The BSF Rules

This page is part of a set of pages: "IoCP Small Business Group (Bedrock) Technical Manual"
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1.      No Separation. “IT is the business
When an organisation is big enough to have an IT department then it makes sense for that department to have its own processes.   It is also possible (likely?) that that group will split away from the business to some degree. In SMEs this is less of a phenomenon. Process is process with no distinction between a business process and an IT process (there aren’t both an HR payroll process and a business payroll process). E.g. of course a service desk will service customers and suppliers as well as internal IT users – this is a given not an option (there may be a timeline for taking them on after internal users, but it should be an intent and most of all there is no reason for two helpdesks). More radically: strategy is strategy. No need or justification for a separate IT strategy.
2.      Rationalisation of roles. “too many chiefs”.
 As Johnson and Brodman found when scaling CMM down (ref 0.11.16) “In a small business, the senior manager is very likely the President or CEO of the company and, for most practices, is not the appropriate person to carry out the specified task …… the need for practices that involve interaction and coordination between those different levels of management is negated when a single individual is involved …… most tasks assigned to management positions need not be performed by managers — they could be performed by an individual on staff or a senior technical individual. The individual, however, must have authority equivalent to the intended level of management in order to be able to carry out the stated activity …… If independence from [process] is to be achieved for [reviews], it may be achievable in some organizations only by direct report to the President or CEO, and in some flat organizations, it may not be achievable at all.”)
The BSF says that most management approval and review functions collapse to the most senior interested manager (i.e. usually the CEO or their delegate) and/or the person carrying responsibility. Neither the SME culture nor organisational structure is amenable to process by committee.
Many roles will be held by the same person – make it clear where this is (or can be) so. Just as importantly, make it clear where they should not be held by the same person.
Some roles have to be fulfilled from outside the SME: e.g. audit, steering committee.
3.      Rationalisation of workload. “cut the red tape
Referring to Johnson and Brodman again (ref 0.11.16) “the time allotted for reviews could become disproportionate to the time allotted to development activities if all reviews were conducted as specified in the CMM …... Managers in small organizations and on small projects often perform their management activities on a part-time basis and are involved in technical activities the remainder of their time. As a result, the status of the project is known by virtue of daily work habits, and extensive status reporting requirements are unnecessary…… the frequency of reviews should be such that they do not impact the short life-cycle of the project “. More generally, the workload of administering a process should not exceed - or come close to - the workload of performing the process.
In addition, the resulting models must not appear to be cumbersome either – keep the paperwork looking simple.
4.      Evolution over certification.  “boosting not bashing”. 
Habra et al (ref 0.11.43) say “the tailored model should focus on evolution aspects over certification ones. In fact, small organisations would probably get a very low maturity level ….. they have a dramatic need of guidelines to improve their processes”. Don’t discourage by measuring against benchmarks – encourage by advising the way forward and promoting growth.
5.      Top-down thinking. “out of the weeds
Habra et al (ref 0.11.42) said “The tailored model should emphasize the importance for an organization to define explicitly its objectives in general and those of its … process[es] in particular. The model should invite the assessed organization to refine its objectives into goals and sub-goals and to relate them to the processes and the practices of the tailored model. Making explicit the relation between the outcomes to the processes and the practices of the tailored model on the one hand, and the organization declared goals on the other hand, should be motivating in the improvement process.” Clients need to start by stepping back, doing some high level strategising, then deriving the detail from the strategy to deliver the strategy.
6.      Pragmatic technology. “police the geeks
Johnson and Brodman (ref 0.11.16) one last time: “overhead dollars for investment in items, such as tools, is also a problem. ….. Many [SMEs] use only basic automated tools, most often provided by the customer or by the operating system vendor, and usually in support of their manual methods. Not only are many of the automated tools overkill … but they are also too costly for the limited … process improvement budgets in a small business or organization.” Where affordable technologies will actually make the process more efficient, we will propose them. In other cases, Excel can work wonders at only a moderate risk of error. Everywhere else, manual methods are looking good. 
7.      Translation. “plain English
Struggling with English, Habra et al (ref 0.11.43) make the point: “the number of actors involved in … process is very small. Several roles can be in charge of the same single person. This makes the use of such models very complex for small organizations. In addition, actors in SME are far from being all … specialists; so adapting the vocabulary is necessary.   ….. too technical and troublesome”. A new language is useful for an organisation when changing culture.   A new language that nobody can understand is not.   We will seek to make it clear and colloquial for non-specialists without losing compliance with the larger-scale equivalents.
8.      Discovered alternatives. “horse’s mouth
The SME community will have invented any number of variations and alternatives of their own. We need channels to capture (and reward) these – mostly through the website. The SM4S2M model will grow most rapidly in an evolutionary system where it is tested against reality and the surviving components synthesised into new versions.
9.      Measurement dilemma. “fact meets feelings
Methodologies such as ITIL promote facts-based management; evaluation by metrics. This is a great approach where it is feasible. But it denies the “intrinsic interpretive nature of IS” (ref I) which becomes increasingly important in SMEs. Small organisations don’t have the resources to measure even the key metrics. But people in those organisations are more generalist and cross-functional than in larger organisations, so they are better positioned to perform qualitative evaluations. We will make use of the subjective and personal where it works, makes sense, and makes the difficult feasible for SMEs.
10.Informal freedom. “lighten up
Some of the advantages of SMEs are their flexibility and creativity. Both of these are stifled by excessively formal planning or processes. Some informality is OK in a small organisation where it would be unacceptable or inefficient in a larger one. The main objective is to provide vision and focus, and a little systematic structure. Be an Auntie not a Mum.
11.Depth“just the facts”
The rigour we bring to bear on a process is much less in an SME: we don’t have the time or resources, and we don’t need it to manage a small number of people. So a transformed process does not need to go to as many layers of detail as the original one. The higher level concepts are often sufficient
12.Process centric
Most methodologies we use as input should be structured around processes not functions or technologies, but where they are not we will correct this.
13.One hour. “just gotta get a message to you” *
We aim for every practice to be achievable in an hour: an hour to set it up, and/or an hour per interval or per project to run it.  That will not always be possible but it makes a good frame of reference: never mind what ought to be done, what can be done in an hour? 
If it takes much longer, most just won't do it at all and what does that achieve?
14.Rule of 3.
Try to structure advice in threes: three preparation steps, three implementation steps, three activities to perform the practice, three measures...
15.Occam’s Razor.
In the absence of any other filter, when left with a choice KISS: Keep it Sensible and Simple
* It's a quote from a BeeGees song from before they sang falsetto.  You kids look it up on Google.
This page is part of a set of pages: "IoCP Small Business Group (Bedrock) Technical Manual"
Turn the page: