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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Risks of pursuing BPM without decisioning

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Inspired by this post by Vijay on Art of Software Reuse (Risks With Pursuing BPM Without SOA) I thought I would write something about the risks of pursuing BPM without decisioning - without decision management.

When BPM is pursued without pursing decision management in parallel the direct consequence is that decisions become an afterthought in the processes that need them. In contrast, applying decision management techniques and technologies in parallel means that Decisions become a first class object that are identified, managed and improved distinct from processes. But what does this mean in terms of risks?

  • Buried Decisions
    The first risk of a BPM-only approach is that decisions are buried in process. The complexity of a decision gets merged with the complexity of the process. The management of the decision gets merged with the management of the process. But most importantly the decision cannot be evaluated, measured and improved as a distinct element of our overall system. In contrast, applying decision management as well as BPM means that Decisions are linked to the processes that use them but not buried in them.
  • Process becomes complex
    Failing to keep a decision separate but linked from a process that uses means that that process will become more complex. The steps of the decisions, the rules that must be applied will now be steps or details within a process. Instead of a simple process with a single decision-making activity our process will have many activities and paths that are managing the relationship (as I discuss in this post on the topic). With decision management your process is simplified because the complexity of the decision is externalized.
  • Inconsistency is likely
    Many decisions are reused between processes and many decisions reuse decision logic, business rules. With decisions mixed into your processes it will be hard to ensure that these decisions are made consistently across processes, hard to reuse the rules that drive those decisions. With decision management you get one version of rules and you know which decisions use which rules.
  • Decisions only evolve with process
    If the rules and decisions are mixed with processes then any change to the rules, to the decision, means a change to the process. If my how you determine which price to use with a customer is embedded in the process then any pricing change must change the process. Yet decision changes like new pricing rules, new eligibility rules and more are not the same as a "real" process change and often come much more often. Managing decisions means you can make independent process & decision changes so that the decision used is always current and that processes don't need to be redeployed every time decision making must be updated.

The combination of BPM and Decision Management is a very strong one. The combination of process simulation and decision simulation sets you up to manage uncertainty better. Because the steps in your process are clear and the rules in your decision are equally clear you can ensure compliance. You can make workflow and process changes easily but also let business users change the decision making inside otherwise stable processes to maximize agility. Finally you can cut costs, using BPM to avoid coding changes across multiple applications for instance and decision management to lower maintenance costs for logic changes and reducing the number of manual reviews.

Business processes and business decisions are not the same. Business users determine sequence in a process and determine actions in a decision. Keep them separate, manage them both, link them together.

Next week some thoughts on how to get started doing this. You could also come hear me speak at the Gartner BPM conference or attend the Business Rules Forum with its BPM track (new this year). I have discount code for both, just email me james [at] decisionmanagementsolutions.com. My webinar series also offers a chance to hear the same presentation I will give at Gartner for those who can't make it.

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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