James Taylor’s notes on his lunch with Sandy Carter of IBM and the CEO of Ilog prompted me to write this. Part of the conversation concerned the appeal of SOA and rules to business users. Speaking as a former vendor, we all want business people to appreciate our technology. We earn more if they do. They say to IT “we want SOA” or “we want rules” and our sale not only becomes easier, it becomes more valuable. So we try to convince the business that they are service-oriented, so they should use SOA. Or we tell the business that they have (and make) rules, so they should use (and manage their own) rules. And rules advocates embrace and enhance the SOA value proposition saying that combined, you get the best of both worlds. This is almost precisely the decision management appeal. Externalize your decisions as services and externalize rules from those services for increased agility in decision making. This is an accurate and appropriate perspective for point decision making. But it doesn’t cover the bigger picture that strategic business people consider, which includes governance and compliance.
Effective SOA and business rules have one requirement (or benefit) in common: externalization.
The externalization of services from applications Continue reading “Externalization of rules and SOA is important – for now”
Don’t miss the great post about his and Ilog’s take on rule and decision management methodologies by James Taylor today (available here).
Here’s the bottom line:
- Focus on what the system does or decides.
- Focus on the actions taken during a business process and the decisions that govern them and the deductions that they rely on.
- In priority order, focus on actions, then decisions, then deductions.
- Don’t expect to automate every nuance of an evolving business process on day one – iterate.
- Iteratively elaborate and refine the conditions and exceptions under which
- actions show be taken,
- decisions are appropriate, and
- deductions hold true
Another way of summing this up is:
Try not to use the word “then” in your rules!
Do check out the Ilog methodology as well as the one I developed for Haley that is available here. The key thing Continue reading “Agile Business Rules Management Requires Methodology”
James Taylor’s blog today on rules being core to BPM and SOA in which he discussed reuse had a particularly strong impact on me following a trip yesterday. During a meeting with the insurance and retail banking practice leaders at a large consulting firm, we looked for synnergies between applications related to investment and applications related to risk. Of course, during that conversation, we discussed whether operational rules could be usefully shared across these currently siloed areas, but we landed up discussing what they had in common in terms of business concepts, definitions, and fundamental truths or enterprise wide governance. It was clear to us that this was the most fruitful area to develop core, reusable knowledge assets.
In his post, James agrees with the Butler Group’s statement:
Possibly the most important aspect of a rules repository, certainly in respect of the stated promise of BPM, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and BRMS, is the ability for the developer to re-use rules within multiple process deployments.
I have several problems with this statement: Continue reading “Rules are not enough. Knowledge is core to reuse.”
The ART syntax lives on in yet another product!
JBOSS Rules (formerly Drools) just described its imminent support for rules expressed in the CLIPS syntax here.
NASA derived CLIPS from the syntax of Inference Corporation’s Automated Reasoning Tool (ART) in the mid-80s. I designed and implemented the ART syntax with Chuck Williams on a team with Brad Allen and Mark Wright.
CLIPS didn’t have many of the features of ART (including an ATMS or backward chaining, for example), but it Continue reading “Haley / ART syntax lives on in open-source Java rules”
I am working on some tutorial material for business analysts tasked with eliciting and harvesting rules using some commercial business rules management systems (BRMS). The knowledgeable consumers of this material intuitively agree that capturing business rules should be performed by business analysts who also capture requirements. They understand that the clarity of rules is just as critical to successful application of BRMS as the clarity of requirements is to “whirlpool” development. But they are frustrated by the distinct training for requirements versus rules. They believe, and I agree, that unification of requirements and rules management is needed.
Consider these words from Forrester:
One might argue that Word documents, email, phone calls, and stakeholder meetings alone are adequate for managing rules. In fact, that is the methodology currently used for most projects in a large number of IT shops. However, this informal, ad hoc approach doesn’t ensure rigorous rules definition that is communicated and understood by all parties. More importantly, it doesn’t lend itself to managing the inevitable rules changes that will occur throughout the life of the project. The goal must be to embrace and manage change, not to prevent it. 
But note that Forrester used the word “requirements” everywhere I used “rules” above!
Continue reading “When Rules Meet Requirements”
A client recently asked me for guidance in establishing a center of excellence concerning business rules within their organization. Their objectives included:
- Accumulate requisite skills for productive success.
- Establish methodologies for productive, reliable and repeatable success.
- Accumulate and reuse content (e.g., definitions, requirements, regulations, and policies) across implementations, departments or divisions.
- Establish multiple tutorial and reusable reference implementations, including application development, tooling, and integration aspects.
- Establish centralized or transferable infrastructure, including architectural aspects, tools and repositories that reflect and support established methodologies, reusable content, and reference implementations.
- Establish criteria, best practices and rationale for various administrative matters, especially change management concerning the life cycles of content (e.g., regulations or policies) and applications (e.g., releases and patches).
I was quickly surprised to find myself struggling to write down recommendations for the skill set required to seed the core staff. My recommendations were less technical than the client may have expected. After further consideration, it became clear than any discrepancy in expectations arose from differences in our unvoiced strategic assumptions. Objectives, such as those listed above, are no substitute for a clearly articulated mission and strategy.
Continue reading “Managing Semantics, Vocabulary and Business Rules as Knowledge”