Analyzing and modeling operational business decisions has become a new industry focal point in the past few years. Business-and-rule-friendly techniques have emerged, and just this year an OMG standard. These resources address such important questions about operational business decisions as:
How are they structured?
How can they be decomposed?
How can you capture related business rules?
Decision engineering also provides an opportunity for a fresh look at decision tables.
Just to be clear, decision tables themselves are not new. They’ve actually been around longer than software engineering, at least back to the 1960s. What’s emerging today is a fresh way of looking at decision tables from a business rather than a software perspective, and important new ideas about how they can help address complexity.
In classifying ‘rules’ I go by the standards … Business Motivation Model (BMM): business policies vs. business rules
Business rules are always practicable – workers can apply them directly.
Business policies are not – they must be interpreted first.
SBVR: definitional rules (necessities) vs. behavioral rules (obligations) vs. advices (possibilities or permissions).
Definitional rules (including decision rules) are about shaping knowledge (and cannot be violated).
Behavioral rules are about shaping conduct (and can be violated).
Advices are non-rules; they provide practicable guidance but do not remove any degree of freedom.
I would add only these observations:
The kinds of rules you see in decision tables are generally definitional. Since they represent only a subset of all definitional rules I call them ‘decision rules’ for convenience.
Condition-Action or Event-Condition-Action (ECA) rules are not business rules at all. They are representations of business rules (for a class of implementation platforms).
My smart phone can tell me in spoken English where the nearest gas station is. It’s only a matter of time before machines start ‘reading’ regulations, contracts, agreements, business policies, etc. to help people formulate (through dialog) practicable (and implementable) business rules. Can you imagine the productivity benefits?!
Decision tables are great. Everybody should use them. But they are a lot harder to design well than you might think.
The DMN standard can move things along significantly … if it is good, and it isn’t overhyped (which it already has been in certain quarters). I’m looking forward to it impatiently. But standardization (in equal parts a political process and a technical process) do take some time!
The answer is no, but read on.
RuleSpeak 3.0 featuring tabulation was just recently released. See http://www.brsolutions.com/b_ipspeakprimers.php (free download). RuleSpeak is structured natural language for expressing business rules in the clearest way possible, yet very precisely.
I know some people argue that decision models will supplant the need to express any and all individual business rules. Pardon me, but that’s either highly uninformed or not-so-innocently misleading.
Having said that, do I think there’s much to be gained from decision analysis and a revival of decision tables (a very old technique)? Absolutely. We’ve been busy fine-tuning methods for a good number of years.
I’m glad we waited. The results speak for themselves. See the new DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak (free downloads) on that same webpage.
All 3 ‘Speaks’ are highly complementary … as of course they should be! You need all these tools to be successful with business rules. By the way, all 3 ‘Speaks’ are business-oriented and tool-independent … as they should be(!).
written in response to Jacob Feldman:http://www.brsolutions.com/2013/05/07/response-to-decisionspeak-tablespeak-annnouncement/
Jacob, Thanks! And I agree with you about the ‘executable’ part.
Our emphasis is on business-friendly, business-driven models. I believe DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak move things forward significantly in that regard. There’s no reason why decision models have to be oriented to IT development. If they are robust, they will nonetheless be executable.
I would sound a note of caution. Decision models are no silver bullet. There are issues of semantics (vocabulary) and integrity (restrictions) to be addressed.
And they don’t cover even the majority of all business rules – especially behavioral rules. If you throw everything you (should) know about business rules out the window when you use decision models, you will be in for a very rude awaking.
I’m glad we did not rush to the market. We’ve taken our time to do our homework with respect to theory (which has been out there for a great many years) and to hone our approach in real-life consulting work.
I think the results speak for themselves!
As part of the April announcement of the new 4th edition of my book Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge, I’m pleased to make available some additional complementary (and complimentary!) downloads: Decision Analysis – A Primer: How to Use DecisionSpeak™ and Question Charts (Q-Charts™) – 49pphttp://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers(free)Decision Tables – A Primer: How to Use TableSpeak™– 121pphttp://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers (free)Tabulation of Lists in Rulespeak®: A Primer – Using “The Following” Clause – 16pp
http://www.brsolutions.com/IPSpeakPrimers(free)We’ve comprehensively written-up state-of-the-art experience and insight in these important areas. I hope you will make the most of them!
P.S. Do have a look at other items of interest: http://goo.gl/WPV7O
Location: Online Interactive Training
Why Attend …Working on developing requirements? Wrestling with complex business process models? Harvesting business rules to implement in a rules engine?
Many professionals are finding there are big gaps in their current approaches:
Their requirements methodology fails to capture and specify decision logic.
Their business process models mangle the logic for making decisions.
Their decision management platforms support implementation but don’t connect to the business.
“We actively use the BRS business-side techniques and train our business analysts in the approach. The techniques bring clarity between our BAs & customers, plus more robust requirements for our development teams. We’ve seen tremendous value.”
Jeanine Bradley – Railinc
“Sessions flow together well and build upon the concepts for the series which makes the learning easy and better retention.
The instructor is knowledgeable and very attentive to the audience given the range of attendees skill and knowledge of the subject at hand. I enjoy her training sessions.”
Deborah – American Family Insurance
“Instructors were very knowledgeable and could clearly explain concepts and convey importance of strategy and architecture.
It was a more comprehensive, holistic approach to the subject than other training. Emphasis on understanding the business prior to technology considerations was reassuring to business stakeholders.”
Bernard – Government of Canada
“A great class that explains the importance of business rules in today’s work place.”