Agree/Disagree? Empowerment Key to Business Agility
Let's put you on the hot spot. You are forced to agree or disagree with the following statement and defend your answer.
Empowerment, more than rules, processes, or architecture, is key to business agility.
What would you say?
Here's how I answer: I disagree.
My reasoning: Professionals in our field are often quite shortsighted with regard to empowerment. Many simply get it wrong. Working within business rules, processes, and architectures doesn't lessen empowerment; it lessens anarchy.
The real nemesis of business agility is things running amok. That's true at both ends of the spectrum, from customers to IT.
- Customers: Ultimately the most important thing for customers is simple consistency and faithful compliance with the company's obligations (business rules). That's what I call high-fidelity customer experience. That capability can't be achieved without rules, processes, and architectures.
- IT: The ability to generate code faster — call it 'agile software development' or what you please — does not produce business agility. Business agility requires sustainability. In a digital world it's not enough simply to put up systems fast and to keep them running. Business rules change, sometimes quite rapidly. You must be able to roll out changes to those business rules at the 'speed of business' to systems already implemented. Again, that capability can't be achieved without rules, processes, and architectures.
The industry's view of empowerment tends to be askew. Who are we trying to empower, and why?
- Customers: Empowerment means the company always meets their expectations. The company has captured the requisite knowledge (business rules) to deal with them correctly and consistently. Customers know they can depend on you to get it right.
- Workers: Empowerment means freedom from having to be hands-on with everyday mundane cases. By capturing the requisite knowledge (business rules) beforehand, you free up their time to deal creatively with outside-the-box cases.
- Business analysts: Empowerment means business analysts don't have to reinvent the wheel on every new project. You've created deep knowledge reservoirs (of business rules) to jump-start each new initiative.
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