Never-ending On-the-Job Training

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 May/June 1997 issue of the Data Base Newsletter.

Everyone is talking these days about the accelerating rate of change and the urgent need to build business systems that prove more adaptable.  The business rule approach clearly addresses that need.  The Newsletter talks about that on a regular basis.  I believe there is a flip side to the issue of change, however, which has received very little attention.  That flip side has to do with training.

Remember the old story about telephone operators?  Use of the telephone has grown at such a rate, that if automatic switching had not been invented, it is said that by now everyone would be a telephone operator.  I believe that the rate of change in business today is just as fast.  Workers are being thrown into new responsibilities and procedures at an ever-increasing rate.  That means they must be trained -- by other workers.  If this keeps up, sooner or later, everyone will have to become a trainer.

Clearly, that cannot happen.  The only solution is to make training automatic -- that is, built right into the information systems that support the workers' day-to-day responsibilities and procedures.  I believe business rules can make that happen.  Here's how.

The business rule approach features declarative expression of rules.  This declarative expression is associated with a simple textual statement (e.g., a rush order may include no more than 5 items).  When a worker violates this rule performing any procedure, what error message should pop up on the screen?  Not some obscure system code, or any message in computerese, but the business rule text itself!  I like to say that business rules are the error messages.

Another way to look at this is that the business rule represents a requirement that is pure 'business logic.'  In the business rules approach, this type of requirement gets input directly in building the system, then gets output directly to inform the worker when a violation in his work is detected.  Think of that as a communication from a worker who knows the 'business logic' to a worker who must follow the business logic -- without these workers ever communicating directly.

A friendly business rule system goes a step further.  When an error is detected, not only does the business rule system materialize the original business logic for the worker but can offer a canned procedure to the worker so that he can correct the violation.  In that way the user not only learns the business logic but also learns how to correct mistakes.  The very same applies even for experienced workers who encounter changes to the business policies they already knew. 
For these reasons, I think of the business rule systems as instructional.  Think of it as never-ending on-the-job training.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Never-ending On-the-Job Training" (May/Jun. 1997)

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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