My Top Three Excuses for Avoiding Business Rules
cheryl wilson 270003VHSH firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  brms business-rules decision-management decision-automation business-rule-management
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James Taylor has a good series on his decision management blog right now in which he covers and counters the “Top Ten Excuses to Avoid Business Rules.” I review three of my favorites from his list below. The whole series is worth reading, if you have the time.
1. Why do I need more technology? (Excuse 7)
This is one of my favorite excuses because it’s a justification for avoiding most technologies, let alone technologies for managing business logic. And you don’t have to be a neo-Luddite to feel this way. Taylor points out that both forward-thinking and status quo organizations share a common resistance to changing the technology they’ve been using for years. This is partly human nature, or nature-nature, where the aim is conservation and adaptation only when life depends on it.
Beyond this general tendency, Taylor lists seven specific reasons commonly used for avoiding business rules, all of which expose obvious and subtle flaws in rational thinking about available technologies – starting with “I can already do decision automation” and ending with “If I was meant to use business rules, my platform vendor would provide them.” That last one sounds a lot like “If I was meant to fly, swim, etc., I would have wings, gills, etc."
related to this excuse is: “My
new operational system will do that.” I agree with Taylor when he explains that most new
packages claim to have some decision automation (rules) and analytics
capabilities inside. The operative word here is “some” – like the claims made
by some processed foods manufacturers that their products contain fiber or
antioxidants; but it’s really not at the levels required to achieve the best outcomes.
As it applies to business rules, and in Taylor’s words: “ … most packages do not, in fact, automate decisions – they automate processes and largely assume manual decision-making. Now why would you want to establish processes using the new system that involve time-consuming, costly, imprecise manual decisions? Why implement a brain-dead process?"
2. Management doesn’t get it. (Excuse 9)
This is an
excuse for anyone that has presented a new idea to the boss and been shot down (a lot of us). The Harvard Business Review provides some
good advice on this subject that can be applied to selling business rules, or any necessary innovation,
to management. The best part of this advice:
Don’t start with cold-selling the idea, start with selling the need to
investigate a particular business challenge that begs for your solution or idea.
To sell business rule management to your boss, Taylor recommends associating “the automation of decisions to some business process and to specific business objectives or key performance indicators. Then you can show how automating those decisions could improve the process and show why that matters to the business in terms of improved results."
So, instead of trying to sell a business rules purchase to management, why not get their endorsement for see how automating certain decisions could improve pricing, logistics management, or the straight-through processing of claims, for example. Once you get the green light to start your pilot investigation, keep your boss involved in the process with frequent updates or engagements.
One of our customers, Apple Vacations, provides a nice example of how to tie the automation of decisions to key business strategies and objectives. It also provides a real-world counter to the first excuse “why do I need more technology."
3. I can’t afford it. (Excuse 5)
proverbial “I can’t afford it” excuse. Taylor
does a good job of covering most of angles here -- worth the read. For me, the biggest problem
with this excuse stems from an inability or unwillingness to accurately calculate the
costs of the old way v. the new way, including attaching value to soft and hard
benefits, as Taylor points out.
This mistake is made frequently, in both professional and personal lives. For example, I can’t afford to move, eat better, hire more people, take some courses, etc. True, something can truly be unaffordable at the time. The point is: most of us don’t really know for sure until we calculate the current costs of living/working v. a new way of living/working. Similar thinking goes into another great excuse: It takes too long.
To wrap this up, I couldn’t have said it better than Taylor: “Get over it, sometimes you just need to accept that a new technology has made its case and should be in your stack.” I agree. Business rules has made its ROI case over and over again, for the past 25 years, and is more relevant now than ever given a world of larger data and faster change. There’s no excuses, especially if you have a business problem for which business rules is the best solution.