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Opening Keynotes at #BBCCon11


Gladys Lam kicked if off by introducing the three chairs of the conference – Kathleen Barret Chair of IIBA who heads up the business analysis tracks, Roger Burlton of BPTrends who heads up the business process tracks and Ron Ross of BRSolutions who heads up the business rules forum tracks. The three chairs then came on stage to get started. Five questions provided the framework for the panel with each chair answering the questions in their own way.

1. What challenges do organizations face today that this conference will prepare you to tackle?

  • Ron Ross
    • Business Agility – “it’s not the strongest or most intelligent of species who survive but the most adaptable”. The depressing statistic is that organizations spent a huge amount of money on systems maintenance – perhaps 75% of totals. The problem, he says, is that many systems are over-engineered and hard to change – they have been built to last not to change – and that business rules (especially those for decision making) have been hard coded into these systems
    • Business Communication was his second point. The inability of business and IT to communicate due to a lack of shared vocabulary is a big problem
    • Managing business know-how – we are living in a knowledge economy but we don’t act like we do. We focus on efficiently producing code not on managing the know-how that drives that code. Making the know-how explicit helps you retain and reuse this know-how. Time for BUSINESS Architecture not just technical architecture
  • Kathleen Barret
    • Change is a constant and this remains a serious challenge for organizations. Organizations have to be “on their toes” and many of them are afraid after the recent economic challenges – they don’t know what to do. Critical thinking, looking at business in a critical way, is going to be crucial to making the right choices and changes in business.
  • Roger Burlton
    • Agreed with the previous speakers and emphasized that “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” are rampant making it hard to get investments made in new ways to do things. We all know we have to change but executives are afraid of making the wrong choices. There is a particular fear of silver bullets and the need to balance multiple things – processes, events, architecture and decisions – is key.
    • Vocabulary is also top of mind for Roger – being able to communicate effectively is key

For each area of the conference, what capabilities do you need to be effective

  • Roger Burlton
    • We have to establish common objectives and common vocabulary but also some common ground – motivational alignment. This is a key point I think as aligning decision-making, processes and objectives make a huge difference. Only then can we get a common set of practices.
    • Remember, people OUTSIDE your organization don’t care what your architecture is, what your organizational chart is or how you do things. They care about the results they get from you so always start outside-in.
    • Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis and don’t over-model. Remember you are re-wiring the house while the lights are still on!
  • Ron Ross
    • The first area is that of those things that exist, are known and proven and the second is new things that are emerging. This is the 14th year of the business rules forum and every year there are great cases. Why then has it taken so long for the message to get out there??
    • Manage rules separately from process, requirements, systems and you will do better with more agility, more control, better understanding. Late binding of the rules to the processes (through decisions presumably). Manage these rules to maximize their value.
    • Start with projects and build an enterprise view over time – don’t try and build an enterprise rule model from scratch.
    • Adopt a “rule-friendly” methodology – like the one Ron and Gladys have in their new book, the one in Agile Business Rules Development or the one in my new book Decision Management Systems.
    • Adopt one of the solid, proven  business rules management systems out there.
    • Three emerging capabilities – BUSINESS management of rules (transparency, traceability), vocabulary, decision analysis (one of my favorite topics)
  • Kathleen Barret
    • All the pieces of a business do not exit in isolation – the idea is to describe and manage the business and that means fitting all these pieces together. Think about how you will be successful going forward – what will you need to learn to make this happen
    • Everything you need is at this event and you need to pull them together – not just about analysis, also about rules and process and architecture.

How do these capabilities relate to the other conference areas and together how will they enable you to become even more effective?

  • Kathleen Barret
    • Determine how each element is going to help you at your organization – think about the projects and work you have going on and identify your personal needs so you can find what you need.
  • Roger Burlton
    • The idea of the conference is that all these pieces can and should work together. Separate these different themes or topics, learn about them, and then re-combine to solve each specific process
    • Roger pointed out that data (and analytics) has not come up yet and reminded people not to forget it
    • Just deal with the fact that you have to have lots of pieces and use them appropriately (and differently) for each project
    • Business analysts have become pretty good at soft skills and Roger pointed out that some of the other roles at the conference should grow their soft skills
  • Ron Ross
    • Business rules and process are both required and need to be part of your analysis of problems/design of solutions
    • There’s no conflict between rules and process – they are complementary
    • Ron also recommended Roger’s recent work on a business process manifesto

They talked about how attendees can make the most of the event by participating and talking to their fellow attendees as well as listening to the presentations.

What are the most important takeaways?

  • Roger Burlton
    • Roger reminded us that the industrial revolution took 150 years to happen so we might have to be patient while “a couple of generation of managers die off”
    • Learn something and go do it – don’t try and boil the ocean
    • Bring your experience back to next year’s events
  • Ron Ross
    • Recognize that the case studies PROVE you can get orders of magnitude improvements in business agility without being on the bleeding edge
    • It’s about working smarter not harder
    • You will have to change – you can’t get there by doing more of the same. Agile programming won’t get you business agility.
    • Ask how well your current approaches are working and focus on capabilities not just software
  • Kathleen Barret
    • Cannot look at problems the way you used to look at them. You have to try a different perspective, go outside your comfort zone
    • Look critically at your own company
    • Put what you learned to work in a specific, limited project first!