Top 10 Mistakes Business Analysts Make When Capturing Business Rules - Mistake #10: Not Communicating
This is the final article of the series. I thought it would be fitting to talk about communication. I certainly hope that all of you will continue to communicate with me through reading my articles, linking to me in LinkedIn, and following me on Twitter (@GladysLam).
My daughter does not communicate. I don't mean the usual teenage thing where teenagers don't talk to their parents. I mean she simply forgets to tell us significant events she encounters or achievements at school. What my husband and I get are all the issues: she does not understand anything the math teacher says; her chemistry project blew up; or her friends are not talking to her. In real life she is an A+ student, receives chemistry awards, and is very popular with her friends. When I ask her why she doesn't tell us all her achievements, she simply says, "I don't want to be boastful." I had to explain to her that communicating facts is not boastful.
I see the same thing happen with business rules projects. I have worked with many wonderful business analysts and business rules analysts who are so 'heads down' doing the work that they forget to communicate the wonderful work they have done. Remember that the business rules are the business logic for the organization. Very often it contains the business' intellectual property. A lot of times, the competitive advantage of an organization is in the business rules. Once this proprietary know-how is captured, it should be shared with the appropriate people.
Kelly Karlen — Manager, Business Rules Center of Excellence, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota — shared her experience:
We had sixty-six rules, and with those sixty-six rules we found we had twenty-four gaps or conflicts that we had identified simply by documenting it ... by getting it on paper. We had our Legal and Compliance area in there; we had our COO in there. And they were amazed at some of the things we were out of compliance on. We just had never sat down and looked at everything together, cohesively around that scope. And our COO immediately asked, "What's your next project?"
As a business rules analyst, one of your primary roles is to capture the business rules and communicate them to the appropriate parties. If you want to achieve the right results from your communication you must relate the right content to the right audience in the right way. An executive might not be interested in all the conditions you identified in your business rules to catch fraudulent activities, but he/she would be very interested that the business rules identified 1,000 fraudulent activities and saved the company close to $1,000,000. On the other hand, while an IT developer might not care too much about how much that business rule might potentially save the company, he needs to know the details of the business rule showing all the conditions to detect fraud as identified by the business. If he gets that wrong, that business rule will not be effective.
On a business rules project, what you want to communicate are:
- Business decisions and business rules sets,
- Business concepts and their clear definitions,
- The approach that is used,
- Any findings (any conflicts, gaps, inaccuracies, and redundancies you discovered during your analysis),
The audience of your communication should be:
- Business stakeholders impacted by, but not directly involved in, your project,
- Business stakeholders directly involved in your project,
- Project team members,
Again, the key to success is tailoring the message and the content to the right audience.
For executives — you want to highlight the successes, communicate the business benefits, and describe some key findings. They likely care less about the detailed business rules.
For business stakeholders impacted by, but not directly involved in, your project — you would want to bring in a little more of the key decisions and some high-level business rules. For this audience, you might need to simplify the business rule sets for easy understanding. Use graphical representation to show dependencies and impacts whenever appropriate.
For business stakeholders directly involved in your project — you should be communicating with them regularly during the course of the project. They need to be involved in reviewing and validating the decisions and business rules. However, the business rule statements and decision tables presented to them should be simplified. Use graphical representation whenever possible. Business logic can be very complex. A walk-through and detailed explanation by the business rule analyst involved with the business rule set would probably achieve the best result.
For the project team — the project team should be given updated concept definitions and business rule sets on a regular basis. Major changes should be reviewed and walked-through in order for the team to understand impact.
For IT — they need to be given all the detailed concept definitions and business rules sets. They must understand all the intricacies of each business rule and how the business rule relates to other business rules.
You might be thinking that there is a lot to communicate here. Where do I get the information to communicate? I can guarantee you that if you are conducting a business rules project with the right discipline, the above content just falls out naturally. The business rules will have all the details. Once you have the details, simplifying them is easy. If you do analysis of business rule sets, you will find conflicts, gaps, and inaccuracies, and if there aren't any, that is good to communicate too. Kelly's experience (above) of success from just identifying the business rules themselves is shared by many practitioners. All in all, the fact that you have a project to externalize and manage your business rules is in itself beneficial to the company. Installing key performance indicators to monitor the implementation of those business rules will provide you even more information on ROI that can be communicated.
Plainly speaking, here are some of the main things you need to remember:
- Don't just be 'heads down' and do work. Look up and spend time communicating the good work you are doing.
- Communicate the right content to the right audience in the right format.
- What you need to communicate naturally falls out of what you are doing; there's no need to go searching for content.
 "Business Rules Forum 2007 Practitioners' Panel: The DOs and DON'Ts of Business Rules," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Apr. 2008), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2008/b408.html
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