Been quiet here, but not at all idle. Thingamy stuff afoot.
We have added developers to our team, Ajax to the thingamy interfaces, more features and started some crazy under-the-hood tinkering to move the message "Now go run Germany!" into "Now go run China!".
User friendliness, the current focus but never ending quest is not easy. Let me give you an idea what paths we're testing. Emphasis on "testing".
1) Ease of use: In the sense of interface speed and simplicity. Ajax is certainly helpful and we did a reasonable skip forward with latest build.
2) Understand what you see: The terms. Given up on finding anything precise. That does not exist unless all thinks the same way, so forget that. Better is terms that gives a hint, that does not precisely define something else. So string is text. Object is Thing. Container is Place. And Tara's "String? That's what the cat plays with" could be a thing of the past.
Then with terms-as-hints one must be able to try it out, click a bit around and go "Ah! That's how it works" without too much effort.
3) Understanding the concept: Now that is definitely not easy when you're trying to break all the rules. So let's see what we're trying here... build and run a business... whatever you say, that should not be complicated as such. I would say it gets complicated because we make it complicated, so let's try not to. That would be cheeky statement # 1.
This is the first interface when you enter the Business Model Builder, more cheekiness afoot here (from a hospital demo this):
"What, strategy? I wanted to build a run-your-business system here. What's this?"
But, starting to build a Business Model without a clear and simple strategy makes it hard to get anywhere. Even if it is for a small support team in a corner office.
It's like choosing mode of transportation before you know where you're going.
Be careful not to take the strategy for granted, sometimes I hear and see (browse around on corporate web sites and look at their strategy / vision statements!) strategies that hints to (using the transportation analogy) that many firms are more interested in "Sunday outings" as in "driving around for the mere pleasure of driving". Cheekiness # 3.
It does not have to be very precise - banal, simple and the "gist of it" is better. Sometimes slogans are closer to useful than vision statements - Nike's "Just do it!" and Nokia's "Connecting people" are among my favourites. Nokia's covers even it's former product lines of car tires and wellies!
[Glad you asked; thingamy is about helping you to "run your business so you can
beat the shit out of your competition kick ass"... at least that's the gist of it.]
So in this interface you note why you're doing what you're supposed to do, why the heck you have hired people and opened an office or put together that group, department or team - the "what value shall I/they/we deliver".
In this example of a Hospital I set it to be "Cure medical conditions", banal but true.
Then you go about building your Business Model step by step, entering the tabs from left to right like this:
Things: Now you know what "main thing-type" you must define - "Medical Condition" - which you can use to stamp out unique things every time a patient arrives with a broken arm or whatever. Then send those medical condition things into a flow to cure it.
When you have the "main thing" you obviously will think of "helping things" to define here - "Medication", "X-ray", "Blood test", "Surgery" and a "Patient" of course.
Places: Quite useful so you can find the medication package or a bed.
Tags: Another useful feature to add knowledge to the "things" making finding during a workflow easier.
Flows: Now you have the blocks to build those all-important work-flows. Where to start? Curing a medical condition of course, that's the "main flow". Then add "help flows" later.
The "main flow" - receive the patient and ask him for his name and add details to the "thing" that will as of now represent him in the system, the "Patient" thing.
Then add some information to the "Medical condition" "thing", what's wrong, when did it happen.
With that in hand the receptionist should be able to choose the MD and set time for an appointment.
There the chosen MD will get the information up on his screen (simple display of the pertinent "things") and fields to fill out so he can add more information to the "Medical condition" "thing".
Then he will choose what tests to undertake and the flows goes on and on in loops and branches and whatnot until the ultimate goal is reached "Medical condition is cured!"
Then add some help / admin / back office flows like procurement, adding history, whatever.
Now it would be cool to make use of the data captured by the flow - that's when the Accounts and Reports comes in. Just define what's needed in templates and give access to whoever to whatever reports they need / want / is allowed to see.
Now, that's all there is to it. Just "Strategy" -> "Things" -> "Flows" plus a few helpers.
OK, I'll keep at it to make it simpler still :)