My Son, Business Rule Analyst — Governance and Compliance Through Young Eyes

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal , and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

My older son, a recent college graduate and now into law school, started his first day of work as an intern for a professional sports team.  He called me at the end of the day puzzled.  "I asked them what my responsibilities were," he related, "and they said, 'We need you to know what we are supposed to be doing'."  After a long pause he went on, "I wanted to ask them why they didn't already know what they were supposed to be doing, but I didn't think that would be such a great idea my very first day there."

Let's see if at some level this sounds familiar to you.  It turns out his area of responsibility had to do with ensuring operational compliance with corporate sponsorship agreements.  You would think these agreements would be relatively simple, but of course, there's no such thing as a truly simple business.  The sponsorships are quite expensive, and they outline a complex configuration of promotional and other benefits, some automatable and some not, all usually tailored specifically for the individual sponsor.  They are loaded with decision criteria and computation formula (read 'business rules') to govern the sponsorship relationship.  And owing to the dynamic nature of the sponsors' marketing needs, the contracts are amended frequently, both formally and informally (via hand-shake).

To continue the story of my son's first day, they gave him a stack of contracts and amendments, operational schedules, and invoices and told him to see if they all matched.  Of course they didn't.  Not by a long shot.

By the end of the first week, he had become fairly fluent in the organization's governance problems.  (Ah, young minds!)  The contracts and schedules were all produced by different people at different times.  Some of the schedules were hand-done and some automated.  But even the ones that were automated often didn't match the contracts.  The invoices were automated, but in many cases they too bore little resemblance to the contracts.  The IT people were not much help.  "They seem to speak a different language," my son reported naively.  Bottom line:  A number of the sponsors were becoming quite annoyed — not a good thing for a mediocre team in a mid-sized market.

But there was more.  The sales reps were, shall we say, quite creative in what they offered the sponsors.  Their terminology, which often found its way into the contracts, was highly idiosyncratic.  Yet they were talking about the same shared resources (e.g., banner boards in the stadium) that had to be coordinated real-time across many sponsors.  They seemed oblivious to some of the company's rules — even though some, quite literally, were dictated by physics (e.g., a banner board can only say one thing at a time; there is only so much time during a game, etc.).

By the way, my son went to one of the team's games his first week at work.  The team lost.  Attendance was poor.  Sponsors were unhappy.  "I think it's going to be a long three months," he said.

After a moment of reflection he added, "You know what really worries me is that I am going to figure all this out, then walk right out the door with all that knowledge.  They'll be right back where they started.  Doesn't seem to me like a very good way to run a business."

Welcome, my son, to the story of business rule mismanagement in the 2000s!

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Standard citation for this article:


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Ronald G. Ross , "My Son, Business Rule Analyst — Governance and Compliance Through Young Eyes" Business Rules Journal Vol. 9, No. 8, (Aug. 2008)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2008/b433.html

About our Contributor:


Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal , and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the IPSpeak methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:


Ron serves as Executive Editor of BRCommunity.com and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997., now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on http://www.brsolutions.com/category/blog/. For more information about Ron visit www.RonRoss.info. Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

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