Enabling Operational Excellence
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What do you need for success in managing business rules as a business proposition, not an IT responsibility?

Guest Post by Alexander Davidge ~~~~~~~ Alexander’s response to the title question, and to my post: http://goo.gl/fn96B … My reply and a prediction below. Firstly Ron, it is absolutely a business space and responsibility. However, understanding the architecture of information and systems will as often as not be required. There are many areas with typically high IT asosociations such as this where the “double deep” professional is needed (workflow management and orchestration, web marketing, business intelligence, etc., etc.) — i.e. individuals who have to know their business or operations subject matter in depth but have a level of mastery over their IT too to really excel. From my limited exposure I would say a common problem is one of incorrect balance.

1. The IT capital or project investment (which is easy to articulate on a balance sheet or business case) overshadows the governance or talent need.

2. The expertise or lack thereof of … a user base oversteers the direction rather than an informed senior level assessment and direction.

3. The urgent and important crowds out the long term, and a business rulebook rapidly becomes riddled with exceptions and loses value and credibility.

So I don’t see it as much about a binary challenge between business and IT responsibilities, but the IT problem being a common and prominent example of a lack of executive sponsorship and stewardship. It’s almost trite to say the fix has to start with an executive appreciation of the value followed by ownership and commitment to making it work. Find a business problem or opportunity which doesn’t fit that profile! So not a very helpful reply I’m afraid. What are your thoughts Ron? Where do you see the malaise being resolved (if at all)? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My reply … Alexander, Well said. Unfortunately I can’t disagree with any of your points. There are a great many vested interests and other sources of inertia lined up against it. So we’ll just have to keep plugging away with the message, showing success stories, and motivating change. I’ve been at it for the best part of 15 years … I have no intention of giving up as long as I’m living and breathing. Now this part might surprise you. In the long run the whole equation will change. The fundamental problem lies with the fact that business rules still have to be programmed. (Even production rules are programming.) Take programmers out of the business of implementing rules, put business analysts and skilled writers in their place (with appropriate tools), and the current economics of rule management (and IT as a whole) can be improved by at least an order of magnitude. There is a sea change coming, tsunami in proportions. Most people will be blindsided by it. It will happen sometime within this decade. Mark my words.

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Business Rule Manifesto FAQs Added to BRCommunity.com

I am pleased to announce that a comprehensive set of authoritative FAQs about the Business Rules Manifesto has been added to BRcommunity.com: http://www.brcommunity.com/brm.php The Manifesto is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year – and remains as powerful and as vibrant to today’s business challenges as ever. I will be covering a good many of its insights in my Sunday tutorial, Business Rules: The Why and the What, at this year’s Business Rules Forum conference, part of BBC2012 (Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, Ft. Lauderdale, FL): http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/ The FAQs explain in-depth how the Manifesto relates to a great many pressing issues on today’s business agenda, including …
    • Requirements
    • Business Processes
    • Business Analysis
    • Business Agility
    • Enterprise Architecture
    • Zachman Framework  
    • Knowledge Retention
    • Events
    • Enforcement
The new BRCommunity Insider also provides insight into the general positioning and structure of the Manifesto, as well as point-by-point clarification of individual Principles. The Manifesto is just 2-pages and free. It has now been translated into some 15 languages: http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm The Manifesto is a rare thing in our field – a timeless work that seems more and more prescient which each passing year.

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What Rulebooks, Rulebook Management and GRBS Are About

You can find definitions and discussion of all terms in blue on Business Rule Community: http://www.brcommunity.com/BBSGlossary.pdf ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ rulebook:  the collection of elements of guidance for a business capability, along with the terms, definitions, and wordings that support them

Discussion:  The rulebook of a game enumerates all the do’s and don’ts (rules) of that game along with the terms and definitions (vocabulary) needed to understand the rules.  Each participant in the game, whether player, coach, referee or umpire, scout, spectator, or media person, is presumed to understand and adhere to the rules to the extent his or her role in the activity requires.  The rulebook sometimes suggests how to play the game to maximum advantage, but never dictates playing strategy.

Similarly, a rulebook in business includes the business rules (and advices) needed to perform day-to-day operational business activity correctly or optimally, along with the structured business vocabulary (fact model) needed to understand the business rules correctly.  Each participant in the business activity must adhere to the business rules to the extent his or her role requires.  The rulebook never dictates business strategy, but should reflect, enforce, and measure it. 

Unlike the rules for a game, however, business rules change, often quite rapidly.  Therefore knowing the original source of each business rule, its know-why, and its full history of modifications, as well as how and where the business rule is currently deployed, is essential in effective rulebook management.

rulebook management:  the skills, techniques and processes needed to express, analyze, trace, retain, and manage the business rules needed for day-to-day business activity general rulebook system (GRBS):  an automated, specialized, business-level platform for rulebook management

Discussion:  Key features of a general rulebook system (GRBS) include rich, interactive support for structured business vocabularies (fact models) and comprehensive traceability for business rules (not software requirements). 

Unlike a business rule engine (BRE) a GRBS is not run-time.  Think of a GRBS as more or less like a general ledger system, except for Business Analysts.  Because of the potential of GRBS to support compliance and accountability, a GRBS is indispensable for improved business governance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, An IIBA® Sponsored Handbook, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, October, 2011, 304 pp, http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs  

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‘Rules of Record’ … Why ‘System of Record’ Isn’t Enough

Business computing today is characterized by a tangled web of interfaces and data movement from system to system, from source to sink. Knowing the official ‘systems of record’ is basic for resolving discrepancies and demonstrating compliance. But that’s merely a start. What your business really needs today is to know the rules of record. A focus on business rules, rule management, and decision management makes that possible. This post explains. First a little background. If every piece of data in the organization had a single, clear home, identifying official versions would be easy. But in today’s world, operational data is extracted, merged, massaged, re-platformed, and reported many times over, often obscuring original sources. Identifying a ‘system of record’ establishes which source is official for each element (or chunk) of data. In other words, it gives you physical traceability back to source.[1] That’s a first and very basic step for compliance. What physical traceability doesn’t do is explain why that source may have a different value from the copy of the data you’re actually seeing. You might call that difference semantic drift (although that term probably dignifies what often is just plain sloppiness about the meaning and use of data). Since you can’t be sure what rules were applied to create the official version, you can’t easily do a delta on what you’re actually seeing. In other words, you have no semantic traceability back to source. From a compliance point of view, knowing the rules for source data is paramount. Of course, if those rules never changed, you might be able to reconstruct them at an acceptable price when and as needed for compliance. But today, change — at an ever faster pace — is the name of the game. Add massive personalization and customization to the mix and you quickly reach an impossible threshold of complexity and expense. The solution is simply never putting yourself in a position of having to reconstruct rules. Rather, you want to manage rules in such way to keep them ‘on the record’ — i.e., to maintain rules of record for each operational business decision your company makes. Impossible? Not at all. That’s exactly what business rules, rule management, and decision management is all about. There is proven technology to support it.[2] All you need to do is change how you look at the problem. References [1] For additional background on ‘system of record’ see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_of_record http://www.yourwindow.to/information-security/gl_systemofrecord.htm [2] For example, Raden and Taylor write, “Logging rules as they execute to create a record of how a decision was made is a common requirement of decision services. They can be managed like a typical logging requirement, except that using business rules makes it easier. Using business rules also makes it possible to use the logged information in both customer-facing and regulatory conversations, because the rules are more user-friendly.” James Taylor and Neil Raden, Smart (Enough) Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions, Prentice-Hall (June 2007), ISBN: 0132347962, p. 358. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The original version of this post appeared as: “‘Rules of Record’ ~ Why ‘System of Record’ Isn’t Enough,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan. 2008) http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2008/b385.html

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Black Swans, Business Rules, and Strategy – Re-Clarified

Let me re-clarify what I am, and am not, saying about business rules and black swans. There’s been some confusion. I did not say that preparing for or responding to black swans is all about business rules. (I’m not that naive!) I did say, however, that business rules “… build robustness to negative [black swans] that occur and being able to exploit positive ones” [Taleb’s words]. My main point is this: If you don’t have ready access to your current business rules (i.e., know what they are in depth), then when a black swan occurs you can’t immediately undertake to respond to negative ones, and exploit positive ones. (See: http://goo.gl/Ny2Cn) A colleague wrote: “For example, Taleb cites 9/11 as an example of a black swan. What business rules would prevent or allow successful response to that?” I make no suggestions about prevention. Hindsight is 20-20. But successful response? You need to quickly review what your current business practices (business rules) are …
  • Permissible carry-ons. Box-cutter knives? Immediately banned. Any other sharp items including silverware for meals, banned.
  • Access to the cockpit. Special barriers (food cart, steward(ess)) put in a blocking position when a pilot exits the cockpit to use the lavatory. Doors locks reinforced.
We learn as we go. Amounts of liquid over a certain threshold, banned. Shoes must be removed at security. Souvenir ‘blizzard’ globes, banned. You want to roll out these new business rules fast(!). If you don’t know what business rules you already have in place, you simply can’t respond as fast you need to. Make no mistake, most businesses today sadly don’t really know what their current business rules are. That’s what I’m saying!

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Black Swans, Business Rules, and Strategy – Continued

I’ve gotten a lot of excellent response to yesterday’s post on black swans. Let me summarize yesterday’s points and continue the line of thought.

a. Business rules cannot be used to help protect against unforeseeable events that have not already happened. b. Business analysts can assess unforeseeable events (black swans) and develop business rules to cater for their potential recurrence.

c. If you don’t have ready access to your current business rules (i.e., know what they are in depth), then when a black swan occurs you can’t immediately undertake point b.

Point c is actually where my emphasis lies. The result is that the organization remains vulnerable for recurrence (and copycat malicious attacks) for a much longer period than necessary (or desirable). How long extra? At least days, more likely weeks, sometimes months. What most organizations don’t realize today is that they don’t actually know what their business rules are. Before they can even begin to rethink business practices in-depth they have to send out ‘scouts’ (business analysts and IT professionals) to discover their current business rules (from people’s heads, source code, procedure manuals, documentation, etc., etc.). When the scouts do find the current business practices (business rules), they have to sort through redundancy, inconsistency, gaps and conflicts. That’s simply no way to run a business! There’s no single-sourcing of business rules, no official, authoritative ‘rulebook’, no structured corporate memory. The result is huge loss of time and energy. The problem is so big it’s hard to see. We simply have to face up to the fact that current methodologies produce a crippled business governance process. And yes, the situation *is* that bad! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ P.S. To single-source business rules and retain corporate memory about them, we recommend a ‘general rulebook system’. See http://www.brcommunity.com/BBSGlossary.pdf (page 30) for quick explanation.

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Business Policies vs. Business Rules: What’s the Big Difference Anyway?

The relevant standard on the question is OMG’s Business Motivation Model (BMM). I prefer the English (not UML) version: http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/second_paper/BRG-BMM.pdf. Business policies and business rules are both ‘elements of guidance’. The difference is that business policies are not practicable, whereas business rules always are.  A business rule must be ready to deploy to the business, whether to workers or to IT (i.e., as a ‘requirement’). So business policies must be interpreted and refined to turn them into business rules. An example I often use:

Business Policy: Safety is our first concern.

Business Rule: A hard hat must be worn in a construction site.

It’s very important to retain information about these interpretations for the sake of traceability. That’s at the heart of business rule management. Business policies are an integral part of strategy. In general, we find only 2-3% of business rules trace directly back to strategy. But those *core* business rules are very, very important (to enforce and monitor). One last point: Business rules must be expressed in a form that is understandable to business workers (who are authorized and capable). What IT usually specifies or implements as ‘business rules’ aren’t. They might be rules, but not business rules. And what do I mean by “rule”? Exactly what it means in the real world – ‘guide for conduct or action’ (Merriam-Webster Unabridged).

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Business Rules and Expert Systems/AI … Friends or Foes?

There are very important differences in the traditions of business rules vs. expert systems. Perhaps that’s why business rules had a completely different origin. In any case, they didn’t start finding each other until the late 1990s. (The first Business Rules Forum Conference was in 1997 … and every year since except in 2000.) The general goal of expert systems was broadly to mimic intelligent behavior – any kind of intelligent behavior. As a colleague put it, that’s like trying to read the mind of God. Human behavior (even the not-so-intelligent kind) is exceeding complex. The goal of business rules was always to capture the rules of organizations, not individuals. That’s one or two or more orders of magnitude easier – those rules have to come from somewhere … and that ‘somewhere’ was originally knowable (even if an arbitrary design decision by some programmer). So the issue with business rules is as much about business traceability (rule management) as it is expression. This problem goes right to the very heart of business governance and business agility. Continuing to embed business rules in procedural code (a) makes the business rules very difficult to trace, and (b) very difficult and expensive to change. It’s like setting the rules in concrete. It also precludes the possibility in the future of supporting specification-time detection of anomalies and intelligent dialogs to help Business Analysts remove ambiguity. For business rules, it ultimately comes down to the words you use and ‘remembering’ the interpretations made of them. There’s no way to demonstrate compliance without words, and no way to support transparency and accountability without traceability. The solution to all these problems, which are problems of business governance and therefore business engineering, leads inevitably in one direction. That’s why I’ve put so much time into researching business rules since the early 1990s and before. (Originally we thought in terms of databases and integrity constraints, another difference in origin from expert systems.) It’s also why I’ve spent so much time on the SBVR standard over the past 6 years or more. (At the risk of oversimplifying hugely, SBVR is about words and sentences.) The bottom-line: The way we do things today simply has to change. Change does take time. It also takes false starts and trial-and-error. But we’ll get there. Hey, business automation is barely one human generation old. That’s incredibly fast in the big scheme of things. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  Read more about the history of business rules: http://www.brcommunity.com/history.php    

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Business Analysis & Business Rules – Announcing Our New Book and BBC 2011 Conference – **Special Discounts** for Friends and Colleagues

Let me mention two important things happening soon and special discounts for them – Both discounts good only through **Friday, September 30**   1. ANNOUNCING OUR NEW BOOK … Coming in October! BUILDING BUSINESS SOLUTIONS: BUSINESS ANALYSIS WITH BUSINESS RULES … an IIBA Sponsored Handbook (304pp) … It’s all about taking Business Analysis to the next level of capability.  http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs >> Receive 25% off the book’s list price of $39.95 if you pre-order now. Use discount code **BBS1001**.  2. BUILDING BUSINESS CAPABILITIES CONFERENCE (BBC 2011) … Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/  The must-attend conference of the year covering all things ‘business’.  Four conferences in one for a total of 9 tracks on pace this year to be a sell-out!  >> Receive a 15% discount on registration. Use discount code **RRBBCFL**.  * Business Analysis Forum, the Official Conference of the IIBA. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/baf/ * 14th annual Business Rules Forum Conference. http://www.businessrulesforum.com/ * The 1st annual Business Architecture Summit. http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com/bas/ * The Business Process Forum. http://www.businessprocessforum.org/

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Are BPM and EA a Perfect Match? … With Business Rules Far Better!

@SergeThorn asks “Are Business Process Management and Business Architecture a perfect match?” http://goo.gl/kLYvs With business rules far better! There is an important overlap of concerns between business rules and enterprise architecture. The overlap actually comes in two forms: 1. Operation-time. Here the issue is really rethinking compliance. I just blogged about this today: http://goo.gl/Gl9wT 2. Business-analysis-time. A business needs to know the rules it plays by. That inevitably brings you to rulebook management. For more: http://www.brcommunity.com/b500.php?zoom_highlight=rulebook (and other articles).

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