A great way to take a technical or business topic and make it an exciting read is to turn it into a story. Similar to what Chris Potts did with IT strategy and enterprise architecture with the FruITion trilogy, Lloyd and Graham did with Transaction Patterns in the new book, Emily’s Rebellion.
Emily is a business analyst who becomes frustrated with the current approach taken by IT and the business to develop applications. There seems to be constant friction between those who need better applications and those that need to build and support those applications. Agile isn’t making things any better, despite the many promises of quick delivery.
Emily, in working with a data architect, identifies a series of Transaction Patterns. A Transaction Pattern quoted from the book is “a generic combination of work tasks, grouped into phases, by which a transaction is initiated and processed.” One of the main ideas in the book is that if we can represent business transactions in the more generic form of a Request and a Response, we can build more flexible and useful applications. For example, the Request of a customer to purchase a product followed by the Response of assessing the customer’s eligibility to purchase, is very similar to the Request for a claimant to make a claim for an insured loss followed by the Response of assessing the claimant’s eligibility.
Here is a quick summary of what’s inside the book:
- Chapter 1 introduces the challenges with turning requirements into applications. My favorite part of this chapter is the section titled the “Requirements Black Hole”. There are some fantastic insights into Agile in this section, including the dangers of producing a ‘minimum viable product’.
- Chapter 2 has a title that I bet is unique to every business or technical book written over the last 2000 years: “Trading Sheep in Sumer”. This chapter talks about the history of the transaction from ancient Sumer over 10,000 years ago to modern day computer systems. The six types of data are discussed, along with their interdependences.
- Chapter 3 covers the concept of patterns, from Stonehenge to modern operational transactions. The idea that a transaction comprises a request and response is introduced, and a number of examples are provided. Several very important concepts around transactions are explored, including that transactions exchange value and require a decision.
- Chapter 4 introduces the Service Design approach. From the book: “The approach recognizes that as well as designing the business’s products (tangible things like cars and appliances, as well as financial products, contracts, and so on), the business should also design the service and the desired experience that accompany a product.” A template is provided for a customer journey map.
- Chapter 5 introduces architecture and its role in understanding and documenting transactions. The different perspectives are discussed between service designer and business architect, and the skills are documented which makes both of these roles successful.
- Chapter 6 talks about business process maps and the generalized transaction patterns of Initiate, Submit, Validate, Decide, and Complete.
- Chapter 7 covers eight of the sixteen Transaction Pattern tasks – those which can be shared by all types of transactions.
- Chapter 8 discusses how transactions are moved along by interactions with customers. The handling and recording of all kinds of interactions with customers can be standardized and managed centrally so that business analysts can assume the management of interactions is taken care of and does not need to be specified again.
- Chapter 9 presents a framework for discussing requirements, and how to work through the five phases of the transaction pattern.
- Chapter 10 is all about how to embed the Transaction Pattern in development practices.
- Chapter 11 weaves all of the techniques together through a detailed example.
- Chapter 12 summarizes the benefits of the Transaction Pattern approach.
I found myself reading large amounts of the book at a time, as the combination of story and “how to” make it a smooth and enjoyable read.