Expert Interview: The Making of the Next Generation of Business Rules Technology
cheryl wilson 270003VHSH firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  decision-management brms business-events-processin... decision-automation business-rules
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At Good Decision!, we do everything we can to avoid specific brand-speak, but in this case it’s hard to ignore the release of IBM’s new product in this space called WebSphere Operational Decision Management (WODM). I grabbed the opportunity to interview the product management team lead, Margaret Thorpe, for a behind-the-scenes description and explanation.
MT: WODM 7.5 is really the next generation of our BRMS platform. The big change you’ll see here is that we’ve brought together the detection capabilities of business events and the automated decisioning capabilities of business rules into a unified offering. So business users will be able to bring the notion of time into their frequently occurring business decisions. What this means, at the simplest level, is that when significant business events occur that are related to each other through time the product can detect them, decide what to do , and respond appropriately. For example, if WODM detects that a customer has submitted two Web quote requests and made one direct contact in the last three days, it can trigger an agent callback to assist with a best product determination, or whatever the business decides is the right action based on the context of specific interactions or transactions.
You know, the funny thing is we had a primitive version of this capability in JRules a decade ago that we called temporal reasoning. It was used primarily by some of our large Telco customers who had big telecommunications networks to manage with a lot of low-level events being emitted by the equipment & devices. They needed to be able to filter and correlate alarms, so they could automatically detect and notify key personnel when there were device failures and whatnot, and the business folks were responsible for writing and maintaining those rules. We eventually deprecated this feature because it wasn’t widely used and it complicated our engine.
CW: So, you’ve come full circle with the release of WODM?
MT: What we’re doing today is much more sophisticated, scalable and business-user friendly than the rudimentary temporal reasoning capabilities we had in JRules 4.0. And the broader market is also moving in this direction – it’s not just us. It really is the next step in the evolution of the BRMS platform. What’s happened is that there’s been such an explosion of data & transaction volumes in the Corporate IT environment over the last decade, what with the shift of commerce to the web and everything, that it’s not just the big Telecom companies that need this today, it’s much more pervasive. We live in a much more intelligent, instrumented and interconnected world now.
CW: Why did you develop WODM?
MT: There are a number of market forces that played into this, but it’s really our customers that are driving this evolution as they look to leverage these key technologies together – business rules, events, analytics -- to automate and improve their operational decisions. And where there’s customer demand, there’s competition, so you see other vendors in this space moving in a similar direction. Our strength is that WODM 7.5 is based on the market-leading BRMS – Websphere JRules – because business rules are a key component of any operational decision management platform. I also think that IBM is uniquely equipped to deliver on an ambitious Decision Management agenda, given the breadth of our software product portfolio, which of course includes the SPSS analytical decision management products as well as the Websphere connectivity products.
CW: Who would be the ideal customer for WODM 7.5?
MT: There are a number of different applications that can benefit from this technology. If I were to generalize, I would say that the sweet spot is anywhere you need to monitor business activity for situations of interest and make automated decisions when those situations arise. For example, customer service and support, fraud detection, medical care, equipment maintenance, shipping & delivery – anywhere you’re monitoring for something that you care to do something about – perhaps offer a particular product, initiate a fraud investigation, stop a payment, alert a doctor, schedule immediate maintenance, or re-route cargo, etc.
There are two basic flavors to these applications:
Of course, WODM 7.5 is still ideal for “classical” BRMS applications that don’t need to bring time and event processing into the picture. In fact, it has many improvements like Multiple Release Management that will be really useful for existing JRules customers that are maintaining deployed JRules applications.
CW: Thanks, Margaret. If anyone is interested in learning more about this new product and the overall practice of Operational Decision Management, you can visit this landing page for a variety of educational resources.