Category Archives: Business

Business Requirements and Logical and Physical design

I am often asked what is the difference between a logical design and a physical design. And sometimes, whether it is necessary to separate Business Requirements from Technicasl requirements. Some feel that an attempt to separate these aspects is unnecessary. While I will not let myself get bogged down in obsessive hair splitting of a purely academic or linguistic kind, I believe the ability to make the distinction is crucial to the successful design and implementation of new business requirements. And how many requirements are not “new” and unique, even when it seems to be a modification of existing software.

HK Tram 2types

HK Tram 2types

Take a look at the two pictures of two different trams I was in today, in Hong Kong Both have single seats on the left and double seats on the right. Fit a business requirement for there to be maximum seats without sacrificing reasonable comfort. Three seats per row is the logical design. That it is one on the left, a pathway and two seats on the right, is somewhere between a logical and a physical constraint. (I know, textbooks don’t admit that it may not be a clean cut separation between logical and physical, but hey, we live in the real world, and I am not going to kill my project by spending days just arguing over the theory. The actual material used to make the seats is of course very much purely physical design. Look at the handle bars for the standing passengers. One version has only bars on the left hand side, while the other has them on both sides. That is a physical design choice, for a business requirement that standing passengers should be able to steady themselves. A different design choice could very well have been straps instead of bars, or verticle posts.  The reason why we should have some idea between logical and physical choices is to give ourselves a lot more room for creative problem solving. 

Thinking out of the box is incorrect.

Thinking out of the box may be a good thing. But there’s a problem when it’s applied. In order to think out of the box, you have to be able to know where the box is. This is often missed out. The box is different according to the scenario and the area of study. There is no such thing as a universal box where you can say that “this is the boundary of the box” and apply that to all situations. Photo-2016-12-5-07-45.jpg

Manager of one? Dangers.

Many people have the job title of manager although they do not have anyone under them in the organization chart. That is they do not really have any staff reporting to them. So, we get into the definition of “manager”.Perhaps it’s to prepare for a section or division to be set up. Perhaps the title is just to get past some legacy reasons why salary scale is tied to job title.

This subject is worth a detailed analysis by itself.

But getting back to the gist of the title of this post. Is it possible to manage just one staff?

There’s nothing to stop a company from giving you the manager title and allocating one person to report to you. Or you are an entrepreneur and you can only afford to employ one staff.

The problem arises when the job definition and boundaries of power are not defined. The one person will, over time, develop a negative attitude towards you. You will see a role reversal. The managed becomes the manager. If you do not check this at an early stage, the role reversal is irreversible. It’s an interesting psychological phenomena that warrants more investigation and analysis of the things that go on in the mind of the staff, which develops into this power reversal. Why does it happen, and what are the factors that make it possible. And what are the solutions open to you?


Work ManWoman Pr 25  TRS  23 04 10 0060

Egg and it’s strange uses

The humble egg. Two things come to my mind.

One is why we seem to assume it’s a hens egg or a chicken egg when we hear the word “egg”. Without any other context, the chicken in the assumed mother of the “egg”. This contextual meaning is food ( pun intended ) for another post. 

Second, is, the arguments we still have on whether the egg is deserving of the same kind of consideration as the hatched fully formed creature, be it chicken or human. It is a very contentious argument and can get very convoluted since the discussion is frequently emotional and both sides tends to dredge up “scientific proofs” as well as moral, ethical and religious literature.

I shall leave you with the questions, and not pontificate on this. I am using this to illustrate the in the realm of work, in business analysis or in project management, you are likely going to meet similar types of issues regarding the definition of things, and the very difficult to define or explain situations, existing or required. An example is when someone can happily describe what he does at work, but finds it difficult to connect them all up into a nice picture.

This is a reason why I am careful not to give new analysts or project managers the impression that “it’s all in the book”. 



Assumed likes and dislikes from a persons background

I’m sitting in the “open air” part of a pub. There’s a roof above bit no walls once in a while the waiter or waitress comes over and aske if I like to move to another table inside. I said no. If it gets too windy, I move myself to s table just out of range, they think I’m crazy. But I really enjoy the rain. And the wind on my face.

Reminds me of my first visit to the US. To Lafayette. One of the folks I met at the company I visited said he had never been out of the state. He described the wonderful feeling of standing in wide open fields as a storm builds up. Today I’m reminded about this as I sit just out of reach of the rain. And I realize how impossible it is to describe a feeling. When we meet with and try to capture a “requirement”, how often we are listening to attempts to describe feeling. And how inadequate the words are. In personal lives too, how often do we encounter expressions of feeling and how often facts?

Feelings are the powerful influencers of our lives. Not facts.

Version numbers and extreme dangers in misuse of the term

There is a lot of confusion about the desirable attributes of things and of ideas.

With things, computers, gadgets or software, there is a good reason for wanting to acquire the “latest” or at least a recent version. Manufacturers often drop support for versions deemed too  old to support, and you want the benefits of latest features, or simply to be part of the in-crowd. Even with methodologies, with the procedures and steps to accomplish a task, we can have different approaches to tackle the job.

However, when we are talking about ideas and our knowledge of the natural world, then it makes no sense to refer to versions. How many versions of truth are there?

I am prompted to write this because a self-proclaimed EA expert, has launched what he calls “version 2 of Enterprise Architecture (EA)”. This is based on the completely erroneous claim that version 1 was only about technology while the “new” version 2 is about business and technology. At worst, the claim is an absolute lie, and at best a gross misunderstanding of EA (understandable since his title was software architect in a previous role). It is like saying that there is now a second version of the periodic table – the list of all the elements in the world, the stable foundation of all of the material sciences.

The very meaning of EA is a descriptive representation of the entire enterprise viewed as a holistic system, with defined and interconnected parts. This will necessarily include the business parts as well as the technology parts of the organization or enterprise. So, it is like calling a set of four wheels a version 1 car, and the complete car the version 2 car.
A quick look at the book “Finding Out More” by Simon Seow  (published in 2000) and the Zachman Framework (ref will lead you to the same conclusion.

TOGAF, by the Open Group is iterating through it’s 9th version, and it’s still work-in-progress. So who is right?

Zachman is right, and the Open Group is right. Architecture is architecture. And construction work is construction work. The Zachman Framework is a mechanism for arranging the complete set of elements used to build, maintain and modify enterprises. TOGAF is a methodology that is used to do the building. A methodology must necessarily have versions, because management preferences and technology will change over time, leading to changes in the process of building /making things including enterprises. But the architecture framework, as a reference point,  should never change. (except for fine tuning of the words used in terminology or the symbol/notation used). Hence the Zachman framework rows and columns have been consistent over the years.
Engineering work changes. The science behind the engineering work should not change. Unless of course the science used was wrong in the first place, and this likely explains why so many enterprises are drowning in their enterprise architecture efforts.

Simon Seow 17 June 2015

Restaurant – behind and in front of kitchen/counter.

Observation. Food slow to come when you have staff, including the boss, that runs between kitchen/counter and the tables.
Need to plan the logistics well. Saw this again in this Malaysian restaurant in Newcastle Australia. Boss man and his waiters seem to rush around too much. All over the place.
A few things come to mind.
There seems no specialization of work tasks. Certainly, in a small family owned type operation, everybody has to multitask. You cannot afford to be so specialized and so rigid in a way that result in many tasks being left unattended to.
But there has to be some guideline when things get too busy. Perhaps one person should be directing the rest, while filling in the odd tasks that can be done, to help out. The tasks should be those that do not prevent him from keeping an overview of the needs of observing rising needs and of directing the operations.


When and why does too many cooks spoil the broth

This is because there is no common menu and no strategy on the cooking process.
Cooking is something that is very personal. Although one may follow a cookbook and recipe, there are just too many variations that cannot be put down in the formula.
The ingredients may be specified as “a pinch of salt”. A medium sized potato. The process may be to heat until smoke starts to appear, which depending on how hot the pan was, may either be too early or too late.
There is an analogy in project management. Sometimes it may be a good thing to have a flatter organization with peers who now when and what to do at the right time. More often than not, however, it needs a strong character, like the chief cook, who dictates and directs things and people to act in the sequence and timing that only he seem to know.

Divide between management and workers a natural thing

Is there a natural divide between management and workers?
There is. Contrary to popular belief that there are ways and means of doing things differently and treating people differently which will remove this divide, the divide remains. What happens is that the divide may be change it’s appearance, but that divide is there.

There are many reasons for it. In a unionized environment, there is a natural “need” to maintain some divide. In fact, it is where the divide gets formalized.
By the way, I am not making any value judgement as to whether the divide is a good thing or a bad thing. I just want to observe that there is an unavoidable divide.
What about non unionized work places?
There are many examples of companies and departments where the “hierachy” is relatively flat. Or where the ” boss” behaves and deals with the staff like “one of the lads”.
The fact remains, however, that there will be a natural tension. While both may pull in the same direction to further the aims of the company, the aims of each party are different.
Maybe it is not a management-worker divide so much as the natural divide between any two parties that have been labelled differently.
I’ll give it some more thought and solicit some views before commenting further on this.

Picture of Simon Seow

Alternative Medicine – what does it mean?

photo of information banner of alternative medicine convention

photo of information banner of alternative medicine convention

Today I visited an international conference on alternative medicine. The trade show attached to it had about fifty odd booths, each promoting anything from government regulatory agencies and specialist practitioner associations, to the usual wide range of medical methods. It is intriguing to see and hear about both the “mainstream” alternative medicine folks, like acupuncture and homeopathy, as well as the “far out” groups that speak of flower vibrations captured in little sugar pills.
Should these alternative groups (and sometimes individual stand-alone operators be allowed to ply their wares? Or should there be some strict rules to make them play the game of the conventional schools?
That is a very hard question to even discuss, let alone decide the answer to. On the one hand, you cannot ask a trumpet player to play by the rules of a footballer, even though the purpose of both is to give pleasure to others. On the other, the gullible need to be protected. Or do they?