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Key Aspects of the Business Prototyping Methodology

Who it was designed for and what it is about
  • Oliver Grasl
    Oliver Grasl
    Wednesday, February 22, 2017
An overview of key aspects of the business prototyping methodology
Let us briefly look at some key aspects of business prototyping:
First and foremost, business prototyping is a problem-solving methodology focusing on business transformation.
It provides you with the process and techniques you need to explore the situation your company is in now, to create a shared vision of where you would like your company to go and to elaborate a plan of how to get there.
The real power of business prototyping is that it is participative: business prototyping is not performed by a few experts in some far away ivory tower; business prototyping is done interactively: you identify all key players and get them deeply involved.
Business Prototyping is a visual approach – all ideas and designs are visualized. This is important, because visualization not only helps you to clarify your thinking and to enhance your creativity, visualization is key in promoting real dialogue about the issues you are facing.
Business Prototyping helps you manage complexity in a systematic way:
  • Explore your current challenge
  • Prototype alternative approaches and solutions
  • Experiment with the prototypes
  • Make decisions
Prototyping is an iterative process: initially prototypes help you to understand the challenge better; at a later stage, prototypes help you to understand the alternative solutions better. Ultimately, you will make better decisions faster.
The great thing about business prototyping is that it lets you experiment with new ideas and strategies in a very engaging, fun and stimulating way; it moves your focus towards making your business more successful and away from any personal bias about exactly how to achieve that – business prototyping not only helps you to choose between alternative options, it helps you to see options you had not even seen before.
Business prototyping is a highly scalable approach. You start with informal sketches and diagrams that capture your thinking and help you think issues through end-to-end.
This is mostly enough for smaller issues, but for larger issues you quickly end up with very many such informal sketches and diagrams – in order to systematize them, and therefore, we use formal models and simulations.
We have used business prototyping in small exploration projects involving only dozens of people and also in large-scale transformations involving hundreds of people.

Who Business Prototyping is For

Well, because it is such a scalable approach, it actually works at multiple levels within a transformation program.
At the highest level, it addresses transformation leadership. We typically differentiate between the transformation owner, who will be somebody within the top management of an enterprise, and the transformation manager, who is responsible for operating the transformation program.
Business prototyping helps the transformation leadership answer questions such as:
  • Which objectives are we trying to reach?
  • How can we reach them?
  • Which milestones should we reach on the way?
  • What will the benefits be, at what cost?
At the next level within the business transformation program, you need people whose focus is on managing the complexity and the risk of the transformation. These again could be people in different roles but typically we work with business strategists and business architects. Typical questions at this level are:
  • Which markets should we be competing in?
  • Which business model would be best for us?
  • How should we organize our operations?
At a more detailed level, you are actually working on very concrete business ideas, strategies, and designs. Prototyping at this level is performed by business analysts and designers who have questions like:
  • How can we prototype a business model?
  • Which business processes need to change in order to support that business model?
  • How will that impact our information systems?

What Business Prototyping is About

Business Prototyping takes a holistic view of an enterprise:
  • Not just its business model, but also its organization and the technology that enables it.
  • Not just processes and structures, but also the information produced and consumed by them.
  • Not just the human beings affected by the transformation, but also their emotions.
Business Prototyping works at multiple levels of abstractions – it helps you to see the big picture without losing sight of the details, for example:
  • Understand which business process you need to support your business model
  • Understand the skills your employees will need to operate the process
  • Understand which IT services are needed to support or even automate a process
  • Understand which IT applications are needed to operate the service

What Business Prototyping is Not About

In order to get a better feeling of what business prototyping is about, it is useful to look at what it definitely is not about.
We have already talked about the fact that business prototyping supports business transformation – when setting up transformation programs, there are a number of key disciplines that need to be considered.
One of those disciplines is business engineering, which is concerned with re-designing business models, organizational structures and IT landscapes. Business prototyping was developed to support these activities.
But there are a number of other disciplines that need to be covered for successful transformation, the most important of these are:
  • Technical Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Change Management
  • Partner Management
  • Communication Management
In practice, a number of the techniques we use in business prototyping are also used in other disciplines, in particular within technical engineering – but we will not cover this in our course.

Summary

Today I gave you a brief overview of the business prototyping methodology – the key point at this stage is that it is a problem-solving methodology focusing on business transformation in general and on business engineering in particular. It is a visual approach that starts with informal sketches and diagrams and moves on to more formal models and simulations if necessary.
In my next post, I will take a closer look at the building blocks that make up the methodology and will provide you with a detailed list of the first fifteen lessons.
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