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What Rulebooks, Rulebook Management and GRBS Are About

You can find definitions and discussion of all terms in blue on Business Rule Community: http://www.brcommunity.com/BBSGlossary.pdf ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ rulebook:  the collection of elements of guidance for a business capability, along with the terms, definitions, and wordings that support them

Discussion:  The rulebook of a game enumerates all the do’s and don’ts (rules) of that game along with the terms and definitions (vocabulary) needed to understand the rules.  Each participant in the game, whether player, coach, referee or umpire, scout, spectator, or media person, is presumed to understand and adhere to the rules to the extent his or her role in the activity requires.  The rulebook sometimes suggests how to play the game to maximum advantage, but never dictates playing strategy.

Similarly, a rulebook in business includes the business rules (and advices) needed to perform day-to-day operational business activity correctly or optimally, along with the structured business vocabulary (fact model) needed to understand the business rules correctly.  Each participant in the business activity must adhere to the business rules to the extent his or her role requires.  The rulebook never dictates business strategy, but should reflect, enforce, and measure it. 

Unlike the rules for a game, however, business rules change, often quite rapidly.  Therefore knowing the original source of each business rule, its know-why, and its full history of modifications, as well as how and where the business rule is currently deployed, is essential in effective rulebook management.

rulebook management:  the skills, techniques and processes needed to express, analyze, trace, retain, and manage the business rules needed for day-to-day business activity general rulebook system (GRBS):  an automated, specialized, business-level platform for rulebook management

Discussion:  Key features of a general rulebook system (GRBS) include rich, interactive support for structured business vocabularies (fact models) and comprehensive traceability for business rules (not software requirements). 

Unlike a business rule engine (BRE) a GRBS is not run-time.  Think of a GRBS as more or less like a general ledger system, except for Business Analysts.  Because of the potential of GRBS to support compliance and accountability, a GRBS is indispensable for improved business governance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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, October, 2011, 304 pp, http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs  

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Ronald G. Ross

Ronald G. Ross

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.

Comments (4)

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    Rezaul K Majumder

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    To me it is a Wonderful artifact for organizing and enriching the knowledge base of clearing the Business Rule conept in requirement analysis activities

  • Avatar

    Skip Lumley

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    Hi Ron…

    If I understand your point, business rules are best managed by realizing the concepts of rulebook, rulebook management capabilities and GRBS. IT should use those best practice ideas even if they find themselves responsible for managing rules by default. And it follows that any function managing rules for their own or broader corporate purposes should do the same.

    I’d say you’re arguing those concepts are necessary, and that makes lots of sense to me, but I don’t see the argument for them being sufficient.

    Two missing pieces could be a rules manager’s requisite motivation (e.g. IT could want to improve service by using rules engines) and mandate, because other areas would have to hand over a degree of stewardship of their rules to the rules manager (presumably in return for something, e.g. policy alignment, compliance, better service, etc.) The third missing piece could be some governance and accountability mechanism, so the rules can evolve and the consequences of breakdowns in rule management can be handled appropriately. (I’m referring to governance of the rules themselves, not the governance of the business enabled by the rules.) I’m sure you’re well aware of these other concepts, so perhaps you take them as givens.

    When I first read your title question, I thought I might substitute business architecture for business rules, because I have more experience with that. I don’t know the full meaning you attach to “business proposition”, but by analogy I imagine that might include reframing rules as assets, and turning rule management into a strategic capability, measuring its performance and impact in business terms, making it a corporate function or giving it a corporate mandate, etc. – and typically positioning IT more as a consumer than a provider of its services.

    In those terms, I’ve argued that business architecture “should” be a business proposition. I’ve used philosophical, strategic advantage, resource optimization, and business risk/complexity/agility/transformation management justifications. But no matter how strong the arguments – and they can be pretty convincing in some industries – the organizational issues arising from the three criteria I added to yours can be insurmountable. I can count the number of successes that I’ve been involved in on one hand, and every case took years to transition.

    A final thought: I see massive capabilities in government organizations to manage some rules as a mission-critical activity. I think the point of departure from businesses here is a government’s greater distinction between ‘public’ and ‘corporate’ policies. Motivation to manage the former is very high because laws and regulations underpin legislative, monitoring, service delivery, enforcement and state-to-state actions across long spans of time. So governments have very mature systems of record that provide administrative answers to questions like: “Was regulation ABC in force when event XYZ occurred?”, and that lead to material consequences – imprisonments, fines, large sums of money changing hands, and so on. But I don’t see them using this powerful rule management infrastructure for their corporate policies. Perhaps you have some insights into why?

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    Brian D Martin

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    I do agree that managing, piloting, evaluating, and deploying new business rules should be a business responsibility. The companies that are able to leverate their business teams to know the rules, manage the rules and deploy new ones will have an advantage. Of course IT is a major partner in providing the infrastructure platforms.

    To be successful , we need to :
    1) Place benefit measurements and accountability inside the governance process. Governance reviews the roles that manage the business rules. IT tracks the cost that could have been saved by changing rules instead of deploying IT programming changes.
    2) Create business centers of excellence that promote ownership, the roles , and accountability.
    3) IT teams in the COE provide the infrastructure platforms (production and testing) to deploy and evaluate new rules with the goal to make it easy for the business to update rules and to be a partner in evaluating new rules.
    4) The business team has peer reviews with the business accountable person so that rules are reviewed and the rules are shared.

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