Analytics & Optimization Fix the requirements mess – use business rules

Nov152005

An interesting article on Fixing the requirements mess in CIO magazine caught my eye today. Christopher Lindquist does a good job of discussing some of the challenges, and some of the potential solutions, when it comes to requirements and shows how these are key issues for CIOs. I wrote on this topic once before - Writing Better Requirements - Key to Success or false hope? - and I stand by what I said there. I don't believe that writing better requirements is ever going to work as long as those requirements are descriptions of how the business needs to operate as distinct from how the system needs to operate. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, clearly one can improve the requirements process to ensure that technical requirements relating to how the system operates, looks, performs, integrates etc can be documented effectively by business folks and then implemented by IT folks. What I do not believe is that it is useful or even possible to try and have business folks articulate how their business is supposed to operate - the business rules of their business if...

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Analytics & Optimization Why are business rules better than traditional code?

Nov152005

There are a number of advantages gained by expressing business logic in business rules and using the processing and management facilities included with a business rules management system to work with them. In brief summary: The separation of decision logic from mechanical implementation gives you more flexibility to make changes with minimal or zero impact on basic systems operation. Business rules are more understandable to business-level people, leading to better business/technical cooperation, reduced implementation times, and fewer opportunities for interpretation errors. Business rules are easily segmented into groups for control over functional interaction and management. Business rules management systems like Blaze Advisor have interactive testing, execution flow, cross-reference tools, and reporting features to aid in development, testing, and documentation. Business rules management systems have predefined rule replacement features to handle system updates without interrupting service to application users. Business rules can have...

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Analytics & Optimization CRM, and rules, at the ATM

Nov152005

I saw this little snipper on the Credit Union Journal Daily today:Wincor Nixdorf will unveil a new customer relationship management solution that will interact with ATMs, at the annual BAI Retail Delivery Conference Tuesday. The company's ProClassic/ProSales CRM software will give credit unions and banks the ability to make direct, personalized contact with customers at the ATM, including advertisements, messages, surveys or other information. With ProClassc/ProSales, the customer's response is delivered directly to the marketing system and acts as a link between the institution's existing CRM system and its ATM network. This will help the financial institution to generate revenue through third-party advertising, reduce advertising costs and increase customer loyalty through personalized marketing and sales campaigns. This is fascinating to me as I presented on this very topic - how to push truly personalized decisions to the point of contact with a customer (e.g. an ATM) at InterACT Budapest recently. What is interesting to me is that the CRM system and the ATM...

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Analytics & Optimization Biztalk, Windows Workflow Foundation and Business Rules

Nov142005

I get  a lot of questions about how business rules management systems fit with Biztalk and the upcoming Windows Workflow Foundation. To clarify all this I consulted my friends at Microsoft who gave me some useful links - in particular this great David Chappell white paper that covers the topic - http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista/building/workflow/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnlong/html/WWFIntro.asp. In it David says:Perhaps the most well known Microsoft implementation of workflow today is in BizTalk Server (though BizTalk Server uses the term orchestration rather than workflow). BizTalk Server lets developers create system workflows for business process management (BPM), enterprise application integration (EAI), and business-to-business (B2B) integration. The release of the product that follows Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 will add support for creating Windows Workflow Foundation workflows targeting these areas. He goes on to explain when to use each option. Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) is targeted at applications that will host workflows...

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Analytics & Optimization SOA, Business Intelligence and Business Rules

Nov112005

An interesting entry caught my eye on CBDI today - COMMENTARY - SOA FRAMEWORK FOR BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE. One key idea in this article is around business rules:We still remain firmly of the opinion that real time control is one of the most interesting aspects to SOA, and of course some enterprises are just starting to dip their toes into this particular pool as they use mediation services together with rules engines to monitor key metrics and measures.Now this is clearly one of the main uses of business rules in an SOA/Business Intelligence architecture. However there is a broader use, that of deciding what to do about this metrics/measures - taking action. This use of business rules not just to monitor and aggregate/dis-aggregate but also to act is key to the enterprise decision management approach. It is not enough to decide that something should be done, in a real-time 24x7 world you must act appropriately and immediately - you can't wait until you can tell someone. Business rules management systems, combined with predictive analytic models that deploy insight...

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Analytics & Optimization Using Business Rules to Improve the MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul) process

Nov092005

In Repair Efficiency in Automotive and Aerospace, Joe Barkai of Manufacturing Insights talks about some of the problems of auto and aircraft repair:The technical complexity of automotive and aerospace equipment, especially in onboard electronic systems, has increased to the point that it poses a significant troubleshooting and repair challenge for service technicians and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) personnel. Complaints about lengthy and costly repairs are rampant, increasing total cost of ownership (TCO), tarnishing brand image, and hurting customer loyalty.He goes on to discuss various aspects of this problem and identify some solutions, including: Establish a maintenance knowledge management strategy to capture equipment failures and disseminate best troubleshooting and repair practices throughout the maintenance organization. Increase the use of enterprise knowledge and apply lean methods to reduce time waste, and control the variability in task time and accuracy.Personally I think he use of a business rules driven approach can really help both...

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Analytics & Optimization Managing complex repairs and diagnostics

Nov092005

Although the manufacturing and repair business is not one often associated with business rules, nevertheless there are some interesting uses of business rules to be found. Two are outlined below. First Seagate Disk drive manufacturing may produce more than 50,000 drives per day at a single plant. Discs that fail their quality assurance check must have a determination of the fault and the proper repair strategy. Blaze Advisor, Fair Isaac's business rules management system, is used to drive Seagate’s automated fault diagnosis system. Rules may be updated by technicians and engineers without specialized computer programmers.  The system has reduced average diagnosis time from minutes to seconds and thus increased production capacity for the plant. In addition system diagnostic and remediation rules can be changed in days instead of weeks, improving the response time to new problems. A detailed case study is available here. Second a major storage hardware company. Changing hardware or software configurations for storage systems in the field...

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Analytics & Optimization The future of SOA – business rules?

Nov082005

This article - Stepping into the future of SOA - raised a couple of interesting points about the value of SOA in "aligning business and IT".  Now while I agree that it might be a while before we reach what the article calls "a self-optimizing IT nirvana in which applications and network infrastructures monitor and reconfigure themselves based on easily adjusted business rules" I do think that the combination of business rules and SOA goes a long way to improving the alignment of business and IT. How can business rules help an SOA approach do this? Well firstly as noted elsewhere in the blog, business rules are designed to build decisioning services and so fit really easily into an SOA. What does a business rules-built decision service offer: Rapid development - declarative business rules are ideal for describing the behavior of a decision service so development is accelerated Dramatically reduced maintenance costs - declarative rules are much more stable in the face of change than code and so maintenance is easier and cheaper True...

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