Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's been quiet...

It's been quiet on the Jodoro blog for some time. Main reason is that we've combined the Jodoro tech with Culture Amp.

We've got the same focus combined with a lot of new and exciting ideas and energy. You might be interested in:

  • Process Amp -
    Smart Checklists that will revolutionise the way you run & refine your business.
  • Cadence -
    Performance management and continuous feedback for your people.

Keep in touch! jon

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Global Justice XML Data Model


The Global Justice XML Data Model - (GJXDM - Wikipedia Entry) is an XML interchange format used by law enforcement and other justice agencies in the United States.

It's a replete standard - it contains over 400 complex types and around 150 simple types with a total of around 2,000 associations (properties). Almost half of these focus on the Activity area (such as an Arrest) and on Personal Details.

Actual adoption of the model will vary depending on the context. This is due to expected variances in implementation, but also to the context of the application. GJXDM is implemented across a diverse range of institutions at different levels of government, each with different concerns and underlying objectives. The GJXDM has also been adopted in geographies outside the United States. Naturally these implementations have requirements that go beyond the available concepts, but also find large sections of the model inapplicable for their region.

The challenge is how to adhere to the entrenched standard whilst also accommodating the necessary variations on specific implementations, and keeping in sync with any updates to the standard over time.


We believe Graft offers a lot to users of GJXDM. The first benefit is that it allows users to visually navigate GJDM as a domain model.

A key feature of Graft is the ability to extend other data models - we allow this extension in two modes: Active or Passive.

All of the elements of a passively extended model appear "greyed out" or "ghosted" in the modeling tool. You can then opt to selectively bring each of these elements into your model, even potentially over multiple releases of your implementation. To get an idea, you can extend the GJXDM Model yourself and experiment with drawing forward the parts of the model that are of relevance to you. Your modifications remain private until you explicitly choose to make your extended model public.

This allows you to cherry-pick the elements you need as they are implemented. Instead of handing out a schema with thousands of elements, you can produce a schema (by visiting the export tab of your model) that shows the elements and relationships actually being used, whilst still remaining consistent with the source schema.

An ancillary side-effect on this is performance. Large schemas can introduce a parsing bottleneck; reducing schemas to only include elements actually in use can make a big difference.


Another key benefit of Graft is the control over extensions and modifications to the model. If you actively extend the source of GJXDM or passively extend the source of GJXDM, you are not left stranded on a standalone branch of the model. Your model is actually kept as a delta from the source model, allowing you to easily upgrade to future standard changes.

As an example of extensions and modifications being kept in sync with changes to the source GJXDM model, you might rename an element like LocationPostalCodeID - particularly if you're implementing the model in a very specific geography. This name change is stored as a delta, you can then update the underlying source GJXDM model and this change would still apply whilst still enabling you to get all of the updates to the underlying model.

Changes that consumers of GJXDM make can even be re-incorporated to the original model by the original model's administrators. A future update may transparently include the updates from derived models.

This is a very powerful outcome. In many modeling exercises tools encourage you to take a model, customize it, and effectively create an island. Graft encourages a different approach - Instead of grabbing a model and morphing it - Take an existing model, only use the pieces you need, focus on the changes you need for this release alone, and then keep taking the advantage over time.


Graft doesn't limit you to extending just one model. You can extend and integrate any number of models. It's unlikely that GJXDM is the only model you need to use. There may be other local and international standards, as well as in-house and bespoke representations for areas that are perhaps not covered or not covered appropriately for your needs in GJXDM. Graft lets you bring all of these models together, integrating and leveraging elements wherever required.

The Specify Tool in Graft lets you specify any number of Active and Passive Extensions, you can even modify these "on-the-fly" - for example, by replacing an existing Active Extension with a later release, or even with a different implementation.

We'll be working a lot more in and around Industry Standards such as the Global Justice XML Data Model. If you're working in this space, we'd love to hear your thoughts, comments and feedback.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Business Process Modeling - What's Your Purpose?

When taking on a Business Process Modeling exercise, it's good to outline the purpose up-front. Some of the key perspectives that you want to consider are:

- Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR)
You want to examine the Business Process to make improvements - for example, increase automation, reduce duplication, streamline and parallelize.

- Execution
Intent is to take the Business Process and execute it on a technology platform, such as IBM WebSphere Process Server. Often this is part and parcel of increasing automation, or streamlining the technology.

- Instrumentation
Intent in this case is to design around measuring and monitoring a process. You might want certain customer orders or interactions resolved in a timeframe. Or you may want certain items to be escalated after a critical time period has elapsed. Or you might want to be recording data points that can be accumulated and mined for patterns after-the-fact.

- User Interaction
Aim here is to model the user interactions with a process. Central focus in these models is naturally the users, their team structures, skills and locations. There are a number of reasons for doing this; skills and role realignment. Building and refining escalation structures. Ensuring privacy and clearance compliance. Optimising team structures. Optimising and perhaps consolidating locations. Undertaking outsourcing or offshoring.

If you draw a business process from one of these perspectives, most of the time they will look completely different from the others. This can present a potential pitfall for process models. For anything of any complexity it's nigh on impossible to get a model that incorporates all of these concerns adequately. Conversely, if your problem is simple, then these approaches are probably overkill.

An example might help position this better -- If your aim is BPR, you might put each human task in sequence, even though these are effectively done by a single person all at once. The reason you put them in sequence is that you have data that tells you how long each individual piece takes, and you also know that they are usually done together. When you simulate, you get an accurate picture of how long the macro pieces take, and where critical paths exist in the process. You also get some measures of complexity - a major one being the number of unique paths through the process.
(As an anecdotal aside - I heard of a major utility that mapped their provisioning process - and the number of unique paths exceeded the total number of customers)

So, someone processing an order might check the customer's credit, validate their address, check the shipping costs, check stock levels, enter the order and then submit it to be fulfiled by the warehouse. However, it's unlikely that anyone will do those tasks in that exact order. There might be dozens of reasons of this, a common one simply being the order of papers in a pile.

This is a trivial case, but it could be significantly more complex with something like processing a mortgage application, or a business loan, where there can be dozens (or indeed hundreds) of fragments of information.

The intent in this kind of process modelling is usually to uncover overlaps and efficiency opportunities -- in processing a new customer order, you might be validating a customer's address numerous times. This could ideally be reduced to once; or twice if you have a Quality Assurance stage.

The problem is this doesn't necessarily represent the process in a way suitable for other objectives - such as execution, user experience or instrumentation. I've seen this happen before. The process gets defined and then forces a user to do a sequence of tasks in a strict order -- when the reality is the user is sitting with a pile of paper in front of them and probably wants to do them in whatever order is convenient. Worst case scenario is this macro task gets formalised as numerous minor tasks that must be checked in and out of work queues, or end up as a horrendous sequential "wizard style" User Interface.

Since the original intent of the exercise was to re-engineer the process to make it better, this is a counter-intuitive outcome. However, without going into that detail and making those assumptions, you couldn't have assembled and simulated the process.

In a similar vein, this process implies that you can instrument the "validate address step", whereas the reality is that this step may well be embedded in person shuffling through some paperwork. It's not possible to get data around this individual step; not in any practical terms anyway. Going even further, all of this might be completely irrelevant from an instrumentation perspective -- the key KPI might be customer satisfaction, which is likely measured in a completely different way.

This is not to say that Business Process Modeling doesn't have significant value. Part of the issue is the hubris that surrounds Business Process Management (BPM) software, which really pushes this as a "new paradigm". The idea is that you sketch out a Business Process and then the software is capable of (magically) executing the process. However, this is really impractical. Tooling can help significantly, but it's a means to an ends. Mapping and understanding your process is the intrinsic value; software enhances or amplifies that.

An approach led by Business Process Modeling can be a significant advantage to the deliver of software projects. It's an excellent means of driving out requirements and outcomes. Just be clear about the purpose up-front, and don't get fixated on auto-magic tooling. Even if you sketch your process on paper, and then code it from scratch, you'll be getting many of the core advantages. Add tools and technology on top to maximize the advantage, not define it.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Graft Feature: XSD Exports

Graft now has the ability to generate XSDs for any model. Visit the export tab of your chosen model.


We have chosen to generate a ComplexType and an accompanying element of the same name for each class that doesn't represent an xsd primitive type. Each class association is represented within the ComplexType definition as either an element or an attribute depending on whether or not the association's type is one of the xsd primitive types. We optionally support a namespace, but at least at this stage further external namespaces will need to be added to the schema post generation.


XSD generation is a feature that has caused a fair amount of debate at Jodoro. This is because the XSD 1.1 standard provides many different ways to represent the same concepts.

For example, the Global Justice Data Model defines all of its entities and their associations in ComplexTypes and then defines an element of the same name to take each type. Each ComplexType tends to contain a ComplexContent which in turn may extend an appropriate ComplexType and/or define associations to elements of the defined ComplexType. This model provides maximum flexibility because a valid xml schema could contain any chosen subset of the defined elements. This is particularly useful when many different types of software systems need to consistently communicate with each other.

In contrast the CellML and FieldML schemas define very few top level elements (in fact one), and tend to fully define associations between ComplexTypes within the ComplexTypes themselves. This approach allows for a more formally structured approach to "valid" xml structures, which can be helpful in sharing information between very similar systems. Even these two very similarly structured xsds differ as FieldML does not use any namespacing and treats everything as a ComplexType while CellML utilizes the "cellml" namespace and defines both ComplexTypes and SimpleTypes.

The Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) defines an element for each ComplexType, but demonstrates yet another structurally different way to build an xsd by defining very few named ComplexTypes and creating many nameless ComplexTypes in their definitions. This directs the consumer's focus to the named ComplexTypes, but comes at a cost of comprehension of the ComplexType definitions (and results in many nameless classes in the domain model). Like CellML, the SIF standard also defines SimpleTypes and attributes differentiating them from ComplexTypes and elements by whether or not they extend the xsd primitive types.

Beyond these structural differences we also needed to contemplate whether and how we support concepts such as enumerations. The issue for us is that this concept blurs the borders between meta-data and data. Technically each enumeration value is one of the valid instances of the enumeration type. It is tempting (and very common) to define enumerations within xsd schemas, particularly when the values are unlikely to change. However we would argue that even if the values won't change a better approach is to define the enumeration as a code of type string or integer, and to store and maintain the valid values outside of the schema. This provides a cleaner separation between structure and business rules.

We also discussed and debated many other commonly used xsd concepts such as "pattern", "maxlength", "union", "choice", "key", "any" and "all". At this stage we have chosen to leave all of these out as they are defining concepts that we are not currently explicitly representing within our domain modelling tool, and because we feel that, like enumerations, many of their uses are often business rules and arguably shouldn't be defined in the schema. If you have suggestions or issues with our current approach, please email myself or

Doug - @douglasenglish .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Graft Rails Model Inheritance

We've pushed out a new feature for Graft.

Up until now, each exported class has directly translated across to a Ruby on Rails Model, without regard for inheritance in the models.

Exported Rails Models will now include all the primitive of the Graft class, as well as any superclasses. So if you have BMW inherit from Car, and Car has a "license" of type "String" - both Car and BMW will have the license property. The same applies to relationships.

We've put up an example model that should help illustrate. You can export it to Rails using the instructions listed under the Export tab.

It's fairly new, so if you've got any queries or strike any issues, drop us a line via Twitter @jodoro or email

Right now all classes are generated as Models, so you can consider this the superset. Later releases will allow for finer-grained control, such as flattening (e.g Single Table Inheritance).

Jon - @jonathannen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Developing Business Process Models with Domain Models

Quite often Domain Models are developed around or in concert with Business Process Models. This often leads to a the question "how do they inter-relate?" (and subsequently, "who's in charge? what drives the definitions?").

It's important to relate Domain and Business Process Models, but the approach for doing this shouldn't be too onerous. At the most basic level, each Business Process step should have input and outputs that are driven off the Domain Model. If you are processing a shopping cart payment "Process Shopping Cart", the input may be "Shopping Cart" and the output "Invoice", both concepts in your Domain Model.

Generally this is applied at lower levels of a Business Process, L2 or L3, but there is nothing to stop you working top-down or bottom-up. For this type of exercise, I believe a top-down approach is the best fit. Bottom-up has a tendency to get bogged down in the detail (the wrong kind).

The obvious exceptions are cases where the low level processes are well understood. This can occur when the Business Process is already operating or established in another form. These existing processes often have associated pre-existing MI, data or other statistics - and often this information can be quite fine-grained. In these cases, bottom-up isn't a bad place to start.

Whatever the level, it's advantageous to elaborate on the details of the inputs and outputs. What elements of the Shopping Cart are required? Which are optional? For each domain concept, the key questions are "how is it used or applied?", "if it's optional, what are the rules?" and "what's the context?". Aim here should really be to reduce the inputs and outputs to what is absolutely necessary - this is for a few reasons:

  • It best informs your Domain Model.

  • It best translates out to other representations, such as a technology implementation - Clarity here will have numerous downstream benefits, particularly in the implementation.

  • The act of reduction/distilling itself is a good instrument to drive the exercise.

  • It's easier to see what's missing. Blanket terms can hide conflicting points of view and assumptions.

  • It greatly assists the construction and execution of tests and user-acceptance.

  • Finally, in the heat of delivering a project, it can sometimes be hard to argue "why?" against business requirements. This is an ideal opportunity to ask.

That's just a quick summary for now. We'll dive into some of the advantages and pitfalls of models led by Business Process in a later article.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Workshop your Domain Models

The value of a Domain Model is often overlooked. Done properly it defines the structural integrity of your software system in a language and an entity relationship structure that can be understood unilaterally by the business domain experts and the technical specialists. As such it significantly reduces upfront requirement errors, and better structures the solution to support future change requests.

But a domain model must be owned by both the domain and technical experts on the project for it to realize this value. I have utilized the following facilitation technique, borrowed from Feature Driven Development, to achieve this ownership on several of my projects. It was originally designed for Domain Modeling, but the techniques would equally add value to any form of workshop.

  1. Identify a facilitator. Yes, cliche, but also amazingly too often overlooked. Choose the facilitator wisely. They should not get dragged into the technical debates, and shouldn't be afraid to call time. Keeping the meetings moving is critically important.

  2. Identify a documenter. Encourage all of the participants to jot down points throughout the workshop - it's the documenters job to collate and distribute these at the end of each day. Focus on decisions and actions, backed up with justifications. Include lots of photographs - it is amazing how unifying their inclusion makes the process. The documentation should be released by close of business on each workshop day.

  3. Keep the numbers balanced and low. It's of course important to ensure the appropriate stakeholders are represented in the workshop, but the key word is represented. Too many active participants in a workshop will grind its productivity to a halt. I've found that between 4 and 8 people tends to work well. Keep in mind that the workshop participants should also include appropriate representation of the domain experts and the key technical implementers. As close to 50:50 as you can orchestrate the better.

  4. Choose your location carefully. Pick spacious, quiet and light rooms. Come prepared with appropriate equipment. Ideally choose a location that's outside the team's usual working location. You want to encourage full participation without distractions.

  5. Define team norms as a team. (And make sure "have fun" is on the list!). Don't knock this one until you've tried it. Asking the team to define their own norms is an excellent way to ensure all team members adhere to the ground rules. Punctuality? Mobile phones? When is lunch?

  6. Take lots of planned breaks, and finish early. Done properly such workshops are amazingly exhausting. On top of this, the team bonding experience of the breaks is perhaps almost as important as the workshops themselves. Make sure you finish the workshops early each day. I often finish them at lunch time. It's important to ensure the participants have time at the end of each day to take care of business as usual activities, and that the documenter has time to compile the days results. Morning are usually ideal for modelling - people seem to be fresher.

  7. Reach consensus on issues. Yes in an ideal world the entire project team would immediately and unanimously agree to each decision, but this isn't an ideal world and humans are good at arguing. It's a good idea to give one person, perhaps the project's solution architect, the ultimate veto on decisions. Coming to consensus is a commitment from the team that, even if they don't 100% agree with the selected approach, that they'll at least live with it. Once a consensus is reached it's final. The last thing the project needs is for the same resolutions to be requestioned in a corridor three days later by a subset of the participants.

  8. Foster diversity. A commonly used Feature Driven Development technique is to break the larger group into two or three subgroups (ensuring domain and technical representatives remain in each subgroup) and ask each to model the same problem space concurrently. After a set amount of time each subgroup resents and the group as a whole drives towards a common single solution. This may mean accepting one of the subgroup solutions entirely, or it may mean merging components of each.
  9. Keep a "Parking Lot". I've seen the same technique referred to by many names. Essentially it's a team maintained list of topics that need to be closed out by the end of the workshops. It provides a mechanism to capture ideas as they're generated by the team without interrupting the currently flow of activities.

  10. Pulse check progress. At the end of each day ask for feedback. What's working, what could work better? Is the room too hot? Were the brainstorming sections long enough? This feedback loop can massively improve the experience and end result.

Formalizing the domain model within a workshop process provides a very useful metric. For every week you spend in workshops defining the domain model you can expect a ramped up development team to spend three weeks building the content. So if it takes you four weeks to lock down a domain model for a project that needs to be finished the build phase within the next two months, you should probably take another look at the scope, or the time-line.