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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Business rules, decisions and events

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It is not uncommon to hear some disagreements among advocates of Business Rules, Complex Event Processing or CEP, Business Process Management as to exactly what the overlap between these products might be. Tim Bass fired the latest broadside with CEP is Not BPM, BAM, BRE, BRMS or SOA.
Tim goes through some examples, arguing one is simply BPM while the other is really CEP and, while I agree with the thrust of his argument, I do need to take issue a little. Part of the problem comes from the very utility of "business rules". Clearly business rules are valuable in BPM for specifying order routing. Equally clearly, as the folk at Tibco's CEP blog have been discussing, business rules are an important part of CEP, a way of specifying how events are correlated and processed. Trying to compare two things (BPM and CEP) that should use business rules to business rules themselves is a little tricky and, I think, causes more problems than it is worth.
This is why I talk more and more about decision management not about business rules. in the first example, order routing, we either make a true business decision or we do not. If we don't - if the routing is tightly coupled to the process - then this is an example of rules-based routing in a process. If a complex decision that has nothing to do with the process (such as the availability of credit or the profitability of a customer) then the rules-based routing is relying on a managed decision . Similarly, in Fraud, there is a decision to be made (is this a fraudulent transaction) that is independent of the system/process/event that is asking. This decision might use rules as well as analytics but it is still a decision that should be managed. If I want to do this in an event-based way, rather than a batch way, then this decision becomes part of and must be integrated with my event processing environment. Complex Event Decisioning, if you like.
As Tim says, event correlation and analysis is what makes something CEP and CEP is intensely complementary to decision management. Business rules are good for both (and indeed for much more) and should be part of how you address both.
Here are some other posts on this topic:


Hi James,

We are fully in agreement. Thanks for commenting on my post. I have always admired your focus on "the decision" aspect of event processing.

We must manage false positives and false negatives in real-time detection, which is a non-trivial and well grounded art and science.

From "raw sensor data" or "raw event" to an actionable decision (in real-time) with high confidence that uses resources effectively and efficiently -- that is the challenge critial to event-decision processing.

Yours sincerely, Tim

While I agree with your general points, James, Tim's original points about SOR are wrong, because they are based on a lack of understanding of real SOR applications. If he had chosen another example of an application that actually does have such simple rules as he depicts, I would agree with the overall conclusion. So we've posted a rebuttal here that clarifies about SOR applications:

Smart Order Routing and CEP: Made for Each Other


Hello James. I am delighted to see your writing here as well as on your site. I was reading about the risk of process ossification under outsourcing conditions. The risk is high in one's own organization but I think you're right about outsourced situations.

At one time, I ran a nationwide call center and shifting to BPM with rules certainly trained everyone that there was one way to handle a call. Unfortunately, each call was a caller - an actual human - and things don't often go as planned with actual humans. Our call center was a mental health and suicide hotline so you can imagine we had few "normal" or routine calls!

Every time I speak to a well-groomed agent in Bangalore, I am reminded that outsourcing with strict BPM paths and rules is probably not a long-term solution. My money is on the pendulum swinging back in this direction. Automated call centers and ACD technology coupled with young people on the other side of the globe who cannot navigate the finer points of a customer service call cannot be sustainable. I predict the day is coming when we expect more from our companies - particularly our banks who have done so much of this. Somebody needs to account for the variances in human behavior and expectations.

All the best



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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