Monthly Archives: October 2015

A simple definition of Business Rules


I love talking about business rules. Having been involved in S1000D® (International specification for technical publications) community for eleven years and having discovered how important business rules are, I use these two words most probably more often than ten times a day.

I did resist them at first and denied my affinity to them. I used to claim that my interest went rather to the implementation guide for S1000D and not to the business rules.

One possibility for this resistance might have been the power transmitted by the word “rules” and the mildness of the word “guide”. Who wants to follow the rules? I better be guided and step off the guided track if I don’t feel like it, right?

But business rules where in everyone’s mouth in the S1000D community in fall of 2005, when I became a chair and co-chair of then freshly created Implementation Guide and Business Rules task teams. It was clear that you needed functioning rules in order to produce a reliable, stable, and usable information for products utilized by many and for critical purposes, like in the military. And not any kind of rules, but precise and that everyone understood.

Yes. This was the “tiny” problem in all this. For them to be precise and understandable. And for their definition to be precise and understandable.

“What are actually business rules?” I’ve been often asked.

Ever since leading the business rules team, which later became a working group, I had never believed that there was a simple answer to this. When somebody asked me what business rules were, I answered, “Well, everything! Every decision you make in your work, connected to technical publications, is a business rule.”

Confused looks and frowns came always in reply to this answer.

Our group did find a definition for the specification. This is what S1000D says since 2012:

“Business rules are decisions that are made by a project or an organization on how to implement S1000D. Business rules cover all aspects of S1000D and are not limited to authoring or illustrating. They can also address issues that are not defined in S1000D such as rules related to how S1000D interfaces with other standards, specifications and business processes that are related to its implementation.”

But does this apply only to S1000D and technical documentation?

Of course not!

By the way, did you notice the following phrase in the definition above: “They can also address issues that are not defined in S1000D …”?

Here we go again: everything is a business rule.

So about two months ago, I was genuinely shocked when I heard myself giving a simple and precise answer to the question I’d heard probably more than thousands times before that.

“What are business rules?” my brother-in-law, Poul, asked.

My then nine-months old daughter Emma and I met Poul for a coffee, after coming to Århus to apply for Emma’s first passport.

After having her bottle of milk, Emma happily crawled around and under the tiny coffee table Poul and I were sitting at.

My maternity leave was coming to end, and I was about to decide what I would be doing after that.

“Can’t you use the knowledge you gathered in the area you’ve worked before Emma?” Poul asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe. S1000D is very specific, but I guess knowledge about business rules is applicable to many areas.”

Poul interrupted my usual flow about one of my favourite topics. “I know what business plans are,” he said. “But what are the business rules?”

After a short thought I said,
“Business plans are about a company, its plans how it is going to operate and what it wants to achieve in the near and far future.
Business rules are about products. These are the rules the company and their partners, and to some extent also customers, need to agree upon and follow in order the products (including services) to be of high quality and longevity.”

Poul thought for a second, nodded his consent and continued discussing my professional future.

But I didn’t follow him at first. I was dumbfounded. It was a good answer! Simple and actually quite precise. After giving it, I understood myself what the business rules were.

Since that time I have repeated this answer in its various forms to my husband, friends in the S1000D community and anyone who would listen. All nodded their understanding and consent. And they showed interest! I was losing my listeners before that.

I am probably not the first to understand this. And maybe this is obvious to others. But for me it was an epiphany. Especially because it proved to me that one of the topics, which I considered to be one of the most complicated, could be so simple.

Yes, business rules are about products and services, or anything that is offered for sale. And business plans are about the companies, who offer these things for sale.

That simple.

I am grateful to Poul for asking me that question and for the way he asked it.

P.S. In the next post you will be able to learn what the business rules (that is the decisions you make in respect to the product or service you sell) are composed of, and the first big step in defining them.


This post is a part of “Business rules: General”, copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

I don’t know, I never tried

Here is one of my all time favourites in jokes.

A man is asked, “Can you play violin?”
His answer, “I don’t know. I never tried.”

I’ve heard this joke many, many years ago in Moldova. Over the years I had various opinions of what kind of person this man might have been. Stupid, arrogant, ignorant, etc.

I belonged to the majority giving the following answer to the question above. “No, I can’t.” Even if I never tried.

You might argue that it is hard to play violin and without trying there is simply no way to be able to play it.

“This is just like flying an airplane,” you might say. “You have to learn and try under supervision in order to be able to say, you can.”

And I agree with you.

The problem here, is that I have extended this understanding, of not being able to do something without trying, to almost everything. And this seeming disability was somehow absolute to me.

I have put myself many times into many kinds of boxes.

“I am not a good leader,” I said.

“I am not a good listener.”

“I am not good with cooking.”

“I hate cleaning.”

“I am not patient.”

“I am not good at writing.” And many other in this manner.

So I’ve been always surprised when peoples said, “You’re a good manager.”

“Thank you that I could tell you all that.”

“Mm, this tastes good.”

“Wow, it’s never been so clean here before.”

“I admire you how calm you remained through what happened.”

“I love the way you write.”

I was flattered, but often I didn’t believe these statements.

But looking at the last few years and the things I have dared, which I would never believe doing before, makes me wonder whether it is worth trying before saying, “I can’t do that”.

You’ve probably noticed that I am daring something big now, being an author entrepreneur, where the main language of my business in not my mother tongue.

And when the fear inside me asks, “Are you sure you can do this?”

I take a deep breath, let the air out and say, “I don’t know. I never tried. But I am about to find out.”

Here is to your darings, dear friends!

Picture: This is someone, who’s not afraid to try. My sweet daughter, Emma.


Special News, October 2015: The Launch of Optimist Writer


Dear Readers,

welcome to my latest adventure! I am starting my own business. It is based on one of my biggest passions – after my family and friends, ahead of coffee and chocolate, and on a par with reading…

I am talking about writing, in all its facets. Novels, non-fiction, articles, blog posts, freelance writing, technical writing, conversion, translation, posing questions, answering questions, starting discussions, giving advice.. all of it!

I had always expected I would take the leap into full-time author entrepreneurship much later, once I had a solid financial basis and I could be confident that my books would do well in the self-publishing market. Note: I had only a fuzzy notion about what “well” meant here.

But life is always full of surprises, and it turns out that self-employment is the most appropriate course of action for me right now.

I am reminded of the hiking tour of the Alps that my husband, Michael, and I took with my parents-in-law in 2007. I bore a pair of Nordic walking poles that I had bought for the occasion, and enjoyed how springy and light they made each step.

The track we followed was even and smooth, as if to underline the challenging emotions I would be facing just minutes later, when I experienced one of the most revealing and inspirational events of my life. My mother-in-law, Gundel, and I walked quietly side by side, exchanging the occasional smile and agreement about the wonderful weather. Then we saw a sign: “Climbing route to the Chamois (Gemse in German) of Sattelberg”. The sign indicated that this was a climbing rock on a special hiking tour for children.

By this time I had been afraid of heights for several years, having previously attempted a short climbing tour of approx. 2700 to 3000 m in the Alps without properly acclimatising to the altitude. This was in summer 2001, and six years later I still felt the dizziness in my veins after anything above a few meters. But I began to become curious about climbing again.

So I took a step closer to my mother-in-law as we walked past the sign to the chamois and said, “Someday I want to try something like that again. I loved climbing as a child.”

Suddenly, Gundel, who is a dear friend as well as the mother of my husband, stopped abruptly and grabbed my left arm. “No, there is no ‘someday’. There is only today. If you don’t do it now, you probably never will.”

“Oh,” was all I could say. And then after a pause filled with looking at Gundel’s hand on my arm then at her face, and then back at her hand, I said, “I don’t know. I’m not prepared for this.”

“There is nothing to prepare. You either do it or you don’t. Do you want to do it?”

“Yes … in principle … But …”

“No, no. Not in principle and not someday. I think Roland (A note to the reader: Roland is my father-in-law) has a set of safety ropes with him. He can guide you.”

Before I could say anything else she had called to Roland and Michael, who were walking about ten meters in front of us, to stop and come back to join us. At this point Gundel had already led me by the hand to the sign at the start of the climb.

Goosebumps ran over my arms in both directions. My breathing accelerated, and I couldn’t speak. All I could do was nod in response to the amused questions posed by Michael and Roland, and allow Roland to secure me.

I also noticed that I was excited and really wanted to do it. The thought “I should be scared!” tried to pop up several times, but it was quieted by all the action around me.

Then we stood at the bottom of the rock. “This is for children?!” I exclaimed, as my eyebrows almost reached my hairline.

“Well, it is a bit steep,” said Roland. “It is probably for older schoolchildren. Don’t worry, they have secured the way. Look.” He pointed at the steel anchors and a rope visible all the way up.

Actually the top wasn’t visible. I had no idea how far we would have to climb. But somehow in that moment it didn’t matter. I was simply excited.

Roland’s calm guidance and reassurance helped as well. “Don’t worry, you won’t fall,” he said as he secured my carabiner to one of the anchors. “If you feel unsafe at any time we can stop and go back down.”

I nodded.

Roland showed me how to secure the carabiner and how to move it from one anchor to another.

“Ready?” Gundel asked.

“Uuuf,” I let pressed air flow out of my mouth and a big grin spill over my face.

Gundel gestured in front of us. “Michael and I’ll go on ahead. We don’t have another pair of safety ropes with us, so we’ll need to take an easier route, parallel to yours. But don’t worry, we won’t be far away.”

Michael had put his arm around my shoulder. “Are you OK with this?”

I nodded feeling goosebumps making their dance on my shoulders under Michael’s arm.

“I’ll take some pictures of you as you climb. Is that OK?”

I nodded again. Whatever the outcome of this adventure, I felt its significance for me and I wanted it to be recorded. I was grateful to Michael for having the idea, even if I wasn’t able to verbalise it at the time.

And so we climbed.


Goosebumps were my constant companion during the climb, and they have re-appeared even now as I’m recalling the experience.

I made it to the top. I also attempted the steepest of the two routes, before realising that it was too much and too soon, then changing to the lower one. I was immensely excited and felt incredibly in my own skin, looking out from that rock over the amazing nature that surrounded us.

Roland, an experienced climber and hiker, praised my climbing and my enthusiasm. He even christened me “Gemse von Sattelberg” (“Chamois of Sattelberg”), as we sat at the top, the metal chamois with white paint on it in front of us.

And now I find life has taken me by the hand to say, just as Gundel did on that day in July of 2007, “No, there is no ‘someday’. If you want to climb, do it now.”

And so I begin my climb. It is a huge rock, but one that has been scaled by many before me: authors entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners.

Some of the paths I take might turn out to be too steep, and I may have to change tack as I progress on my way as a business owner. I can’t see to the top of the rocks I need to climb. But all of this is okay. I am excited, and I have goosebumps – the true indication that I’m in the midst of something amazing.

Plus, I have many guides and supporters, among them those who write professionally, and those who give me hugs to cheer me on my way.

This path is daunting and I do have thoughts shouting in my head, “Are you sure about this? Is it not too soon? Shouldn’t you be more scared and more cautious?” But thankfully my life, full of sweet people and events, allows me to silence these thoughts, and to enjoy the ride.

If you would like to follow my progress on one of the biggest adventures of my life, or indeed join me for some of it, then check out the pages on this site offering various ways in which I can help you or someone you know. This website will grow along with my business and my experience as a business owner.

More books will appear here, along with hundreds of blog posts giving insights into what I’m up to, as well as offering advice and support to help you on your own adventures.

So, let’s climb!



“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 4

After two unfruitful days of planning, Elizabeth headed back to the house.

Well, they weren’t actually days of planning how to get into the house. They were more days of watching TV without watching, walking around London without looking and worrying that she was about to make another big mistake.

That’s what all her friends in Germany told her. “You’re are making a big mistake. What if you don’t find anything or they don’t accept you? Do you know at all who are they? It will be hard to come back and start anew. Everything changes so fast. What if the house doesn’t exist anymore and you don’t find anyone? Why do you have to give up your apartment here? Go for a vacation first and see whether it is worth going there, and then decide.”

But no, what was done was done. It did seem so crazy now, but somehow it happened step-by-step. All by itself.

Elizabeth felt like a dark witch took her hand and led through the darkest times in her life.

First, her best friend, her father, died.

Elizabeth and her father shared everything, including the common melancholy. But it was always a sweet melancholy. Or so Elizabeth used to think.

After her father died, the melancholy turned into a bitter and stinking veil spoiling every smile, every warm word of compassion addressed to her.

From there, all went down hill.

Only three months after her father’s death, she was given notice. Partly because her boss had quit and the half of department were let go, and partly because she lost all the interest in the job she loved until the day her father died.

It was him she found and done this job. He was a big fan of numbers and facts. So she went and studied statistics at the University in Dortmund and became an associate professor there.

But after he was gone, what was the meaning in all those numbers?

Her friends were tired of all the facts and trivia she was reciting.

All of them were immersed in the particular, as they claimed, problems of their families. They hated when she said that their cases were typical and that at least seven hundred fifty six thousand in Germany alone were in the same situation. Whatever the domestic problem, whatever the anomaly of their children’s behaviour there were always at least one hundred thousand others.

All they said was, “You don’t understand.”

Well, they didn’t understand her now either.

All lost sense when her father died. Even dating. She used to discuss her dates with him and he would cook for her and a more deserving candidate.

She even decided to move with Frank, of whom her father approved.

But then all the world came to a halt when she saw a policeman marching with large steps toward her office with glass door at the end of the long hallway.

“Your father has terminated his life.”

What an awful way to put this into words!

Yes, yes, there was no good way to say this out loud. And it didn’t help to find out that her father had an irreparable case of leukaemia and didn’t want her to suffer with and for him.

All the facts, all the help, all friends, even Frank, even her father’s letter to her, nothing helped.

The first light came when her best friend, Jenny, said, “You never know where life leads you. Maybe there is a meaning in all this.”

With a steaming coffee cup in front of her, and tears in her eyes, Elizabeth asked, “You mean there is a meaning in everything collapsing and burning around me? Haven’t you heard what I’ve just said? Frank left me! I can’t find another job. Even with a PhD title in statistics. Or maybe because of it.”

“So what holds you here then? Go on and travel. You said your father left you some money behind. Wasn’t he originally from Ukraine? Don’t you want to find out more about him and you roots?”

“But I was born in London.”

“Well, London is closer. You can start there.”

And so, she was in London now. In a completely unknown world and city to her. She’d need to look for an apartment here. And maybe even a job.

Jenny of all people couldn’t let Elizabeth’s purse go, as they took farewell at the airport. “You know you can always sleep on my couch, when you decide to come back and until you get your apartment back.”

“Jen, I don’t want my apartment back.”

“But it was so close to mine!”

Elizabeth stroked her friend’s hand holding the purse she got from Jenny on her birthday three years before. “I’ll miss you too.”

“Give me a call, and write to me as often as you can.”

“I will.”

“No! Promise that you will write me even if you don’t find a coffee-shop with a hot-spot and even if stamps cost a fortune.”

“I promise.”

But so far all Elizabeth wrote was, “I arrived well and got me a small room in a cosy hotel downtown.”

Elizabeth took the room keys lying on the unsent post-card and went out of the room.

She was going to do everything to have more news until tomorrow.

Picture: Sky over Aalborg this morning.


P.S. Chapter 5 will be written and posted in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward this story to them.


Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

A slow lamp

Since we are relatively new in our new house, for about four months now, the lamps play a considerable part in our lives and in our conversations. We discuss which to buy, where to install them, which to install first, and which later.

We even started evaluating them according to their speed.

At lunch past Saturday, Michael (my husband) and Niklas (my son) discussed which lamps are the fastest.

Mind you, not the light, as I tried to point out. They were discussing lamps.

Niklas said the Road Runner lamps and the Speedy Gonzales lamps where the fastest.

“What about the headlights on our car? Are they as fast?” asked Michael.

Niklas shook his head.

Michael nodded. “No, you’re probably right, those of Road Runner and of Speedy Gonzales are faster.”

Niklas objected again. “But yes, the lamps on our car are fast! They are faster or at least as fast as those of Road Runner and of Speedy Gonzales.”

My attempt to claim the light to be the fastest of all, whatever the lamp it was coming from, was to no avail.

Apparently the lightning is even faster, according to my five-year-old son.

My ten-months-old daughter, Emma, is as excited about lamps as the rest of us.

Often when we enter her room, she searches the ceiling light with her gaze and a big smile, whether it is on or off.

And she confuses the German word “langsam”=”slow” with the word “Lampe”=”lamp”. Every time I ask her to take it slow down when she drinks out of her cup, she looks up, searches for a lamp and says, “M-p-p” or “M-p-pa”.

Picture: A selfie with Emma in her room and her favourite ceiling lamp.