The great thing about natural language is that “business people” understand it just as easily as modelling specialists and IT experts. But its usage comes at a cost. Natural language often carries multiple meanings: it is more ambiguous than formal languages such as BPMN, UML or data dictionaries. Conceptual Heaven believes that the benefits of a natural-language approach to business modelling are greater than that cost. We are currently witnessing major advances in the fields of BPMN, Tabular Decision Modelling , Requirements Analysis, and Business Vocabularies. Practitioners in these fields have much to gain from putting natural language at the center.
To bridge the much-debated “gap between business and IT”, language needs to be natural but at the same time precise and clear. Initiatives like SBVR or Controlled Natural Language are serious attempts to marry the two. As such, they often raise great expectations of automatic conversion from business language to working software. This is an exciting perspective, but it is also something of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When you look closer, there is lower-hanging fruit that offers more practical and immediate benefits. Most businesses lose tacit “workfloor knowledge” all the time, as projects end and people leave the organization. They suffer undocumented cost to build that know-how back up.
A central repository of concise, natural-language terms, definitions and rules can make explicit what things are called and how they work. It is readily understood by newcomers and external stakeholders like software developers. For many organizations today, this comparatively simple idea can make it easier and more fun for people in widely different positions to exchange know-how and work together.