Special guest opinion by Art Moore, based on his contribution to the recent book, The Business Rules Revolution:
In many industries there has never been a greater need to rethink and retool processes to remain competitive in the globalized market. But the truth is re-engineering major industries can be a pretty tough task. To begin with, it's a major challenge for some business people to think outside the context of legacy systems procedures that for them have come to constitute the business itself. Nonetheless, these baby-boomer people who think in terms of legacy implementations also happen to be the ones who best understand the in-the-trench workings of your business.
How do you help them help you to re-engineer your business? It turns out that injecting a business rules perspective into our process analysis tradition may just be one of the best ways of doing so.
Really we should say it's the injection of a "decision" perspective into that analysis.
In a way it goes back to the question, "What is business and what is system? What is essential business process and what is implementation?" It’s a fundamental question but the debate is likely to exceed the patience of most, especially business people trying to improve revenue or just get something done. So how do you help business workers peel back their thinking to the "essential business" – the one to which you can then apply creative systems solutions to customer engagement and product delivery?
With decisions. By the simple expedient of asking about decisions, much of the dross, the procedural arbitraries of processes are exposed and start to fall away. By asking what the underlying business decision is, why an each activity is being done, the picture begins to clarify. By isolating decision analytics from process flow, models simplify, the business/implementation boundary clarifies.
This has probably been implicit, common practice among top notch analysts for years. Now specific principles, techniques and work products have been developed to make it available to all practitioners and to broad, standard application. The basics of this approach are described in Chapter 7 - Modeling the Business: Improving Process Modeling through Business Rules - of The Business Rules Revolution
Editor's note: Art and Michael's chapter (#7) was one of my favorites in the book and is one of the best reasons for buying the book. I have blogged before about decision services as a way to manage automated decisions