The Architectural 'Why' of a Business Capability: 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 (2nd Ed.), by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2015, 308 pp.  URL:  http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs

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.  Business goals have meaning only in the context of the business mission.

The business mission should be crafted carefully, from a purely architectural point of view (not political or promotional).  By specifying the business mission carefully and accurately, you can often eliminate as much as 90% or more of the business immediately from scope.

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 future-form 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

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.

One last point:  The action part of the business mission part should always emphasize ongoing activity, not transformation of the business.

Business Goals

A business goal is an effect a business capability is tasked with achieving on an ongoing basis in day-to-day activity.  Examples:  To keep customers satisfied.  To make a profit on operations.

Business goals represent the ultimate why, the deepest motivation for elements of the strategy for the business solution (e.g., as in the Policy Charter).

Once a business capability is 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 Mission vs. Business Goals

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

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 transformation produced by the project can be expected to achieve for the business

What are they used for?

to gauge the continuing success of the future-form 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, let's return to the future-form business capability for the 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 future-form business capability

one-time transformation to create the future-form business capability

What kind of verb should
you use?

verbs conveying a clear sense of continuous activity

verbs conveying a clear sense of transformation

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

Common Mistakes

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 transformation, 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 from the business goal.  Business risks should be developed as part of a business solution strategy (e.g., Policy Charter).

Mistake #4.  Including measurement.  Business goals should always be inherently measurable, but they should not include explicit measurement criteria (a.k.a. metrics).  Until you develop the solution strategy, there's simply no way to be sure what's truly important to measure in what way.  Metrics for business goals should be developed as one of the final parts of the business architecture.  Example:  Metrics for the business goal To keep customers satisfied might include:

  • rate of repeat business
  • number of complaints
  • number of referrals
  • etc.

Mistake #5.  Not translating enterprise-level goals.  Enterprise-level 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.

Conflicts, 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.).

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.

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

For further information, please visit BRSolutions.com      

# # #

Standard citation for this article:


citations icon
Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam , "The Architectural 'Why' of a Business Capability: Business Mission and Business Goals" Business Rules Journal Vol. 17, No. 10, (Oct. 2016)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2016/b876.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.

Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam
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