Collaboration and Business Decision Management

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Managing Director, Business Decision Management, Allegiance Advisory Group
Brian Stucky is Managing Director of Allegiance Advisory Group (AAG) – a Financial Advisory and Technology Consulting firm – where he leads the Business Decision Management group. Prior to joining AAG, Brian served as the Enterprise Rule Steward at Freddie Mac where he set the business and technology strategy for business rule development across the corporation.

Business Rule Management Systems (BRMS) have been described as the ultimate platform to achieve true collaboration. By bridging the gap between business and technology, two previously disparate groups that did not speak the same language could now do so in the universal language of business rules. And to a certain extent these systems met that goal. However, there have been persistent nagging issues centered around things like requirements and change management that seem to keep getting in the way of collaboration and, ultimately, true agility. And now we are at the dawn of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 and their promise of decentralization, distribution, and, yes, collaboration. So where does that leave us with Business Decision Management?

A core concept of Web 2.0 is that users will create value when they are enabled. One look at YouTube should be ample evidence of the creativity of the masses once they are simply enabled and given a forum for distribution. This also highlights an important aspect of Web 2.0 – it’s not so much technology as it is an enabling mechanism to bring large numbers of people together. Examples of these mechanisms include things like messaging, blogs and other internet-enabled devices. Everyone can have a voice and that voice can easily be multiplied and shared – just plug in, log on, and it’s all at your disposal.

Enterprise 2.0 takes these fundamental principles and applies them to the next generation of organizations. It could represent a major departure from the typical way an Enterprise works, communicates, collaborates and ultimately innovates. This Enterprise will be open, dynamic and business-driven. Far too many organizations have fallen into the trap of being IT-driven – having their systems dictate their business. The hope is that Enterprise 2.0 will be the driving force to bring these same enabling devices to corporations everywhere…and it seems to me that Business Decision Management can benefit from these same changes.

As I alluded to earlier, modern BRMS platforms have done a wonderful job at bridging the gap between business and technology. Despite these advances, shortcomings have been noted in terms of facilitating a truly collaborative platform. To date there has not been a single effective means for providing a consistent means of exchange from requirements and modeling through implementation and ultimately to change management and governance. The Decision Model holds great promise of being that lingua franca for Business Decision Management. While a full delineation of the Decision Model will be topics for other articles, we will assume the existence of it or something like it in our current discussion of collaboration.

A truly business-driven organization clearly benefits from business rules and decision management as it strives to become an agile entity – one that is able to react quickly, efficiently, and safely to external changes in the marketplace or internal changes in operations. We have already seen the advantages brought by the modern BRMS platform in enabling rapid change. But I believe the real power of collaboration, Web 2.0 and decision management will be felt early in the development process as requirements are written, rules are harvested, decisions are articulated, and systems are designed. Enterprise 2.0 will truly see the power of business decision management when all the members of an organization are empowered to contribute and bring value in terms of analyzing, capturing and maintaining business logic. Finding the logic is probably the least understood and most unappreciated endeavor in all of decision management. It’s not easy. Rules are all over the place and often expressed in a fashion not easily understood by business analysts. And to date we’ve had to rely on a small set of individuals to do this mining hoping they know where to look and can understand what they find! But if we enable everyone and give them a common tool in which they can express their knowledge our chances of getting a comprehensive, consistent and accurate picture of the Enterprise have increased dramatically. Two examples demonstrate the potential power and usefulness of such an approach.

The first scenario is analogous to finding buried treasure. We don’t really know what we have until we find it. In nearly every effort where I’ve participated in rule harvesting or mining, business logic is found in every nook and cranny…and it’s rarely expressed the same way or even in a logically consistent fashion. And most importantly, we don’t know when we’re through. Do we have it all? A more appealing approach is to send the call out through the organization and let the masses do the work. Let individuals who truly know a system or a document or have the information in their head document it. Let the Enterprise truly collaborate to come up with the solution. I’ve yet to see an organization that didn’t surprise itself once they truly enabled their business analysts. When they are not restricted or inhibited by technical limitations the sky is truly the limit.

The second scenario is not so much a better way to do things but is instead a necessity if some organizations hope to compete. In our aging population the baby boomers are starting to retire. Some have estimated 80 million total workers will leave the workforce in approximately 6 years. And in this current economic client more and more companies are being forced to reduce their workforce just to survive. What does this mean? Lots of intellectual capital is walking out the door perhaps never to return. Every organization has the wise old sage in a basement office – we’ll call him “old Earl” – who is the one everyone turns to when the answer can’t be found elsewhere. But when Earl is gone who will they turn to? Again, enabling these workers – old Earl included – with the tools of business decision management in Enterprise 2.0 provides a means to capture, persist and then forever maintain this knowledge so all may benefit.

Business Decision Management brings an extremely powerful approach to organizations seeking agility. Web 2.0 brings a set of tools and a mindset to establish a dynamic, business-driven organization. Together they can truly bring collaboration to Enterprise 2.0. 

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