Analytics & Optimization Writing Better Requirements – Key to Success or false hope?

Aug172005

Some email traffic today made me wonder about "good" requirements. Is improving the quality of requirements always worthwhile? Well, perhaps not. What happens when the requirements change all the time? When competitive pressure or market movements or regulatory requirements change so often that the requirements for a system never really stabilize. In those circumstances it may be a false hope to try and improve the final system by improving the requirements. What is needed, instead, is a way to let those who understand the need for these changes to make the changes themselves. So, rather than invest in ever more detailed requirements, invest in identifying the kinds of things the system must do (rules) and make it possible for the business users of the system to create, modify and delete business rules. This removes the impedance of requirements and coding but could result in an unstable system. Indeed this was brought up in a recent review of Blaze Advisor, Business Rules Meet the Business User , written by Lou Agosta. The solution to this problem lies...

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Customer Engagement Analytics + CRM = Happiness

Aug172005

I saw this article - Analytical CRM gaining gravity globally - today and it reinforced a trend I have noticed before. There is more and more talk about how you can get more value from your CRM investment.  Although this article focused on the value of using Business Intelligence-type analytics on your CRM data and on delivering this insight quickly, there are other ways to get more value. If we take a decision-management approach we can ask "what decisions will be taken where the data our CRM system collected is helpful". Some of these decisions are taken by people, such as identifying a new segment to target with a marketing campaign, and BI technologies are entirely appropriate to enable this. Some, however, are taken by people who have neither the time nor the skill to use BI tools (CSRs or tellers for instance) or even by automated systems (billing system, website, ATM). What you need in these latter cases is an automated decision enhanced with the insight derived from your CRM data. You need to deliver business intelligence on your customers...

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Analytics & Optimization Giving your mainframe a new “brain”

Aug162005

One of the interesting uses of business rules is in the hot topic of legacy modernization. Many organizations have large investments in mainframe applications, written in COBOL or another hard to maintain languages. When these systems are evaluated they typically turn out to be costly to maintain - each change to the system takes time and money out of all proportion to the value of the change. This leads many organizations to replatform and reimplement these systems. However, more careful analysis such as that done by the California DMV can lead to an interesting insight - much of a typical mainframe system is static, works fine and needs no maintenance. Often only a small portion of the system is responsible for much of the maintenance work. DMV found that this was the case with their system - the portion of the system that dealt with managing vehicle information, printing bills etc hardly ever required changes. The part that dealt with license fee calculation, the business rules in other words, required changes whenever the legislature changed the law. If this...

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Analytics & Optimization Business Intelligence Pipeline | IT Detours On the Road To BPM

Aug112005

An interesting article on Business Process Management (BPM) caught my eye this morning - Business Intelligence Pipeline | IT Detours On the Road To BPM. It has a great quote - "Automating your business processes can increase productivity, but it can be counterproductive if the automation takes control away from the process owners". Lori MacVittie is aboslutely correct in pointing this out. I would add one thing to her list of capabilities required to avoid this problem - business rules. She correctly identifies modeling, analysis and simulation as critical, but if one is going to automate a business process to the point where one achieves straight through processing or STP then one needs to automate decision steps within the process. Here too it is essential that you leave control in the hands of the process owners. This requires the use of a serious business rules management system - one that allows the business rules for the decision point to be described, managed and edited by the process owner. Without this the decision points become black boxes...

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Analytics & Optimization Explainer: Data mining – Computerworld

Aug102005

Computerworld had a nice introductory article on data mining today - Explainer: Data mining - Computerworld. One of the great uses of this kind of data mining technology is to turn historical data into business rules. Thus, in the REI example in the article, one could turn the knowledge about which customers bought what into rules like "If purchased product types include at least two of 'camping gear', 'back pack', 'maps' then add 'Cycling' to customer's potential interests" allowing a catalog on cycling products to be sent using a rule like "If at least one of customer's interests is Cycling or at least one of customer's potential interests in Cycling then send Cycling Catalog" or something similar, depending on the rule syntax of your execution environment. Doing this takes two things, only one of which the article details. Firstly you need the kind of data mining tool mentioned in the article. Secondly, however, you need a way to turn the insight you get from this tool into something you can execute. A business rules environment, especially...

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Analytics & Optimization Finance Organizations Need to Improve Operational Efficiency But Don’t Know How

Aug092005

I saw this interesting post today on Yahoo - Majority of Finance Organizations Need to Improve Operational Efficiency But Don't Know How Technology Can Help Achieve Change, Accenture Survey Finds.  It is clear even from the summary in the press release that finance organizations, like most others, need to get to Straight Through Processing (STP). Of course like most organizations aiming to move to STP they struggle with how to eliminate manual review steps or, put another way, with how to automate key decisions within the process. Although workflow, OCR and the other technologies identified in the report are key, these will not eliminate manual decision-making. They might reduce or eliminate manual reviews for incomplete or poor quality data and should be able to eliminate manual re-keying etc. To eliminate manual compliance checks and manual decision-making about business issues, they will also need to use business rules technology. This would allow the finance department to specify the rules to enforce for compliance and the rules for making choices in a...

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Analytics & Optimization Different Perspectives

Aug052005

When developing systems, one often gets quite different perspectives from the business people involved and from the programmers. Many of us have seen this so often that we take it for granted. Yet this difference of perspective often results in serious problems when developing complex systems. Is it inevitable? Not with the right approach.So why do they fight? The basic issue when developing systems results from the different perspectives and skills brought to bear by business and IT folks. Business users are at the mercy of regulations, court rulings and business policies that must be enforced. They must also respond to an ever-changing business and competitive environment. This often means they can’t stabilize their requirements or explain them easily to developers – legal or business jargon does not always map well to Java code! Meanwhile the developers typically don’t understand the regulations or business environment well enough and so can’t develop necessary applications, systems and updates fast enough. As an Illustration let’s take the example...

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Analytics & Optimization Decision Management and Government

Aug042005

Although most people talking about decision management, business rules or predictive analytics are talking about their value to businesses, government agencies too can benefit enormously. Many agencies are adopting business rules for compliance and eligibility systems while predictve analytics and broader decision management are becoming popular too. A number of government agencies have started to use business rules for automating decisions such as licensing, fees, compliance or eligibility. One great example is the California Department of Motor Vehicles, recently profiled in Intelligent Enterprise - New Rules, Agile Government. DMV used business rules to replace the core decision making component of an old legacy system that took many programming hours to make each change with one where changes can be made quickly and easily. Having thus renovated their mainframe system they were then able to re-use the rules to power a web application that allows California residents to estimate their license fees - check out The Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator. The...

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Analytics & Optimization The differences between BI and EDM

Aug032005

I am often asked "What is the difference between Business Intelligence and EDM?" so it seemed worthwhile to write a little on this topic. The simple answer is that Enterprise Decision Management differs from traditional BI in that it is focused on execution of decisions and actions rather than reporting. Let's drill into this a little. One of the hottest topics in the field of business intelligence (BI) today is what many call “operationalizing” BI. At issue is how to bridge the gap between the insights BI brings to knowledge workers and decision makers in the back office and the tactical, everyday decisions and actions that determine an organization’s success. An enterprise drawing strategic intelligence from BI also needs a way to push the same degree of intelligence out into its operations and front-line systems. Phrases such as “operational BI” and “decision-centric BI” may reinforce the feeling that what’s needed to bridge the gap is a logical extension of business intelligence technology. In fact, as some observers have noted, the...

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Analytics & Optimization Are Business Rules the fastest growing market you have never heard of?

Aug022005

The two leading business rules vendors, Fair Isaac and ILOG, announced second quarter results last week. Both of them announced record results for their Business Rules products with growth around 60% year over year! These two vendors represent more than half the worldwide market for pure business rules solutions so you have to take these results as proof that the market is taking off. Add to that the fact that Gartner are on their third Magic Quadrant (see the most recent one at Gartner Business Rules Magic Quadrant 2005) and Forrester about to do a Wave Report on the market and you see clear signs that this market is hot. So why is this market doing so well? It seems to me that there are a number of key reasons. Compliance, and the need to demonstrate compliance, is more of a focus for large companies than ever. You have Sarbannes-Oxley, BASEL II, HIPAA and much much more. Business Rules engines are a great way to build systems that ensure and can demonstrate compliance. I wrote an article on this for Compliance Advisor. Personalization and customer management...

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