The other day, I had one of those eureka-like moments. As I lay in the bath, my thoughts shifted back and forth between the past and the present, recognizing how advances (or the lack of advances) in technology have affected our lives. When thinking about the past, I remember the days of my communication engineering apprenticeship; this was in the days of electro-mechanical exchanges. Some of you may remember or may have seen, in an old film, a telephone operator connecting two phone lines by placing a connecting cord between two phone line jacks. This was the world of telecommunication exchanges in the 1970s — no fancy computing technology existed in telecommunications at the time. In was certainly not a trivial exercise in upgrading capacity, maintaining the exchange, or connecting to another exchange. When thinking about the present, I marvel at the continuing improvements in plug-and-play hardware and software technology. As an example, I buy a new camera and, hey presto! I now have the ability to edit and post pictures on forums or cloud applications, to send them by email, or to store them on third-party storage from my camera.

So back to my eureka-like moment. I’m thinking that, surely, all these present-day technology advances have been enabled because of standards, design patterns, and common interfaces. My mind keeps focusing on design patterns, and the question arises: "Is there such a thing as business design patterns?" I have done some initial research, and I am yet to find evidence of the term or concept of business design patterns. However, I do have my suspicions they exist because:

  • Whole business functions do get outsourced. There are countless examples where business functions, units, and services, e.g., payroll administration, have been outsourced to third parties like ADP. It would imply that there is a consistent design pattern for these types of business functions that can be used across industry and organizations.
  • Global and international organizations create satellite offices. Global organizations, e.g., HSBC, have been known to set up HSBC-like satellite offices very quickly, whether these offices have been acquired or created through organic growth. Would organizations be able to operationalize these satellite offices so fast if business design patterns did not exist?
  • Asset stripping is still a reality. One only has to look at the M&A news or current public sector initiatives to witness large business functions/units being stripped from the organization. However, the remaining functions of the organization still operate as intended.

So do business design patterns really exist, even under another name, or is it a myth? I think they exist, but like so many concepts of business architecture, they may not be well understood. They may be known by a different name (or names) across industries or organizations. In the technical world, we often hear about design patterns. Is it really too much of a stretch to think there may be business design patterns?

We will be looking to do further research in this area and would love to hear from you regarding your experiences and thoughts on the topic. Have you come across the term or concept of business design patterns? If so:

  • What is the term used by your organization?
  • Are you able to share your experience by giving an example?
  • By using design patterns, were you able to demonstrate or realize the benefits you expected?
  • Who is ultimately accountable for the definition and maintenance of business design patterns?

If you have used or are using this concept, please share your experience by commenting on this blog post.