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Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

Janet and John talk Business

Category : Architecture

Modelling. All in all it takes a degree in maths to really achieve something in this area. Even in the context of modelling business processes and organisational structures, we don’t seem to be able to get rid of the analytical halo that surrounds the persons that are doing it. Look: it’s IT people in disguise! Even dogs and cats see right through them. I suspect it has something to do with magnetic fields. Or it may just be karma. Despite everything, IT people persist in their attempts to bridge the worlds of information technology and business. It doesn’t always work and every time again there is this genuine astonishment that the other side is just not getting it. Take for example Service-oriented Architecture. It is difficult enough to explain to the non-initiated what services exactly are. Let alone to clarify how to define them or – let’s go wild – actually use them in practice. And then we haven’t even touched on architecture, something that IT experts have taken for granted as an advanced concept in their profession. Bring that to the business side. There they perceive architecture – like all normal people – as something that pertains to homes, offices and other buildings. And the translation to information systems is simply not being made, not even when IT experts try to explain the concepts in plain Janet and John language. The fact of the matter is, the Janet and John from the IT world are just a little bit different. John likes to solve complex differential equations. And if Janet grows up, she wants to master theoretical physics. Just another frame of reference indeed. The gap becomes painfully clear if we watch subjects such as business architecture evolve. Intuitively, everybody has a picture of the advantages that would be achieved once we would have a clear, well-defined business architecture. Well, within the circle of IT people, that is. Because no matter how much it is emphasised that business architecture has nothing, really, really nothing to do with technology, it is predominantly the more analytical type of professional that seems to be involved in it. I once made sort of an exploratory remark about this phenomenon, addressing the audience of a conference on business architecture: that the breakthrough of standards for business architecture and modelling may be hampered by the fact that mostly IT experts (or former IT experts) are working on it. The room was all denial, but nobody could fail to notice that roughly three-quarters of the audience was making notes on their opened laptops. Or they were just processing some e-mail, never mind that. Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised if the business once again shows a lukewarm response. Not only when reacting to the concept of business architecture, but even so to standards for modelling business processes and organisational requirements. Especially the Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) currently receives a lot of attention. But from which target audience exactly, that is almost a rhetorical question. Anybody who has had a quick look at the flowchart-like symbols of the notation knows enough. We can only hope that BPMN will not go the same way as IT experts have gone with their Unified Modelling Language (UML): version 2.1 sometimes shows such a preposterous complexity, that only rocket scientists can discuss it. Not so strange anyway, if we realise that the founders of UML respectively were occupied with telephone centrals, guided missile systems and jet engines. Maybe it is time for a breakthrough. For example through domain specific languages. Each market sector would have its own Janet and John as spokespersons, speaking a targeted business language that everybody would understand. Very promising concepts indeed. And yes, invented by IT people. Probably karma after all.

p.s. After some careful research, I concluded that ‘Janet and John’ may be the best-known names in the UK, trying to suggest simple language explanation. In the US ‘Jane and John’ might work better. In the Netherlands, we refer to ‘Jip and Janneke’. If you have any suggestions from a different regional perspective (Germany? France? Italy? Sweden?), let us know by all means through the comments. ps2. Sorry about the bad link to a Gartner report about DSL's. You needed to be a suscriber to read it. Replaced by link to Microsoft's definition of DSL.

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Ron Tolido

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