Ruud Hemmer works for the 'Voorziening tot Samenwerking' (vts) of Politie Nederland (the Dutch Police Force). One of his activities is to professionalize business information management in regional police forces. There, he uses the BiSL® framework: the process model for business information management. At the moment, together with his fellow change managers, he is focusing on improvements in the specification process because Hemmer believes that a lot can still be achieved in that area.
'Dare to ask'
Self-cleaning capacity of business information management
If a business information administrator does not talk enough with the staff from the operating process, he will not have a clear picture of the need for change and the issue or problem underlying it. Users tend to come up with their own IT solutions to their problems. According to Hemmer, it is precisely the business information administrator who could calm this tendency. "By better analyzing what the underlying problem is, he can deal with a lot of these requests in a different way. For example, by a work-around or adapting the operating process. If you look at the problem more closely, rather than adopting the proposed IT solution, you will find that in maybe forty percent of the change requests, the required support is missing. The pipeline for change management will then be blocked a little less often. That's what I call the self-cleaning capacity. Very important during times when IT budgets are under pressure.
By testing feasibility at an early stage and immersing yourself in the problem of the users, you get fewer change requests, which means you have to do fewer analyses, implement fewer changes, will have fewer releases, and therefore have to do less review and testing. This all starts with specifying attention for the process."
Change requests in line with operating process
If the BiSL specification process goes smoothly, the workload of the change management and functionality management processes will decrease. In the police, we talk about a two-stage rocket. In the regional police forces, business information administrators operate, who draft the change requests from their environment and forward them to the national business information administrator. At national level, the change requests are further specified and presented to process owners for prioritization and the establishment of releases. Hemmer: "A critical business information administrator will not immediately relay the question put to him to the national business information administrator. When the need for change is made known to him, he will first want to gather the arguments from the operating process and assess the consequences for IT: how is the operating process being served, do alternate solutions exist, what will it cost? If this analysis is omitted, then business information management in the regional forces becomes simply a mouthpiece. While that very business information administrator is close to the work floor! Before the national business information administrator has gotten settled, he has a list of a thousand change requests."
So does better specification mean fewer change requests? Hemmer: "The number of change requests that flows through to the national process will decline, but so will the number of change requests that lead to a program change. Because of better analysis and more creative thinking about work-arounds or other work arrangements."
"If good specification does not take place and the operating process is not heard in the need for change, then a new release is simply a sum of the separate change requests. The business wants the operating process to be improved as a whole and for it to fit in with the prevailing strategic objectives. The business information administrator does not have to do all this himself; it can also be done by a process or information analyst or an information management adviser. He does have to organize for it to happen! In order to learn how to adopt a critical position, we are currently developing a specification workshop. Here, the participant learns to hold dialog with the business and to draft the change request via information analysis. We teach him to dare to ask, and to continue to ask. Something that is absolutely necessary in order to replace the change request based on previously devised IT solutions with change requests that are based on business and IT considerations."