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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Decision Management is at the heart of dynamic business applications

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Forrester recently published an excellent paper - The Dynamic Business Applications Imperative (John Rymer and Connie Moore) - that you all should buy and read (if you don't have a Forrester subscription it's a steal at $279). This paper defines a Dynamic Business Application as

"A software system that embodies a business process and is built for change, adaptable to business context, and information rich."

Not only is this kind of application exactly what businesses are going to need to survive and thrive in the next decade, decision management lies at the heart of it (as I have noted before in response to Forrester reports). Unless these applications, typically composite applications, can use sophisticated decision services they are not going to deliver on their potential.
So what makes these applications inevitable. The summary of the Forrester paper makes the two main points:
"Most business applications are too inflexible to keep pace with the businesses they support."
"...they force IT pros to spend too much budget to keep up with evolving markets, policies, regulations, and business models."

I might add that existing applications also make it too hard to apply lessons from the data you collect. Forrester goes on to say
"IT's primary goal during the next five years should be to invent a new generation of enterprise software that adapts to the business and its work and evolve with it."

The paper makes a series of great points:

  • Imagine Apps That Evolve With Your Business And Its Work

    Apps that evolve with your business must allow business people to change how things are done in those applications - using business rules to manage decisions, for instance - while also applying the data your business collects to improve - using predictive analytic models to inform decision-making, for instance. Many of the requirements for evolution in an application are around evolving decisions, putting decision management at the heart of this strategy, particularly when it comes to building for change (something about which I have blogged before).

  • There's Nowhere To Hide: All Business Processes Are Subject To This Trend

    Absolutely not. For all that various aspects of these applications have traditionally been used in certain domains, the pressures that drove those domains to be early adopters are now affecting everyone and every process. You will have to take control of the decisions in your information systems and business processes, no matter what.

  • Progress To Dynamic Business Applications - Start Your Journey By Resetting IT's Relationship To Businesspeople

    This reset can be achieved in the core logic of your systems, not just in the periphery. Using business rules to empower business users to manage the decisions in their applications changes this relationship while also increasing your tolerance for (inevitable) change. I blogged before about something Forrester called Concurrent Business Engineering

There is one small area in which I disagree with John and Connie's terminology. They talk of the intersection of business process management (BPM), business intelligence (BI) and business rules. This is all fine but some of what they mean by BI is not what most people mean by BI. BI has become, for better or worse, indelibly linked to reporting and visualization, spreadsheets and dashboards. In fact there is a need to apply business insight to the rules of a decision as well as to provide business insight to people. By lumping both under BI I think the report risks confusing people into thinking that their current BI tools are going to let them embed analytics into their applications when, in fact, they wont. New tools, focused on data mining and executable analytic models are required. My three circles then would be:
  • Business Process Management

  • Business Intelligence and Performance Management

  • Decision Management

With the last subsuming the business rules category and some of the BI category, notably that piece of BI that current BI suites do not do (see this post for some links on this topic).
As Forrester says:
"the tools are at hand, and pioneers in service-oriented architecture (SOA), business process management (BPM), and business rules ... have begun showing us the way. The time to start on this journey is now."

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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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