Understanding Why and How Well

In my last Column, I described the use of the Business Context Model for bridging from Value Streams to Processes. In this Column, I'm going to talk about another of my favorite models for working with the business, and IT, the Business Motivation Model.

Business Motivation Model Explained

The Business Motivation Model (BMM), published by the Object Management Group (OMG, the same organization that manages the BPMN specification) provides the underlying architectural metamodel for describing important concepts about why a business is undertaking certain actions. (See www.omg.org/spec/BMM. Note: Some of the description of the model's concepts in this section are paraphrased from the specification.)

There are two major areas of the BMM:

  1. The Ends and Means of business plans—Among the Ends are things that the enterprise wishes to achieve—for example, Goals and Objectives. Among the Means are things the enterprise will use to achieve those Ends—for example, Strategies and Tactics.
  2. The Influencers: These are the things that shape the elements of the business plans, and the Directives and Assessments made about the impacts of Influencers on the Ends and Means.
  3. Together, the Ends, Means, and Influencers answer the following fundamental business questions:

    • What is necessary to achieve what the enterprise wishes to achieve? This is answered by describing the Means needed to achieve the desired Ends.
    • Why does each aspect of the business plan exist? This is answered by identifying the Ends that each of the Means serves. This is what is meant by business motivation. (Notice that the Ends, Means, Directives, and Assessments correspond to the age-old questions of who?, what?, how?, and why?)

    A key to addressing business motivation is understanding the enterprise's aspirations—its Vision—and its plans for achieving that vision—its Mission. Refining these concepts to the next level of detail yields additional important concepts. Vision is amplified by Goals and quantified by Objectives. Mission is defined by Strategies (for approaching Goals) and carried out by Tactics (for achieving Objectives). The BMM uses the general terms Ends to refer to the aspiration concepts (Vision, Goal, Objective) and the term Means to refer to the action plan concepts (Mission, Strategy, Tactic). Figure 1 shows the main concepts and relationships of the BMM.

    Figure 1. Business Motivation Model

    Figure 1: Business Motivation Model.


    An End is something the enterprise desires to accomplish. Note that an End describes what will be accomplished, but not how. A Means is any device, capability, technique, restriction, agency, or method that may be called upon, activated, or enforced to achieve the Ends.

    Vision – Vision is an overall image of what the organization wants to be or become. It usually encompasses the entire organization and is long term in perspective. A Vision describes the future state of the enterprise, without regard to how it is to be achieved. A Vision is amplified by Goals. A Vision is supported or operationalized by Missions.

    Desired Results – There are two types of Desired Results that the enterprise intends to achieve in order to meet its Vision: Goals and Objectives.

    • A Goal is a statement about a state or condition of the enterprise to be brought about or sustained through appropriate Means. A Goal amplifies a Vision—that is, it indicates what must be satisfied on a continuing basis to effectively attain the Vision
    • An Objective is a statement of an attainable, time-specific, and measurable target that the enterprise seeks to achieve its Goals. An Objective quantifies a Goal. Objectives should be SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

    Goals and Objectives are somewhat fuzzy concepts, but you can generally say that a Goal tends to be longer term, qualitative (rather than quantitative), general (rather than specific), and ongoing. An Objective tends to be short term, quantitative, and specific, and does not continue beyond its timeframe.

    Desired Results (the specific Ends) are supported by Courses of Action (specific Means), which can be either Strategies or Tactics. Generally, Goals are supported by Strategies, and Objectives are achieved by Tactics.


    The Means are the operational part of the BMM. They provide a mechanism to specify how the Vision will be realized in terms of operational concepts.

    Mission – A Mission indicates the ongoing operational activity of the enterprise. The Mission describes what the business is or will be doing on a day-to-day basis. A Mission is planned by Strategies.

    Course of Action – A Course of Action is an approach or plan for configuring some aspect of the enterprise involving things, processes, locations, people, timing, or motivation, undertaken to achieve Desired Results. In other words, a Course of Action focuses efforts towards Desired Results. There are two types of Courses of Action: Strategies and Tactics.

    • A Strategy is one major aspect of the plan for the Mission. A Strategy represents the essential courses of action to achieve Ends—Goals in particular. A Strategy usually focuses efforts toward those Goals. A Strategy is more than a resource, skill, or competency that the enterprise can use. A Strategy is accepted by the enterprise as the right approach to achieve its Goals given the constraints and risks that the enterprise operates with.
    • A Tactic represents the detailing of Strategies. In other words, Tactics implement Strategies.

    Again, Strategies and Tactics are somewhat fuzzy, but generally you can say that Strategies tend to be longer term and broader than Tactics. Strategies are implemented by Tactics. Strategies usually support Goals and focus efforts on Objectives. Compared to a Strategy, a Tactic tends to be shorter term and narrower; they are Courses of Action that generally achieve Objectives.

    In and of themselves, however, Courses of Action tend to be limited. They require Directives to be successfully applied in the business.

    Directives – Directives describe the Policies and Rules for applying the Strategies and Objectives. In other words, Directives govern Courses of Action. Specifically, a Directive defines or constrains some aspect of an enterprise. It is intended to assert business structure or to control or influence the behavior of the business.

    A Directive always has to do with constraints, governance or guidance. A Course of Action, in contrast, identifies an active approach in moving toward the Ends.

    • A Business Policy is a non-actionable Directive whose purpose is to govern or guide the enterprise. Policies sharpen Tactics because they make Courses of Action concrete at the operational level. In general, Business Policies exist to govern—that is, control, guide, and shape—Strategies and Tactics. A Business Policy provides the basis for Business Rules.
    • A Business Rule is a Directive, intended to guide or influence business behavior, in support of Business Policy. In other words, Rules specify the Policies. Business Rules sharpen the Business Tactics because they make Courses of Action concrete at the operational level. Business Rules enforce Tactics.

    To compare the two Directives, a Business Policy tends to be less structured, less discrete, and usually not atomic—that is, not focused on a single aspect of governance or guidance. Also, a Business Policy tends to be less compliant with standard business vocabulary, and less formally articulated. In contrast, a Business Rule is highly structured and is carefully expressed in terms of standard vocabulary. A Business Rule should be discrete and atomic (that is, represent only a single aspect of governance or guidance).


    Of course, the enterprise does not exist in a vacuum. You can go merrily on your way toward implementing your objectives, but if you ignore the other forces (Influencers), you're in for a disappointment. An Influencer can be anything that has the ability to affect the business, often without direct exercise of command, deliberate effort, or intent. Influencers can be external or internal to the enterprise.

    Typical examples of Influencers are: a competitor, a customer, a supplier, a regulation, technology, corporate infrastructure, and management initiatives. Specifically, the business is concerned with the Influencers that can impact the employment of Means or achievement of Ends.

    So, what are you to do about these Influencers? How do you differentiate between important ones and trivial ones? This impact of an Influencer is judged in an Assessment. Influencers, the “who” in business requirements, are neutral—they are more or less just there until someone makes an assessment of them as they relate to Ends and/or Means. An assessment indicates which Influencers are relevant to which Ends and/or Means and identifies the Potential Impact that they can have. Potential impact can be either risk or reward; it provides the “why” of business requirements—quantifying the value proposition. Assessments often take the form of a SWOT analysis: strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat.

    Armed with this information, the enterprise can take action to address the potential impact. Often, a Directive is specifically motivated by the potential impact of an Influencer.

    GuSTO, or Keep It Simple

    As you can see, the BMM covers a rich set of business concepts and can be used to answer a whole host of questions. But typically I find the full model to be much more than I need. Instead, I boil it down to a core set of concepts shown in Figure 2. Then, I use this model to think about two important questions.

  1. Why am I doing something?
  2. How will I know if it's working?

I ask these questions across a wide range of scope from enterprise goals and strategies, such as Supply Chain Optimizations all the way down to specific business process or SOA service implementations such as an insurance quoting process or a SOA pricing service.

Figure 2. BMM Subset

Figure 2. BMM Subset.

For each of these initiatives or projects, I ask the following questions:

  1. G – Why am I doing this? What is the goal?
  2. S – How am I going to achieve the goals? What are my broad strategies?
  3. T – How will I implement the strategies? What are the tactics?
  4. O – How will I know if it worked? How will it be measured? What are the objectives?

I call this GuSTO (okay, I know the u is a stretch…) Again, I might ask these questions about an enterprise level business issue, or about something like a Business Process Center of Excellence, or about an IT implementation. Let's take the implementation as an example. Imagine that you are responsible for implementing a BPMN process for creating insurance quotes in support of a web based application system. The discussion might go something like:

  • Goal – To generate an insurance quote for web applications in real time.
  • Strategy – Minimize underwriting during the quoting process
  • Tactic – Make assumptions based on applicant profiles
  • Objective – 90% of initial quotes are unchanged after complete underwriting

In other words, to support real time quoting, the process will need to reduce time-consuming steps such as underwriting. (Of course there will have to be other strategies employed). One way to reduce underwriting might be to use a profile based on past history from similar applicants. But before issuing the actual policy, a full underwriting step may be required. We want the real-time quote to be 90% accurate.

Note that in general there are many to one relationships. Typically, there are several strategies designed to support a goal. Each strategy typically has several tactics. And each tactic may have more than one measurable objective.

I find that it only takes 10-15 minutes to go through this exercise, and afterwards, my team is much clearer on the approach we're taking. Specifically, we know why we're doing it? What is expected? How we intend to achieve that outcome? And how we'll measure the success of it.

Alignment and Traceability

One of the key expectations of business architecture and business process is that it will help to align IT with the business. We've all heard this statement so much that it is often treated as little more than a cliché. But, it need not be. The BMM provides a formal way to trace tactics back to goals and objectives. Now, we can take it one step further and tie IT to the tactics that it implements. For example, business services (SOA) and business processes are constructs used to implement tactics. So, we can create formal traceability between the services and processes (IT) and the business requirements by modeling a realize relationship between a service and the tactic it is intended to implement.

Carrying the example through this next step, assume that we implement an Applicant Profile SOA service to support the web based quoting process. Now, we can explicitly say that this specific SOA service is tied to achieving the specific business goal of real time quoting, and that it will be measured by the accuracy of the profiles. You can't do much better than that in terms of Business / IT alignment.

But there is one more important side effect of using the BMM. Because it forces us to identify specific, measurable objectives, we also know what information we need to be able to collect to understand our performance against those objectives. Or, to put it another way, the objectives identified in the BMM tell us how our processes and services need to be instrumented and what measures they need to collect and report.

Before we begin any undertaking, it's a good idea to understand why we are doing it and what is expected. The Business Motivation Model is an excellent and quick way of addressing these questions. I hope you find it as useful as I do.

Mike Rosen

Mike Rosen

Mike Rosen is Chief Scientist at Wilton Consulting Group and a Founding Member of the Business Architecture Guild. Mr. Rosen is also an Adjunct Research Advisor for Business and Enterprise Architecture for IDCs CIO Advisory Practice. He has more than 30 years of technical leadership experience architecting, designing, and developing software applications and products. Currently, he provides expert consulting services in the areas of Enterprise Architecture, Business Architecture and SOA. Previously, Mr. Rosen was CTO at AZORA Technologies and M2VP, Inc., and Chief Enterprise Architect at IONA Technologies, PLC, and Genesis Development Corporation. Mr. Rosen was also a product architect, technical leader, and developer for commercial middleware products from BEA and Digital. His involvement in product development includes Web services, Java, CORBA, COM, messaging, transaction processing, DCE, networking, and operating systems.