Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 2: A Semantic Approach to Re-Engineering Your Company's Products

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

In Part 1 of this series, I took the position that extreme business agility is inseparable from extreme customizability of the company's products.  To engineer true, deep-dive business agility, you need to re-engineer the nuts and bolts of the company's know-how.  These areas of product know-how are always knowledge-rich and they can be excruciatingly complex.  The devil is in the details!

To re-engineer the nuts and bolts of product know-how, you must know what the nuts and bolts are in the first place.  So you must conceptualize them, name them, and define them.  In other words, you must be able to conduct a business conversation about them in a deeply granular, highly precise fashion.  Furthermore, you must blueprint the results — because they will be far too complicated for anyone to remember exactly and completely.

What does such a blueprint look like?  The nuts and bolts are concepts.  These concepts have names (noun-ish, of course), and they relate to each other in ways that you can talk about only if you put words to them too.  (These words will be verb-ish.)  When you do deep-dive conceptual analysis, the deliverable is therefore a structural map of business vocabulary encompassing operational-level nouns and verbs.

This business conversation needs to take place before any IT development begins in the traditional sense.  Otherwise, how can all the people involved be sure they are literally talking about the same things?!

Furthermore, this noun-and-verb blueprint should begin to serve as the foundation for all business communication, not just IT requirements.  (Think integration with Microsoft Office.)

Fortunately, we already have a technique for exploring the nuts and bolts of product engineering.  It's not use cases.  It's not business process models.  It's not class diagrams or data models.[1]  It's fact modeling and business rules![2]  And we now have a standard for that — SBVR.[3]

Does everyone have the ability to clearly conceptualize product know-how at excruciating level of detail, in pure business-speak, apart from processes or GUIs?  Unfortunately no — not by a long shot.  But you do have this latent skill in your company, somewhere — otherwise the company would cease to function.  When you find these people, by the way, treat them like gold.  They are rare and valuable commodities.

The defining problem of our generation is that this deep product know-how is currently tacit, not explicit.  And because we have no blueprint for it, we spend endless hours in meetings trying to work it in a world of legacy.  That's just something to ponder the next time you're sitting in one of those endlessly fun meetings.

The next part of this six-part series provides a set of examples to illustrate what true business agility is about.


[1]  Product engineering requires industrial-strength rules, which in turn require a comprehensive, deeply precise business vocabulary.  Data models are seldom designed with that need in mind.  (If they were, they wouldn't be called "data" models!) return to article

[2]  For more, refer to Business Rule Concepts (Second Edition), by Ronald G. Ross, 2005, www.BRSolutions.com.  Chapters 1 and 4 discuss fact modeling. return to article

[3]  Refer to Ronald G. Ross, "The Emergence of SBVR and the True Meaning of 'Semantics':  Why You Should Care (a Lot!) ~ Part 1," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Mar. 2008), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2008/b401.html.  And to part 2:  URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2008/b409.html. return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 2: A Semantic Approach to Re-Engineering Your Company's Products" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 10, (Oct. 2008)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2008/b442.html

About our Contributor:

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 BRS 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

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