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Dynamic Business Applications


Connie Moore and John Rymer kicked off today talking about Dynamic Business Applications and their first discussion was around brown paper bags. They made the point that brown paper bags are a pure commodity and all you can do is reduce costs. Other kinds of bags offer more opportunities for innovation and, thus, more margins. Coach, the well known bag company, grew from a small bag company to a huge accessories company through innovation.

Anyway, they used this to introduce their core topics – design for people, build for change. This focuses on the creative roles of all workers and empowers all workers to drive change. In a dynamic world, change is good. A Dynamic Business Application is a software system that embodies a business process that is built for constant change, adaptable to business context and information-rich. These next generation applications enable change but also require change.

They have identified four pillars of dynamic business applications and companies start small with just one of them:

  1. Business processes adapt to changing business conditions
    The pit crew metaphor – have a plan but must be able to change and adapt constantly. Their example was Avnet who used business rules to ensure that they could nuance the price quotes they give to account for the customer, regions, sales scenarios etc. Business people – pricing analysts – drive the rules in the system. I have blogged about Avnet before on another blog here. Lessons:

    1. IT and business can get along
    2. You need very clear responsibilities around changes
    3. Need to revise the jobs of business people if they are to take some control of the applications.
  2. Applications evolve continuously while preserving process integrity
    Their metaphor is the Louvre in Paris where a new architecture was meshed with the old one as it changed. In their examples, both anonymous, there was some variation. In one the IT department makes the change and the brokers simply specify them. In the other, a financial services company, the business and developers were co-located along with process analysts and architects identified and got a 1200% productivity improvement. Key steps:

    1. Be controlled so ensure you have change management (business people may need training)
    2. Shrink the testing surface
    3. Collaborative QA so that IT and the business share the QA work and use Agile techniques
  3. Process, tasks and the associated information always maintain context
    Their metaphor was a cockpit – not just dials and gauges but knobs and levers too. They showed a product aimed at point of care for clinicians from Acesis (you can see a video of the demo there). Takeaways:

    1. Customer-in design – the user can design
    2. Contextual using a business vocabulary
    3. Easy to tailor by non technical users
  4. Systems are unitary, information-rich and reflect the social needs of business
    They talked about an environment developed by General Mills for their brand managers. There are many kinds of brand managers who have different perspectives and styles. The application built with Silverlight and Sharepoint was fun, visual and a unitary environment.

    1. Social
    2. Immersive
    3. Multimodal

So, how do IT departments do all this? You have to start in an appropriate starting point. Some shops are Conservative, others are Aggressive. In combined business-IT teams you could embrace full-bore agile development (aggressive) but many start with 2 people on a tiger team (conservative). Immersive environments like virtual worlds are aggressive while just bringing voice and data together or adding video is conservative.

  • Recommendations for a CIO – Decide on a strategy and where to start investing and drive common understanding
  • Recommendations for Information and Knowledge Manager -focus on bringing tools to underserved creative staff (marketing) and onIntegrated content and sources with busienss processes
  • Business Process and Applications Professionals – focus on extending current applications with workspaces
  • Application Development Managers – start with Agile, somehow even if small and focus on workplaces and tools for situational applications
  • Enterprise Architects – reshape next generation platform strategy to align with this design for people, build for change idea
  • IT infrastructures and operations – work with architects to standardize and eliminate unnecessary variations
  • Security and risk professionals – help with the legal issues
  • Sourcing and vendor management professionals – develop RFP language for this and look for alternative sourcing models that might work

I have blogged on topics around Dynamic Business Applications before – check out the tag dynamic business applications.


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