Data, data everywhere, but not a purpose to serve

In our previous blog Business rules and business processes: tomayto, tomahto or more? we have stressed the importance of business rules within organisations. With developments such as artificial intelligence, IoT, and data and process mining knocking on our doors, we all feel that there is a world to be gained. But how do we find the right combinations of information in data to turn them into something meaningful for our organisation? And where do we start?

An ocean of data

The answers do not lie in the data themselves but rather in establishing exactly what we seek to use these data for. Without a clearly defined goal, in terms of what value we wish to add to our organisation, the opportunities mentioned earlier will only add to the chaos by just creating even bigger data. Before we know it, we could all be drowning in an ocean of data without understanding which values and processes they enable. To put it in poetic terms: ‘Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink’. However, even legitimate aims such as boosting operational excellence, operational intelligence or customer satisfaction are still formulated in too general a manner. We shouldn’t confuse an ambition or a goal with clear-cut criteria or an applied use. This is the point where business rules (the ‘what’, not the ‘how’) enter the story.


Projects first

Keeping the ultimate destination in mind allows us to travel backwards to find what information and technology are needed to take us there. It is vital that this ‘information’ is seen and described in relation to other data or information. Without it, we will only be looking for a needle in a haystack. Explaining this approach to our clients is often met with restraint or even plain fear. A fear of creating a pile of work as they feel the need to turn the entire organisation upside down. You too can be reassured that this is not the way to go about things. Instead we always suggest taking a pragmatic approach by taking optimisation projects that are already in progress as a starting point.


Rules-based application

After all, these and other projects have been initiated with a specific goal in mind and, although not often recognised as such, have been derived from existing business rules. It allows clients to keep things small and manageable and to gradually learn from it. Before entering the development stage, we capture the information provided to us in common language. This often includes work instructions and software specifications administered in for example Word or Excel. Importing these common language descriptions into our own rules-based application nearly always reveals serious discrepancies. In fact, cases in which 90% of the client’s descriptions cannot effectively be attributed to what they are actually meant to describe are quite common. Once we both agree on the exact definition, we regard this as the single point of truth and start developing software that is fully tailored to your organisational context and need from there.

Curious to find out to what extent your organisation is already ‘playing by the rules’? Feel free to contact Hans Canisius any time without any engagement.

Written by: Hans Canisius

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