Re-Usability in the Business Rule Approach

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

This column originally appeared in the Sep./Oct. 1996 issue of the Data Base Newsletter.

The object community touts re-usability as a major benefit of object orientation (OO).  I believe the business rule approach can produce re-usability on a far greater scale.  Let me explain.

Re-usability means various things in OO.  For example, an object class can (should) be formed such that the services (methods) it provides can be invoked (i.e., re-used) by many other object classes.  This corresponds roughly to the traditional notion of modularity in software engineering.

A more specific interpretation of re-usability in OO is that an operation (method) defined for a supertype automatically is inherited by all subtypes.  This enables re-use.  Actually, the real focus, however, is on revisability.  For example, the operation named 'pay salary' for Employee can be revised to 'work' differently for the subtype Manager.  All other object classes (potential 'users' of the operation), however, are shielded from the distinction.

These are good ideas, but fundamentally they are about software re-usability.  Can the business rule approach potentially incorporate them?  Yes (plus inheritance and revisability for rules).  Does the business rule approach potentially offer more?  Yes -- far more.  Here's how.

In the business rule approach, rules must be segregated from procedures.  (This is one aspect of what I call 'rule independence.')  Followed rigorously, this produces procedures (I call them 'scripts' -- OO might call them 'use cases') that are nothing more than simple series of requests (a.k.a. 'thin processes').  An implication is that procedures become 'cheap' -- in effect, throw-away.  That's exactly what businesses need these days to become more adaptive.

In this environment, rules provide the boundary between procedures for normal business activity and procedures for abnormal business activity (a.k.a. rule violation activity).  Here's how that happens.  When a procedure (script) for normal business activity fires a rule, a violation may be detected.  If so, a procedure (script) to handle it can be invoked automatically.  That offers the user the opportunity to correct the violation -- for example, to create, update, or delete the data that caused the violation in the first place.

Re-usability arises as follows.  Ideally, the invoked procedure (script) should be the one that in other circumstances would be used for the normal business activity involving that data.  In other words, entire procedures -- the ones the users should know already -- can be re-used.  As far as I know, OO has no equivalent concept.  And without rules, I doubt one can be found.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Re-Usability in the Business Rule Approach" (Sep./Oct. 1996)

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 BRS 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 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 For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

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