Seeking the Upper Levels of the Rule Maturity Model

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Managing Partner & Founder, Knowledge Partners International LLP
Barbara von Halle is founder and a managing partner of Knowledge Partners, International LLC (KPI). She, together with Larry, is the co-developer of the Decision Model, and co-author of The Decision Model: A Business Logic Framework Linking Business and Technology. Barb is well known for pioneering in Business Rules through writings and consulting work, as early as the 1980s. In 1996, she was inducted into the Data Management Hall of Fame when she received the honored Outstanding Individual Achievement Award from the International Data Management Association.

The KPI Rule Maturity Model (KPI RMM or RMM) has been a valuable management tool for organizations due to its simplicity and practicality. It provides a straight-forward, customizable business rule roadmap for organizations, charting success with a business rules approach at minimum risk.

The April 2005 issue of BPM Strategies magazine (“Introducing a Cornerstone of the Business Rules Approach: The Rule Maturity Model”) stated, “…the RMM is a tool for setting realistic business rule expectations and designing a practical roadmap for getting there.” To date, various organizations have used the RMM to:

  • Understand where they are today with respect to managing business rules. Most are at RMM Level 0.
  • Determine how far they should go in managing business rules. Most are aiming for RMM Level 1 or 2, with a few aiming for RMM Level 3.
  • Publicize to external audiences their successes as they achieve targeted RMM levels.

Why Use the RMM?

Many organizations have started investigating a business rules approach for a target project, business unit or even an enterprise. The business rules approach has many aspects to it, ranging from new methods, newly defined roles, new rule management and automation software, along with organizational change. The comprehensiveness of a full business rules approach leads to significant benefits for organizations that are able to adopt and customize it.

RMM Level 5 represents a world of anticipation and planned, predicted reaction, hitting the ultimate goal of agility–that is, not just being fast or first, but having defined it before it happened!

However, to those just starting out with business rules, the very richness of the business rules approach itself can seem overwhelming. This is precisely when you should invoke the principles behind the RMM because the RMM keeps you grounded in a step-by-step business rules approach that is the right size for your project or organization. The RMM is a tool for matching your desired or required benefits to the appropriate amount of investment.

RMM Levels 0, 1, and 2

In a nutshell, at Level 0, people are unaware that business rules have a value worth contemplating. People in an organization at RMM Level 0 are content with not knowing what the rules are or where they are executing in business processes or automated systems. A Level 1 organization begins to separate the business rules from other kinds of business artifacts or requirement types. To achieve this separation, a Level 1 organization captures the rules in a simple way, often involving only minimal investment in new software and organizational roles. Rules are captured in documents, spreadsheets, extensions to modeling or requirements tools, or a relational database that has room for rule-related metadata. These represent the simplest forms of a source rule repository for business audiences.

Level 1 organizations may or may not deploy a business rules engine (BRE). With rules captured in a simple source rule repository, people can find out what the rules are because the rules are documented and managed in a way that business and technical people can access and understand them. Ideally, the rules can be traced to where they are operating in business processes or automated systems, allowing for a shorter change cycle.

But a Level 1 organization does not apply the entire rigor of a business rules approach. True agility is in its infancy at Level 1.

A Level 2 organization goes further toward agility and rigor. A Level 2 organization not only separates the rules from other business and technical assets, it does so with a well-defined rule authoring process that incorporates structured methods and applies rigorous rule grammar. Organizations aiming for Level 2 start to store these rules in a more sophisticated source rule repository, which captures standard terms and related rule clauses, enabling more robust rule reporting and analysis. Typically, a BRE is used.

A Level 2 organization can analyze rules for integrity and a Level 2 organization or project is well-positioned to take advantage of rule analysis and automation technology that exists today (such as BREs) and future technology.

RMM Advanced Levels

Organizations at Level 3, 4, and  5 exhibit progressively mature business rule management characteristics, particularly relative to the sharing of business rules across project boundaries. An organization at RMM Level 3 has identified true business-driven benefits to standardizing or sharing business rule techniques and even automated business rule services across projects. Such organizations may have a Business Rules Center of Excellence and a standard business rules methodology is crafted. Sometimes multiple BREs are deployed, but common business rules techniques, standards, and roles are shared across BREs, when appropriate.

An organization at RMM Level 4 uses business rules as proactive business levers. Business people or analysts are able to predict the business impact of rule changes (such as affected client base, predicted revenue difference, estimated profit difference, future staff levels) because rule sets are correlated to those business metrics that the rule sets aim to influence in a positive way.

An organization at RMM Level 5 can chart various perceived futures based on potential business rules. It hypothesizes about future events to which they wish to respond in a carefully pre-calculated manner. Business leaders or analysts craft different rule sets, test, simulate and compare predictions, and have these rule sets ready-and-waiting for deployment in anticipation of related threats and opportunities.

Moving Up and Changing Roles

The roles of business and IT people also change at each level of the RMM because there is more rigor and more sophisticated software for non-technical rule authors as you move up in the RMM. Each level of the RMM shifts responsibility to non-technical people for more of the business rule life cycle than the level before it.

Consider the business rule life cycle as the definition of the paths leading to business rules:

  1. Document business objectives or requirements.
  2. Document business policies supporting the objective or requirement.
  3. Identify source materials for underlying rules.
  4. Discover and author rules in simple, business-friendly, natural language form (with glossary).
  5. Author, validate, and analyze rules in rigorous, formal form with a model of the underlying glossary (e.g., class model).
  6. Automate and test rules.
  7. Simulate rules within a context.
  8. Put rules into production.

At Level 0, the rules remain hidden and unchartered. You don’t know where to start looking, where it may take you, or how long it may take to find the rules you are looking for.

At Level 1, because rules are separated simply but without a lot of rigor, they take on the characteristics of a new kind of non-rigorous business or system requirement. Therefore, as with other kinds of requirements, typically, in Level 1 organizations, business analysts interview business experts in carrying out steps 1-4 (requirements or objectives, policies, sources and rules) and technical people translate the non-rigorous rules into automated forms. The rule authors are more of technical resources than business ones. That is, business analysts (with some technical skills) write the rules but technical people are still needed to produce automated rules. The business experts provide input and review the output, but do not play the direct role of creating the source rule repository content.

The transition to Level 2 involves adding step 5, the authoring, validating and analyzing of rules in formal rigorous form with an underlying semantic model. In some Level 2 organizations, business analysts who are not so technical may author the simpler version, especially if the source rule repository is one that is easy to use. But technically- oriented business analysts usually write the more rigorous form while technical people convert these into an automated form. The responsibility for creating business rules is shared by business analysts and technical people.

Level 3 introduces automated rule analysis and simulation capabilities of some kind. This means that the translation from the simple rules in natural language form of some sort to an executable version is either prompted by intelligent software or automatic in some manner. In this environment, business analysts or even business experts are able to author and change some of the rules and move forward into testing them in an automated form without relying on technical people to bridge the gap. Usually, technical people put the resulting rules in production, even in Level 3 organizations where the non-technical people have the capability to do so.

Level 4 opens up a whole new world. There are a variety of tools for capturing and analyzing rules and with metrics against which desired impact of rules on the business are managed. Business analysts or business experts can define their destination via metrics and then interactively craft the rules by which they hope to arrive there. With tools and metrics at hand, business analysts or business experts can now go even more confidently from steps 1 to 7. Again, usually technical people are desired to put such rules into production. Level 5 is where the full realization of the business rules approach comes alive. Level 5 involves the anticipation of different futures, the crafting of rules for handling each such future, along with rule analysis and simulation capabilities. The difference between Level 4 and 5 is that Level 4 aims at immediate or short-term requirements whereas Level 5 looks to a variety of possible futures, many of which may never arrive. It represents a world of anticipation and planned reaction; hitting the ultimate goal of agility…not just being fast, but having defined it before it happened!

What the RMM is Not

The RMM is a management tool and not a report card. Organizations or projects should not feel deficient if they are targeting lower levels of the RMM. In truth, not every organization or project needs to be at RMM Level 3 or above. It is only important that the target RMM level match the business objectives regarding managing business rules.

The RMM does not encourage higher maturity levels in some aspects (for example, business rule methods) without consistent maturity levels in all other aspects. An organization exhibiting such disparate RMM levels in its business rule management may be dysfunctional, putting anticipated benefits in jeopardy.

The journey through the RMM starts by identifying business objectives to be achieved by managing business rules. It leads you to answering the following questions before determining your target RMM Level:

  1. What objectives are achievable by better managing business rules?
  2. What is your timeframe for achieving those objectives: short-term and long-term?
  3. Which business rules are worth managing?
  4. Who is to play which roles in managing business rules? In particular, who should be empowered to drive policy specifications, corresponding business rule authoring and business rule change management?
  5. What technology is needed to support each of the roles?

What Happens Next?

The incremental methodology and technology requirements for each level of the RMM are becoming well-known and widely accepted. There is reason to believe that 2006 will prove to be a defining year for the business rules approach, from simple adaptations to organizations seeking the higher levels of the RMM.

Stay tuned for intriguing rule software advances as they happen in 2006, especially those that more easily enable higher RMM levels at lower cost.


Organizations at Level 3, 4, and 5 exhibit progressively mature rule management characteristics, particularly in sharing rules across project boundaries.

The business rule lifecycle defines paths for developing business rules. At each level, another step is taken and roles change.

The RMM is a management tool and not a report card. Organizations should not feel deficient if they are targeting lower levels of the RMM. Not every organization needs to be at Level 3 or above.

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