See things clearly

One of the analogies I sometimes use to describe how understanding data flow is becoming ever more important in business, is that of the doctor understanding blood flow through the human body.

Medical professionals have a clear understanding of the vascular system, which carries blood, and how it interacts with other physiological systems, and the various parts of the body.

When a vascular disease occurs, most often, blood flow in the sufferer’s body is affected, and organs and other body structures may be damaged as a result of decreased, or completely blocked, flows of blood. 

Practitioners are able to successfully treat resulting conditions, such as heart attacks, because, after centuries of analysis, they have successfully mapped how the various parts of the body are connected by flows of blood.  They also have clarity on how medicines or surgery will impact these flows of blood, and on how the rest of the body will be affected by a procedure.

Doctors understand how everything is put together to make the human body work.

How can this analogy be applied to business today?

We can think of data flow as being the life-blood of the modern business. 

There are few tasks today that do not rely, to some extent, on data flowing through the body of the organisation. 

Communications, financial transactions and marketing, are just three examples of data flow reliant business activities.

When data doesn’t flow as expected, it damages performance:

  • a critical email is not delivered, so a key management decision is made without the best information
  • important equipment is not purchased on time, so a project is delayed
  • customers’ discount codes don’t work on a website, and the company’s reputation suffers


But what may seem like just another technical glitch, can potentially do serious damage to the health, or even the life, of the business. Recently, in just a few minutes, a ‘data flow disaster’ nearly destroyed Knight Capital, a company worth $1.5 billion.

The best way to mitigate against such disasters harming the business, is to understand precisely how data flows through the business.

In order to do that, it is critical to understand exactly what you have, and to create clarity on the interdependencies and relationships between the people, process and technology that support each flow of data.

This is where the OBASHI methodology is very useful.

With Business and IT diagrams (B&ITs) you document people, process and technology and show how these assets are connected. A Dataflow Analysis View (DAV), meanwhile, lets you clearly see how each individual flow of data traverses these assets on its journey through the business.

As Paul Stone, Deputy CIO at the UK Civil Nuclear Constabulary, says,

“OBASHI is a straightforward methodology with simple diagrams and simple rules. That means everyone ‘gets it’ first time.  It lays bare the dependencies of infrastructure, not in a Haynes manual way, but in a simple diagrammatic form.”

Having mapped the organisation with OBASHI, you can clearly see, and easily communicate, how everything is put together to make it work.  You can also judge if data is flowing as expected, and if any parts of the business are at risk because data is flowing incorrectly.

You are then in the best position to assess the overall health of the patient, and administer any medicine, before a business-threatening incident occurs.

Prevention is much better than cure (and it saves a lot of time and money).





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