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Who (or What!) Makes Your Operational Business Decisions?

by Ronald G. Ross

First, let's be clear what kind of decision I mean.  Say "decision" and many business people immediately think strategic decision (e.g., whether to enter some new market), or tactical decision (e.g., which supplier to use for a year-long special project).  Those are not the kinds of decision I'm not talking about.  I'm not talking about project decisions either.

When IT professionals talk about "decisions" they often mean branch points within the deep systemic logic executed by machines — classic decision points in data processing.  I don't mean that either.

Instead, I mean decisions in the day-to-day, minute-to-minute bread-and-butter operations of the business.  Some examples of such operational business decisions:

  • Whether to give a mortgage to a given applicant.
  • What discounts a premium customer will receive on a purchase.
  • Which customer gets preference if some product or resource is in short supply.

Your business makes these kinds of decisions hundreds or thousands of times a day — or hour, or minute.  These are the kinds of decisions that regulators, auditors, and compliance officers care about.  The kind your business partners deem important because they are directly impacted.

Are the decisions high quality?  At a major insurance company a thoroughly-competent, highly-experienced business system analyst recently told us:  "When we looked hard at business rules currently implemented in existing systems, we found at least 30% were flatly wrong."  After a moment's reflection he added, "That's a very conservative estimate; the actual figure was probably much higher."

The organization was just beginning to recognize the magnitude of the problem.  And whose problem is it?  The analyst said, "IT told us they couldn't solve the problem because it was a business issue not a software issue.  And they were absolutely right about that."

We might have thought this case an outlier if we hadn't heard similar estimates from credible sources in many other companies.  And we've found the same ourselves.

Not long ago we were asked to conduct an audit of implemented business rules in one area of business for a major North American bank.  The results frankly astounded us.  We double- and triple-checked.  No error.

To conduct the audit, first we harvested 518 business rules from the relevant Policies and Procedures Manual, the printed (and on-line) reference source for loan officers, and expressed them in RuleSpeak®.  How many business rules were implemented correctly in their automated system?  We found zero — zero! — fully aligned.  Some 447 were actually not implemented at all; the remainder just partially aligned.

You wouldn't think it possible but it gets even worse.  We found 261 business rules implemented in their system that did not appear anywhere in the Manual.  What sort of way of doing business is that?!  Who (or what!) is making the decisions?!

To put things in proper context it helps to appreciate the costs associated with maintaining legacy systems not built on business rules.  In a recent visit to a very large health care organization, a high-level manager cited the following statistics.  They're staggering.  He reported it takes their organization:

  • 24 person-years per year to maintain a 30-year old monolithic COBOL legacy system.
  • 400 person-days over a 4-month period to make changes to business rules of 'moderate' complexity.

The manager admitted sadly, "Truth be told, we work for our legacy systems, not the business."

Beyond these frightening costs the manager also described how a subtle stagnation had crept into the staff's very way of thinking about their business.  "Our business leads are so familiar with the limitations of our legacy systems, they don't even consider business innovations they know from experience to be difficult for the system to handle.  Sometimes I wonder if they can even think through innovation effectively anymore."

With variations it's a story we hear time and time again.  The need for innovation is ever more immediate, but the reality of achieving it ever so distant.  Who (or what) is making the decisions is in your organization?!

At BRS, we have dedicated ourselves to pioneering innovative techniques for achieving order-of-magnitude improvements in how businesses literally operate themselves.  We offer no silver bullets.  It's heavy lifting to put an organization onto a different track with respect to their core knowledge practices.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  When we see control over decisions coming back where they belong — into the hands of business managers — the results are always extremely rewarding.

For further information, please visit BRSolutions.com      



standard citation for this article:
Ronald G. Ross, "Who (or What!) Makes Your Operational Business Decisions?" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Mar. 2017), URL:  http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2017/b894.html  

 about . . .

 RONALD G. ROSS

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. 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. For more information about Mr. Ross, visit www.RonRoss.info, which hosts his blog. Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

March 2017
Who (or What!) Makes Your Operational Business Decisions?
By Ronald G. Ross


February 2017
Agree/Disagree? 'Good Enough' Quality Will Do
By Ronald G. Ross


January 2017
Seven Common Myths About the Zachman Architecture Framework
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


December 2016
Being Business-Friendly About the Life of Business Things
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


November 2016
The Architectural 'Why' of a Business Capability: Concept Models
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


October 2016
The Architectural 'Why' of a Business Capability: Business Mission and Business Goals
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


September 2016
Architectural Scope vs. Project Definition
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


August 2016
Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules About Geography
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


July 2016
Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules About Organizations
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


June 2016
Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Business Models of Milestones or States
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


May 2016
Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Concept Models
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


April 2016
Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Business Process Models
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


March 2016
General Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules
By Ronald G. Ross


February 2016
Business Architecture, Business Requirements, and System Design Building Business Capabilities
By Ronald G. Ross


January 2016
What Is the Future for Processes?
By Ronald G. Ross


December 2015
Measuring Quality and Defects in the Knowledge Economy
By Ronald G. Ross


November 2015
BPM and the Knowledge Economy
By Ronald G. Ross


October 2015
What Is a Business Architecture?
Business Architecture

By Ronald G. Ross


September 2015
Straight Talk (Part 4)
The Big Picture

By Ronald G. Ross


August 2015
Straight Talk (Part 3)
Business Architecture

By Ronald G. Ross


July 2015
Straight Talk (Part 2)
The Good News in Business Rules

By Ronald G. Ross


June 2015
Straight Talk (Part 1)
Major Challenges Facing Your Business

By Ronald G. Ross


May 2015
Six Business Problems the Business Rule Approach Addresses
By Ronald G. Ross


April 2015
What the Business Rules Group (BRG) Has to Say About Business Rules
By Ronald G. Ross


March 2015
Q&A: What We're Learning from Decision Engineering — Part 3
By Ronald G. Ross


February 2015
Q&A: What We're Learning from Decision Engineering — Part 2: Retiring the Term 'Knowledge Worker'
By Ronald G. Ross


January 2015
Q&A: What We're Learning from Decision Engineering — Part 1: Tackling White-Collar Work
By Ronald G. Ross


December 2014
Special Evaluation Specifications for Decision Rules: How to Support Very Smart, Very Friendly Business Decision Systems
By Ronald G. Ross


November 2014
The Two Fundamental Kinds of Business Rules
Where They Come From and Why They Are What They Are

By Ronald G. Ross


October 2014
What Is a Concept Model?
By Ronald G. Ross


September 2014
More Matters Meta
Probing the Gamut of Meta

By Ronald G. Ross


August 2014
Meta Matters
Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?

By Ronald G. Ross


July 2014
Decision Tables and Integrity: Introducing Restrictions
By Ronald G. Ross


June 2014
Designing Decision Tables - Part 3: Representing Meaning (Semantics)
By Ronald G. Ross


May 2014
Designing Decision Tables - Part 2: Fundamental Styles/em>
By Ronald G. Ross


April 2014
Designing Decision Tables - Part 1: Basics
By Ronald G. Ross


March 2014
What Kinds of Decisions Are Appropriate for Decision Analysis?
By Ronald G. Ross


February 2014
Smart Business Analysis
Don't Drown in Decisions

By Ronald G. Ross


January 2014
Three Major Myths of the Business Decision Space — And Why They Matter to Business Analysts
By Ronald G. Ross


December 2013
Do Business Rules Define the Operational Boundaries of an Organization?
By Ronald G. Ross


November 2013
The Why Engineer ™
By Ronald G. Ross


October 2013
Modeling Decision Structures
Part 2: Question Charts (Q Charts™) and Hybrid Diagrams

By Ronald G. Ross


September 2013
Modeling Decision Structures
Part 1: Kinds of Decision Dependencies

By Ronald G. Ross


August 2013
Modeling Decisions
Simulated vs. "For Real" Decisions

By Ronald G. Ross


July 2013
Decision Rules vs. Behavioral Rules
By Ronald G. Ross


June 2013
Agile Development of Business Rules: Is It Possible?
By Ronald G. Ross


May 2013
Re-Cycling Shut-Down
Let's Face It — Some Rules Are Just Silly!

By Ronald G. Ross


April 2013
Tabulation of Lists in RuleSpeak® — Using "The Following" Clause
By Ronald G. Ross


March 2013
Requirements are Rules: True or False?
By Ronald G. Ross


February 2013
Breaking the Rules: Breach Questions
By Ronald G. Ross


January 2013
Business Rules, Business Processes, and Business Agility: Basic Principles — Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto (Part 3)
By Ronald G. Ross


December 2012
Business Rules, Business Processes, and Business Agility: Basic Principles — Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto (Part 2)
By Ronald G. Ross


November 2012
Strategy for Business Solutions: Part 3: Adjusting and Fine-Tuning a Strategy
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


October 2012
Strategy for Business Solutions: Part 2 — Business Mission and Business Goals
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


October 2012
Big-P Process is Dead; Long Live Configuration Agility!
By Ronald G. Ross


September 2012
Strategy for Business Solutions: Part 1 — The Policy Charter
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


August 2012
Business Rules, Requirements, and Business Analysis: Basic Principles — Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Business Rules Manifesto
By Ronald G. Ross


July 2012
Strategy-Based Metrics for Measuring Business Performance
By Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


June 2012
How Business Processes, Strategy, and Business Policies Relate
By: Ronald G. Ross


May 2012
Business Processes: Better with Business Rules
By: Ronald G. Ross


April 2012
Business Policies, Business Rules, and Rulebook Management: Let Us Be Well-Governed
By: Ronald G. Ross


March 2012
What's Really Needed to Align Business and IT Part 2: Strategy for a Business Solution
By: Ronald G. Ross


February 2012
What's Really Needed to Align Business and IT Part 1: Creating True Business Solutions
By: Ronald G. Ross


January 2012
Concept Model vs. Fact Model vs. Conceptual Data Model; Just a Matter of Semantics?
By: Ronald G. Ross


December 2011
Business Rules: Basic Principles
By: Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


November 2011
Know-How Models: How Business Rules, Decisions, and Events Relate in True-to-Life Business Models

October 2011
Business Analysis with Business Rules
By: Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam


September 2011
How Business Processes and Business Rules Relate

August 2011
Decision Analysis (Part 3): Defining Scope

July 2011
Decision Analysis (Part 2): The Basic Elements of Operational Business Decisions

June 2011
Decision Analysis (Part 1): What Kind of Decisions?

May 2011
How Long Will Your Fact Model Last? — The Power of Structured Business Vocabularies

April 2011
More on the If-Then Format for Expressing Business Rules: Questions and Answers

March 2011
Operational Business Decisions
Whose Decisions Are They Anyway?


February 2011
The Anatomy of Decisions
The Business-Rule View


January 2011
Why Rulebook Management? Because Software Requirements and Business Rules Simply Aren't the Same!

December 2010
Introducing Question Charts (Q-Charts™) for Analyzing Operational Business Decisions: A New Technique for Getting at Business Rules

November 2010
Agility Based on Business Rules It's Just Common Sense

October 2010
Five Tests for What Is a Business Rule?

September 2010
Can a Business Rule Be Enforced Differently in Different Contexts?

August 2010
How Far Can You Take Decisioning?

July 2010
Business Rules vs. System Design Choices

June 2010
Four Useful Constructs for Developing a Structured Business Vocabulary: Special-Purpose Elements of Structure for Fact Models

May 2010
Eight Things You Need to Know About Fact Types Bringing Verbs into Structured Business Vocabulary

April 2010
Business Vocabulary: The Most Basic Requirement of All

March 2010
What Is a Business Rule?

February 2010
CRUD in Business Rules: Accident-Prone Decision Logic

January 2010
The Point of Knowledge

December 2009
When is an Exception Really an Exception? The Business Rule Principles of Accommodation and Wholeness

November 2009
Verb-ish Models for Verbalization: Give Us Back Our Verbs!

October 2009
From Rulebook Management to Business Governance: Where Business Rules Fit

September 2009
What You Need to Know About Rulebook Management

August 2009
When Is a Door Not a Door? ~ Basic Ideas of the Business Rules Paradigm

July 2009
General Rulebook Systems (GRBS): What's the General Idea?

June 2009
Becoming Strategy-Driven: The Policy Charter

May 2009
Product Quality and a Longer-Term View: A 'Simple' Matter of Business Policies

April 2009
RuleSpeak® Sentence Forms: Specifying Natural-Language Business Rules in English

March 2009
The Rulebook: To Play Ball You Need Rules

February 2009
Extreme Business Agility (Part 6): A Manifesto-in-Progress on the Semantic Re-Engineering of Products

January 2009
Extreme Business Agility (Part 5): The Optimal Edge of Business Performance

December 2008
Extreme Business Agility (Part 4): Change Deployment Hell

November 2008
Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 3: Examples of Non-Agile vs. Agile Business Capabilities

October 2008
Extreme Business Agility ~ Part 2: A Semantic Approach to Re-Engineering Your Company's Products

September 2008
Extreme Business Agility — Part 1: A Value Chain for Re-Engineering Your Company’s Products

August 2008
My Son, Business Rule Analyst — Governance and Compliance Through Young Eyes

July 2008
Rules vs. Processes (Again) — Part 2: Now for Events

June 2008
Rules vs. Processes (Again) — Part 1: There’s Simply No Need for Confusion

May 2008
Legacy Modernization, Semantics, and the Knowledge Economy ~ Have You Connected the Dots Yet?!

April 2008
The Emergence of SBVR and the True Meaning of ‘Semantics’: Why You Should Care (a Lot!) ~ Part 2

March 2008
The Emergence of SBVR and the True Meaning of ‘Semantics’: Why You Should Care (a Lot!) ~ Part 1

February 2008
The Phoenix Strategy ~ A Lower-Risk Approach to Rejuvenating Systems and Legacy Modernization

January 2008
'Rules of Record' Why 'System of Record' Isn't Enough

December 2007
The Decision Center: A Center of Excellence for Coordinating Business Rules and Other Process 'Smarts'

November 2007
The Latency of Decisions ~ New Ideas on the ROI of Business Rules

October 2007
Legacy Systems -- Poorly Engineered or Over-Engineered? New Insights about Business Rules and Enterprise Decisioning

September 2007
The Value of Decisions ~ New Ideas on the ROI of Business Rules

August 2007
A Case of Dueling Manifestos? Business Rules and Enterprise Decision Management

July 2007
What's Wrong with If-Then Syntax For Expressing Business Rules ~ One Size Doesn't Fit All

June 2007
Are IT Terms Fundamental to Every Business? Not!

May 2007
Are all Rules Business Rules? Not!

April 2007
Are Software Requirements Rules? Not!

March 2007
Are Integrity Constraints Business Rules? Not!

February 2007
From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 4: Governance Engineers and the Chief Governance Officer (CGO)

January 2007
From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 3: Re-Engineering the Governance Process

December 2006
From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 2: Governance and How it Relates to Business Rules

November 2006
From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 1: Governance and How it Relates to Business Rules

October 2006
Rules and Processes: Examples Showing How They Relate

September 2006
The Meaning of Things: Definitions, Intensions, Rules, and Extensions

August 2006
Re-Vitalize, Don't Just Re-platform! ~ Three Tests for Whether Your Company 'Gets It' with Respect to Re-Platforming Business IP

July 2006
The Dirty Secrets About Your Company's Business IP That Nobody Wants to Talk About

June 2006
A Personal Insurance Saga ~ The Economics of Business Rules

May 2006
Concepts, Definitions, and Rules: RuleSpeak® Practices

April 2006
The RuleSpeak® Business Rule Notation

March 2006
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 6. Point-of-Knowledge Architecture (POKA)

February 2006
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 5. Scripts -- Rule-Friendly Process Models

January 2006
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 4. Business Processes vs. System Processes

December 2005
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 3. Three Best Practices for Designing Business Processes with Rules

November 2005
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 2. Business Processes

October 2005
How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 1. The Challenges

September 2005
Rule Quality ~ The Route to Trustworthy Business Logic

August 2005
Decision Tables, Part 2 ~ The Route to Completeness

July 2005
Decision Tables, Part 1 ~ The Route to Consolidated Business Logic

June 2005
Rule Reduction ~ The Route to Atomic Business Rules

May 2005
Essence Definitions and Business Rules ~ Developing Stable Anchor Points for Operational Knowledge

April 2005
Can You Violate Structural Rules? (part 3) ~ The Difference Between Breaking Rules and 'Breaking' Knowledge

March 2005
Can You Violate Structural Rules? (Part 2) ~ The Difference Between How to Compute and How to Behave

February 2005
Can You Violate Structural Rules? (Part 1) ~ The Difference Between Violations and Bad Decisions

 

Janauary 2005
Business Rules and Knowledge Workers ~ Getting to the 'Point of Knowledge'

 

December 2004
Can a Definition be Violated? ~ Definitions and Business Rules

 

November 2004
Rustling Up Good Definitions ~ There's a Lot Less and a Lot More to It

 

October 2004 

Clarifying Clarifications ~ Universal 'And' to the Rescue

 

September 2004 

Relearning the Basics of Communicating ~ Business Semantics and Business Rules

 

August 2004 

The Light World vs. the Dark World ~ Business Rules for Authorization

 

July 2004 

Best-Fit Decision Points ~ How They Fit into the Business Rule Approach

 

June 2004 

What Rule Independence Means to System Models ~ Less and More than You Think!

 

May 2004 

The Semantics Lexicon ~ Terms For The Business Rules / Smart Process

 

April 2004 

Don't Reinvent Rule Engines!

 

March 2004 

Rules And Compliance Tactics

 

February 2004 

Tracing the Path of Rule Reduction

 

December 2003

Do Rules Decompose To Processes Or Vice Versa?

 

November 2003

Should You Encapsulate Knowledge in Modeling Real-World Things?

 

October 2003

Business Rules, Encapsulation, and Models of the Real World

 

September 2003

Business vs. Environment in Business Models

 

August 2003

Requirement Statement vs. Rule Statement

 

July 2003

Rules as Constraints:  On or By the System Design?

 

June 2003

Rules Reveal Events -- Not Actions

 

May 2003

Actions Are Not Rules (and Vice Versa)

 

April 2003

The Definitions of 'Business Rule' and 'Rule'

 

March 2003

Business Problems Addressed by the Business Rule Approach

 

January 2003

About the Business Rules Manifesto ~ The Business Rule Message in a Nutshell

 

November 2002

Business Rules for the Company's Provisioning Processes ~ There’s a Lot More to Reference Data than Just Data!

 

September 2002

The Terminator -- I'll be Back (with Just the Right Term)

 

July 2002

What Does it Mean to be Business-Driven? (Part 2)

 

May 2002

What Does it Mean to be Business-Driven? (Part 1)

 

March 2002

A Telltale E-mail Trail:  The Case for In-Line Business Rule Analysis

 

January 2002

Managing M x N Vs. M + N, Market-Driven Economies, and Other eCommerce Issues (part 2)

 

November 2001

Managing M x N Vs. M + N, Market-Driven Economies, and Other eCommerce Issues (part 1)

 

September 2001

The BRS Rule Classification Scheme

 

July 2001

Minding Your P's and Q's

 

May 2001

RuleSpeak"! -- Templates And Guidelines For Business Rules

 

March 2001

Business Rules In Business Processes ~ Title Rules For Process And Rules For Product/Service

 

January 2001

What Is Rule Management About?

 

November 2000

Let's Make a Deal: A Killer App for Business Rules

 

September 2000

The Re's Of Business Rules

 

July 2000

What Are Fact Models And Why Do You Need Them? (Part 2)

 

May 2000

What Are Fact Models And Why Do You Need Them? (Part 1)

 

March 2000

What is a 'Business Rule'?

 

January 2000

Current Thoughts On Expressing Business Rules

 

November 1999

The Fin de Siegle Legacy Mindset
 

September 1999

Analysis Paralysis Just May Save Your Life
 

July 1999

If We Had Started Coding Already...
 

May 1999

Your Core Business Processes Need a Rule Engine
 

March 1999

Who or What is a True Business Analyst?
 

January 1999

Four Things Wrong with the Way We Develop Information Systems



November/December 1998
Push-Type Data Hub vs. Pull-Type Data Warehouse
By Ronald G. Ross

September/October 1998
What Knowledge Management is About (And What it Has To Do With Business Rules)
By Ronald G. Ross

May/June 1998
The Next Great Leap Forward ~ About the Changes You See
By Ronald G. Ross

March/April 1998
Business Rules as Customer Interface
By Ronald G. Ross

January/February 1998
Components and Business Rules: Do They Connect?
By Ronald G. Ross

November/December 1997
The Policy Charter: A Small-Sized Picture of the Big Picture
By Ronald G. Ross

September/October 1997

Implementing Application Packages: Is There A Better Way?

By Ronald G. Ross


July/August 1997

'Why' is Why Business Rule Methodology is Different

By Ronald G. Ross


May/June 1997

Never-ending On-the-Job Training

By Ronald G. Ross


September/October 1996

Re-Usability in the Business Rule Approach

By Ronald G. Ross


March/April 1996

The Newest Idea In Business Rules: Rules Normalize!

By Ronald G. Ross


January/February 1996

An Open Letter to DBMS Vendors: We Need Active Database Systems

By Ronald G. Ross


May/June 1995

The Greatest Irony Of The Information Age: Business Rules

By Ronald G. Ross


November/December 1995

Business Rules: Knowledge For Knowledge Workers

By Ronald G. Ross


March/April 1994

"Play Ball!"

By Ronald G. Ross


November/December 1988

The History Of Steam-Powered Ships

By Ronald G. Ross


January/February 1994

"Business Rules, At What Cost?"

By Ronald G. Ross


May/June 1994

Business Rules:  Birth of a Movement

By Ronald G. Ross


July/August 1991

Why I Like the Zachman Framework Architecture"

By Ronald G. Ross


March/April 1997

Business Process Re-Engineering

By Ronald G. Ross

 

 

 

 

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