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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

What the business needs from business rules (a thought on mega trends)

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Last week Carole-Ann posted on 2 MegaTrends at Business Rules Forum 2010. I normally agree with a lot of what she has to say but this time I am going to have to take exception to one of her points. Her second mega trend is that innovation has dried up in the business rules management system (BRMS) market and that this is a bad thing.

I think there is a natural rhythm to product innovation and that as products become more mature the need for more PRODUCT innovation declines. The focus shifts from what do the products do, to how do we use them, how do we fit them together with everything else, how to we make this work on an enterprise scale. Frankly most BRMS users already fail to use many of the features that have been included. Not because those features don't work, not because they are not necessary but because companies have not made it far enough up the maturity curve to take advantage of them.

Where we need innovation is not in the products themselves. Frankly if they keep upgrading their web clients to match evolving expectations, roll-up their low-level tools for simulation and testing into something more business-friendly, improve their analytic integration and better define the roles of technical and non-technical rule editors I will be perfectly happy.

What we do need is innovation in methods, frameworks and training. Most methods in use today, and the tools that support them, focus on documenting requirements and supporting technical design with little or no acknowledgment that business logic should be captured as business rules and that decisions are a peer to processes and should be managed as such. Meanwhile most industry frameworks have evolved to include processes as explicit elements of the framework but decisions and business rules are largely missing. Training for consultants and internal teams is still woefully lacking too, with most projects grinding through writing requirements and mixing business rules and business process definitions willy nilly into those requirements. And don't get me started about the complete lack of analytic awareness on the part of most analysis tools/methods/professionals!

Adding more innovation to BRMSs will make technical folks like Carole-Ann happy but won't make the use of rules and the automation of decisions any more common. I work with lots of real companies and they are mostly struggling to use the features they have because they lack the thinking and management tools they need. A focus on these soft issues is the mega trend I hope to see, not more cool features in products that are already pretty sophisticated. This is where I am spending my time and where Decision Management Solutions is focused.

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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