Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Management notation

Michael Montalbano's A PERSONAL HISTORY OF APL is a lesson in management and thought. While seemingly about a programming language (APL, whose descendent is J), Montalbano's paper is really an impassioned plea for clear management thinking aided by clear, concise ways of writing and talking.

Perhaps the stock and flow models of system dynamics are another potential concise notation in that spirit. Barry Richmond has talked about them enabling "operational thinking": making our thoughts more concrete.

2 Comments:

Blogger Pet Computer said...

Looks like reinventing the wheel to me. If UML is not perfectly fit to formalize business processes and bring business logics and programming as close together as possible them then nothing can help it. It's all about the process really.

27 May, 2005 12:28  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

Thanks for your comment! UML has certainly been used to describe business processes, as have a number of other approaches. If you're interested in such business process description languages, you might be interested in BPMI; they are working on a standard that may take over from UML, IDEF, and the other older approaches (I used to use Role Interaction Networks, an approach from the old MCC, because I liked its underlying Petri Net formalism).

I think those approaches can be useful for describing the operation of a process to others (and to ourselves), and they can be helpful in setting up a discrete event simulation to answer certain questions about the nature of the process.

What system dynamics offers is the ability to answer difficult questions about the likely behavior of organizational systems involving feedback. What J or APL offer is the ability to express mathematical relationships extremely concisely. I don't think it's necessarily an either-or situation; for example, I could see the use of system dynamics to answer questions about the design of the business strategy, the use of BPMN and the rest of the BPM stack to describe the resulting processes, and the use of J or APL to communicate information about the data.

As far as reinventing the wheel, both system dynamics and APL were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, while UML dates from 1994.

Comments?

01 June, 2005 11:15  

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