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BBC Conference 2011 Day 2: The nature of the beast

Slight delay in getting this posted as yesterday evening was spent in good company – a sure sign that I’ve got my priorities right.

Most remarkable sign of conference quality? On day 1 everyone was asking ‘How are you enjoying the event?’ By yesterday that had evolved to ‘Are you enjoying it as much as I am?’

Content? Visited some great session. The day presented a good opportunity to dive deeper into selected topics. Here the gist in no particular order:

James Taylor – he of decision management fame – made one decision before his presentation and that was to use no slides at all. So we had one hour of shared experiences on decisions rules. Thing that sticks to my mind: Tons of processes are not actually processes but decisions in disguise. James made a point of mentioning one case where he replaced 25 pages of Visio process documentation with just a couple of rules.

Listening to him made me wonder how many of our business analysts are really equipped to deal with processes AND rules and their interaction.

Sandy Kemsley led yet another panel yesterday, this time dealing with the relationship between business and IT architecture. From what I gathered from the panelists comments was that there’s no real formula for success and that is very much depends on the individual situation: If you’re fortunate enough to be able to start from scratch, start with the business architecture and develop everything else from there. If you’re dealing with an existing architecture, it might make sense for IT to take the initial lead. I particularly like the comment from Forrester analyst Jeff Scott that one of the main as yet unsolved issues is the tie-in from business strategy to business architecture.

Michael S Katz gave a very insightful presentation on ‘A cloud-based system provides timely cancer care information’. The very short version is that despite a whole range of available information on myeloma (or maybe because of it?) health care providers find it hard to keep up to date with current best practices of treatment. The International Myeloma Foundation has therefore developed an application which lets patients and doctors alike interpret and evaluate relevant data by entering data into the application where it is then set against certain rules which are based on the latest and most up-to-date research. The application then comes back to the user with information on how to interpret the clinical data. Note aside: While Michael was explaining the background to the system, I was wondering about issues like security of patient data. Michael picked up on this by mentioning that the one thing they had wanted to avoid at all cost was to have a solution that would need to store patient data, as in that case billions of regulatory requirements would set in. The neat solution they found was that the input data from the patient or person making the enquiry was stored of their local devices only.

I also sat in on the CDC presentation by Dr. David Lyalin and Warren Williams, which I found very interesting as they described how they developed, distributed and applied business rules and decision tables to track immunization. I admit I will have to re-read the handout material to fully understand why they went with rules and not processes but the ability to communicate rules and decision tables more easily than processes seemed to play a large part.

I also briefly spoke with Matthew Finley, the ‘Show Director’ for the event, discussing reasons why other BPM events were usually so bland. Not sure that it’s entirely down to culture, the ‘feel’ of an event and its accessibility also play a large part which seems entirely foreign to some event organisers.

Note of interest to european readers: Despite this being a very large conference, attendees used every available opportunity to ask questions. In fact the most interesting sessions grew out of the interaction between presenter and attendees. If you’re going to these events to learn something you’ve got to be prepared to ask questions.

If you want to know more about this days’ session, I suggest you pay a visit to Sandys Column2 blog. Having the dual advantage of knowing what she’s talking about and being a woman (multi-tasking), she can actually listen, understand, evaluate, write and post at the same time – and it all makes sense.

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