Business case for BiSL (part two)

In a previous blog I promised some more examples of the added value that BiSL can offer to an organization. And until now I have been in debt to all readers for not having posted my next blog with the promised cases. Well, here it is. This time again three short descriptions of situations that illustrate how organizations can benefit from putting BiSL into use.

Decision making about IT

In the town council of a small town the head of the finance department was next to being responsible for the financial situation of the organization also responsible for all IT. All his colleague heads of other departments were not interested in IT and depended fully upon the finance department for providing financial means as well as IT to support their business processes. Nobody at a managerial level had usable knowledge of IT and the way IT could be used within the organization. This situation led to tensions and frustrations. The head of the finance department got a lot of comments on the IT services (software packages intended for local government) and he felt he was left alone by his colleagues on the subject of IT of which he only knew the purchasing aspects. At the same time the other heads of department felt they did not get the IT services they needed and felt that nobody listened to their complaints.

The head of the finance department sought for a way to solve his problems and ran across BiSL. He recognized the potential of BiSL and adopted this framework. Then some things started changing. The head of the finance department came to the conclusion that he could not act on his own and that his colleagues should have a role and responsibility in the subject of IT as well. So he started a BiSL awareness program in the organization. In this program not only the IT personnel was involved, but the colleague heads of department as well. After some time all participants understood their roles and responsibilities. For the first time a discussion about IT demand started. This even led to a joint development of an information plan for the next year. The first information plan ever made in the organization!

Acquiring adequate process support

The second case is about a hospital. This hospital has a collection of different medical professionalisms each with its own processes, procedures and ways of working. IT in a hospital typically aims to support the administrative functions. However the importance of data and information systems is growing within the medical processes as well. Examples are hospital wide electronic patient files, data exchange with external medical labs or integration of data from several medical specialists in order to come to a holistic approach of the patient.

The medical professionals in the hospital more and more appreciated the value of information and information systems for their processes and were starting to develop some ideas about how to make use of information systems in their medical practice. The medical professionals were not involved in decision making on IT or in contracting IT service providers. And IT was not a topic in the medical board room meetings. This led to frustrations with the medical professionals because they had a feeling they were not getting the IT they needed and they could not get their message clear. And the IT department got frustrated as well. They did their best to meet the expectations of the organization in realizing information systems to support the administrative functions and they now felt they were under attack by the medical specialists who suddenly ambushed the IT department.

After a while the hospital board of executives decided an organization wide IT policy and IT plan was needed. As a consequence of this, the entire organization had to articulate their demand for IT. BiSL was used to create awareness about IT demand management and corporate governance of IT. With some help, the medical professionalisms created a user structure of key users and process owners through whom their colleagues could communicate about IT issues. And a communication model was established between the IT department and the process owners and key users. On basis of the BiSL framework the most important tasks in the field of IT demand management and corporate governance of IT were identified for the hospital. These tasks were assigned to the process owners and key users. And to empower these medical professionals in their IT roles, they all attended BiSL workshops where they found out the basics of information systems and business information management. That helped them to play their role in managing and governing IT in their organization in order to get adequate IT support for the medical processes as well.

Enabling outsourcing

For various reasons a Dutch bank decided to outsource their IT. In the search for an outsourcing partner the bank became aware of the importance of the retaining IT organization. But what was the retaining IT organization supposed to be doing?

In the plans of the bank all technical activities were to be outsourced, including technical integration and the systems integrator role. Therefor the sole, but very important task of the retaining IT organization would be to translate business needs into IT requirements that would be input for the IT service providers. At that point executives in the bank remembered that in the past there had been some major arguments between IT and business about results of information system development projects, requirements and test results. Trying to avoid these discussions and delivering the needed IT on time was one of the motives for outsourcing. The executives got worried that the scenario of discussions and not being able to deliver the necessary IT would repeat itself.

It was decided to do an assessment on the quality of the processes and organizational structure of the part of the IT organization that was to retained within the bank. An assessment based upon the BiSL framework proved very useful. The BiSL framework helped to define the roles and responsibilities of the retaining IT organization and the assessment made some omissions and weak spots visible. On basis of these assessment findings an improvement plan was defined and carried out. The general feeling within the bank organization as well as with the IT service providers that were contracted, was that this professionalization was a major contribution to the success of the outsourcing. Since then some major IT innovations were realized and up till now the relationship between business and IT has worked out very good.


I hope these case studies help in appreciating the added value of the BiSL framework. All reactions to are more than welcome.

Frank van Outvorst, March 2015.

BiSL, theory and practice

Once and awhile I hear some puffing and moaning about the BiSL framework book. For many people the framework book is pretty dry stuff. It contains many bullet lists and difficult schedules and it doesn’t actually tell you what to do and where to start.

My general reaction is: that makes sense and is ok, because the framework tells you what to do but not how to do that. As stated in the book, the ‘how’ is very situational: it depends on the organization, on the internal process and distribution of tasks, responsibilities and authority. The ‘how’ of IT in a small town is different than in a large city and again there it is unlike with a bank or an insurer. Now there are publications that help you to the ‘how’: they describe some practices. We have some of those on our website. And the ‘how’ can be derived from examples of other organization: the best practices, of whichthe ASL BiSL Foundation has some on their website.

But otherwise you will have to determine the ‘how’ of your organization yourself, by translating the ‘what’ to your own situation. On top of that, some questions play a role in the ‘how’: how well are we doing and how well we do it? This brings us to the topic ‘quality’. Roughly speaking, there are three options to determine the current and desired quality for your situation: an extensive research, a quick scan and a self-assessment. It will be clear that The Lifecycle Company can help you with all three approaches.

For the self-assessment see our Factsheet_Selfassessments_The_Lifecycle_Company

Improvement proposal for Prince2

Fairly often I’m consulted to help organizations improve the transfer of project results to the service and maintenance teams. These requests always come from the service and maintenance teams and mostly from business information management / information management, because they experience time and time again that projects perform very poorly at this point. But also for many project managers the transfer to and  acceptance by IT service management is a troublesome issue. Project managers don’t know what they should deliver, and it is hard to find someone that can formally accept the project results. Therefore, for a project manager it is tempting to say: I involve an operational service manager in the project, in order to produce the necessary IT service management products and thus the acceptance is managed. But this would be a huge misconception. As soon as an IT service manager is a project member, he or she is part of the supply organization and no longer of the accepting organization. The products he or she produces will still have to be accepted by the receiving IT service management teams.

But what about Prince2? Shouldn’t give Prince2 give a simple answer to this problem? Or is it, again a matter of good old Pino: Prince2-in-name-only?


At first glance one would say: this has to be managed in the Business Case and in the PID. After all: failing projects always fail on day one (there has been no good preparation and/or the deliverables and scope have not been defined well enough). Prince2 addresses this issue, but very high level. Not strange, as  requirements will vary, depending on the situation: the subject, the matter, the organization etc.

And after the kick-off one would expect that everything is organized and regulated. Surely there is a project board in which all parties are represented? Yes, Prince2 tells us about the BUS:

  • The Business, the Executive: the representative of the organization to which the value of the project is delivered. This is the sponsor, the client.
  • The Users or Senior User: the person who represents the users.
  • The Supplier: the supplier carries out the project and realizes the product or results.


But where are the representatives of the IT service management organizations: IT infrastructure management, application management and business information management? Is this a flaw in Prince2? Yes and no. Prince2 says: the users are the people who are going to use the result of the project, operate, maintain or facilitate or have to do with the results. Thus the Senior User represents the IT service management parties. And the Senior User must therefore ensure that the IT service management parties indicate which products they expect, what the requirements are to those products and that review and acceptance take place.

From this I can conclude that Prince2 recognizes this interest, but that the relevant projects where this goes wrong suffer from Pino. But most important: I conclude that the Senior User should be a business information manager. Somebody that represents both the user organization and the IT service management parties! Too bad this role isn’t mentioned in Prince2. The BUS should be a BBS. With the B of Business information manager. So: a flaw!

Obviously The Lifecycle Company, as a specialist in the field of ASL and BiSL, has helped many IT service managers with the definition of acceptance criteria and implementation of acceptance activities, because most IT service managers can use some help with this. But it’s not just that: it is also in the organization of the project: a ride in the BUS isn’t automatically a joyride.


It has been a while since Professor Maarten Looijen came up with the tripartite division of technical management, application management, and functional management. Since that we have modified the terms a bit and we speak of IT infrastructure management (IT-IM), application management (AM) and business information management (BIM). While not everyone agrees, many also say: ITIL is the service management framework for IT-IM. After ITIL, ASL has been developed as model for AM and BiSL for BIM. But every now and then I have the feeling that we are still missing something. It is time for CSL?

Not very long ago files and databases were one-to-one associated with an application. Therefore, the management and maintenance of the data structures are also logically part of AM (and so ASL). In addition, IT-IM includes building and storing the files and within BiSL we can find processes for data requirements and content management. So far so good! But nowadays one can see that files and data exist separate from a single application. A database is no longer one to one associated with an application. In ITIL and ASL data and files come second place. But the importance of data grows.

The reason for the development of ASL in addition to ITIL, was because the subject “management and maintenance of software” not well defined in ITIL. The maintenance of software is a different game than managing the technical production infrastructure. But the same actually applies to data. Employees of organisations bring their own Apps and devices and use the data in their own environment. Developments like Cloud, Smart devices, Apps and Big Data are not clearly addressed in the three IT service management domains by Van Looijen.

My feeling: it is time for CSL (Content Services Library). If you say A (SL) and B (iSL), you must also say C (SL).

Do you have any ideas or views: please come forward.

Business case for BiSL (part 1)

As one of the authors of the BiSL framework I have been involved from the start in promoting the framework. This focused initially on the Dutch market. In Holland we now see a wide acceptance of the BiSL framework and it is regarded as the industry standard for business information management. Interest from abroad for the framework is currently growing.

People who are new to the framework ask themselves what the business case for adopting the BiSL framework is. This question inspired me to write this blog. In essence, the added value is still related to the goals that led to development of the framework: helping organizations with their control over information, information systems and IT, and their role as commissioner of IT projects and IT suppliers. Since the introduction of BiSL in 2005, many organizations have put the framework into use and have stories to tell about the added value that the framework delivered. In this blog I will start with three cases, and add more in a future blog.

Better policing of persistent offenders

For the first case I would also like to refer to the article ’Industrial Experience Report: BiSL as Driver for Innovating Business Information Management in the Dutch Police Organization(s)’ that was published in the SPICE2013 13th International Conference Proceedings by Springer, Heidelberg 2013 and that is available elsewhere on this website. Information is vital for the police and the Dutch Police Force applied the underlying principles of BiSL and used the process descriptions to create a common understanding. In order to achieve this common understanding, over 2500 employees participated in a BiSL training program and took a BiSL exam. This led to several inter-organizational initiatives. One of these was a regular joint committee that explored the use of IT in dealing with persistent offenders. In so doing the police discovered large differences in the processes of the various autonomous police organizations and even larger differences in the use of IT. These differences enabled criminals to escape from detection. A joint business process was developed, including joint use of IT by several police organizations. Conclusion: the police achieved better policing processes across several organizations and a joint (and therefore more economical) use of IT resources. This is only one example of the added value of BiSL for the Dutch police.

Also download our article in this subject!

More efficient management of information

The second case concerns another large Dutch government organization. This organization relies heavily on the use of (heavily automated) information systems. The IT budget is a major part of their total budget. Business information management plays an important role in getting the maximum added value from IT and information. Centralized units are responsible for business information management tasks. BiSL being a control framework, this organization found this framework very useful for structuring their business information management function. All employees active in this field received training in the BiSL framework. This led to common understanding of the responsibilities of Business information management. Roles within the business information management function where defined and processes were designed. This increased the overall flexibility. People can switch from one information domain to another far more easily than they used to, because the working processes are similar and employees know what is expected off them. So, after switching domains, the only concern left is mastering the knowledge that is specific to the new information domain.

Improved enterprise agility

The last case in this blog is about a large insurance company. This company is the result of mergers and takeovers. This caused a large variation in IT use and governance. This led to all kinds of problems: Tower of Babel situations, huge inefficiencies, large overlaps in functionalities of information systems and an enormous diversity in IT contracts. In other words: an unworkable and undesirable situation. The insurance company found BiSL to be very useful as an approach to improve this situation. As a first result, BiSL offered a common understanding of looking at things. This enabled the organization to construct a very recognizable and widely accepted way of working. Different business units got able to fit their individual information plans into a corporate strategy. And this formed the basis for the company to be able to renovate its overall information landscape, which was badly needed due to various changes in the field of legislation, commerce, consumer behavior and technology. Without this complete IT renovation, the company would have had a very difficult challenge in surviving on the market.

In this blog I outlined three examples of different situations with different value that the BiSL framework provided to three different types of organizations with different circumstances. I hope this will be useful in evaluating the potential of the BiSL framework for your own organization.

All reactions to will be appreciated