Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 3: Examples of Non-Agile vs. Agile Business Capabilities

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

I am a collector by nature.  I freely confess it.  When I was young I collected fossils from my grandparents' ranch.  Well, I did at least until the attic of our house began to sag and my parents laid down the law (true story).  I collected baseball cards — I had both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in the famous 1961 homerun season.  (Sadly they somehow disappeared when I went off to college.)  In the late 1980s and early 1990s I collected business rules (yes, that's right!).  Many but by no means all of them ended up in the two editions of The Business Rule Book (1994, 1997).  These days I collect sand from every beach I go to.  (Ever compare sands from different beaches?  Fascinating!)

Recently, I've started a new collection.  How can you understand what true business agility is about unless you have a rich set of examples to work from?  So in this month's column, I've decided to share some of the best ones I've collected to date.  Can you see patterns emerging?  By the way, I always have room for more in my collection — fortunately, this one's digital, not rocks.  So if you've got some good ones, send them along!

Airlines — Food Service

Source:  Taken from "Branson's Flight Plan," Time Magazine, April 28, 2008, pp. 40-43.

Product Component



Delivery Method

"… flight attendants dole [meals] out from a cart like gruel in an orphanage."


" … a touchscreen at each seat lets passengers pick would they want and pay by credit card …."  You get what you want when you want it "freed from the … tyranny of the cart."


Cash only.

Cash, credit card, or debit card.


By choice of the crew.

By choice of the passenger.

Out of Stock

If they run out of the meal you want before they reach your seat, you're toast.

When meals run out, they "… disappear from the screen so you're never disappointed."

Comment:  I can relate!

Financial Services — Credit Card Fraud Detection

The scoop:

  • The bad guys pick up and move shop from Idaho to Manhattan.
  • Transactions deemed suspicious by zip code yield a 10x increase in volume.
  • Suspicious transactions are kicked out to fraud specialists for manual inspection.
  • Fraud specialists are an expensive and non-scalable resource.
  • Additional selection criteria (e.g., location of store, type of store, frequency of use, size of transaction, etc.) must be introduced to keep the volume of kick-outs relatively constant.

Product Component



Selection Criteria

Elapsed time: 30-60 days

Elapsed time: 3-6 days*

*Testing of assumptions and simulation by the business side is still required.

Comment:  This company told us that they have more than recouped the cost of a rules engine from the savings from this first application alone(!).

Insurance — Product Offerings

Product Component



Elapsed Time

90 days from purchase to operational on large group plans.

1 week or less.

Identity of the Insured

A spouse must be treated as a plan member, even in a spouse-only plan.

A spouse is treated as a spouse, not a plan member, even in a spouse-only plan.


Automatically starts at 100% when a given person enrolls.

Augments incrementally toward 100% as the enrolled person reaches defined milestones (e.g., 6 mos., 1 yr, 2 yrs).


Always a set amount for a single product (e.g., Life), given appropriate criteria about a given person. 

Can be a single calculated amount across multiple products (e.g., Life, Dental, AD&D, etc.), given appropriate criteria about a given person.

Change in Regulatory Statute

All insureds treated in the same manner.

Insureds treated selectively based on kinship (e.g., plan member vs. dependent).

Differential Treatment

All members of a group plan treated alike, irrespective of changes in physical condition while covered.

Members of a group plan treated selectively, based on changes in physical condition while covered.


Plan members must be re-enrolled upon conversion of group to individual plan.  No choice of conversion plan or related limits.

Plan members rolled over automatically upon conversion of group to individual plan.  Choices offered with respect to conversion plan and limits.

Risk Sharing

Can't mix & match risk-sharing options for the adjudicated services offered in a plan.

Each adjudicated service within a plan can be associated with its own risk-sharing option.

Comment:  Management's goal is to become the "Dell Computer" of insurance, product-wise.

The next part of this six-part series examines two companies — one that lacks business agility, and one that's begun to achieve it.  Find out for yourself how important the differences can be.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 3: Examples of Non-Agile vs. Agile Business Capabilities" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 11, (Nov. 2008)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2008/b449.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

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

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