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Rules: Shaping Behavior and Knowledge By Ronald G. Ross

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Your Guide to Real-World Rules

This book is about rules for groups and communities of people (including their data). The goal? Shaping behavior and communicating business knowledge, not simply mimicking human intelligence. It's exactly what you need for governance, traceability, and the human touch so often missing in digital solutions.

About Rules

Rules are not actions and not processes. Nor are they instructions or commands. Rules are something else, something special.

Confusion abounds about what rules are. What makes a statement special when you call it a rule? What restrictions does that place on how the statement is expressed? What special opportunities does it raise? These are crucial questions, some of the most fundamental you can ask.

Time for a fresh look. Rules are almost certainly not what you think they are. And that lack of understanding is holding us back.

By the author who literally wrote the book on business rules!

"For the longest time I've been encouraged by family, friends and colleagues to write down everything I've learned about rules over a lifetime of hands-on consulting, research, and standards work. So, I did. This book is the result. It accurately distills much of what I've learned about rules in what is hopefully highly readable form. I believe you'll benefit from it, no matter what your professional orientation. We literally all have rules in common!"

– Ron Ross

Who Is This Book For?

  • Policy Maker
  • Policy Advisor
  • Policy Interpreter
  • Legislative Drafter
  • Rule Maker
  • Regulator
  • Compliance Officer
  • Legal Staff
  • Contract Drafter
  • Auditor
  • Risk Analyst
  • Decision Modeler
  • Rule Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Requirements Engineer
  • Product Owner
  • Data Quality Professional
  • Data Governance Professional
  • Business Process Manager
  • Business Process Analyst
  • Business System Analyst
  • Business Software Developer

If your role or responsibility involves one or more of the above, you'll find a treasure trove of practical ideas in this book you can apply in your daily responsibilities.

Being rule-based is the most basic characteristic of Western civilization. If you want to deeply understand rules, look no further. Here's how to be rule-based about anything involving groups and communities of people, including their knowledge!

This Book Will Show You How To:

  • Create better rules
  • Insert sentiment, human discretion, and common sense into real-time business activity
  • Express data constraints in natural language
  • Distinguish rules and requirements
  • Chose the right form to express rules and guidance
  • Communicate guidance clearly and completely
  • Identify defects in rules
  • Reduce ambiguity in all forms of guidance
  • Treat exceptions to rules
  • Handle violations of rules
  • Interpret policy into practicable rules ready to deploy
  • Bridge the gap between laws, regulations, and contracts — and automation
  • Address problems in data quality
  • Disseminate knowledge in real time
  • Improve your governance processes

What Reviewers Say

"… essential reading for anyone involved in business change; crucial for anyone undertaking business analysis." – Adrian Reed [read more]

"… reminds us about the importance of clear rules and policies for any organization caring about people experience across its processes." – Gilles Morin [read more]

"… groundwork for an engineered way of communication between business experts and developers that allows knowledge to be shared at the right level." – Antonio Catalá & Amir de la Torre [read more]

"… a must read for any governance professional." – Bas van der Raadt [read more]

"… concise and to the point, accessible for many disciplines and relevant to a large public. I highly recommend it." – Charlotte Bouvy [read more]

"By capturing and interpreting rules, I always feel we understand things deeply and clearly." – Eric Brown [read more]

"… should be well-thumbed, annotated in the margins, and full of sticky notes. Get it, internalize it, act on it." – Fred Simkin [read more]

"... a nice, clear read. Stresses the importance of (good) behavioral rules, proper automation, and direct support for violations." – Jan Vanthienen [read more]

"… engaging style. Recommended reading for legislative drafters. Remarkable the main textbooks don't really deal with how rules work." – Matthew Waddington [read more]

"… your go-to book for understanding rules and all the ways we can use them in the world around us." – Jasmine Lee [read more]

"… how to move business rules from unclear and ill-considered diktats to thought-through and clear boundaries that promote freedom." – Alex Hamilton [read more]

"… lighthearted and fun, but still potent. Why has this crucial message not been getting through to people?!" – Kim Schilling [read more]

"Every analyst writing a definition, constraint, rule, or guideline should learn from Ron's guidance. The result is easy to understand and follow." – Silvie Spreeuwenberg [read more]

"… explains rules in clear, accessible language, along with their place in the landscape of business concept modeling and ontologies." – Mike Bennett [read more]

"The combination of perspectives is absolutely outstanding." – Markus Schacher [read more]

"Full of valuable insights and practical advice not only for people new to the topic, but also for seasoned experts." – Patrick Grässle [read more]

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Part I. About Rules

Chapter I-1. What Rules Do for Us

Chapter I-2. What Rules Are

Chapter I-3. The Two Fundamental Kinds of Rules

Chapter I-4. About Violations of Behavioral Rules

Chapter I-5. About Definitional Rules: What Counts?

Part II. Expressing Rules

Chapter II-1. Being Practicable

Chapter II-2. Being Declarative

Chapter II-3. Being Factual

Chapter II-4. Being Complete

Chapter II-5. Being Unambiguous

Part III. Analyzing Rules

Chapter III-1. Discovery of Rules

Chapter III-2. Discovery of Flash Points

Chapter III-3. Discovery of Messages

Part IV. Rule Quality

Chapter IV-1. Exceptions

Chapter IV-2. Anomalies

Chapter IV-3. Knock-Out Rules

Part V. Permissions, Authorizations, and Rights

Chapter V-1. Permissions

Chapter V-2. Authorizations

Chapter V-3. Rights

Conclusion: Rule Platforms in Business & Government


Appendix A. Concept Model Diagram for Factual Expression of Rules

Appendix B. Ensuring Logical Consistency of Guidance

Appendix C. About Decision Tables

Appendix D. A Word About 'Decision'

Appendix E. Concept Models and Their Representation

Appendix F. Modalities: Forms of Guidance

Appendix G. Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

Appendix H. Sample Enforcement Levels for Behavioral Rules

Appendix I. Warranties

Appendix J. Usage Constraints for Applicability Conditions

Appendix K. Why Not Use IF-THEN Syntax

Appendix L. The Relationship of Facts and Data

Appendix M. Structural Forms of Expression for Rules

Appendix N. Use of 'WHEN'

Appendix O. Flash Points and Definitional Rules

Appendix P. Eliminating Programmer Workload for Rules

Appendix Q. Definitions, Rules, and Logical Implications



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Who is Ron Ross

Ron is one of the world's foremost authorities on policy interpretation, rules, concept models, business vocabulary, and data design. He is Co-Founder and Principal of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (BRS). At BRS, he has consulted to many hundreds of companies and government bodies around the globe.

Ron is the author of 12 professional books, including Business Knowledge Blueprints: Enabling Your Data to Speak the Language of the Business, 2nd ed. (2020), on structured business vocabulary, definitions, and concept models. He was author of the classic book on business rules, Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge, 4th ed. (2013) and the popular Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, 2nd ed. with Gladys S.W. Lam (2015).

Ron is Chair of Building Business Capabilities (BBC), the official conference of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®). He was a founder and principal in standards work at OMG on SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules).

Ron has keynoted dozens of conferences and given seminars to many thousands of people worldwide. He is currently Executive Editor of BRCommunity.com and its flagship online publication, Business Rules Journal. From 1977-1998 he was editor of the landmark Data Base Newsletter.

Ron holds an M.S. in information science from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a B.A. from Rice University.