Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
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Enabling Operational Excellence


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Posts Tagged ‘structured natural language’

Everyday Always-On Compliance

circle of handsTo speak plainly, most companies have no coherent strategy for integrated compliance. Laws, regulations, contracts, deals, agreements, guarantees, warranties, etc. all represent business obligations, the very essence of business rules.

What form of traceability is needed for business obligations? Traceability from governing rules to automated rules, where:

  • Governing Rules include acts, laws, statutes, regulations, contracts, MOUs, agreements, terms & conditions, deals, bids, deeds of sale, warranties, guarantees, prospectuses, citations, certifications, notices, and business policies
  • Automated Rules include code tables, parameter settings, procedural code, implementation rule statements, help messages, etc.

Governing rules provide the baseline for running the business. These governing rules must be interpreted and supplemented, ultimately getting implemented in a wide array of platforms and tools.

In most companies today there is virtually no traceability for obligations between governing rules and automated rules. There’s an abyss, a big black hole, where there should be ready knowledge. Where does that leave the company?

  • Companies’ corporate memory is riddled with disconnects and gaps. Going back in time, it is difficult or impossible to determine who interpreted what governing rules into what implementation components, or why they did it the way they did.
  • Companies consequently are deeply dependent on hero-professionals to retain tacit knowledge. You hope they remember things correctly and thoroughly – and that they don’t leave the company.

A solution to the compliance challenge requires rethinking and reworking the traceability landscape for obligations to feature three layers of rules, not just two. The middle layer, practicable rules, is key.

practicable rule: an expression of a business rule that a capable (authorized) worker can read and understand and decide directly whether or not the business is in compliance in all circumstances to which the rule applies

Practicable rules are ones you can run the business by, whether or not ultimately automated. They should be expressed in structured natural language (e.g., RuleSpeak®) based on business (not IT or data) vocabulary. Here is an example:

An account may be considered overdrawn only if cash withdrawal is greater than the current balance of the account.

The acid test for whether a business rule is practicable is this:

You can give the statement either to a knowledgeable worker for use in day-to-day business operations to apply manually, or give to IT for implementation in an automated system, and get the same results either way.

Is that possible?! Absolutely!

The re-engineered landscape for compliance and traceability reveals the two distinct interpretations that need to be tracked:

  1. First, governing rules are interpreted into practicable rules.
  2. Second, those practicable rules that can be automated (by no means all of them) are interpreted into specifications that automated platforms can execute.

The key to operational excellence for compliance is committing both kinds of interpretations explicitly to automated corporate memory right as they happen.

By the way, business-side rule management does not have to be pursued at an enterprise scale. You can start out at any scale, including the project level. 


Read more about the Big-5 business challenges: http://www.brcommunity.com/articles.php?id=b904

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Business Rules ‘Floating in Space’? Not!

Business rules do not ‘float in space’. They mean only what the words they use are defined to mean. So they are tied directly to business vocabulary (concept model), which in turn is represented in a system by a data model or class diagram. These days if approaches for business systems don’t step up to semantics, they’re simply not state-of-the-art. BTW, with machines more powerful every day, they should be ‘stepping up’. That means direct support for structured natural language – e.g., RuleSpeak. ~~~~~~ See the latest on RuleSpeak 3.0 (free download): http://www.brsolutions.com/b_ipspeakprimers.php

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Why Business Rules Will Always Remain in Structured Natural Language

I was reading a fascinating article in The Economist about how robots, including military drones and driverless automobiles, increasingly need ethical guidance[1]. What does that have to do with business rules, you ask? Read on … In the next five years, software systems will begin to appear that bypass programming going more or less straight from regulations, contracts, agreements, deals, certifications, warranties, etc. (written in English or other natural language) to executing code. Think about the economics of the equation! If for no other reason (and there are many others), you’ll quickly see the why a snowballing migration to such platforms is inevitable. And these tools will do the same for business rules based on business policies. I said more or ‘more or less’ above because the tool will have to make certain assumptions about the meaning of what it ‘reads’. For example, if I say, “a person must not be married to more than one other person” most of us would probably assume that means “at a given point in time”. But automated tools could easily be held responsible for making the wrong interpretation. It should therefore err on the safe side, and at the very least, log all its reasoning. That’s where the article comes in. Concerning robots that make liability-laden decisions, it contends that principles are needed …

“… to determine whether the designer, the programmer, the manufacturer or the operator is at fault if an autonomous drone strike goes wrong or a driverless car had an accident. In order to allocate responsibility, autonomous systems must keep detailed logs so that they can explain the reasoning behind their decisions when necessary.” [emphasis added]

That explanation better be in a form that humans (and lawyers too) can actually read. That means structured natural language. The article went on to make the following astute observation …

“This has implications for system design: it may, for example, rule out the use of artificial neural networks … decision-making systems that learn from example rather than obeying predefined rules.”

Right! Where there is social liability, there will always be natural language. P.S. To vendors: If your meaning of ‘business rule’ doesn’t compel you toward this debate, then you’re simply not really doing ‘business rules’(!).

[1] “Morals and the Machine”, The Economist, June 2, 2012, p. 15

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