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Modeling the Business Environment

Author:  Dean Clark
Contributed by Kanbay Inc.


There are two driving factors that are molding the Business Processing environment of the future:

  • The intense focus on the Internet and E-Commerce, and

  • The need to salvage the investment in Legacy applications for the Internet.

Utilizing the knowledge gained from Y2K efforts, dramatic improvement of the business model is possible. Through a process called Strategic Business Modeling (SBM) this valuable information can be organized for the move to a new business environment. For many companies that means enabling or moving legacy business function to a new infrastructure, allowing for ease of integration with purchased business components. The objective of this transformation is improved return on investment, speed to market, and ease of maintenance.

Capturing business enterprise information and placing it into a usable format is the first and most critical step to improving the Business. Because every company has just performed their first major Enterprise-wide project, Year 2000, there�s a significant amount of corporate information that can be used to model the current operational structure, and can be used to make decisions for an improved business structure. This level of data has never before been available, and is a springboard for beginning the business improvement process. SBM is an effective lead-in to the following business improvement steps:

  • Current State Modeling � defining how the current business works and its integration with technology

  • Reusability Strategy � determining what components in the current legacy infrastructure can be used in the Future State

  • New Business Requirements Definition � helping integrate business requirements within a framework

  • Industry Model Selection � determining if there�s a model which can be purchased (or built) which will act as a funnel to help eliminate duplicate process and data

  • Future State Modeling � determining what the future business environment should look like

  • Package Selection Strategy � determining if there are application(s) or components within the current structure that could be replaced by a purchased application

  • Process/Data Distribution Strategy � determining how information in the existing structure will be distributed within the Future State Model

  • IT Model Definition � determining how the IT models will be changed utilizing new technology, and how they will support the Future State

  • Organizational Needs Definition � assisting with the cultural and organizational shifts required to gain acceptance and successfully implement the Future State Model

The Internet

Everyone has become acquainted with the vast potential the Internet has for increasing revenue. This is the fastest growing market/industry in the world. The number of Internet users is doubling every four months the number of Web pages is doubling every 30 days. This significant growth will continue as more and more Fortune 1000 companies free their "legacy imbedded" business processes and bring them to the Internet. The enabling of legacy business function on the Internet has become more and more attractive as companies like Microsoft, Sun, and AT&T turn the Internet into the next Client/Server platform.

Five to ten years ago moving to a Client/Server infrastructure required significant analysis of the "business component" targeted for the move. This analysis was required in order to understand business interrelationships and distribution needs for the business in a C/S infrastructure. In order to cut analysis costs, many companies tried utilizing a technique called "Rightsizing." Rightsizing moved an existing legacy application from the mainframe to a Client/Server platform as it was, with all the inherent legacy system problems. In essence companies "Rightsized" their legacy system problems, creating the start of new legacy environments. These projects were, in general, big failures.

As we move to the Internet, the next Client/Server implementation, we must learn from our past experiences. Not only our mistakes, but also the techniques that were created to migrate and improve legacy applications. SBM provides an ideal vehicle to capture information uncovered during Year 2000 in order to facilitate use of legacy improvement techniques. Because of the advances in object technology, repository technology, reengineering tools, and new technology within CORBA tools, we have the ability to advance and extend legacy business processes well into the next millennium. The Internet is a platform that we all are enamored with, and are struggling with plans for how to reach.

How Modeling Helps

SBM data consists of a significant amount of information about the corporate environment. Combining this data with a business framework model, designed specifically for the type of business being modeled, issues with the current business structure can easily be identified. Once business workflow is documented, SBM information can be compared to ensure all corporate work components are identified.

With the critical business processes identified, legacy components that support these processes can be identified, and a strategy for their reuse defined. During Year 2000, Logical Units of Work within legacy systems should have been identified for testing purposes. SBM determines how well the LUW�s were defined, and how easily they can be used for a reusability strategy. Because a unit of work can span many modules in a legacy application, SBM information can save significant work by identify which components can only be brought to a level of abstraction for use as business requirements.

Through SBM, the potential use of purchased business models can be evaluated for consolidating the data and process environment. The objective of a model is to assist in defining one set of information that describes the corporate business environment. Legacy systems, in essence, each have their own model that describes only that specific legacy application. This creates significant duplication across a company, and facilitates the difficulty with maintaining legacy applications.

SBM also eases integrating new business requirements because of the knowledge gained about the corporate environment. This consolidation of business requirements with current application information is required for the comparison process used to determine the fit of an ERP package within the target business structure.

Moving to a highly distributed platform like the Internet, it�s critical to determine where data and process should be located. Ease of movement for information is required in order to ensure the satisfaction of end-user clients. Security and the centralization of information are also issues that need to be addressed. SBM contains information about work processes and the needs of the client and business end users.

Dramatic business improvement can be achieved through the effective use of technology. Today�s technology is more sophisticated than ever, and at the same time, easier to implement and integrate. Having utilized SBM, the business model is now in position to where areas can be identified for taking advantage of this new technology, technology that couldn�t be utilized with the legacy infrastructure. Understanding of the target environment is strong, which allows for selection of the appropriate technology to enable the new business environment. A protocol like CORBA can now be used to Internet enable legacy components to "speak" with programs coded in Java. This "wrapping" of legacy code and the effective use of middle-ware will extend critical business components to where they can be used on the Internet.

Because there will be a significant impact in the way people work and communicate, having the organization understand and accept the changes is critical. Organizational needs of the enterprise must be defined early on in order to create a program to address them. Many individuals will feel threatened by these changes. Implied in business improvement is the fact that some people will need to change what they do or how they work, or worse, will lose their jobs. Implementation of new, more effective technology will reduce the number of people required to maintain the business-processing environment. Helping the organization define new roles for these individuals will be critical to the success of any business improvement project.

Motivation to Improve

You don�t have to go far to find a Business Executive who is disgusted with what was required to ensure their business environment was Year 2000 compliant. For the first time since these legacy applications were developed, Executives truly understand how difficult it is to maintain these complex structures. The Internet is filled with stories of projects that are geared towards improving the legacy environment. There�s very little explanation that�s required about the need to improve the business-processing environment.

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