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Business rules automation, once the pipe dream of artificial intelligence pioneers, has become a mainstream technology for business-side decision-making, according to John Rymer, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Business rules technology adoption is growing because it removes some of the complexity out of interpreting policies in multiple-application systems.

In this interview, Rymer points to trends that are driving the business need for business rules technology and discusses new areas where it's being put to use, including decision management and event processing as well as dynamic case management.

ebizQ: What has been the primary driver for adoption of business rules automation and management?

John Rymer: First, it's the number of applications. Companies have sometimes hundreds of applications. Embedded in those applications are rules. They tend to be written in code, either in Java or in another programming language.

Code is hard to maintain, period. As you have more and more applications, every time there's a need to change a business rule or check to see that it was applied correctly or try to diagnose why a transaction went wrong, you'd basically have to go to dive into this code and figure out what does it actually do, and is it consistent, and is it accurate.

So a lot of people got into business rules management because they wanted to externalize the logic. Financial services and trading applications were the first adopters, because there were so many trading applications. Now adoption has spread because of lots of regulatory requirements. So the thrust was: "Let's pull the rules out of these applications, so that we can manage them better and manage them across applications."

With business rules, rather than code rules 10 times, you just have 10 applications call on a rules engine that provides a service.

ebizQ: What's the role of business rules automation and management in change management?


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