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

TURNING OPERATIONAL KNOWLEDGE & COMPLIANCE INTO A COMPETITIVE EDGE

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How Good Are You at Business Rule Analysis?

mowing-the-lawn[1]Can you understand that all three of the following business rule statements mean the same thing? Here’s what must be true: If you mow the lawn on Sunday your lawn mower is to be electric; otherwise the lawn is not to be mowed on Sunday.

1. It is permitted that the lawn be mowed on Sunday only if the lawn mower is electric.

2. It is prohibited that the lawn is mowed on Sunday if the lawn mower is not electric.

3. It is obligatory that the lawn not be mowed on Sunday if the lawn mower is not electric.

I’m fairly certain you can. And if you can determine they all mean the same thing, I contend a machine ought to be able to do so too. I mean as stated in this exact same human-friendly, structured natural language form. And tell you that the statements mean the same thing (in effect, that they are redundant). That’s the kind of language-smart (cognitive) capability that business innovators should be expecting – no, demanding – from software vendors.

P.S. In the OMG standard Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR) the three statements are a restricted permission statement, a prohibition statement, and an obligation statement, respectively. You might prefer one or another of these forms of statements, but each is correct and reasonably understandable. Here are the RuleSpeak©[1] equivalents – even more friendly:

  1. The lawn may be mowed on Sunday only if the lawn mower is electric.

  2. The lawn must not be mowed on Sunday if the lawn mower is not electric.

  3. (same as 2)

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Get trained: Instructor-led, online, interactive training: April 4-6, 2017 – Business Analysis with Business Rules: From Strategy to Requirements. http://www.brsolutions.com/services/online/strategy-to-requirements/

©Business Rule Solutions, LLC 2017. www.BRSolutions.com

[1] Free on www.RuleSpeak.com

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Is It Really a Business Rule?

communication1A number of years ago, a colleague of ours, Mark Myers, came up with a highly pragmatic test to determine whether some statement represents a business rule or a system rule. 

“Imagine you threw out all the systems running your business and did it all by hand (somehow).  If you still need the statement, it’s a business rule.  If you don’t, it’s not.” 

A colleague on the SBVR[1] standardization team, Don Baisley, puts it another way: 

“Business people don’t set variables and they don’t call functions.”

Business rules represent a form of business communication and must make sense (communicate) to business people.  If some statement doesn’t communicate, it’s not a business rule.  Consider this example: 

If ACT-BL LT 0 then set OD-Flag to ‘yes’. 

Not a business rule.  Consider another example: 

An account must be considered overdrawn if the account balance is less than $0. 

This statement communicates and therefore is a business rule.  Business rules can be technical, but only in terms of the company’s know-how or specialized product/service, not in terms of IT designs or platforms. 

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Excerpted from: Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, 2nd edition, by Ronald G. Ross & Gladys S.W. Lam, 2015

Get the Book: http://www.brsolutions.com/publications/building-business-solutions/ 

Get the Training: Instructor-led, online, interactive training: December 13-15, 2016 – Working with Business Rules: Capture, Specification, Analysis & Management. http://www.brsolutions.com/services/online/working-with-rules/ 

©Business Rule Solutions, LLC 2016. www.BRSolutions.com  

[1] Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR).  First released in January 2008.  Object Management Group.

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Rules in Conflict?

DibertDilbert finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He must use the blue recycling bins for company documents, and he must not use the blue recycling bins for company documents. Ever find yourself in a similar situation?

A conflict within or among some business rule(s) is an anomaly such that multiple states or outcomes are required that cannot all be satisfied simultaneously. In other words, the same circumstances or cases require mutually-exclusive states or outcomes. 

Consider the operational business decision, What is the right delivery method for an order? The potential outcome picked up by customer is mutually exclusive with the potential outcome shipped by normal service. (If an order is picked up it can’t be shipped, and if it’s shipped it can’t be picked up.) If some business rule(s) require(s) both outcomes for the very same circumstances or case, a conflict arises. 

In general, only business people or business analysts can resolve conflicts. They reflect matters of business policy.

Want to get rid of conflicts? First you need to know how to find them (hopefully not the same ones regularly, in weekly meetings), then you need to know how to resolve them. There’s a good deal more to that than meets the eye.

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Excerpted from: Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, 2nd edition, by Ronald G. Ross & Gladys S.W. Lam, 2015

Get the Book: http://www.brsolutions.com/publications/building-business-solutions/  

Get the Training: Instructor-led, online, interactive training: December 13-15, 2016 – Working with Business Rules: Capture, Specification, Analysis & Management. http://www.brsolutions.com/services/online/working-with-rules/  

©Business Rule Solutions, LLC 2016. www.BRSolutions.com

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‘Business Rule’ Means These 3 Things

Software vendors and others mislead people (badly) about the true meaning of business rule. Let’s set the record straight. The OMG standard SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules, 1.4) defines business rule as a rule that is practicable and is under business jurisdiction. The definition has these three parts: (1) rule, (2) practicable, and (3) under business jurisdiction. Let’s look at each part in turn. 1. Rule Rule in business rule means real-world rule – in other words exactly what the dictionary says rule means. Here are the relevant meanings of rule from Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary [MWUD].

guide for conduct or action [MWUD ‘rule’ 1a]

one of a set of usually official regulations by which an activity (as a sport) is governed [e.g.,] *the infield fly rule* *the rules of professional basketball* [MWUD ‘rule’ 1f]

A real-world rule always tends to remove a degree of freedom.  If it does not, it’s not a rule. Also, a real-world rule is declarative. It never does anything. It merely shapes behavior or decisions. If you’re using an approach where rules can actually do things (e.g., execute an action, set a flag or variable, call a function, etc.), they’re not business rules. You’re in TechnologyLand, and a procedural one at that. 2. Under Business Jurisdiction    Business rule includes only rules that the business can opt to change or to discard. A business rule is always under business jurisdiction of your organization. The important point with respect to external regulation and law is that your organization has a choice about how to interpret the regulations and laws for deployment into its day-to-day business activity – and even whether to follow them at all. So external regulations are not business rules per se. Business rules include only the rules that a business creates in response to external regulation. SBVR explains:

“… legislation and regulations may be imposed on [the company]; external standards and best practices may be adopted. 

These things are not business rules from the company’s perspective, since it does not have the authority to change them. 

The company will decide how to react to laws and regulations, and will create business rules to ensure compliance with them.  Similarly, it will create business rules to ensure that standards or best practices are implemented as intended.”

3. Practicable Practicable means a rule is sufficiently detailed and precise that a person who knows about it can apply it effectively and consistently in relevant circumstances. In other words, the person will know what behavior is acceptable or not, or how some concept is to be understood. A practicable business rule is one ready to become a deployed business rule – i.e., applied in day-to-day business activity. Whether the guidance is to be deployed to staff or ultimately to machines is immaterial. You should get the same results either way. Business policies are generally not practicable in this sense. Business rules always are. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Excerpted from: Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, 2nd edition, by Ronald G. Ross & Gladys S.W. Lam, 2015 Get the book:http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php Get the training: Instructor-led, online, interactive training: October 4-6, 2016 – Business Analysis with Business Rules: From Strategy to Requirements. http://www.attainingedge.com/online-training-business-analysis-with-business-rules.php ©Business Rule Solutions, LLC 2016. wwwBRSolutions.com 

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Activity vs Business Rule: Can You Always Tell the Difference?

A Practitioner Wrote:The distinction between activities and business rules becomes very fuzzy when models grow very granular/detailed. Suppose I have a process called “Handle customer inquiries”, and an activity called “Close inquiry”, which has several small sub-steps, one of which is a “Send customer confirmation of solution by email”.  Is that sub-step a rule or an activity? My Answer: No fuzziness whatsoever. Processes – including activities to any level of granularity – always involve a transform. True business rules never do. So ‘Send customer confirmation of solution by email’ is a process (activity step). I can tell because its name starts with the verb ‘send’ in the command form. Suppose the following  had been written instead: “A customer must be sent a confirmation by email when a solution is found.” That’s a business rule. It would apply to any process (activity) anywhere, anytime, even if such process(es) are not modeled. The business rule could be violated, of course, but it would not do (transform) anything. It would exist to ensure consistency (of behavior) everywhere – and not incidentally, a good customer experience. Note I said true business rule. Rule technologies confuse the matter because sometimes their rules do do (i.e., do transform) things. That’s simply a highly unproductive mis-positioning of business rules.

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Pleased to Announce Release of Our New Book Edition!

Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Edition) … Just Out! http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php Get it on Amazon: http://goo.gl/HXxN1f What It’s About: How to develop business solutions working directly with business leads, create blueprints of the solutions, and then use those blueprints for developing system requirements. Engineering business solutions, not just requirements.We have applied the techniques described in this book successfully in hundreds of companies worldwide. Kind Words from a Practitioner: “We have based our whole business rules analysis practice on the methodology and techniques developed by the Business Rules Solution team. This book is an integral part of our practice. It’s an easy to read, useful guide with real life examples – we use it daily and couldn’t do without it!” – Michelle Murray, Inland Revenue Department NZ New in this Edition: How Business Architecture corresponds with your projects and requirements work. Developing a Concept Model and how it will help you. How business rules align with the new terminology in the recently released IIBA® BABOK® Guide version 3. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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Wholeness: Insight for Expressing Business Rules Well

The standard Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR)[1] offers fundamental insights about how to express business rules well. These common-sense insights can and should directly inform all expression of business rules – and any language that purports to support them. The first of these insights is the notion of practicable, which I discussed in my previous post. See: http://www.brsolutions.com/2015/06/29/practicable-insight-for-expressing-business-rules-well/ The second of these insights is the principle of wholeness. The descriptive text below is taken directly from SBVR itself.[2]Wholeness essentially means each business rule statement can be taken as fully trustworthy even in isolation from all other rules. The principle precludes priority schemes and rules that disable other rules, both of which can act to make any given rule less than fully trustworthy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                          Principle: An element of guidance means only exactly what it says, so it must say everything it means. Explanation: Each element of guidance must be self-contained; that is, no need to appeal to any other element(s) of guidance should ever arise in understanding the full meaning of a given element of guidance. The full impact of an element of guidance for a body of shared guidance, of course, cannot be understood in isolation. For example, an element of guidance might be in conflict with another element of guidance, or act as an authorization in the body of shared guidance. The Wholeness Principle simply means that if a body of shared guidance is deemed free of conflicts, then with respect to guidance, the full meaning of each element of guidance does not require examination of any other element of guidance. In other words, each element of guidance can be taken at face value for whatever it says. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] For more information about SBVR see the SBVR Insider section on www.BRCommunity.com.

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Practicable: Insight for Expressing Business Rules Well

The standard Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR)[1] offers fundamental insights about how to express business rules well. These common-sense insights can and should directly inform all expression of business rules – and any language that purports to support them. The first of these insights is the notion of practicable. The descriptive text below is taken directly from SBVR itself.[2]Practicable essentially means all ambiguity has been resolved. As a result, a practicable business rule can be given either to workers to apply ‘manually’, or to IT to implement under some platform, and the results will be exactly the same either way (barring human error or malfeasance). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Definition: the element of guidance is sufficiently detailed and precise that a person who knows the element of guidance can apply it effectively and consistently in relevant circumstances to know what behavior is acceptable or not, or how something is understood Dictionary Basis: able to be done or put into practice successfully; able to be used, useful [Oxford Dictionary of English] Notes:
  • The sense intended is: “It’s actually something you can put to use or apply.”
  • The behavior, decision, or calculation can be that person’s own.
  • Whether or not some element of guidance is practicable is decided with respect to what a person with legitimate need can understand from it.
    • For a behavioral rule, this understanding is about the behavior of people and what form compliant behavior takes.
    • For a definitional rule, this understanding is about how evaluation of the criteria vested in the rule always produces some certain outcome(s) for a decision or calculation as opposed to others.
  • A practicable business rule is also always free of any indefinite reference to people (e.g., “you,” “me”), places (e.g., “here”), and time (e.g., “now”). By that means, if the person is displaced in place and/or time from the author(s) of the business rule, the person can read it and still fully understand it, without (a) assistance from any machine (e.g., to “tell” time), and (b) external clarification.
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] For more information about SBVR see the SBVR Insider section on www.BRCommunity.com.

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Good News From Business Rules: #1 – Rule Independence

Rule Independence[1] means that business rules are expressed directly, rather than embedded (and lost) in the flow of processes or application programs. That way the rules can be managed as an asset in their own right, separately from other artifacts. When people hear ‘separately’ sometimes they think that business processes and business rules are isolated from one another and never ‘talk’. No. You simply want to let them ‘bind’ as close to real-time business operation (‘run-time’) as possible. ‘Separately’ also means you can:
  • Represent business rules in their natural form – declaratively – rather than procedurally.
  • Simplify processes hugely, while at the same time create far more agile solutions.
Rule independence yields another benefit – reusability. By externalizing business rules from applications, you can single-source your business logic. Methodologies for business analysis that are comprehensively rule-friendly do exist and have been proven in practice.[2] They show you how to:
  • Capture, express and validate business rules.
  • Work with the business rules in the context of other deliverables.
  • Set up the business rules to be managed for the long term.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1] The idea of Rule Independence was formalized by The Business Rules Manifesto, a 2003 work product of the Business Rules Group. The manifesto is now in 18 languages, with more on the way. http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm
[2] BRS BABusinessSpeak is an example. Refer to the second edition of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam (to be published mid-2015). http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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Fundamental Challenges Facing Your Business: #1 – Business Agility

Charles Darwin is reported to have said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Becoming more responsive to change is simply not optional these days. Consider the current state of affairs in IT today. The statistics are depressing. Reliable sources indicate that over 75% of all IT resources go toward system ‘maintenance’. That’s not agile! In the second of edition of Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, Gladys Lam and I describe this world as like living in change deployment hell[1]. You might say that legacy systems are poorly engineered, but I believe that misses the mark. Rather, perhaps they are be over-engineered. What happens when you over-engineer something? The solution you produce is too stiff or too rigid or too cumbersome for the real-world problem. Think ‘tree that doesn’t bend with the wind’. The speed of business is accelerating, yet the architecture of traditionally-built systems is rigid and static. The fundamental problem in this regard is embedding business rules within the systems themselves. If you hard-code business rules into application logic, they will be hard to find, hard to understand, and even harder to change. Do we really want to keep building systems that way?! Make no mistake about it – many business rules will change. So if you continue hard-coding business rules into systems, you will be revisiting the code … a lot! That might be a good thing for service providers, but it’s not a good thing for the business. The obvious solution is to engineer business rules separately from functional requirements. Can you do that cleanly and effectively? Absolutely. It’s been proven many, many times. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com


[1]Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, 2nd edition (to be published in mid-2015), an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, pp 8-9. http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php

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