Building Business Capability 2011 Experts Panel: Emerging Trends

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Panelists

Kathleen Barret President and Chief Executive Officer, IIBA
Kevin Brennan Executive Vice President, Community Development, IIBA
Roger Burlton Founder, BPTrends Associates / Process Renewal Group
Paul Harmon Executive Editor, BPTrends
Gladys S.W. Lam    Principal & Co-Founder, Business Rule Solutions, LLC;
Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC;
Executive Editor, BRCommunity.com

Moderator

Kirsten Seer  Senior Consultant, Business Rule Solutions, LLC

Topics

  1. What practical advice do you have for the attendees, to take the lessons-learned back to their organizations?

  2. How are we going to get business rules, business process, and business analysis working together, to build a practice that works as a whole?

  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to move people in a direction that integrates these sorts of trends with other things that are already out there?

  4. Have you considered adding an executive track to the conference?

  5. How do the things we've been hearing about this week fit in with the 'agile' approach?

  6. Why don't we focus more on gathering complete examples, showing how things integrate?

  7. Do you have any tips or advice on how I could gently influence our organization to have the Business Analysts more on the business side than on the IT side (where they now are)?

  8. At future conferences, could the key sessions be staggered throughout the three days?

  9. Isn't attention to the development (IT) side missing?

  10. Wrap-up

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Welcome & Introductions
Kristen Seer:   I want to welcome you to this final panel session — yes, there is some light at the end of the tunnel!  We understand that, at this point, you are totally saturated with information.  You have been here three days — or four or five days with the tutorials — and that's a tremendous amount of information to take in.  So, for this panel, what we like to do is say, "Okay, now that we've gotten all this information, talked to people, and networked to see what other people are doing, what are the next steps?"  What is going to happen next?

But before we get into the participation side (and we do want all of you to be asking lots of questions) I'll first do some introductions, even though our panel does not really need any introductions.

My name is Kristen Seer.  I'm with Business Rule Solutions, and I'll be moderating the panel for you today.  We have kind of "pairings" although I specifically broke them up here in the seating. 

We have Ron Ross and Gladys Lam, who I work for — so therefore I'm obligated to say how wonderful and visionary they are ... true visionaries in the field.  But if you want the true story, come talk to me later. <laughter> 

Meanwhile, we have Roger Burlton and Paul Harmon, from BP Trends.  The little tidbits I have on them are, for some reason, all food related.  I've always admired Roger's loyalty to his clients.  He has done some work with a chocolate manufacturer and he's very loyal to their products, and won't eat anyone else's.  I find that very admirable since I'm a chocolate addict and I'll eat anything that has the word 'chocolate' in it.  And I just found out that Paul is an aficionado of Chardonnay.  I am, too, Paul, so we should really talk and compare notes. 

And lastly, we have our two representatives from the IIBA, Kathleen Barret and Kevin Brennan.  Kathleen did a great keynote this morning, touching on some good things we want to talk about today.  Over the last three days I have tried to catch her to talk but she always seems to be surrounded by a whole bunch of BAs.  So, I got to thinking that we need to coin a new term for that ... like there is a 'murder of crows' or a 'gaggle of geese', we need to have something for a group of BAs:  an 'analysis of BAs' or a 'modeling of BAs'.  Perhaps we should have a contest to coin a new term for that concept.  Kevin has also done great work with the IIBA, and some of you may have caught his presentations or may have worked with him on the IIBA.  Others of you may be thinking, "Gee, that name seems familiar but I'm not too sure where I've heard it."  Well, it seems that Kevin is the go-to guy for quotes if you are publishing a book.  His name has appeared on the back of a number of books, including Ron and Gladys' latest book.  So, if you're writing a book, go see Kevin.  He'll give you a nice quote.

As you see we have lovely panelists today — true experts in each of their fields.  This is really your opportunity to pose any last, burning questions you didn't get answered ... particularly if you're wondering, "Now what do I do?"  We know you are going to go back as the pioneers in your organizations and that you will be introducing some of these concepts and trying to apply them.  Here is the place to explore "What is the next step?" 

I've talked to a couple of people about this ... one said she already had a meeting booked with her peers because a few of them attended the conference and they did the divide and conquer approach.  They already have a meeting booked for next Monday to compare notes and decide what to do next.  I thought, "That's great!"  Another person has already been emailing a number of people, urging them, "We've gotta get going!  We've gotta make this happen."  So, these are the types of things I want to ask our panelists to discuss. 

I'll ask an opening question, and then I'll open it up to you for your questions.

return to article

What practical advice do you have for the attendees, to take the lessons-learned back to their organizations?
[Kristen]   My question for the panelists is:  What really practical advice would you give to these folks, now that they've absorbed all this great information, to take back to their organizations?  How are they going to get these ideas out there, to make things happen in their organization?
     I'll start with Kathleen since she touched on this in her keynote.

Kathleen Barret

I thought I was going to have at least a couple of answers ahead of me before I had to come up with mine. <chuckles>  Let me think ... I'm going to make it personal by thinking about how I would take home lessons that I'd gotten here and how I would try to distribute what I'd learned.

I would probably take it from the top and work my way down.  If you're like me you're completely saturated with information and you don't know which way to turn.  So, I would probably go back and think about what are the key challenges that I have in my organization.  I would construct, in my mind, a priority list of things that are causing me the biggest challenges in getting that work done.  Then, based on that, I would map that against the things I've learned over the last few days and map it against the people I've met and the business cards I've collected.  And then I would start to work through it. 

There is so much information that we've absorbed, I'm afraid that if we try to do too much too quickly we become overwhelmed and actually don't make any progress at all.  So, I think it's a question of prioritizing your own challenges and then applying what you've learned, based on what you see as the biggest 'win' in your own situation.

Kristen Seer

Spoken like a true analyst!  Roger?

Roger Burlton

You've learned a lot here this week, but my main, very strong recommendation is this:  "Don't stop learning!"  There is a lot of good insight out there ... a lot of information sources. 

So, I'm going to try to suck up to everybody else on the panel here and suggest a few things.  Sign up for BPTrends.com — it's free; there's a lot of good business process stuff there.  Paul is the Executive Editor.  I'd also suggest you sign up for BRCommunity.com, which is the business rules equivalent.  And join the IIBA.

So, how am I doing, guys?  <good!  very good!  laughs>

Also, another thing I would suggest is this:  A lot of stuff was presented here — now you need to practice it.  Maybe even take something in your own life and try it out in miniature.  But with regard to that is (if you're male) don't go back and try to rearrange the kitchen because you found a more efficient way to do it.  You'll be booted out of there in no time. <laughter>  Just try some of this stuff yourself; try to get it going.  Just practice it and learn.

Kristen Seer

Gladys?

Gladys Lam

My belief is that to instill change you have to change yourself first.  You've learned a lot, and if it has changed your mind on something or opened your mind to something, be open to that mindshift ... to changing your outlook.  When you see a certain problem in your organization think, "Hey, what I learned at the conference, can it be used to solve that for us?"  Start applying it. 

My word is always, "Just do it!"  If you have learned some new techniques this week, just apply some of them.  Don't be afraid to try.  Open your mind up to be aware of issues and then be aware of solutions that you've learned, and just do it.

A few people have come up to me during this conference, saying that they were here last year and that they learned enough to make a difference within just this past year's timeframe.  And now they're back, with more people.  Within a year it was real change for them.

Kristen Seer

Okay.  Kevin?

Kevin Brennan

First of all, I'd like to say that, yes, I do have quotes.  And I'm very, very happy to endorse Ron and Gladys' new book because it paints a different perspective.  It talks about doing business analysis from a business perspective, rather than an IT perspective.  There's really not a lot out there that does that for the BA community.  By the way, I also can't forget to talk about Roger's and Paul's books.  I'm sure they'll come to me when they have a new edition and they want the best quote for it. <laughter>  Those are also great resources when you want to learn about business process analysis if that is your area.  That's becoming a very critical place for BAs, too.

In terms of advice, I would say, "Think small change."  Change is hard, and I hear people coming out of this conference saying, "Oh, my god, we've been doing everything completely wrong."  While that may be true <laughter> it's probably not the best idea to walk in on Monday morning and say, "Hey, you know what, everybody.  Stop what you're doing; let's do everything differently!"  Pick something you've heard about here that you think might be useful and try it out.  Use it.  People will see that it works.  And then keep going — keep making those incremental, small changes that will make your organization better.

Kristen Seer

Paul?

Paul Harmon

I now understand what the speakers were talking about in the first session when they said they didn't want to be the last one. <laughter> 

Ron Ross

You're not the last one.

Paul Harmon

I know, but I'm far enough down the line.  I think everything that's been said is about what I have on my list. 

The conference has presented a whole lot of information.  If you went back and immediately tried to do fifteen things, you'd be almost guaranteed to be unsuccessful.  So, you have to pick.  Look at your own organization.  You know what their priorities are — you're trying to make them better.  Pick one or two of the ideas you've gotten this week and play with those — explore them, and then move on from there.

Kristen Seer

And last but not least, Ron?

Ron Ross

Unless I missed it, the only plug I didn't hear was the Business Process Manifesto.  Did you mention that, Roger? 

Roger Burlton

No, I didn't.  You can say it, if you'd like.

Ron Ross

Roger has been working on it for a couple of years, and he has enlisted my help, from time to time, which may (or may not) be under the category of 'help'.  But, nonetheless, he asked for it so he got it. 

It's really good stuff.  I consider it to be a very important repositioning — or maybe just positioning — of the proper role of business process management.  I think Roger said he may have it out in the next couple of weeks (which probably means next year).  So, look for that.  The Business Rules Manifesto, by the way, is also something worth looking into.

I won't take up any more time on the question.  The only point that I would add is just simply an answer to a question that many people have asked me; here's what I've said, "You need to understand the pain-points of management in management's terms ... from their perspective."  Understand their vocabulary for it, and whatever it is that you're trying to get them to sign up for, you need to couch it as solutions to those problems, in their terms.  That's the way it has to be.

Kristen Seer

Okay.  So, now I'm going to open up to the floor.  I always follow Gladys' example — she's my role model.  And if you were at the Practitioners' Panel you saw that she offered some treats for the first questions.  So, I will follow her lead on that — I have a choice of a t-shirt or some chocolates. 

From the Audience

What kind of chocolate?

Kristen Seer

What kind of chocolate?  They're chocolate-covered fruit.  (And that doesn't count as the first question.) <laughter>  So, who has a question?

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How are we going to get business rules, business process, and business analysis working together, to build a practice that works as a whole?
[from the audience]   I've heard a lot of really good stuff at this conference about rules, processes, and (we all know) business analysis.  But what I really learned about is synergy.  What I haven't heard is how soon are these going to work together?  This is about 'emerging trends' and what I really need to hear now is how we're actually going to make these all work together ...  how we're going to build a practice that works as a whole.  Comments?

Ron Ross

Gladys and I have, I think, a new book out about that <laughter> so you might want to take a look at that.

We've actually worked a lot, over the last fifteen years, to ensure that we knew (and have proven) how business rules work with process.  Gladys is just naturally a strategy genius, so that was her contribution, going way back.  I think you need all those pieces, plus business vocabulary and the 's' word ('semantics') that I hate to use.

It's not that hard once you see how they fit together.  I think that for business analysts with the kind of background that you have — those of you who do want to focus on a business-orientation — there is methodology (or techniques) there that will enable you to do it.

Gladys Lam

I think you want to start seeing a solution as a whole ... working the problem and looking at the complete solution — and not just say, "Okay, because I'm a process analyst I'm only going to do 'process'."  Be aware that, "Hey, if I put 'rules' in here, too, it is just better."  Or if I'm a rules analyst who says "I'm just going to do 'rules'." ... realize that if you put in process it will be better.

So, don't let organization boundaries stop you.  Look at what is truly the solution to what you are trying to do.  Our experience is that you need all those components, together.

Kevin Brennan

They just took my answer. <laughter> 

I think this is an important question for the BA community.  I occasionally run into business analysts who say, "Why would I ever learn anything other than use cases?"  The simple answer is that use cases cannot fully describe a business.  They describe how people interact with a system.  They are a useful tool, but if you limit yourself to one tool you will never get a complete picture. 

Develop multiple skill sets.  Learn to see how these knit together and you will be able to do exactly what you're looking for.

Ron Ross

We have a concept in the methodology we use that we call "walking the walls."  (I think I've mentioned that in several of my presentations.)  What it means is that we put the process model on one wall; we put the vocabulary (what we call the 'concept model' or 'fact model') on another wall.  And we usually have strategy in the front and write business rules in the back. 

We've found it is actually sometimes more difficult to explain these ideas to the IT people than to business people.  By physically walking between the walls we find that business people, in particular, get it

If you are over here you talk about transformation and value-added work ... if you are over there you are talking about meaning and definitions and vocabulary.  If you are back there you are talking about guidance and rules for decisions.  And if you are up here you are talking about goals and strategy and risk (business risk).

So, just get yourself comfortable with walking between the walls, both mentally and physically, and I think you'll have great success with that.

Roger Burlton

The only problem with Ron's analogy of walking the walls is that if we find something new, we're going to have to get different rooms. <laughter>  We'll be running out of walls.

Gladys Lam

The ceiling?

Roger Burlton

The ceiling ... on the ceiling, okay.  Sorry, Ron, we're good.

To get a bit more serious, one of the key things we need to recognize is that we are still early days in how these things come together.  The bodies of knowledge — the BABOKs — have been out there for a while, and they are changing/maturing all the time. 

There is an effort to do a Process Body of Knowledge as well.  That's in the works.  One of the things we're really happy to say is that the IIBA is also a member of the group that's working on it, and ultimately (and Kevin can back me up on this) a lot of the stuff in that open body of knowledge is going to end up over in the BABOK anyway.

So, I think we'll see, once the bodies of knowledge start to come together, start to mature — Ron mentioned the Manifestos — those will help us put the pieces together a little bit better.  But it is going to come down to a methodology to put them all together.  And I think right now we're still not quite there.  But if you have the knowledge you can do it as you need it.

Kristen Seer

Next question?

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Do you have any suggestions for how to move people in a direction that integrates these sorts of trends with other things that are already out there?
[from the audience]   A lot of people still aren't practicing the kinds of things you all have been talking about and that we've been hearing about all week.  So, those of us who are trying to implement some of these newer ideas (that I know aren't quite as new as people think they are) in organizations that are doing different things, do you have any suggestions for how to bring people along?  How do you integrate with groups that think that PMI is the way to go, or TOGAF, or ITIL?  Those are good things too, and I think that we need to integrate.  Do you have any suggestions for how to move people in a direction that integrates the sorts of trends we've heard about this week with other things that are already out there?
     <long silence>

Roger Burlton

I guess not. <laughter>

Kevin Brennan

The best advice I think I can give in your situation is the suggestion I gave earlier.  If you want to use new techniques, new ways of thinking, new modeling in your organization, then do it.  Find a project that needs help and just do it.  People will see it and ask what you are doing there ... "Oh, that makes so much sense!  How do I do that?" 

It's a lot easier than trying to convince them they should be thinking about this — you need to show them that it works.

Kathleen Barret

Another thing you need to do (and this is something that Ron mentioned) is understand where the pain-points are in the organization and understand how you may be able to apply some of these things you've learned to address those. 

When you've tried other things and they haven't worked then people tend to be open to trying something different.  If you understand where those challenges have been — think back on some of the things you've learned here and want to introduce — maybe people will be more amenable to that because the old ways haven't worked very well for those cases.  So, that can be your opportunity to introduce something different.

Ron Ross

Yes, doing more of the same is just not going to work. 

The important selling that's going to go on is with the business side — the business management — and identifying their goals, understanding the risks that they perceive, and choosing and selecting among all the techniques that are available, what specifically will produce the best results, within a limited scope, for what they perceive as the problem.

Just remember, business people deserve to see that the concepts work.  So, you have to deliver success and stay within a scope that will allow you to deliver.  And then your credibility will be higher and you'll have more of a chance the next time around to perhaps broaden the set of tools and techniques that you use.

Kevin Brennan

As we learned this week (from Gladys), the most common business rule management system is Excel.  So you don't have to go out and buy a big BRMS to be able to begin to capture and manage business rules.  Start small.

Gladys Lam

The best way is to show success, right?  But you have to be smart about that.  Evaluate what is 'success'.  Focus on what is the true success for your organization.  Don't start doing a use case if the use case doesn't speak to your business people.  Ultimately, that won't do anything for you. 

Find out what it is that you really know.  If you have that set of deliverables that have helped you, I'll guarantee you someone will knock on your door again and say, "Can you come help me?"

Roger Burlton

One of the challenges in all this, though, is the issue of "Do we have permission to do that?"  Will doing this violate existing standards and methodologies?

Our recommendation is, typically, to start with yourself ... with your own group.  Start where you have some control.  Prove it within your own area; show the value.  That way you don't have to go ask permission. 

I see it happening in so many organizations where I see people trying to set up Business Process Centers of Expertise.  They ask, "How do we do this?"  And I say, "Why don't you take your entire methodology and apply it to YOU?"  Take your own advice and practice it, learn it.  Because if you're not doing it — if you're not doing these things for yourself — you have no credibility trying to take that to the rest of the organization. 

From the Audience

I'd like to add to that.  Collaboration will only happen if you find a high-level manager or an executive to sponsor it.  Go seek out one of those kinds of people.  If one of the high-level managers gets it and they sponsor that collaboration ... that's the only way I see that happening.

I saw one CIO embrace BPM and say to the PMO folks, "You PMO folks, and the BPM folks and the Business Analysts, I don't care what you do, get together.  When business has a problem they will come to you.  You figure out what you're going to do if it's process, if it's technology, how you're going to manage it."  If that executive had not said that, I don't think the collaboration would have happened.

Kristen Seer

Does anyone want to add to that?

return to article

Have you considered adding an executive track to the conference?
[from the audience]   I have a follow-up question to that.  The four-pronged approach has really worked for this conference; there's been a lot of synergy.  But is there ever any thought for having more of an executive slice to this — a business leaders track, maybe a smaller track with a shorter time period — as part of this conference?

Kathleen Barret

I think the short answer is 'yes'.  The one thing we always need to do (just like our businesses) is keep things fresh, keep answering new kinds of problems that we're dealing with.  Just like you folks, if we answer with the same answer as the problem evolves and changes, we're not going to be successful. 

One of the things that I believe is absolutely essential is that we go back and think about this conference and how we can engage people at different levels, to educate them on the benefit of these integrated tools and approaches to business problems.  So, yes, I absolutely agree.

Now, this is all part of the planning process.  We'll go back (after our brains clear out) and go through that all.  But we absolutely agree that that's an essential market that we want to engage and we'd like to attract.  It's a question of figuring out how to do that.

Gladys Lam

Let me ask a question ... because we have tried that. 

As some of you know who have attended this conference over the past fourteen years or so, Ron and I have tried that.  For a few years we had an "Executive Track" — just one day and held in a separate area, away from the conference area so the executives would feel that they were 'special' and not with the 'worker bees'.  And we tried to get leaders who could talk with that group in that arena. 

So, here's my question to you.  If we were to have something like that, do you feel like your executives would be interested? ... would come?  How many here think that there's at least a VP-level or a C-level — somebody that you have connection with — who would attend an exclusive day that's close to a golf course?  I'm serious; we tried to section it off and have high-powered speakers ...

Roger Burlton

high-powered? ... as opposed to us. <laughter>

Gladys Lam

Can I see a show of hands?  Do you have connections? ... have coffee with your C-levels and be willing to ask them to join us?

So, I see a few hands here ... Okay.  Thank you.  It gives us something to work with.

It is what we'd like to do.  The question is how to make it happen.

Ron Ross

Yes, they're on different distribution lists, mailing lists.  They listen to different sources.  And they have different objectives when they go to conferences.  For example, about five years ago I was talking with one CEO who had come to the conference and I asked him why he came to Orlando.  His reply was, "My grandchildren."  That was not the answer I wanted to hear.

Paul Harmon

This is a different angle to all that, but we've talked about applying specific things.  I think also that you as individuals probably need to develop some kind of model or theory of how these different pieces fit together in general.  In other words, not because any particular problem will require it, but because you've got a lot of different ways of solving problems and, increasingly, your value to the organization will be in knowing which technique is going to work best in which particular situation. 

The software vendors, for example, started off building business modeling workflow tools.  And then they bought rule vendors, and they bought business intelligence vendors.  They're putting together these very elaborate platforms.  It will take them awhile to get it all integrated, but three, four, five years from now your standard process platform is going to include all of the techniques that have been talked about at this conference.  And somebody is going to have to look at that tool and say, "Which one of these techniques do I use in this particular situation?" 

So, try to figure out in advance, however you do it, how these different techniques work and what particular situation would work best for (say) rules ... for example, it's a 'decision' situation; it requires that kind of analysis.  Or it's a flow problem and requires some sort of process.  Or it's going to be automated and requires good requirements definition.  Having some rough idea about how all the pieces fit together — which ones give you leverage where — is something you'll want to develop. 

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How do the things we've been hearing about this week fit in with the 'agile' approach?
[from the audience]   The 'agile' movement is very popular.  Several of the speakers talked about how the approaches presented this week will help us be more responsive to business needs ... in other words, to be more 'agile' in a business sense.  So, it seems like there should be some synergy with the agile approach.  How do the things we've been hearing about this week fit in with the agile approach?

Roger Burlton

Let me start with that.  One of the main things I've heard a few times this week was that if you have good architectures, where the pieces are well defined, you can do agile development by combining things together, by assembling solutions rather than writing code for solutions.  So, when I hear "agile development" I don't automatically think of Scrum and Agile Programming; I think more of agile development

However, I don't think that's the general message in that community.  It's more like "program faster!"  ... that's "program the wrong pieces that will not fit together very well, faster!" as opposed to "design things that can be assembled and modified, and swapped in and swapped out, better."  I think that part of our job is to educate management — including IT management — that being agile is not just about programming.

Kevin Brennan

So, there are a few things in that question for the BA community.  My general advice for you is that as agile deployment grows and matures (and I've been engaged in various places of that community for a number of years now and I've seen that maturing happen) what we, as Business Analysts, have to learn is to solve the business problem, not the IT problem.  'Agile' as a software development method is getting better at solving that IT problem, but they need to know what the business problem is that's being solved.  If you want more about that I'll point you to the Agile Extension to the BABOK, coming out next week.  (I think many of you know that we've done a lot of work in that regard.) 

So, I think it does change things.  For example, Paul mentioned that we've seen the evolution of the business process management and business rules tools.  I look at these tools and I see something that, in a few years, will enable people to map out/model the process, model the rules.  Many things that, in the past, were built as business software applications will be able to run in these systems.  Certainly, at least two of the projects I've spent the longest developing as a Business Analyst could have been implemented in these tools. So, we're going to see a lot of change and a lot of advances in business agility in the next few years.

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Why don't we focus more on gathering complete examples, showing how things integrate?
[from the audience]   I'd like to come back to the actual question of learning — how to integrate the different methods, which used to go separately.  I think we lack complete examples.  In many of the presentations, there were a lot of good ideas, but (in fact) I think there were few complete examples.
     People learn from examples so I think we need to share examples of (say) business processes and how they integrate with the rules.  Maybe this could be done with some kind of imaginary company models — business models, data models, and maybe strategy stuff — showing how to relate things at the strategic level to the business level, and then maybe the IT level.
     I think that, really, one of the reasons why this is not getting adopted faster is because people come back from a conference like this and say, "Okay this is such a great idea."  But when they need to start doing this they really need examples to look at.
     So, my question is why don't we focus more on gathering complete examples? ... both good and bad — because people learn also from bad examples (mistakes).  Why don't we talk more about things like 'business process libraries' — not necessarily in tools but just examples.

Ron Ross

Well, one problem is that the presentation slots are only an hour long, so if you present a whole collection of business rules for a significant process you would spend the time doing nothing more than just explaining the business and the terminology (and so on) of the example.  So, it doesn't quite work in an hour presentation slot.

Another issue is, of course, a lot of this work that we do is confidential.  We have to get permission to use what we can, in forums like this, in order to illustrate.  I did use some examples this morning in my business architecture talk, and those were real life examples.  But there are some challenges there when it comes to real life examples.

Gladys Lam

Are you asking for some examples right here?

From the Audience

Yes, I think that we need some shared examples.

Gladys Lam

That is one of the reasons why 'case studies' are one of the top picks for presentations for this conference.  Through the nine tracks over the last three days I would say there are quite a large number of case studies that give those kinds of examples.  It's just impossible for one person to catch all the case studies.

Ron Ross

That is true.  Each of the three Forums have their own rules about what kinds of presentations to accept, but for the Business Rules Forum it has always been our philosophy that if you are presenting a case study and you're not a vendor, you'll be automatically accepted.  Why?  Because people want to see a real case, and they want to hear other people like themselves having success with it.

Gladys Lam

This morning I went to Microsoft's session.  I don't know how many of you were there, but they talked about going from a manual, traditional way of product licensing (I may not have the right words for it) that had 40,000 rules.  And they went down to one thousand rules that the business side can scribe. 

I went to another talk, by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control], where they talked about capturing their rules and putting them on the web.  They don't even implement them in their system because they are not about implementing the rules; they are about publishing the rules so that the rest of the world knows about them.  So, they have a method of doing that, which they shared. 

Those are just a few of the case studies that I went to this week. 

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Do you have any tips or advice on how I could gently influence our organization to have the Business Analysts more on the business side than on the IT side (where they now are)?
[from the audience]   I'm coming here as a functional analyst, so I feel like I'm a 'spy' ... we're just starting.
     We have a few Business Analysts.  This conference has been a real eye-opener because, as I've been watching our Business Analysts, I see they've really been struggling because they've been directed to go on the IT side.  So, it has been difficult, watching the business not getting the good business opportunities and rules and processes.
     When I go back to my organization I get to present to their community in practice.  I was wondering if there are any tips or advice on how I could gently influence them to have the Business Analysts more on the business side?  Are there any nice little strategies so that they're not caught up in trying to sell all this as technology and miss the real goal?

Ron Ross

Well, (again) you know it all has to do with understanding the vocabulary the business people use to talk about core concepts in the know-how and then to frame your discussion of techniques or solutions or approaches not in technical terms but in those business terms. 

Not everybody is going to buy into that.  In particular, a lot of IT people won't buy into that.  But the business people, if they hear you're speaking their language (and find that you understand their vocabulary), the chances are that they will give you an audience. 

It's a matter of repeating the same idea until it 'catches' — it's not a single event.  It's a continuous series of "Well, let's talk about it this way."

Kathleen Barret

I guess I'm a just a real BA!  So, I'm going to say (again) apply your business analysis skills to this one.  I think you have to understand what the root cause is of the problem.  If they tend to focus on IT instead of the business, is it because they aren't rewarded for thinking about the business?

Kevin Brennan

I saw a nod there.

Kathleen Barret

Yes, I saw that.  And so you need to identify what's really driving the behavior.  You can tell them it's great to talk in business terms and you need to know about the business but until we understand, really, what's driving the behavior and address the root cause it's going to be very hard to convince them.  And you can't blame them because if they are rewarded for focusing on fixing a bug in an application or entering another screen, it's "I don't care about the business side.  It doesn't really matter to me."

So, I think you need to understand that.  And if you can get to the root cause maybe it's a management issue, maybe it's an ignorance issue; maybe it's a reward issue.  Then try to address that and see if there's a way that you can convince the people who control those things to help make the change in the organization.

Kevin Brennan

Is this the part where I'm supposed to plug Ron and Gladys' book again?

Ron Ross

No, that was a good answer — better than mine, so just erase what I said.

The only thing I think Kathleen left out was 'fear'.  There is fear of change a lot of the time.  And so that inertia that's there is often about self preservation or self protection ... circling the wagons.  There's no other way to say it because we are in a period very badly changed and there's no guarantee that IT will be around in x-number of years in the form that it's around today. 

So, again, that's something that you need to understand — base motivation — and deal with it.  The way to survive professionally is to learn to solve the business problems.  Then you will have a future.

Kevin Brennan

And the only thing I would add to those two answers is that the reason people tend to rush to IT solutions is that they feel that they've already figured out the "why" — they've already figured out the problem so it's:  "Just go fix my problem.  This is what I want you to do."

It's a tricky thing to do but as a Business Analyst we always have to take that step back and understand the context in which they are trying to solve that problem.  Because one of the painful lessons I've learned, in my early days as a BA, was that every project I was on to some extent was solving the wrong problem.  Sometimes they were really solving the wrong problem — they were doing something that had nothing to do with the actual problem, and they spent a lot of money doing it.  Sometimes it was near the real problem, but there was always something about the business that really wasn't being fixed ... being addressed by what they'd chosen to do. 

So, you need to find the right way to talk to your stakeholders about it.  I often found that they were pretty open to it if you used the right approach.  For example (and you probably know this technique):  "I'm sorry.  I'm new here.  I really don't understand and it would help me a lot if you can explain to me what you're trying to accomplish — what your goals are — so that I can do a better job helping you to make sure that the developers build the right system."  Then, just keep exploring that until they say, "You know what?  This isn't the right problem; we need to do something else." 

That may or may not work for you, but I do suggest that you always explore that in your questions.

Roger Burlton

There's another issue.  We're talking quite a bit as though they understand all this, but in so many cases they just don't know any better.  Now we're all smart; we've been through a week's worth of stuff here.  They've not been here; they haven't seen this.  They don't have the same awareness.  So, we have to work to raise their awareness.  It's not just about raising our competency; it's also making sure that people know.  So, one of the things I would do is create a presentation myself, and go back and present this to my own organization, featuring a lot of the key things. 

By the way, as we're doing this session, I'm following the Twitter feed off this session, and there's really good stuff on it.  You can look at things, for example, like what Sandy Kemsley has been blogging about.  You can leap right to the blog from the Twitter feed.  There are two to three pages on a whole bunch of these presentations.  Grab that stuff!  Pass it on to everybody; educate them.  I think that, in so many cases, they know what they know, and we've got to break that paradigm somehow.

Gladys Lam

That's a good point, Roger.  I've got someone that came to one of my presentations and, at the end, asked for the slide packet.  And then she said, "Actually, I only needed one slide.  That slide spoke to me.  I know there are a lot of people in the room and I don't know what they got out of your talk, but that slide is enough for a project meeting I'll be attending.  That's the slide to show and explain what I need to do for our immediate project."

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At future conferences, could the key sessions be staggered throughout the three days?
[from the audience]   I want to comment on the real-life experiences and privacy issues from a different side of the coin.  Looking at the package and what we can go and see, yes, I see that there are a lot of case studies where you can hear how people have implemented this.  But as far as how it all fits together if anybody was at the session where one side of the room had the rules and not the process, and the other side had the process and not the rules, I think that was a huge way of illustrating, "This is how well you work without integrating the pieces."  However, I'm here as the only one from my organization so I didn't get the benefit of 'divide and conquer'.  For those who cannot do divide and conquer could we perhaps have some of what we perceive the more popular topics be staggered throughout the three days?

Ron Ross

By the third day we're all staggering anyway.

What did you mean by 'stagger'?

Gladys Lam

It's to give your talk a couple of times throughout the week.

From the Audience

Yes, especially some of the larger conversations, have it in the morning of Tuesday and then again on the afternoon of Thursday.

Ron Ross

In other words, here's what I'm going to tell you, here's what I'm telling you, here's what I told you.

From the Audience

That's right.

From the Audience

I'd just like to say, "I vote for the same thing."  I felt like I got so much out of the conference, but I also missed a ton of stuff.  I would get to a track I liked but I realized that I had to miss something in another track that I was interested in.  I think that would benefit everybody because then everybody would get to hear the whole thing.

Kristen Seer

I think we have time for one more question.

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Isn't attention to the development (IT) side missing?
[from the audience]   I think there's a piece missing.  I come from the development (the IT) side.  It's the development side that makes things happen; they know the tools and can do a prototype, to show you.  So, I would suggest not to underestimate the IT part.  You want to have both parts.  They know the rules.  In some of the complex applications, in the whole organization there's only one developer who knows the sophisticated rules.

Ron Ross

That's the scary part.

From the Audience

Yes, it is.  But that's the problem I have. 

You have to be able to show people what the tools can do.  The BA has to be able to work with the Developer to do that.  We have to work together to figure out how to unlock the knowledge in the organization.

Kristen Seer

So, you're saying that we've been ignoring IT a little bit and they have a lot of the knowledge.  We have to look at unlocking what they have in their heads.  Any comments on that?

Ron Ross

There are some areas of knowledge where that's true, and there are other areas of know-how where there are other sources to go to.  As I've said in my presentations, business rules come from agreements and laws and regulations and memos of understanding and certificates and warranties — lots of places at the operational level.  There's a right answer out there if you can just trace back to the source.

Now, other forms of know-how (what I called 'inferential decisions') — yes, that kind of know-how may be in the heads of just a few people, and we need some special techniques and tools to extract that.  Expert systems has always focused on that.  I think there's some very interesting new tooling in the space that uses social media techniques to try to harvest that, and I think we'll see more of that.  It's a large space and we need a whole collection of tools, and I think they're emerging.

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Wrap-up
[Kristen]   Okay.  Well, I think we've just about reached the end of our session.

Roger Burlton

Can I add just one thing?

You'd be amazed at the tweets flying around in this room.

Kevin Brennan

Are they complimentary?

Roger Burlton

Lots of suggestions.  In fact, a lot of the people in the room have been adding value to our discussion.  Maybe we should just be sitting here, watching tweets fly by.

Ron Ross

Next time, let's get a monitor up here and we'll take the best things said.

Roger Burlton

Things like this one:  "This is my first tweet — a shout-out to bbccon11.  Could sessions be recorded and made available to participants?" and "Don't repeat the sessions; record key sessions that attendees can view later.  Just my 2-cents."  Another one here:  "Like the suggestion that we should build a presentation for colleagues, summarizing this."  And "Wish list:  include session survey question to ask, 'Can you use this information at work next week? Did it add value?'" 

I have to say that this year (compared to last year) the amount of interaction among the people in the group — just through simple social media — is making a difference.  Maybe we need to think a bit more about building off those capabilities, going into the future. <applause>

Kristen Seer

Okay — thank you, everyone.  And now I'm going to hand it over to Gladys to close out this conference.  Thank you very much for attending.

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# # #

Standard citation for this article:


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Building Business Capability Conference, "Building Business Capability 2011 Experts Panel: Emerging Trends " Business Rules Journal Vol. 13, No. 8, (Aug. 2012)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2012/b662.html

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Building Business Capability Conference
Building Business Capability Conference

Building Business Capability is the only conference that provides insight into Business Analysis, Business Architecture, Business Process, Business Rules, Business Decisions, and Business Strategy & Transformation toward the pursuit of business excellence.
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