Business Rules – February 2011

I’m frequently asked what business problems are solved by business rules. Here’s my answer on that. It’s quite a substantial list. Did I miss any?

Miscommunication: Misunderstanding of key business concepts inevitably results in miscommunication. Does preferred customer discount mean the same across different processes and business units? If not, what are the differences? What business rules apply? Do these business rules differ for different areas of the business?

Business Rule Solution: A clear set of concepts and terms on which business rules and other forms of business communication can be based.

Inaccessible Business Rules: Finding out what business rules apply to a given business situation often involves an open-ended search through many potential sources. These sources are hard-to-locate, often conflicting, and almost never complete. Frequently you resort to divining the original business intent of source code line-by-line. Pursuing business rules in this fashion is time-consuming, inefficient and error-prone.

Business Rule Solution: A means to manage business rules as a resource, providing direct accessibility.

Business Agility: Continuous change is a central fact of life for business these days. A great many business rules change relatively fast, certainly faster than two or three official software releases per year. Legacy systems and IT methodologies were simply not structured to manage rapid, on-going change in business rules (a boon to service providers).

Business Rule Solution: Segregate the life cycle of business rules from the software release life cycle.

Inconsistent Business Practices: Many businesses have no systematic approach for defining and deploying their business rules. As a result, business workers often apply the wrong ones, or make them up as they go along. The result is confusion, customer frustration, and operational inefficiency. After-the-fact resolution of problems is time-consuming and expensive.

Business Rule Solution: A structured approach to help you think through and deploy consistent business rules before the fact.

Massive Differentiation: Many businesses seek to support highly individualized relationships with growing numbers of customers and other partners for ever more complex (and customized) product and services. How can businesses massively differentiate between business parties and provide highly customized offerings while at the same time conduct each business transaction accurately and at low cost?

Business Rule Solution: Express business rules on semantically-rich concept models that scale in highly manageable fashion.

Keeping Up To Speed: These days, rapid change in business practices, at an ever faster pace, happens everywhere you look. In an age of instant connectivity, workers are somehow expected to absorb the changes as if by magic. How can line workers consumed with day-to-day activity ever hope to keep up?

Business Rule Solution: Real-time delivery of know-how in the form of business rules to operational workers as errors in business transactions actually occur.

Know-How Retention: Baby boomers created much of the business capabilities in place today in larger organizations. The related know-how often sits in their heads—and nowhere else. What will happen when they retire? In addition, job changes for old and young alike are ever more frequent. How do you keep vital operational know-how from walking out the door?

Business Rule Solution: A systematic way of capturing, documenting and retaining business rules.

Never-Ending IT Projects: Why do so many projects miss their deadlines? Delivery dates are adjusted time and time again. Primary requirements are forever changing mid-stream, causing endless rework. Some projects never deliver anything at all. Is this simply inevitable, or does it suggest that business requirements are perhaps not being gathered completely and accurately before development starts?

Business Rule Solution: A means to capture true business requirements up front, before misdirection and costly rework or scuttling is required.

Business Alignment: The exploding power of machines marches on with no end in sight. Businesses devote huge resources to IT. How does the business decide which projects are beneficial and which are not? How can the business be sure it uses technology for maximum business benefit?

Business Rule Solution: An approach for aligning the design of business capabilities with business strategy and business policies.

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About Ronald Ross

Ronald G. Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994. With BRS’s client roster of Fortune 500 companies and governments, Ron consults,speaks and teaches worldwide. He has served as the chair of the International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference. Ron is also the author of 10 professional books, as well as the executive editor of the Business Rules Journal. Through these publications, as well as on the online forum BRCommunity and his blog, Ron enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience in consulting and business rules. Outside of work, Ron enjoys walking his dogs, travelling with his three children, and tweeting. For fresh nuggets of information, follow him @Ronald_G_Ross!

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