Process, data, decision: the triumvirate of business modelling

Many analysts have a grounding in grounding in one main area of business analysis, such as process modelling. However, a company’s business architecture cannot stand on a single leg.

In fact, three legs are required:

  • Process model
  • Data model
  • Decision model

I have seen many software development projects where none of these is in place before the project starts, with disastrous consequences. In some cases, only the process models are driven out and while data requirements and individual business rules are documented, they are not modelled.

If process is the highway network and data are the cargo to be moved around that highway, then decisions are the engines that move the data around the highway.

All three models should be mature (though not necessarily perfect or immutable) before software projects start. Where companies pay any attention to these models at all, of the three they tend to focus on process modelling. Businesses tend to skip over logical data modelling, often because they are not even aware of such a thing or its benefits (I explore this further here and here).

However, the one which seems to suffer the most from being ignored is decision modelling. Business decisions are relegated to being documented late in the day as requirements of a specific software system and often in pseudo-code, rather than natural language. The result is that they are often not re-usable across areas of the business (or even across software implementations in the same area of business) and they are not easily manageable by the business as a single asset at the enterprise level (despite what your process-implementation or rules-engine software vendor might tell you).

Business decisions are what drive businesses, yet in software development, they seemed to be treated as the poor cousin from out of town.

While it is good to be an expert in only one of these three key business models, as a business analyst you need to be competent in all of them. After all, who wants to sit on a stool that has fewer than three legs?

Kind regards,

Declan Chellar

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