One of the hardest things for most IT departments is change. Not only do they have to cope with the technology change that is inherent in their business, they have to cope with all sorts of other change – regulatory changes, business changes, competitive changes, requirement changes, process changes, policy changes. All this change creates a maintenance nightmare so that in many IT shops the majority of time is spent not building cool new applications but editing and “fixing” code in old systems. Business rules, one of the fastest growing markets in application development technology, offers a way to stop worrying about change and learn to love it.
Change is inevitable
So why is there so much change? Well the nature of IT, its reliance on technology, inflicts a certain under-current of change in everything an IT department does. Systems get faster, IT standards come and go, new languages and methodologies become popular, magazines are filled with great new tools and ideas for building systems better. By and large most IT people love this kind of change – it’s fun, it’s often why they got into IT in the first place. This might be considered “good” change.
The problem is that this is not the only kind of change. IT people, like most people, like to “finish” things and get the rewards and kudos that come with that. But constant change in the business environment can make it impossible to finish applications or at least create an environment where users feel that the system is never quite right – by the time each version goes live there are already new requirements and changes required. So what causes this kind of “bad” change?
In any regulated industry – banking, insurance, health care – a key risk is changing regulations. Most state legislatures love to tinker with the rules as does the federal government. If your system needs to enforce these regulations then you run the risk that the regulations will change before you get them coded or after you go live. In addition there is always the risk of an “out of cycle” change to the law resulting from a court ruling. These might overturn regulations, interpret them more broadly than expected or have some other impact. Not only does this change happen, it is hard to control and even harder to predict. Plus, of course, you don’t really have the option of ignoring it!
Even if your industry is not regulated, your business has policies and procedures. These too can change, although you may have some ability to control them. If you are working well with your business owners, you may be able to get them to delay changes to their policies or change them to make them easier to implement. Of course, you may not too. Even if your immediate contacts are cooperative, corporate may have something to say about it and so force your collective hand. Either way, changing business policies can be a bear.