Business rules management (BRM) is a key capability of operational decision management (ODM) technology. Nothing new there. However, despite the fact that BRM has been around for several decades, there persists certain pockets of confusion about business rules – from what they are to where they are to how they should be managed.
James Taylor recently resurrected one of his archived posts – From the archives: What, exactly, do you mean by business rules? – which provides three good reminders about business rules.
Business rules are everywhere: In business processes, in application code, in documents, in people’s heads, in data quality.
Just because business rules are everywhere doesn’t mean you should treat them the same. To quote Taylor:
“The reality is that you should do different things with these different business rules. Rules about data quality should be enforced when data is being created, rules about process escalation and routing should be enforced as part of the process design, rules about event correlation should be enforced in your CEP engine. But rules about business decision-making should not be mixed in with these. These rules only change when your business changes (not because you have refactored the database or redesigned the technical details of your process). They change because you change your discount policy or because there is a new regulation about eligibility or because your analytics tell you that your customer base is shifting.”
The focus should be on business decisions first, business rules second. Business rules, at the simplest level, are a way of writing down your operational decisions in non-technical terms so that they are visible to the organization and can be automated and managed by business users. As such, the focus should first be on those critical “run-the-business” decisions that impact top line growth or cost efficiencies. For example, the discussion needs to start something like this: Which frequently occurring decisions, with well-defined criteria, need to be automated and managed so that we achieve our business goals?
Finally, Taylor and I agree that the main driver for purchasing business rules or operational decision management technology is a need to automate, manage and govern operational business decisions for better business performance. It’s about getting better control over the decisions that control your business. And business rules is one of the key capabilities that can help you do that.