Strategy for Business Solutions: Part 2 — Business Mission and Business Goals

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal , and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys S.W.  Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal , and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam
Excerpted with permission from Building Business Solutions:  Business Analysis with Business Rules, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, An IIBA® Sponsored Handbook, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, October 2011, 304 pp.  URL:http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs

Business goals are a critical part of strategy, and therefore of a Policy Charter, our deliverable for presenting a strategy.  Business goals are effects your business solution must achieve day-in-and-day-out once that solution and the business system(s) that support it are deployed.  The first step in specifying business goals is to accurately express the business mission.

Business Mission

A business capability has exactly one business mission, which identifies what the business capability is responsible for doing in day-to-day operation.  By specifying the business mission carefully and accurately, you can often eliminate as much as 90% of the business immediately from scope.

The business mission should be crafted carefully, from a purely architectural point of view (not political or promotional).  Business goals have meaning only in the context of the business mission.

Crafting the Business Mission

A well-crafted business mission is bare-bones — no fluff.  It has three essential parts, each succinct:  the action, the service differentiation, and the beneficiary.  An example of a business mission for a to-be business capability in a large bank...

Business mission:  To offer a retirement savings plan product to customers of all ages.

  • to offer — the action part,
  • a retirement savings plan product — the service differentiation part,
  • to customers of all ages — the beneficiary part.

You should specify both the enterprise mission and the business mission.  The enterprise mission applies to the business as a whole and is normally fixed (not subject to change by the project).  The business mission applies specifically to the business capability within scope.

A question to test your business mission:  Does the business mission unnecessarily assume infrastructure or means of delivery?

Example:  To publish a fashion magazine covering the latest trends for young professionals.

Questions:  Is "magazine" essential to the business mission?  How about delivery via a subscription-based web site?

Alternative version:  To provide information about the latest fashion trends for young professionals.  This version assumes less about means of delivery and consequently broadens the range of potential business solutions significantly.

Run the alternative version(s) by the sponsor for a quick-and-dirty first test of architectural scope.

Business Goals

The business mission can be done directly.  Business goals can be done only indirectly.

Examples:  To keep customers satisfied.  To make a profit on operations.

A business goal is an effect a business capability is tasked with achieving on an ongoing basis in day-to-day activity.  Business goals represent the ultimate why, the deepest motivation for elements of a strategy (Policy Charter).

Once a business capability and its supporting system(s) are operational, business goals play an important role in assessing never-ending changes to business rules.  Business goals provide a basis to answer the crucial question:  Does every proposed change to deployed business rules make good business sense?

Business Goals vs. Project Objectives

A project objective is a specific, measurable target that a project is tasked with attaining, often (but not always) time-based, which disappears when the project terminates.  As the comparison in Table 1 shows, business goals and project objectives are completely distinct.

Table 1.  Business Goals vs. Project Objectives

Business Goals

Project Objectives

What do they represent?

effects that the strategy for the business solution must satisfy in the best possible way

what the overall change produced by the project can be expected to achieve for the business

What are they used for?

to gauge the continuing success of the to-be business capability once rolled out

to judge the one-time success of the project

When do they go away?

never (for as long as the business capability lasts)

when the project is over

To illustrate the differences between business goals and project objectives, consider a business mission for a to-be business capability for a large bank.

Business mission:  To offer a retirement savings plan product to customers of all ages

Table 2 shows some possible business goals and project objectives.

Table 2.  Business Goals vs. Project Objectives for the Large Bank Example

Business Goals

Project Objectives

  • To satisfy the individual, evolving needs of customers.

  • To support a personal relationship with customers.

  • To comply with government regulation.

  • To yield a profit.
  • To become operational by 1Q 2015.

  • To recover costs in 2 years.

  • To achieve a 10% profit level from the third year on.

  • To identify information required to comply with government regulations.

The distinct focus of business goals vs. project objectives should be readily apparent in their expression.  Table 3 explains how you highlight the distinction.

Table 3.  How to Highlight the Differences Between
Business Goals and Project Objectives

Business Goals

Project Objectives

What should you emphasize?

ongoing operation of the to-be business capability

one-time change to create the to-be business capability

What kind of verb should you use?

verbs conveying a clear sense of continuous activity

verbs conveying a clear sense of change

Examples

to maintain, to support, to manage, to sustain, to satisfy, to conserve, to protect, to supply

to improve, to develop, to create, to become, to upgrade, to build, to re-engineer, to correct, to integrate


Should Business Goals Be Measurable?

Business goals should always be inherently measurable, but they should not include explicit measurement criteria (a.k.a. metrics).  Until you develop the Policy Charter, there's simply no way to be sure what's truly important to measure in what way.

Metrics for business goals are developed as one of the final parts of the business model.  Example:  Metrics for the business goal To keep customers satisfied might include:  rate of repeat business, number of complaints, number of referrals, etc.

Common Mistakes in Expressing Business Goals

Mistake #1.  Addressing improvement in internal workflow as a business goal instead of a project goal.  Examples:  To streamline clerical operations.  To create better performance metrics.  Such effects are about change, so they are project objectives.

Mistake #2.  Addressing IT infrastructure as a business goal instead of a project goal.  Example:  To build an integrated, shared database.  Again, project objective.

Mistake #3.  Explaining the consequence or business risk if the business goal is not met.  Example:  To maintain a high-level of customer satisfaction because we are losing customers to the competition.  The phrase because we are losing customers to the competition identifies a consequence of not achieving the business goal.  That part should be omitted.  Business risks are a different element of the Policy Charter.

You should specify both enterprise goals and business goals.  Enterprise goals apply to the business as a whole and are normally fixed (not subject to change by the project).  Business goals apply specifically to the business capability within scope.

A question to test each business goal:  Can the business goal be achieved by doing the business mission?

Example business mission:  To sell high-quality pizzas to customers city-wide.

Proposed business goal:  To be the best source in town for tomato consumption.  No, you cannot achieve this business goal by doing the business mission.

Proposed business goal:  To keep customers satisfied.  Yes, you can achieve this business goal by doing the business mission.

Enterprise goals should not simply be repeated as business goals, but rather translated as appropriate.  Example of an enterprise goal for a publishing company:  To yield a profit.  Corresponding business goal for a business capability providing order fulfillment services:  To be cost-effective.  The business capability has no direct ability to yield a profit so the enterprise goal is translated to a more appropriate counterpart.

Business Goals, Trade-Offs, and Business Strategy

Real-life business problems never involve only a single business goal.  Suppose the only business goal were:  To keep customers satisfied.  As a means to achieve that business goal, you suggest locating an employee at every customer site worldwide.  Customers might be delighted, but the expense could cause the business to fail overnight.

Business goals must be balanced.  Architectural scope always includes one or more balancing business goal(s), which generally pertain to conserving valuable business resources (time, money, people, etc.).

If you go deep enough, business goals always conflict.  Establishing optimal trade-offs is the very heart of excellent strategy.

For that reason, you should avoid and's and but's in expressing business goals.  For example, the same business goal should not say effectively and profitably.  These effects could easily conflict.

Summary

A business mission can be done directly.  Business goals can be done only indirectly.  A business goal is an effect a business capability is tasked with achieving on an ongoing basis in day-to-day activity.  Business goals represent the ultimate why, the deepest motivation for elements of a strategy (Policy Charter).

Business goals are distinct from project objectives.  Confusing these two is one of the most common mistakes business analysts make — a costly one in moving forward with business stakeholders toward an optimal business solution.

Once a business capability and its supporting system(s) are operational, business goals play an important role in assessing never-ending changes to business rules.  Business goals provide a basis to answer the crucial question:  Does every proposed change to deployed business rules make good business sense?

In the third and final Part of this three-part series, we discuss how to review and fine-tune a strategy to ensure you can 'win' the business battle.

# # #

Standard citation for this article:


citations icon
Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam , "Strategy for Business Solutions: Part 2 — Business Mission and Business Goals" Business Rules Journal Vol. 13, No. 10, (Oct. 2012)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2012/b670.html

About our Contributor(s):


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

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

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


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

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

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

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys  S.W. Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal , and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Gladys S.W. Lam is a world-renowned authority on applied business rule techniques. She is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (BRSolutions.com), the most recognized company world-wide for business rules and decision analysis. BRS provides methodology, publications, consulting services, and training. Ms. Lam is Co-Creator of IPSpeak, the BRS methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak. She is Co-Founder of BRCommunity.com, a vertical community for professionals and home of Business Rules Journal. She co-authored Building Business Solutions, an IIBA® sponsored handbook on business analysis with business rules.

Ms. Lam is widely known for her lively, pragmatic style. She speaks internationally at conferences, public seminars and other professional events. She is also Executive Director of Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, which includes the Business Rules & Decisions Forum and the Business Analysis Forum.

Ms. Lam is a world-renowned expert on business project management, having managed numerous projects that focus on the large-scale capture, analysis and management of business rules. She advises senior management of large companies on organizational issues and on business solutions to business problems. She has extensive experience in related areas, including BPM, structured business strategy, and managing and implementing information systems.

Ms. Lam is most recognized for her ability to identify the source of business issues, and for her effectiveness in developing pragmatic approaches to resolve them. She has gained a world-class reputation for fostering positive professional relationships with principals and support staff in projects. Ms. Lam graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Computer Science.

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