Top 10 Mistakes Business Analysts Make When Capturing Rules - Mistake #1: Treating Business Rules Initiatives Simply As IT Projects
I have not written for a while for the BRJournal and, believe it or not, my daughter is now 17 years old. I started writing articles about her since before she could read. Now I am making her help me write this one.
After running as many seminars on business rules as I have (and hearing about as many common challenges among businesses in capturing rules), I thought that a series on "Top 10 Mistakes Business Analysts Make When Capturing Rules" would be fitting.
The first mistake I want to discuss is "Treating business rules projects as simply IT projects."
Everyone who has a teenager must have gone through the cell phone selection process. My daughter approached me recently and said, "Mommmyy (I know I am in trouble), I need a new cell phone." Given that she will be driving on her own and going away to college soon, I thought that a new cell phone was reasonable. It will give her an easily accessible way to contact me. As it turns out (and no one will be surprised by this), she picked a very expensive cell phone. I asked her why she had to have THAT particular phone; this is what she said....
- I can text without looking (which only means that she will text under the dinner table while she is supposed to be talking to me).
- I can get on Facebook (when I requested to be her Facebook friend, she rejected me).
- I can search anything on the web really fast (does she need to search for her mother on the web?).
- It comes in pink (and I care … why?).
I asked, "What about my requirements? I want to get you a cell phone because I want to stay in contact with you."
I travel a lot so I use email a lot. "Does the cell phone download email, and can you reply quickly?" (She doesn't know, or care … did you know that email is already passé?)
"Can I leave a voice mail for you?" (Her response: "What's voice mail?")
"How about that GPS thing so I can see where you are at any time?" (I thought I would get a reaction on that one. Bingo — she rolled her eyes, turned around, and walked out of the room.)
Since I am paying for this cell phone, I want to make sure my (business) requirements are met.
When your organization decides to adapt a business rule approach, be aware that the ultimate benefit must be on the business side. IT will very quickly discover that there is a whole range of excellent rule engine tools that allow developers to quickly code, test, and deploy rules. However, the true value of the business rule approach sides with the business. The following are three very common business drivers for business rules:
- The business taking full control of its own rules.
- The business knowing and managing its own rules.
- The business having better guidance and making better decisions.
1. The business taking full control of its own rules
The true value of a business rule approach is the business having the ability to take full control of its own rules. This means the business being able to change and deploy rules with considerably reduced support from IT.
Mukundan Agaram, Enterprise Architect at Delta Dental of Michigan, said it best:
"Make sure you are realizing all the important features that are necessary to fully realize the value-add of business rules as a business proposition. For example, at Delta Dental, we put the business rules entirely in the hands of business people, which meant that they author the rules, they test the rules, they regression test the rules, they analyze the rules, they deploy the rules … so we get to have a vacation."
The business can take changes from business policies, agreements, and operations to system implementation. In today's fast changing world, we recognize that rules change a lot faster than implementation cycles. With the right method, governance, discipline, and resources, business people can implement change an order-of-magnitude faster than with a traditional approach.
2. The business knowing and managing its own rules
Many business rules projects are not system development projects. Organizations have business rules that are embedded in the knowledge worker's head, buried deep in system codes, and/or hidden in agreements or policies that are not complied with. With knowledge workers retiring or changing frequently, the loss of corporate memory is starting to take a toll on organizations worldwide. The business rule approach addresses the core of this issue. Ian Cole of Strategic Technology for Starwood Vacation Ownership agrees:
"Our original use of a rules product was to go back and codify twenty-five years of contractual ownership rights that really were not documented anywhere. And today, we still haven't automated the majority of them, but we at least now have a fair body of knowledge of them."
3. The business having better guidance and making better decisions
Are your business rules enforced consistently throughout different areas in your organization? Are your operational workers within your organization making smart decisions? Externalizing your business rules, specifying a business rule only once, and managing your rules as a first-class citizen are keys to an agile business. "Business rules ensure your business works smart," declares Ron Ross, author of Business Rules Concepts.
There are many drivers for business rules. However, don't let the new novelty technical features cloud your judgment. There will always be better features tomorrow. Hold true to the business benefits. Stay focused and build your method, team, and tool (and features) toward the business vision. I didn't give in to my daughter's wish for novelty technical features; you shouldn't either.
 "Business Rules Forum 2009 Practitioners' Panel: The DOs and DON'Ts of Business Rules," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Apr. 2010), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2010/b530.html
 Business Rules Forum 2009 Practitioners' Panel: The DOs and DON'Ts of Business Rules," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Apr. 2010), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2010/b530.html
 Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge (Third Edition), by Ronald G. Ross (August 2009). ISBN 0-941049-07-8, URL: http://www.brsolutions.com/b_concepts.php
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