Business Rules, Survey, change management, risk management

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While Change is Certain, Business Rules are Not

Nowhere is the need to implement and manage change more acute than within government agencies, nonprofits, and commercial businesses. Changing regulations, changing customer needs, new direction set by changing leadership, and the necessity to launch bigger, better, different products more and more quickly mean changes are inevitable. These situations not only trigger internal changes, but alter how an organization will manage its public interactions. In addition, an organization must determine how it will manage the impact of change within already established business systems and IT processes, most of which are already quite complex.

Change can trigger the need to meet tight deadlines; to update systems, forms, and websites; and to ensure understanding and acceptance across disparate constituencies, including employees, contractors, and the public. The need to change forces consideration of a variety of questions, such as:

  • For changes imposed upon an organization from the outside, what does compliance mean?
  • How will change impact an organization’s ability to achieve its goals?
  • How widespread is the impact of change, and how can an organization effectively prioritize addressing those impacts with the resources, time, and money available to it?

These challenges are complex. Organizational leadership and staff must understand and successfully communicate the need to change. The organization must also have capability to identify and measure the impact of the change, develop the business and technology requirements for what must change, design and implement the necessary changes, and, finally, test the modifications made to systems and processes, and validate for future operations.

Ability to change in question

While government, nonprofits, and businesses all recognize the constancy of change, few organizations are proactively prepared to address change in an organized, efficient, and effective manner. Thus, when the imperative to change occurs, most organizations are relegated to an “all hands on deck”, “man the torpedoes”, “cost is no object” strategy to address the imperative. Since the majority of change imperatives come with a deadline, the risk of disruption to an organization’s long term strategy, short term tactics, and overall health can be quite significant.

A recent survey by Robbins Gioia provides evidence that organizations are not planning for change.

  • A whopping 91% of respondents felt some degree of challenge when having to respond to regulatory changes, especially those with a deadline. Nearly 21% reported this to be “very challenging” for their organization.
  • There is also concern about losing institutional knowledge due to retirement and job changes. In fact, 91% of respondents expressed some degree of concern about this. A full 32% said they were “very concerned” about this problem.
  • And finally, 86% of respondents reported that they held some degree of concern about the amount of time it takes to get a new product out the door. 21% indicated that they were “very concerned” about this.

A proactive approach to managing change

The survey explored one practice in particular that, once implemented, can significantly reduce the time, cost, and risk of managing change. That practice is the capture, documentation, and tracing of business rules.

Business rules are operating principles or self-imposed constraints that apply across all operations and systems of an organization. The need for the existence of a business rule may be triggered by internal or external policies, practices or regulations. The power of capturing, documenting, and tracing business rules to the processes and systems that are impacted is significant. Business rules are:

  • Specific, actionable, and testable,
  • Independent of any one process,
  • Technology independent,

  • Under the control of the entity or organization to which they apply, and

  • Can be maintained in a manner to provide immediate impact analysis when a change is to occur.

Changes, particularly significant changes, affect business rules. Regulatory changes, for example, inevitably impact the business rules the guide an organization’s operations. Changes in tax laws, healthcare policies, zoning codes, and, even changes in product features and functions, will impact the rules by which a business or government entity operates.

In spite of the clear utility of understanding business rules and their applications, 93% (126 of 136) of organizations responding to the recent survey reported that their organization is challenged when it comes to capturing and maintaining business rules. In fact, 27% reported they were “very challenged” in this area.

BAs help create Invaluable Assets

If business rules describe the framework and constraints that impact an action that an organization may take, business analysts (BAs) are best equipped and positioned to help reduce organizational uncertainty — and, therefore, risk — by carefully documenting an organization's sometimes obscure processes and rules. This work can be painstaking, but a comprehensive approach helps an organization to operate more consistently, adds predictably to projects and planning, and, in the case of rapid and unanticipated change, may provide an organization a significant competitive advantage.

It would be impossible to overemphasize the value of having an organization's business rules documented and maintained by professional business analysts. To have requirements, workflows, rules, and overall process models captured in an on-going, living data and requirements repository and available for use for any effort would be invaluable. Yet, 69% of those organizations surveyed reported that they do not use a business rules repository.

Such assets and models become valuable property and tangible company assets, available to jump-start future process improvement and new product development undertakings. Such models lay the foundation for an organization's continuous optimization efforts based on solid understanding of rules, requirements, and business process models. These models provide the capability to determine that when X changes, A, B, and C are also impacted and must change as well.

Who took the survey

RG set up an online survey that got 146 responses. Of these participants, the majority was from government agencies and nonprofits, 40% (58). Others came from across private industry:

  • 16% of respondents came from the financial world, banking, investment, and insurance
  • 12% of respondents were from the professional services, such as accounting
  • Manufacturing and transportation made up 10% of respondents

  • High tech, telecommunications, and utilities made up 9%of respondents

  • The remaining respondents constituted 13% including travel and leisure, advertising, and retail.

You can take the Business Rules Survey. Find it here:

Author:  Sandy Sears, PMP, CBAP, SA, PMI-PBA, is the Director, Financial Services Team, for Robbins Gioia.  As a former executive at a large insurance company, she was responsible for IT process and practice development and was a key player in a large IT transformation effort, leading the rollout of project management, business analysis, and testing practices and tools across the organization, as well as the development of standardized processes for project portfolio management, IT financial management, and the SDLC. At a previous company, she was the recipient of the prestigious Chairman’s Award for her work in introducing a new annuity product line in Tokyo, Japan.  She has been a speaker at industry conferences, for professional and education organizations, and on radio shows.

This entry was published on Sep 30, 2015 / ccecere. Posted in Business Rules. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Mukesh posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016 8:21 AM
I have one queries. Let's consider a BA works for two different stake holders let say in Regulatory domain. Both stakeholder wants a regulatory requirements which are just contradicts. In this scenarios how BA will act or how BA will deal with it? Kindly reply
Mukesh posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016 8:21 AM
my second query is that if Stakeholder are giving us wrong requirements(a requirements subject to interpretation and may be interpret in more than one way), what a BA will do it in this case? My extended question are if requirement is wrong but it still needed, then how BA will handle it?
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