The slides for my Business Rules Forum presentation on event semantics and focusing on events in order to simplify process definition and to facilitate more robust governance and compliance are at Event-centric BPM.
After the talk I spoke with Jan Verbeek and Gartjan Grijzen of Be Informed and reviewed their software, which is excellent. They have been quite successful with various government agencies in applying the event-centric methodology to produce goal-driven processing. Their approach is elegant and effective. It clearly demonstrates the merits of an event-centric approach and the power that emerges from understanding event-dependencies. Also, it is very semantic, ontological, and logic-programming oriented in its approach (e.g., they use OWL and a backward-chaining inference engine).
They do not have the top-down knowledge management approach that I advocate nor do they provide the logical verification of governing policies and compliance (i.e., using theorem provers) that I mention in the talk (see Guido Governatori‘s 2010 publications and Travis Breaux‘s research at CMU, for example) but theirs is the best commercially deployed work in separating business process description from procedural implementation that comes to mind. (Note that Ed Barkmeyer of NIST reports some use of SBVR descriptions of manufacturing processes with theorem provers. Some in automotive and aerospace industries have been interested in this approach for quality purposes, too.)
BeInformed is now expanding into the United States with the assistance of Mills Davis and others. Their software is definitely worth consideration and, in my opinion, is more elegant and effective than the generic BPMN approach.
Today, I came upon some commentary by a business rule colleague, Carlos Serranos-Morales, of Fair Isaac concerning a presentation I made at the Business Rules Forum. During the presentation I showed some sentences that are beyond the current state of the art in the business rules industry. Generally speaking, these were logical statements that did not use the word “if”. (Note, however, that many of the them could be expressed in SBVR, OMG’s semantics of business vocabulary and rules standard). Carlos argued that such statements should be more precisely articulated within the specific context of a business process.
In preparing for my workshop at the Business Rules Forum in Las Vegas on November 5th, I have focused on the following needs in reasoning about processes, about events, and about or over time:
Reasoning at a point within a [business] process
Reasoning about events that occur over time.
Reasoning about a [business] process (as in deciding what comes next)
Reasoning about and across different states (as in planning)
Enterprise decision management (EDM) addresses the first. Complex event processing (CEP) is concerned with the second. In theory, EDM could address the third but it does not in practice. This third item includes the issue of governing and defining workflow or event-driven business processes rather than point decisions within such business processes.
Business applications of rules have not advanced to include the fourth item. That is to say, business has yet to significantly leverage reasoning or problem solving techniques that are common in artificial intelligence. For example, artificially intelligent question and answer systems, which are being developed for the semantic web, can do more than retrieve data – they perform inference. Commercial database and business intelligence queries are typically much less intelligent, which presents a number of opportunities that I don’t want to go into here but would happy to discuss with interested parties. The point here is that business does not use reasoning much at all, let alone to search across the potential ramifications of alternative decisions or courses of action before making or taking one. Think of playing chess or a soccer-playing robot planning how to advance the ball on goal. Why shouldn’t business strategies or tactical business decisions benefit from a little simulated look-ahead along with a lot of inference and evaluation?
Even though I have recently become more interested in the fourth of these areas, I expect the audience at the business rules forum to be most interested in the first two points above. There will also be some who have enough experience with complex business processes, which are common in larger enterprises. These folks will be interested in the third item. Only the most advanced applications, such as in biochemical process planning, will be interested in the fourth. I don’t expect many of them to attend!
The notion of enterprise decision management (EDM) is focused on point decision making within a business process. For enterprises that are concerned with governing business processes, a model of the process itself must be available to the business rules that govern its operation. I’ve written elsewhere about the need for an ontology of events and processes in order to effectively integrate business process management (BPM) with business rules. Here, and in the workshop, I intend to get a little more specific about the requirements, what is lacking in current standards and offerings, and what we’re trying to do about it. Continue reading “Time for the next generation of knowledge automation”