A Step Towards Revolution

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BPM Strategies

This article originally appeared in the members-only quarterly BPM Strategies Magazine. Join today to receive your own copy.

In preparing an anthology on “The Business Rules Revolution” with entries from many contributors, several common themes emerged. Business rules are an under-valued asset at most organizations. Business rules may hold the key to organizational agility, consistency, and organizational knowledge, if not organizational intelligence and integrity. Business rules are related to, but separate from, process and information (or data). The “decision” is the missing link in methodologies by which business rules become visible and manageable. The business rules approach has many versions in practice, requires new skills, and aims to bring IT and the business closer together.

The major discrepancies that we found across chapters in this book contain the answer to the one key question: Who ought to be the operational managers and authors of business rules as those rules are to operate in the business and in its systems? There is great tension among those who see the rule analyst asan intermediary between the business and IT. The answer is that it is a business policy maker who serves both as the business source of business words and as translator, without the intervention of a rule analyst. This distinction is critical regarding the ultimate impact of the Business Rules Approach and technology on a business. It will differentiate market leaders from followers and losers.

Business policy makers must see the power of their enhanced role and have the willingness to accept responsibility for it - and have a technical platform that enables them to manage their rules in a form consistent with their skills. Still, conflict in this area remains in most places and it is one key in assessing the maturity of the organization in adopting the Business Rules Approach.

Moving Toward Revolution

If there is a Business Rule Revolution happening, we can compare it to other intellectual advancements that caused upheaval. Let’s look at one of the great innovations of modern times - the joint stock company. So much of the wealth of the world has been created because of this ingenious solution to the issue of individual investment risk. As a consequence, corporations have evolved into immense organizations of great complexity. Now, as markets liberalize across the world, new economic powers are emerging, driving global economic growth. Corporate organizations, unknown before, are suddenly familiar: Lenovo, Tata, Rosneft, and so on.

What has this to do with The Business Rules Revolution? Well, everything. As large - and as complex - as our organizations have become, they have to react to the disruptive changes brought about by this economic revolution. Outsourcing is part of the story: a harbinger of the storm to come. New competition in almost every field of economic endeavor will become the norm.

During the most recent period of technologic disruption, the advent of the Internet, we saw great successes among those organizations that were able to rapidly adjust. As great an upheaval as technology disruption may cause, it pales against that forced by economic disruption. This leads to the belief that agility is the single most important quality for a competitive organization today; not technological agility, but business agility.

How does an organization achieve agility when it is bound by systems that are old, predicated on static operating processes and rules? The book did not find glib answers: but the discerning reader will grasp an outline of a path forward. The great promise of the Business Rules Approach is corporate agility, but there are many steps that must be taken, one by one, to reach the goal.

Barbara von Halle is the founder of Knowledge Partners, Inc. (KPI), which provides licensed intellectual property (methods and software) for leading clients through successful business rules projects. A pioneer in business rules, von Halle received the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award from the International Data Management Association in 1996. She also co-authored the best-selling book for business rule practitioners, Business Rules Applied (2002: John Wiley & Sons).

Larry Goldberg is managing partner of Knowledge Partners, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience in building technology-based companies on three continents, in which the focus was rules-based technologies and applications.Prior to joining KPI, Goldberg was senior vice president of Sapiens Americas, Inc., and was CEO and founder of  PowerFlex Software Systems.


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