Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence

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The Debate Continues: Expert Systems vs. Business Rules

Here is my latest post in the on-going debate over decision management systems, expert systems, and business rules. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There is a fundamental difference between rules whose intent is enforcement (however strict) vs. rules whose intent is to make (expert) decisions. Rules whose intent is enforcement (e.g., speed limits) revolve around:

* detection of violations (think speed trap) * level of enforcement (e.g., strictly enforced) * violation message (electronic sign flashes ‘You’re speeding’) * violation response (cop chases you down the street with siren) * sanction or penalty (speeding ticket and a fine)

I chose an example that is probably not automatable (never be too sure) because such ‘behavioral rules’ (SBVR term) are everywhere in everyday life and therefore easy to comprehend independently of existing platforms and IT support. But there are a huge number that are automable; we just seem to be blinded to them sometimes for whatever reason (probably technical bias). Behavioral rules would not be involved in diagnosing (deciding) what’s wrong with a missle or classifying (deciding) the risk category of a prospect for insurance. In SBVR those are ‘definitional rules’ (or you could call them decision rules). They are about (encoding the know-how to make) smart (expert) decisions. It is true that decision rules often support behavioral rules in some fashion (e.g., is this particular speeder worth bothering over?). But it always comes down to this fundamental distinction: Is the end-point about enforcement, or is it about a decision. Enforcement and decisions are simply different. Are decision rules and behavioral rules both business rules? Yes. Should they be treated the same by platforms and methodologies? No. Why? They are different. Failing to understand the difference harms both business ‘users’ (poor governance processes) and decision management systems (oversell).

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Ronald G. Ross

Ronald G. Ross

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.

Comments (4)

  • Guo-Guang Chiou

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    Ron, Thanks for detailing the Enforcement of business rules.
    IBM WODM stresses the Decison Services combining event and rule as the foundamental elemnets to support enterprise in making decision. How do you think the Decision Servces offered by IBM WODM are whether the endpoint of enforcemnet or the decision like export systems?

    • Ronald G. Ross

      Ronald G. Ross

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      I try to steer clear of platform-specific questions. The question to ask is whether direct support for enforcement-type rules is offered.

      • Guo-Guang Chiou

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        thanks for the correction.

      • Milan Kratochvil

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        Ron, interesting posts – and a clearthinking article indeed! Explains concisely why the focus in standardization widened in SBVR (all kinds of business rules) compared to core OCL (primarily decision rules).

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