One of my favorite motorcycle rides is through the California gold country along Highway 49. Highway 49 runs through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and offers spectacular scenery, interesting gold rush towns, and challenging corners for riders of all abilities. Learning to negotiate twisty mountain roads is key to riding enjoyment on Highway 49.
There are two primary methods used to set up a motorcycle to negotiate a corner, early and late apex turning. Late apex turning is the preferred method for safety-conscious riders. The difference between the two can be summarized into one word, vision. Early apex turning is more aggressive and does not allow a clear view around right hand corners as the bike comes in low on the inside of the corner. Conversely, late apex turning stays close to the middle of the lane, squeezing every inch of forward vision prior to committing to the right hand turn. A late apex approach provides a greater margin of safety for lurking road hazards. Both approaches require the rider to adjust speed prior to the turn and conserve traction while in the turn. Riders who use late apex turning can enter a corner at the correct speed, extend their vision to avoid road hazards, and exit the corner with confidence as they accelerate out of the turn.
Employees who embark on the challenging ride of introducing business rules into their company must negotiate many corners. The range of issues for resisting change is always the same, from "It was not my idea" to "I will believe it when it works." I have found that acceptance of a business rules approach can be greatly improved if three preliminary steps are taken. Successfully negotiating the turn to business rules requires the selection of a business development methodology, gaining sponsorship, and having commitment to direction.
A Business Development Methodology must include the principles of a business rules approach. A Business Development Methodology must address the creation of business and system artifacts. Current thinking in the academic world teaches that a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is the preferred process for managing these artifacts. Most SDLC processes do not provide the vision necessary; they offer an 'early apex' approach. They allow the user to come in fast and low but lack the vision because they have neglected to completely document the business architecture. Road hazards like underdeveloped business language frequently put this approach in the ditch. A business rules approach by design is a business process that completely documents the architecture of the business. Complete business architecture includes all aspects of the Zachman framework but, at a minimum, must include business process, language, and rules. Business architecture provides the vision and a 'late apex' approach necessary to see hazards in the road. The chosen Business Development Methodology must have the ability to scale for different sized projects and must produce artifacts that are designed for change.
Sponsorship of a business rule project is critical for success. Without the proper sponsor a business rules project can often have the 'shinny side down' before it ever gets started. Proper sponsorship will help you adjust the 'entry speed and lean angle' of the project by providing a critical tie to other corporate projects. Timing and alignment is everything when introducing a new idea.
Many new ideas in a company are introduced from a bottom-up approach. While this approach may get things rolling without a project sponsor, the enterprise implementation will be drawn out and the final result may not be as elegant as it would have been had a top-down approach been used. Experience has shown that bottom-up approaches tend to bifurcate at the department level and produce mixed results. A company I recently worked for implemented a business rules approach using a bottom-up approach. Four years later this company has three different rules engines and a methodology approach that is inconsistent across departments. While each department is reaping the benefits of a business rules approach, the enterprise is suffering. Proper sponsorship would have eliminated a myopic implementation and unnecessary costs, and provided consistent implementation of rule projects.
A solid commitment to direction helps to maintain traction in a rules project. The organization must be committed to the value that a business rules approach offers. Demonstrating ROI is key to gaining commitment. Rules offer value by introducing agility into the business. Agility provides customizable products, flexible pricing, and an easier change process. The impact to the business is increased customer satisfaction, more revenue opportunities, and better compliance with regulatory bodies. A commitment to use common business terminology must be endorsed and used from all levels of the enterprise. A commitment to direction requires discipline, and language discipline is a fundamental requirement for success in a business rules approach.
Rules are fast becoming a staple of business. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of agility. Having a good experience with rules often depends on how the project is introduced to the business. Defining a business rules approach, gaining sponsorship, and having organizational commitment will help move your rule project through the corners.
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