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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Is a BPM Suite enough to deliver business agility?

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I recently saw a piece by Ken Vollmer and Colin Teubner of Forrester called "Increase Business Agility with BPM Suites". There's a lot of good commentary in the report but I have to take issue with the approach it takes regarding business rules.

"Forrester believes that the reality of the digital age is that your business is embodied in your technology, and your business can change only as fast as your technology can. Forrester's Digital Business Architecture is designed with this new reality in mind and includes business process management (BPM) capabilities as one of its core components."

All well and good, however Forrester has previously said that a Digital Business Architecture requires policies as metadata AND the ability to use this metadata across a heterogeneous environment. But:

  • BPMS don't really manage business rules or decisions properly - they manage process orchestration and process flow design but not rules/policies. Where they have some support for rules it is really only as part of the definition of orchestration or composition.
  • Most BPMS don't capture rules well or manage them well and even when they try to. Even if they were extended to do so, by and large the rules would then be limited to the specific BPMS being considered and so would fail Forrester's own Digital Business Architecture test of being able to reuse this metadata across a heterogeneous environment.
  • This is particularly problematic if a company needs both an integration-centric and a human-centric BPMS - something Forrester recognizes as realistic - as embedding policy rules into each BPMS means duplicating them and failing to manage them as an asset.
  • While I agree that there is value in adding BI capabilities within a process I think there is also value, and potentially more value, in adding analytic models to aid automated decisioning within the process. This means having a platform for decision automation as I argued in this article on using business rules as a platform for bringing analytics into a process.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, routing rules are not business rules. The examples of rules in the report are really routing rules, not decision-centric business rules and these kinds of rules are different as Bruce Silver argues in this post.

So I don't believe having rules in a BPMS is enough - you must be able to externalize rules/policies and manage the decisions powered by these using a business rules management system. I have talked before about the value of business rules in implementing a digital business architecture such as Forrester describes as well as on how business rules can enable business/IT collaboration or "concurrent business engineering". In addition Bruce Silver wrote a nice piece on this for Intelligent Enterprise recently and I have posted on why I think BPMS and BRMS are complimentary and should be separate to avoid over-synchronization.

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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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