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


We systemize tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge

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Posts Tagged ‘knowledge engineering’

The Point of Knowledge

Excerpted from Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge (4th ed, 2013), by Ronald G. Ross, 162 pp, http://www.brsolutions.com/b_concepts.php For me the point of knowledge (POK) is a real place.  POK is where elements of operational business know-how — business rules — are developed, applied, assessed, re-used, and ultimately retired.  In other words, POK is where business rules happen.  Knowledge is power, so  you can also think about POK as point of empowerment. POK corresponds to point of sale (POS) in the world of commerce.  POK and POS are similar in several ways:
  • In both, something is exchanged.  In POS, it’s goods.  In POK, it’s operational business know-how (from here on I’ll just say know-how).
  • In the world of commerce, we often say that consumer and supplier are parties in point-of-sale events.  Each of us is a consumer in some point-of-sale events, and many of us act as suppliers in others.  The same is true for POK.  Each of us is a consumer of know-how in some POK events, and many of us act as suppliers in others.  Sometimes we switch roles within minutes or even seconds.
  • A well-engineered experience at the point of sale has obvious benefits both for the consumer — a positive buying experience — and for the business of the supplier — real-time intelligence about sales volume, cash flow, buying trends, inventory depletion, consumer profiles, etc.  A well-engineered experience at the POK likewise has obvious benefits.  For the consumer, it means a positive learning experience.  For the business of the supplier, the benefits include real-time intelligence about the ‘hit’ rate of business rules, patterns of evolving consumer (and supplier) behavior, emergence of compliance risks, etc.
The consumer/supplier experience at  the POK is crucial to worker productivity and job satisfaction.  In no small measure, optimizing this experience is the real challenge in POK engineering.  It must  be deliberate.  After all, what’s exchanged  at the POK is know-how — something you can’t carry around in your hands.
Nonetheless, your company’s know-how is very real.  What do I mean by know-how?  MWUD says:

know-howaccumulated practical skill or expertness … especially: technical knowledge, ability, skill, or expertness of this sort

Today, much of your know-how is tacit — lose the people, you lose the know-how they carry in their heads.  How can you avoid that?  Make the know-how explicit as business rules.  That’s what POK are about. Critical success factors in engineering an effective POK include:
  • Communication must be strictly in the language of the business, not IT.
  • Interaction must be gauged to the knowledge level (and authorization) of each individual party.
  • Less-experienced parties playing the consumer role must be enabled to perform as closely as possible to the level of the company’s most experienced workers.
  • Know-how — business rules — must be presented and applied in a succinct, highly-selective fashion.
  • Know-how — business rules — must be presented and applied in a timely fashion (i.e., ‘just-in-time’) to accommodate fast-paced refinement and change in business policies and practices.

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Follow-Up on ‘Harvesting Business Rules’: Business Rules vs. Expert Systems

The guest post by Cecilia Pearce earlier this week (http://goo.gl/QL9zL) stirred up an unexpected controversy, one that deserves clarification – are business rules and expert systems the same? No!  Business Rules  Business rules are organizational rules created for the purpose of running day-to-day business operations. Business rules always have an original source in the form of some law, act, statute, regulation, contract, agreement, business deal, business policy, license, certification, service level agreement, etc. I often like to say that business rules are really about keeping commitments. Expert Rules  In response to Cecilia’s post, Rolando Hernandez explains:

 “If you need to go beyond gathering [i.e., harvesting or mining] business rules to trying to understand “The Knowledge” [sic] that experts know, how experts think and decide, what the expert rules are, or what the higher-level heuristic rules are, then knowledge engineers … will keep using “knowledge acquisition” (KA), “knowledge representation” (KR), and “knowledge engineering” (KE). AI guys know that means.”

In other words, expert rules arise from an individual who is outstanding at his particular knowledge task. That’s very different. Expert Systems  Wikipedia describes expert systems as follows: 

 software that uses a knowledge base of human expertise for problem solving, or to clarify uncertainties where normally one or more human experts would need to be consulted … a traditional application and/or subfield of artificial intelligence (AI)”

Bob Whyte, a practitioner for a major insurance company, makes the following observation about the difference between business rules and expert systems[1]:

“What makes the real-world challenge of managing business rules so much more tractable than it appeared to academics and researchers in the1980s, the heyday of knowledge engineering and expert systems, is that in the day-to-day business world the institution plays role of ‘god’. 

… for business rules the problem is not one of having to discover and define hidden, unknown or unexpressed rules, which takes you into byzantine solution spaces, but rather one of documenting known rules invented overtly and explicitly by actual historical person(s). 

With business rules you are generally not discovering rules no one has ever consciously considered, but rather uncovering rules that some manager, lawyer or other expert decided on one day, but probably did not record simply for lack of an appropriate infrastructure for rulebook management.”

Excellent clarification!
[1] from Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules, by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, An IIBA® Sponsored Handbook, 2011, pp. 257-258http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs 

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