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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Business rules and connecting strategy with execution

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My fellow blogger, Keith Harrison-Broninski who writes the IT Directions blog, had a great post on The strategy disconnect - when guidance meets practice. While his thrust is around management practices, his comment that "Only in this way can you guarantee that the strategies and policies agreed at top level will be implemented at lower levels" struck a chord with me. As did his three levels of control - Strategic, Executive and Managerial.

When I talk to folks about using business rules to automate decision processes, or about Enterprise Decision Management more broadly, one of the questions that comes up is around strategic v operational. They come down to variants of "if EDM or business rules is about improving operational decision-making, is it helpful if I have problems of a strategic nature?". In other words, is this whole decision management thing purely a low-level, operational thing? To which the answer is, of course, Yes. And then again no.

First the "yes" part. Clearly when one is talking about automating a decision using business rules or a combination of business rules and analytics, then one is talking about operational or transactional decisions. High-volume transactional systems or large scale batch environments are the ones in which there is typically a pay-off for decision automation. In particular those decisions that require large numbers of rules, rules that change often, complex rules or rules that require business expertise to maintain are those targeted for business rules automation. Clearly you are unlikely to use business rules to automate "strategic" decisions.

Second the "no" part. One of the values of decision management is the connection of these high-volume operational decisions to the organization's strategy. Let's take an example like customer retention. If my company's strategy is to aggressively recruit new customers but not prioritize retention then I will likely make very modest retention offers. Now if I make a strategic decision to get more aggressive about retention, how will I make that "operational"?

If I have taken control of the operational decisions involved in retention - which customers to reach out with a retention offer, what retention offer to make to someone who calls the call center, what offer to make on the website for customers and at what point in the contract renewal cycle - then implementing this new strategy is easy. I simply logon to my rule maintenance application, change the rules for retention offers, and deploy those to my retention decision engine. This decision engine is used by my outbound offering engine, my call center, my website and more ensuring consistent delivery of this new strategy across all these systems more or less immediately.

If I have not taken control on this operational decision then I have a more complex problem - how do I change all the different systems and processes involved to reflect this new strategy? Well I could call the web team, call the call center manager, put in change requests for the various internal systems and so on. Who knows how long this will take.

So the value of decision management is not just in the improvement in the operational realm but in the improvement of strategic alignment with the operational decision-making systems. Strategy and operations.

James Taylor blogs about decision-management technologies such as predictive analytics and business rules, discussing how they deliver agility, improve business processes and bring intelligent automation to SOA.

James Taylor

James Taylor blogs on decision management for ebizQ, and is an independent consultant on decision management, predictive analytics, business rules, and related topics.

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