Working on translating some legal documentations (sales and use tax laws and regulations) into compliance logic, we came across the following sentence (and many more that are even worse):
Any transfer of title or possession, exchange, or barter, conditional or otherwise, in any manner or by any means whatsoever, of tangible personal property for a consideration.
Natural language processing systems choke on sentences like this because of such sentences’ combinatorial ambiguity and NLP’s typical lack of knowledge about what can be conjoined or complement or modify what.
This sentences has many thousands of possible parses. They involve what the scopes of each of the the ‘or’s are and what is modified by conditional, otherwise, or whatsoever and what is complemented by in, by, of, and for.
The following shows 2 parses remaining after we veto a number of mistakes and confirm some phrases from the 400 highest ranking parses (a few right or left clicks of the mouse):
Our software is translating even long and complicated sentences from regulations to textbooks into formal logic (i.e,, not necessarily first-order logic, but more general predicate calculus). As you can see below, we can translate this understanding into various logical formalisms including defeasible first-order logic, which we are applying in Vulcan’s Project Halo. This includes classical first-order logic and related standards such as RIF or SBVR, as well as building or extending an ontology or description logic (e.g., OWL-DL).
We’re excited about these capabilities in various applications, such as in advancing science and education at Vulcan and formally understanding, analyzing and automating policy and regulations in enterprises.
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.
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.
Complex event processing (CEP) software handles many low-level events to recognize a high-level event that triggers a business process. Since many business processes do not consider low-level data events, BPM may not seem to need event processing. On the other hand, event processing would not be relevant at all if it did not occasionally trigger a business process or decision. In other words, it appears that:
CEP requires BPM but
BPM does not require CEP
The first point is market limiting for CEP vendors. Fortunately for CEP vendors, however, most BPM does require event-processing, however complex. In fact, event processing is perhaps the greatest weakness of current BPM systems (BPMS) and business rules management systems (BRMS), as discussed further below. Continue reading “CEP crossing the chasm into BPM by way of BRMS”
Some strategy folks in an enterprise architecture group recently asked for help making rules more relevant to their organization. Their concerns ranged from when to embed rules in their middle tier versus encapsulate them within services to identifying ideal use cases and reference implementations. They were specifically interested in coupling rules with BPM and BI.
Such questions occur every time a group or enterprise considers adopting rules technology for more than a specific application. They are looking for guidelines, blueprints, or patterns that will help them disseminate understanding about when and how to use rules. They have adopted a BPM vendor which will be integrated with their selected rule vendor, each as enterprise standards, so they are particularly interested in the integration requirements between the two.
Two high level understandings are critical for success in furthering adoption of rules technology.
abstract activities for which rules technology well-suited and
when and why rules technology is better than familiar alternatives