business analysis is even more difficult than it needs to be.  So, maybe there needs to be a little slowing down and thinking about it before we try to converge all those things.  Let's get some better understanding of BA stuff first.
      A third point is:  For next year, it would be really interesting to see some HR [Human Resources] people here.  I can't think of a better way of helping organizations understand what business analysis and business process and business modeling is about than to get the people who make hiring decisions to come here.

Roger Burlton

We can call it the "We're going to change the world" Conference. <laughter> .

Kathleen Barret

I do want to make one comment on that because we deal with that all the time.  One of the challenges we've had as an organization in positioning (or presenting) certification as something of value is that we get people coming back to us saying, "Yeah, but I don't even know what a BA is.  Why would I care if I certify them?" 

That's part of the reason why we're having the discussions with business around business.  When we started the whole thing off, what I was trying to emphasize was that business rules and business process and business analysis are all about business.  These are just ways that we slice business up so that we can understand it better.

When we have discussions with decision makers or leaders it's not about the fact that "I specialize in this particular area" or "I have deep expertise in this area"; it's about the role that helps the business understand itself better ... so that it is in a better position to leverage changes in the market, make changes to itself, to be more competitive, and to be more successful.  It's about business and that's how we're positioning it.

But I absolutely agree with you — the things that are important to us in this conference environment are not necessarily the words we use when we communicate with decision makers out there.

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Where does the OMG fit in this picture?
[from the audience]    To make up for my deficit earlier I decided to ask a question (and I gave my shirt away, by golly, just to be fair).
      There's been a lot of work and a lot of discussion on blogs and in various other forums to help distinguish between the role and the characteristics of a business analyst versus a project manager.  I think we're moving in the right direction, in that regard, in terms of clarity and understanding.  We have the PMI [Project Management Institute], which represents the standards, the direction, and the nature of PMs, and, of course, there is the IIBA relative to BAs.
      What I'm wondering is where the OMG [Object Management Group] fits in all of this.  I ask this because my system architects or enterprise architects are bound very tightly to OMG.  So, what I need to understand is how to interact with them successfully.  Where is it that the BA's role fits in that regard?  How does process modeling fit?  How do business rules fit? ... relative to what you would expect an enterprise architect to do or a systems architect to do.

Paul Harmon

Where is the OMG?  We do have Fred Cummins here, sitting in the audience.  He is the head of the task force at the OMG that does business process types of activities.  We also had Richard Soley as a speaker.,  He's very dynamic and presents the OMG very strongly, but he had a death in the family and was not able to come this time.

Many of the vendors on the floor would identify with the OMG because they are probably implementing one standard or another that the OMG has created.  BPMN, for example, is the Business Process Modeling Notation and it is an OMG effort.  It's created, maintained, and now being revised by the OMG.

The OMG started as a software standards group.  It has generated a number of standards — UML, for example — that are used in the software development area.  It now has at least two new areas of concern, and one of them is the end user.  In the end user area, they have spread out a whole series of standards that are around process.  So, if you're in the process space, in particular, you are very conscious of the standards that the OMG is generating.

Some of them go through the software vendors and become standards in the software community.  Those we see indirectly as conformance among software tools, which makes it easier for companies to choose a tool and later be able to switch, or to have common databases across tools and standard skill sets for the people.  For example, increasingly, at BPTrends when we teach classes we use the core BPMN notation with business people.  It's a high-level notation that's very easy to use with business people.

The OMG has definitely extended itself into the process space.  And in the course of the past three months on the BPTrends website, at least two of our articles have related to some activity or standard that the OMG is doing.  So, I can't imagine them not being active in this conference at any point in the future.  They were a little less visible this time, but you'll see them here again.

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What specifically are we doing to get into the C-Suite, not only from a BA perspective but also in terms of re-educating the C-Suite on business process and on business rules?
[from the audience]    I also second all the wonderful comments that have been made by others.  This has been a great conference and very mind-blowing ... even this panel.  Now I have even more ideas that I have to think about!
      But, specifically, if you go to the C-Suite[2] and you talk 'business process' they're going to say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah.  We get it." ... whether or not they do.  We know that they don't quite get what a business analyst is or what they do or why
      Kathleen, you mentioned that's one of the things that the IIBA has been trying to do.  However, what specifically are we doing to get into the C-Suite, not only from a BA perspective but also in terms of re-educating the C-Suite on business process and then on business rules?

Kevin Brennan

I'll take a shot at that first. 

Certainly, you can look at Paul and Roger and Gladys and Ron, and they've been trying to educate the business for a very long time.  I think we're finally starting to make some headway in recent years.  This conference is a big part of that — coming together and having that message that's going out through you and going out in a bunch of different directions.  That's all part of what we need to do to get business to understand that they need to start thinking about these things and to begin using these capabilities.

Kathleen Barret

This is always the hard part about any of those types of questions (or even leaving a conference like this) — you feel very empowered and inspired, and you want to go back and make massive changes quickly.  Then you hit your organization, and you feel like you've run into a brick wall.

But, you know what?  It does happen.  What you have to do — and this is the painful part of it — is you just have to keep pushing and pushing and demonstrating your value. 

What we're talking about is delivering value to your business.  If you do that, I guarantee you they're going to notice that something different is happening.  It's not about reacting; it's not about writing an order.  It's about putting your business in a position to be more effective.  So, by demonstrating what you've learned here, by demonstrating the value of thinking in terms of the business, I guarantee you there will be recognition and you will start to move the recognition of the value of the BA up in the organization.

Kevin Brennan

And if your business can't recognize value that's probably a good time to start looking for a different job.

Roger Burlton

I also think that opportunity will present itself in certain parts of what we're seeing here.  You just have to (first) spot it and then seize it.  Even if you can just do something small.  It's baby steps along the way.

Ron Ross

I would add to that — and I think this is true, Roger, for your consulting practice and it's true for ours — not across the board but very frequently, there is some business leader, some business visionary, some guy that's actually in management, who has a problem and it's not getting solved.  And he comes to us and asks, "Okay, I have this problem.  I don't know why they can't solve it.  What do I need to know?"  They may use different ways of talking about the problem as they see it — different terminology and so on.  But there is, in many companies, a select minority (a select group of leaders) who perceive problems that aren't being solved.  I always tell people to look for who those people are and try, as best you can, to position yourself as the means to the ends that they are seeking.

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How far into the future do you have to look to see some of these process and rules tools being able to interface with each other, to help with traceability and communication between the different areas?
[from the audience]    There were a lot of great vendors here, with a lot of tools.  As core business analysts, you have your rule requirements tools and your rule repository tools, and then you have your rule engines to implement all those business rules.  Speaking of emerging trends, how far into the future do you have to look to see some of these tools being able to interface with each other, to help with traceability and communication between the different areas?

Roger Burlton

If you look at those tools, you can see where they came from; they came from (typically) a point place somewhere in the system development life cycle or the enterprise architecture space.  So, the issue is this.  Some of them are now trying to reach wider than that, but they weren't really built for that purpose. 

I think that when you're looking for tools you have to look for tools that are fundamentally architected to handle anything, not just a specification-formatted requirements definition kind of tool.  Look for something that's not just a process model, or not just a data model, or not just a rules specifier.  You've got to find something that not only is able to handle any of those things but even more importantly is something that allows those things to be actually associated with one another.  In other words, I can associate my activity in a process with the rules that are used to govern it and the strategy that it's supporting and the information that it's transforming. 

In the long run, we're only going to get traceability if we look for the associations — something that you can query.  For example, if I pull this rule tell me all the processes that are impacted because I want to change it here but not everywhere else.  If you don't know that, you end up as somebody once said:  The main cause of problems is solutions.  I know it keeps you in business for a long time, but we just keep working off our own stuff, over and over and over again.  So, I think you need to look for that traceability in the tool architecture.

Paul Harmon

I'd like to add to that, referring back to the OMG and a point that was made earlier.  What's happened in the last five or six years is that a number of different tools have started to merge.  We probably didn't put as much emphasis in this conference on the evolution of some of these tools.  But the fact is that the vendor community is moving very rapidly towards creating what I'll call a "process platform" — if you want to call it a "business architecture platform" you could do that as well.

The point is:  Companies like IBM and Oracle and SAP have bought up rule vendors; they have bought up process modeling vendors; they have bought up enterprise application integration vendors; they have bought up workflow vendors.  And recently they have bought up most of the business intelligence vendors.

They are putting these things together, and it's going to take them another few years to merge them and get a really smooth interface.  But it's the OMG standards that are, by and large, helping drive this kind of integration.  It's the interest in solving process problems across the organization and knowing those problems are half rule problems as well as simply workflow problems that is driving this. 

In five years (at the most) you're going to have reasonably sophisticated tools that you're going to be able to use to do lots of different things and to move back and forth with your traceability.  It's actually evolving reasonably fast.

Kevin Brennan

And with those tools I'd like to add that, of the decade I spent working as a business analyst, six years was supporting software projects that could have been done by BAs with the kind of tools Paul is talking about coming in the next few years.  That is going to have a big impact on the way a lot of you do your work.

Kristen Seer

We're just about out of time and I've already promised one person over here the last question.

Ron Ross

Oh, but I was waiting to answer quickly.  I have to answer that.

Kristen Seer

Okay — quickly.

Ron Ross

The quick answer is that the business rules space is different from the other answers that we've heard here because the current generation of engines — rule engines, business rule management systems — are not business level.  They are just not there.

You'll see, in five to ten years, a whole emerging new generation of tools that bring things up to the level of RuleSpeak, up to the level of business communication.  That will fundamentally change the way you look at the knowledge, the know-how, the governance process in the organization. 

So, on the rules side we're not as close to that as perhaps the others.

Gladys Lam

I've been begging rules vendors, for the last five to eight years, to have that business support. <applause>

Ron Ross

You just have to push the vendors.  Just keep telling them:  "Look, you're not giving us what we need.  You may be giving software developers what they need, but you're not giving the business analysts and the business people what we need in order to manage and control our own destiny."  It's just not happening.  And they say it isn't happening because customers aren't asking for it.

Gladys Lam

They need to hear this from all of you!

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Would this conference be a good place to try to integrate with the project management people?
[from the audience]    There are two particular constituencies who we could probably learn a lot from and who could probably learn a lot from us — that's the C-level people and the project management people.  I'm wondering if you feel that a conference of this type is a good place to try to accomplish that integration.  And if so, how?

Kathleen Barret

I'll answer that.  This may sound terrible but, you know what, there are enough BA/PM conferences.  I love my BAs, but they've been bullied by PMs long enough.  This is no reflection on the PMs, but we need our own spot.  We need to do our own thing.  We need to learn.  We've got to invest in our own toolkit.  Our participation in their conferences — helping educate them — is very, very important.  But this is all about you.  I don't want to muddy the waters with another discipline.

I think it's important that we talk about how we work with PMs in certain contexts; we had one of those presentations early today.  But, no, I'd rather pick professions or disciplines that are much more tightly aligned to what we do.  There are other opportunities to look at BAs and PMs in other conferences.

Ron Ross

When Kathleen answers a question right, she really nails it.  <applause>

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Wrap-up
[Kristen]    So, on that note I think this would be a great place to end.  I want to thank you all very, very much for your participation.  Obviously, there's a lot to think about when you go back to your organizations.
      I'm really excited for all of you to come back next year, and I want to hear about what you've accomplished and how you've been trend-setters in your organizations.  Thank you all very much.

References

[1]  Jason Questor, Founding Partner and EVP Learning Systems, Achieveblue Corporation. return to article

[2]  C-suite — The highest level executives are usually called "C-level" or part of the "C-suite", referring to the 3-letter initials starting with "C" and ending with "O" (for "Chief __________ Officer"); the major traditional such offices are Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_title return to article

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Building Business Capability Conference, "Building Business Capability 2010 Experts Panel: Emerging Trends " Business Rules Journal Vol. 12, No. 5, (May 2011)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2011/b593.html

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Building Business Capability Conference
Building Business Capability Conference

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