Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm (almost): Business Process Management, SOA, and Composite Applications

Apr212006

Ken Vollmer of Forrester Research gave a nice presentation on Business Process Management, SOA, and Composite Applications.  I particularly liked both the phrase "Digital Business Architecture" to describe these general trends and his comment that we are finally able to treat processes as "business metadata". Clearly I think EDM is a core component of the first phrase and that a business rules management system let's you treat business logic, likewise, as business metadata. Some specifics takeaways: Ken outlined steps of Define, Implement, Execute, Monitor, Optimize and back to Define as the loop you need to create. Business rules play a key role in allowing you to apply your optimizations to your deployed processes. He talked a fair bit about complex event processing (CEP), something for which I think rules have great potential. He discussed how self-healing processes can be developed that use business rules, analytics and CEP to impact running processes without the need to wait for someone to review a dashboard. He noted that...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm (almost): The role of business rules in Enterprise Architecture

Apr212006

Larry Goldberg, of KPI, gave a presentation on the role of business rules in Enterprise Architecture, leaning on both the Rule Maturity Model KPI has developed and the Zachman Framework. Larry spent quite a lot of time on the various frameworks and how/why to use business rules in them - you can contact him or read the materials for more - but a couple of key points I wanted to make here: Business rules are orthogonal to data, network, function, process etc.They must be linked and thought of together but managed as their own "dimension" Source rules, the kind of near-natural-language statements generated by business executives, do not map 1:1 to technical rules suitable for being implemented in a business rules management system. There is no good way to classify business rules into static/dynamic or centralized/decentralized that does not cause problems with specific types of rules. Patterns on developing rules services and on managing them are needed but still nebulous. Interesting stuff. Clearly we have work still to do in terms of how rules...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm (almost): The Rules of Automated Underwriting

Apr212006

Mike Koscielny of Auto Club Group gave a great presentation on the value of business rules. As I have described his case before - here - I won't go into too much detail but there were a couple of points I noted in the session: Mike's underwriting team has only grown from 8 to 14 in a period when the business underwritten has grown nearly 6x! If the underwriting team had scaled with the business he would now be employing 45 underwriters! It only took them 3 months to add the capability to underwriter a new state and only 60 days to start offering a specific member benefit (forgiveness of a first accident for members) that they had been considering for years but never been able to justify implementing given the $400,000 estimate for changing the old system! Mike discussed how important regression testing was and how his business and IT folks now collaborate on the testing - a big change from the old system where the business folks thought this was IT's problem. Mike pointed out that not only are fewer policies and renewals being manually reviewed than before...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm: Business Rules and Business Process – Perfect together or perfect apart?

Apr192006

I sat on a panel today about business rules and business process and whether they should be separate or combined. I already have a couple of posts on this topic - here and here - so regular readers (both of them) will know where I stand on this. The panel was somewhat predictable in terms of where vendors stood but there were a couple of interesting items: There was some good discussion of whether you should always start with rules, always start with processes or always start with both. The consensus seemed to be that you should usually start with both (at least thinking about both the rules and the processes in which they are executed) but that this was not a hard and fast rule (think about a legacy modernization problem where the process implementation is not being changed, just a decision) and that it did not imply that both pieces would repay automation equally. Everyone agreed it was important to demonstrate success early, regardless or which technology choices you made, and that it was important to think about the enterprise vision even while remaining...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm: The Vision for Business Rules

Apr192006

Barb von Halle gave this excellent overview of business rules. She again showed the KPI Rule Maturity Model. She reviewed some very relevant results from a survey of companies that KPI did around the leading reasons for adopting rules to which I have appended my own thoughts: Agility - how fast can I respond to change? Knowledge retention - what happens when my experts retire? Compliance - can I demonstrate compliance in high volume processes? Consistency - can I make the same decision, the same way over and over? Stronger strategy/business/IT alignment - can decisions ripple down effectively? She talked also about four specific cases, for some of which I have great examples: Business rules as an additional requirement toolNo good case study here as I typically don't work with customers doing this. The use case book I reviewed recently - Use Cases - Requirements in Context - is a great addition to your library for this case though. Barb made the great point that you must remember that rules and not the same as requirements as rules have a much faster...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm: Making the transition to services engineering

Apr192006

In Brett Champlin's session on the Making the transition to services engineering this morning. A couple of interesting points came up in his discussions of how the processes of delivering services are different from those of delivering products. 90% of process time is work waiting to be performed As Brett put it "Queues are evil". This is one of the key ways in which decision management can help in service delivery - automating decisions so that far fewer transactions have to be queued up for manual review. In an underwriting case, written up here, this was from 100% to 1%. Service processes are a series of states involving the decision-making process and the experience of the customer. Customer acting in the role of co-producer Service processes are more decision-centric and more customer-centric and this makes the power of business rules to act as a platform for decisions and to provide customization key. Definition of  "good service" may be different for each customer Hence rules-based personalization. Heterogeneity a problem -...

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Analytics & Optimization Live from Brainstorm: BPM/SOA/BRM/EA/OPM

Apr192006

Well I am at the Brainstorm BPM/SOA/EA/BRM/OPM conference in Chicago today and tomorrow and just attended the opening panel discussion where the various track chairs discussed how all these pieces fit together. There was a fairly nice picture of the overlap between the various elements, although I will have to work on a better one: Each speaker made some good points: Brett Champlin made the point that Business Process Management as a discipline- looking at processes explicitly and trying to manage them - should be differentiated from a software stack. In the context of a discipline the management of business rules (also both a discipline and a software stack) was assumed to be part of business process management. While this does not imply that business rules technology is a subset of business process technology, nevertheless I have to take issue with it. It seems to me that decisions can be managed and improved without necessarily having to consider how the processes that use them might be better managed. Some companies only make decisions and some decisions...

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Analytics & Optimization A Rule (or even many rules) does not a decision make

Apr192006

David Straus wrote a nice article in Business Integration Journal this month - A Rule Does Not a Decision Make"Rarely is a single business rule the basis for making any decision. More often, many rules interact to form a decision. An underlying concept in a decision architecture is that business decisions are the atomic unit we should be focused on, not the rules. "Absolutely. Given the title of this blog is "Enterprise Decision Management" you might expect me to agree with this and sure enough I do. It has to be said, however, that one of the attractions of using a business rules management system with a structured rule repository is that you can re-use rules effectively between decisions. Oracle even uses the phrase "decision service" which maps pretty well to this concept. He goes on to talk about complexity in decisions "Organizations want to make decisions that are far more sophisticated than they’re able to make using people to make decisions manually, or using “coding” to automate. These decisions are made up of...

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Analytics & Optimization Decision-Support or Decision Automation (or both)

Apr172006

An old colleague of mine, John Parkinson (hi John) writes in CIO Insight and recently posted this article on Decision-Support Systems: Lessons from the Military. I remember John telling me this story once before years ago and his column on it made me think about the differences between decision-support and decision-automation. Using the example of a military flight simulator - aimed as he puts it at "a tiny proportion of the human ability spectrum and extraordinarily well-educated and capable people" - he shows how you can create situations where "the next piece of information - even if it's useful or even vital - can degrade decision-making". It seems to me that this is often a problem in the process most organizations follow when deciding how to solve a problem using their data. All too often the question asked is "how can I give this person more or better data" when, as John points out, this may well not help. Instead I would argue that the right question is "how does the organization make better decisions". The answer...

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