Converging BPM and Business Rules Maturity Models

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Co-Author of The Microguide to Process Modeling in BPMN 2.0,
I am a Senior Vice President at Innovations Software Technology Corp., a independent subsidiary of the Robert Bosch Group. During my tenure at Business Knowledge Architects (BKA), I served in a variety of operational and strategic roles encompassing consulting, engineering, finance, and general operations. Throughout my career I developed, championed and implemented methodology in government and at a variety of Global 1000 corporations. Prior to BKA, I was a technical manager with Oracle Government Consulting, specializing in enterprise integration initiatives for Oracle Financials. Mr. Debevoise was the Business leader of Oracle’s Government Financials business, where his team grew a start-up business to a $50M service line, one of the fastest growing and successful endeavors within Oracle. I started my career as a Professional Engineer, where I performed a wide variety of jobs, from design engineer to public works and infrastructure planning.

Readers of the Business Rules topic section have probably found Barbara von Halle’s writing on the Rules Maturity model RMM. The model depicts an enterprise’s staged understanding of business rules and their progressive benefits. The model starts with stage zero, no recognition of importance of formal processes of managing policies and corporate guidance through business rules. In short, the stages are:

  1. Knowledge, firms develop business rules at a business level. They develop verified documentation of business rules.
  2. Rules Agility, the firm incorporates rules technology and probably BPM solutions. The firm begins to achieve agility in deploying changes and improvements to policies and guidelines.
  3. Consistency, the firm uses business rules as standard components in the enterprise architecture. Consistency is deployed through a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).
  4. Prediction, decisions become assets and firms use them to predict policies. Firms might use decision analytics. The Business Rules Approach becomes a tool to align a firm’s objectives with the IT infrastructure
  5. Stewardship, business rules become critical for a firm’s business agility.

Stage four shows a revolutionary improvement in the enterprise architecture’s traditional capabilities. All decisions and the business rules that governed them are stored as information in an accessible form.

Jim Sinur of the Gartner Group has developed a BPM maturity model that views this progression in a similar vein. Stage zero begins with a firm’s recognition that their current approach to process management is lacking. The advancing stages of the BPM maturity are:

  1. Inefficiency, development of a firm’s business process management competence. The firm identifies owners of business processes. They measure processes with existing tools. Business processes are documented and better understood.
  2. Awareness, Firms use technology and techniques to simulate and improve selected processes. Business rules govern the processes, presumably with rules technology.
  3. Interprocess, business processes are integrated and trading partners and customers are better connected. Firms begin to use the BPM infrastructure to align top-line growth with market strategy.
  4. Valuation, the firm has created expertise dynamically linking strategic goals to process execution. This calls for a cost accounting of process cycles.
  5. Business Agility, business agility is achieved.

Rules and process maturity are ‘linked at the hip’. Rules are dynamically linked to process early in the process maturity model. Late in the rule’s maturity model, business rules are a critical asset for achieving a firm’s strategic goals. It would be impossible to achieve maturity in one area with out the other.

The progressing maturity of rules and process are the same: they end with the Business Agility that is the target of most enterprises. Business Agility is the ability of a business enterprise to run profitably in a rapidly changing, fragmenting global market environment by producing quality, high-performance, and customer targeted goods and services. If you study these progressions and accept the tenets of BPM and the Business Rules approach, then you see that is unlikely a firm will not achieve business agility without both.

BPM/Business rules maturity follows six progressive phases. Phase 0, legacy practices, business process improvement occurs in a poor environment. Initiatives are “mired in Politics”. “Everything is like starting from scratch.” The next five phases are:

  1. Management Focus. A deeper understanding of connecting Enterprise Architecture to Strategy. Process identification, mapping, discussion and improvement. Process ownership. The firm identifies and documents critical policy/business rules areas.
  2. Technology Insertion. BPM/Business rules are used to create flexible, linked processes that can be easily changed and improved to fit business demands.
  3. Business Components. As more projects are added to the BPM/Rules portfolio a complementary set of business components.
  4. Strategic Linkage. Goals dynamically link to process execution. Historic decisions and outcomes are assets. The costs of process cycles and branches are known. These data plus the knowledge and understanding of economic conditions and strategic focus of the firm direct changes in processes and rules.
  5. Rules/Process Driven. After operating at level 4, companies can develop innovative products and services. Firms achieve an agile business structure at the highest maturity level.

Business Agility has many components; I will address several here. One measure of agility is Expansion ability, which is the time and cost needed to increase/decrease the capacity without affecting the quality, to a given level. Another agility factor is the range of business volume at which the business is run profitably. The agile business must be able to both predict market demand and adjust its operations. Prediction of the effects of business policies is the hallmark of the fourth phase of rules maturity. By late in the second phase of process maturity, firms have integrated activity cost accounting with their processes. Without the mature management and technology of BPM and Rules, firms must rely on intensive manual intervention to achieve these agility goals.

Business Processes are governed by business rules. Business rules direct the flow of the processes; validate the correctness of information within a process and control critical data elements by transforming incoming data according to the policies of the firm. Business Processes connect activities to business goals, monitor and measure progress, and employ an expansive view of processes as a long-running transaction. The business rules approach is a critical management tool for formalizing these policies. The BPM approach is a management and technology tool for documenting, creating, and optimizing a firm’s business process. By these models’ reasoning, business agility is achieved, only when you achieve a high maturity in both of these areas.

This technology is revolutionary, not evolutionary. Previously, application development was performed using ‘Create-Read-Update-Delete’ (CRUD) methods. BPM/Business Rules offer native capabilities that eclipse the outcome of these legacy development techniques. These capabilities are agile because they reveal the information need for agility types.

Both the BPM and the Rules maturity model offer a vision and a road map for assessing your current level and setting a course for achieving maturity.

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