Top 10 Mistakes Business Analysts Make When Capturing Business Rules Mistake #5: Not Having the Right Business Infrastructure
Throughout my Top 10 Mistakes series over the past months, I've covered issues that I see recur time and time again in the field, including folks not focusing on terminology; treating business rules initiatives as simply IT projects; assuming everyone knows what a business rule is; and not managing business rules from the start. This month, let's investigate Mistake #5: "Not Having the Right Business Infrastructure."
My daughter is the drama captain and a lead actor in her school musical production this year. The school has just put on five performances of their 2011 feature musical production, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. As the mother of the drama captain, I got the 'honor' of buying gifts for key behind-the-scenes contributors of the musical. My daughter's instruction was, "This is a spelling bee; the gift must have a bumble bee on it." Have you ever tried looking for something with a bee on it in the middle of winter when there are three inches of snow on the ground? Not only did I have to find one gift, but I had to find six gifts: one for the assistant director, one for the stage manager, one for the assistant stage manager, one for the sound person, one for the light person, and one for the band manager.
In sheer frustration of not being able to find the 'right' gifts, I broke down and asked my daughter, "Is this really necessary?" Her reply was simply, "Mother, these people are very important. Without them, the show wouldn't be possible." My daughter is right, of course; each of these supporting staff was just as necessary to the show's well-being and success as the 'stars' were. Without the right infrastructure, the 'show' could not go on.
The same applies to our business rules initiatives. Many organizations tell me that they want to adopt the business rules approach. As you may already know, the ultimate benefit of a business rules approach resides on the business side by enabling the business to take full control of its rules, to know and manage its rules, and to have better guidance and make better decisions. In order to reap business benefits, the business needs to take on a lot more ownership.
I often see organizations having the right vision, recognizing the benefit, and buying the appropriate technical tools — tools that they know they need to train IT on. However, they often overlook the fact that the business side also needs to be prepared. In order to achieve business success, a business infrastructure needs to be established.
Frank Habraken, Program Manager of CSC — speaking on his experience in the Department of Immigration Australia — says it nicely:
"The key piece, however, was governance and getting the organization to agree to particular terms and particular rules. Setting up that governance was critical. It's basically what I call the 'accelerator' … or the 'decelerator'. It doesn't matter how good your engine is ... it doesn't matter how good your people are. If you don't have your governance approved, you might do okay for one little rules project … but once you're up to about five or six that start to run into each other you're in trouble."
Governance is critical to the success of your rule management activities. Governance is a process, organizational function, set of techniques, and system for putting business policy and regulations into operation. In order for the business rules approach to be beneficial for the business side, governance needs to be focused on using business rules to implement policy into actual operation. More specifically, governance needs to focus on guiding the conduct and decisions of the business — it is not about designing systems. Governance must flow top down from the executive of the organization. It can't come from within the IT area.
A viable governance structure depends a lot on the culture of the organization, the maturity level with business rules, and the scope of business rules and business decisions that require governing. Frank gave an example of a three-level governance process at the Department of Immigration:
- The top row — the steering committee — was the chief legal officer and the heads of each of the business divisions. They did the final signoff.
- The level below that was their two Directors. They know how the business actually works, and they make the call in terms of "Yes, we agree with what's here." They also identify any issues that are picked up based on their knowledge scope.
- The next layer down from that has the policy and legal people, who spend time debating particular rules and terms, and then feed them up the line. If they spend too long — if they argue for more than two hours on some particular thing — it goes straight up a level. And if there is any issue at that level, then it goes up to the top level.
This three-level type of governance process is common in most organizations.
Alongside that process, the business/business rule analysts are working to specify, analyze, and annotate discussion and decisions. In order to do that, they need the right skill sets, methodology, tools, and support to enable effective results of managing business rules and business decisions. They need to be given sufficient training and focused time to learn. Often, a Center of Excellence for Business Rules and Business Decision Management is established in an organization to share the knowledge, to mentor and support, and to provide education on business rules and business decisions initiatives. This Center of Excellence also acts as the quality control point for the business rules and business decisions that are under management.
In summary, in order for the business to benefit, the business needs to take on more control, responsibility, and work. An effective governance process specifies the control and the responsibilities. A group of experienced business/business rule analysts, trained in the capture, analysis, management, and implementation of business rules, will enable the work to get done.
Plainly speaking, here are some of the main things you need to remember:
- Establish a governance process to manage your business rules and business decisions.
- A Center of Excellence is recommended to effectively share knowledge, to mentor, to train, and to provide quality control.
- Business analysts and business rule analysts need to be provided with skills, tools, methodology, and support to do their job.
 Gladys S. W. Lam, "Top 10 Mistakes Business Analysts Make When Capturing Rules — Mistake #1: Treating Business Rules Initiatives Simply As IT Projects," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 11, No. 11 (Nov. 2010), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2010/b562.html
 "Business Rules Forum 2008 Practitioners' Panel: The Real World DOs and DON'Ts of Business Rules," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Mar. 2009), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2009/b465.html
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