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If you need a policy manual, do you need a rules engine too?

Interesting article on policy manuals by Tim Bryce on ITToolbox - Why we need policy manuals. I saw this thanks to Lucas Rodríguez Cervera who commented about it on his blog.  The original post makes the point that implementation is key. Lucas' point is, I think, that if implementation is key then processes to enforce policies should be automated. This made me wonder how you tell you need a business rules management system as well as a policy manual.

  • Your policy manual contains policies that must be applied to operational decisions - that is high volume, day to day ones.
  • You are trying to empower customers or others to use self-service tools where these decisions are relevant or you have front-line staff who must enforce these rules who are not terribly senior or long-tenured like CSRs.
  • The rules within these policies are:
    • Large in number and so hard to manage in systems or remember as an individual (e.g. medical bill review rules) or
    • Complex individually and so hard to code or use correctly (e.g. contracting rules) or
    • Rapidly changing and so expensive to maintain in code and hard to distribute quickly enough (e.g. marketing rules) or
    • Requiring of expertise to understand and so unlikely to be understood either by programmers or front-line staff (e.g. underwriting rules)

If these things are true then you should probably look into business rules and see how they can help with compliance to your policies.

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