Management of Business Decisions and Business Rules: The Missing Link for Architects and Business Analysts
For more than 5 years, I have been recommending that my training participants and my corporate clients invest in the development of a new CRITICAL expertise within the teams of analysts and business architects: the management of business decisions and rules. More generally known as business knowledge management (business vocabulary, concepts, decisions, business rules) this is one of the missing components in all existing methodological frameworks in business architecture and process performance improvement (BPI — Business Process Improvement).
"In fact, the whole subject is reduced to an exercise in codifying business rules under the responsibility of IT, while the management of business knowledge (concepts, decisions, rules) is in fact, first and foremost, a business issue that must reflect the strategic choices of the organization."
If you don't believe me, just think about the whole set of dynamics surrounding Covid-19 testing and vaccination management! All the performance or non-performance of these activities (processes) depends largely on the clarity or lack of clarity of vocabulary, decisions, and business rules. Processes may be poor, but the customer experience we have is the result of inattention to changing decisions and rules, as much as (if not more than) process gaps.
The following diagram is from a presentation by Ron Ross and shows the missing link in business architecture: Business Knowledge Management.
But What Exactly Is Business Knowledge Management?
The discipline of business knowledge management is very complementary to that of process management; in fact, they are two sides of the same coin. The former treats policies (and therefore business rules) as corporate assets while the latter treats its processes as assets. I even go so far as to say that these two disciplines are critical strategic capabilities for successful transformation and digital transformation.
The area of knowledge management includes the analysis and transformation of organizational policies, which should reflect the organization's strategic intentions. By policies, we do not think only of those aimed at compliance, succession, social responsibilities, human resources, etc., but we must think of strategic orientation, vision, and business goals translated into the form of major rules dictating the daily and operational decisions of work teams. It also includes decisions and their business rules that are based on a common and socialized definition of concepts managed by the organization (business vocabulary).
Let's specify here that we are talking exclusively about OPERATIONAL business decisions and rules, dictating the daily behavior of employees and managers — Should we finance this or that project of a client? Should we take back this or that defective product? What fees should be charged for such a shipment to a customer?
Why Should Service and Government Organizations Take an Interest in It Now?
The question that kills… What percentage of the business rules encoded in your computer programs are valid, timely, and aligned with your strategic priorities (or simply bypassed by staff)? What percentage of the current business rules influencing the daily decisions of your teams resides in your senior employees and will disappear with their massive retirement within 5 years? According to several real surveys the % is at least 30–50%! What are the major impacts of such a failure in business knowledge management on your ability to succeed in your transformation?
How will you realize the true "omnichannel" transformation if — from one channel to another, from one team to another, from one business unit to another — we do not share the same definitions, the same rules, and if the ways of making decisions differ? These kinds of questions are truly "business critical."
There are currently several reasons to invest quickly in this discipline.
- The Covid situation has exacerbated and amplified organizations' gaps in crisis management by exposing the lack of real knowledge of the organization's realities and affairs. Managing blindly or with veiled vision has its limits!
- 5 of the 8 process digital experience issues seen from the perspective of customers have their roots in gaps surrounding knowledge management and the design of business decisions and rules — See the following figure from the BRSolutions training.
- The lack of analysis of business decisions and rules undermines the performance of process performance improvement projects in the financial and government services sectors — sectors characterized by a high degree of decision-making and business rule processes.
- Thinking of transforming an organization without transforming its policies and decisions to realign them with the new strategic intentions and the new vision is an illusion. It's not just a matter of process, HR, and IT.
- Even though the new notion of business capabilities is gaining interest — and looking beyond the great seductiveness of digital technologies — let's say that, in general, it is the business discussions surrounding business processes and decisions/policies that resonate with decision-makers and facilitate their engagement in transformational efforts.
- Everything related to business knowledge management (concepts, vocabulary, decisions, operational business rules) is a management issue and is the responsibility of managers and business people. This component must be part of the change process led by a business team (business architects, policy specialists, business analysts). The lack of ownership of this aspect significantly undermines an organization's ability to achieve its vision and strategic targets.
What To Do Now?
There are several options:
- Identify your champions.
For example, a business architect with a strong background in design and analysis of decision-making structures, a specialist in business policy (if this exists in your organization), and at least 2 business analysts, one of whom is more senior. These are people who show an interest, who are particularly strong in analysis and logic, are very good popularizers, and are practitioners who will quickly exploit the achievements. Ideally, they already have a project on the table that will allow them to quickly apply the gains.
- Educate yourself quickly (webinars, conferences, readings, lunch & learn).
For champions who learn by reading, there are several excellent books written by Ron and Gladys.
There will be workshops and presentations specifically on this area at the Building Business Capability 2022 conference. One of the six tracks is totally dedicated to business knowledge management. You can also listen to the webinars and videos of Ron and Gladys and other experts in the field. Subscribe to the Business Rules Journal.
- Take the time to read the case of the New Zealand Government on Rules Management . It is meaningful and illustrates the concrete and impactful value of a structured approach to business knowledge management. It will be a small investment that pays off.
- Train yourself — See BRSolutions' online self-study program. It is in English only. We could consider translating it into French in partnership with another player if the demand was there.
- Practice and integrate now the approach, methods, tools, and techniques in your methods and in your transformation projects or programs or strategic initiatives.
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BRSolutions Professional Training Suite
All About Concepts, Policies, Rules, Decisions & Requirements
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