Re-engineering knowledge work is the central problem of the knowledge economy. In recent work at Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and current work a major bank in Canada we used RuleSpeak® to create what I call a “single source of truth for operational business IP (intellectual property)”. This is far more than a conceptual data model. Beyond structured business vocabulary its central feature is comprehensive rules. It may be like what some professionals call a “conceptual ontology” (as opposed to an operational ontology to be embedded in IT systems). But we would never use the term “ontology” in our work. Most business people and SMEs simply wouldn’t ‘get’ that.The idea is that all audiences (or subcommunities) in an organization should work off a single trusted source of explicit know-how (business vocabulary and business rules), no matter what their specific responsibilities:
producing training materials for line workers.
making changes in operational policies.
providing proof of compliance for auditors.
creating new products.
communicating with IT.
Here are some key observations about our work to create a single source of business truth:
Our primary audience is not IT. Yet our work is of sufficient precision that straightforward translation into an implementation form can basically be taken as a ‘given’.
Our approach recognizes that people are the essential ingredient in business (as opposed to other kinds of knowledge problems). People can violate rules. For coordinating the work of people, direct support for behavioral rules, not just definitional or decision rules, is a must.
Our work could not be undertaken without a structured natural language for business rules like RuleSpeak. The non-IT audiences do need rich business semantics, but they have no desire whatsoever to become semantic programmers. They simply would not commit if the work were conducted on that basis.
No one today knows what the optimal syntax is for expressing all forms of business know-how in all circumstances. I suspect there isn’t one. That fact, plus the exponential increase in computer capability for processing natural language, indicates clearly that focusing on syntax is simply the wrong direction. RuleSpeak is based on, and was one of the reference languages for SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules, on OMG standard), which supports a non-syntax approach. A language for ‘speaking’ with computers that is not a computer language – now that’s an idea whose time has definitely come!
I’ve been writing a lot recently about the knowledge economy and what makes a business smart. Let me dig a little deeper. The kind of knowledge I’m talking about might be better described as know-how.
know-how: accumulated practical skill or expertness … especially: technical knowledge, ability, skill, or expertness of this sort
Know-how that you can encode and retain is represented by business rules and the structured business vocabularies (concept models) on which the business rules are based. Know-how is a subset, a small one probably, of knowledge. Briefly, knowledge can range from practical to theoretical, from certain to probabilistic, and from frequently applicable to infrequently applicable. At the risk of saying the obvious, you can’t run the day-to-day operations of a business on knowledge that is theoretical, probabilistic, or infrequently applicable. In short, business rules are about know-how management, a strictly limited subset of knowledge management.Like knowledge, know-how can be either tacit (in people’s heads) or explicit. The classic test for when knowledge is tacit is ‘lose the person, lose the knowledge’. Obviously you want to retain know-how. As a senior manager recently put it, “No organization should depend on absent brains.”
know-how retention: expressing know-how explicitly in a form understandable by business people and business analysts, and managing the know-how, such that it is always available for future reference or use (by those capable and authorized)
The over-time infrastructure needed to retain know-how is provided by a general rulebook system (GRBS). It’s what rule management should really be all about.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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, 2011, 304 pp,http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs
“A great class that explains the importance of business rules in today’s work place.”
Christopher – McKesson
“You did a wonderful job!! The material was organized and valuable.”
Janell – Texas State University
“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
“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
“Your work has been one of the foundations of my success in our shared passion for data integration. It has had a huge impact on innumerable people!”