Business Problems Addressed by 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

Im frequently asked to summarize what business problems the business rule approach was created to address.  Heres my take on that critically important question.

Ad hoc Rules.  Most businesses have no logical approach for defining their business rules.  As a result, business workers often make up the rules as they go along.  This leads to confusion, contradiction, and operational inefficiency.  After-the-fact resolution of these problems wastes time and resources, and causes frustration for customers and staff alike.  The larger the organization, the bigger the problem.  Also, since many business rules involve monetary transactions (e.g., should a customer be given a discount, and if so, how much), it can also directly affect the bottom line.

Business Rule Solution:  a structured approach to help you think through rules before the fact.

Miscommunication.  Misunderstanding of key business concepts inevitably results in miscommunication.  Does preferred customer discount mean the same across all departments?  If not, what are the differences?  What rules apply?  Do these rules differ for different areas of the business?  Are the rules consistent?

Business Rule Solution:  a clear set of concepts on which rules can be directly based.

Inaccessible Rules.  Finding out what rules apply to a given business situation often involves an open-ended search through multiple sources.  It is not uncommon in the end to resort to interpreting application source code.  Pursuing rules in this fashion is time-consuming, inefficient, and inaccurate.

Business Rule Solution:  a means to manage business rules, providing direct accessibility.

Massive Differentiation.  Many businesses seek to support highly individualized relationships with growing numbers of customers and other partners for ever more complex product/services.  How can businesses massively differentiate between business parties, and at the very same time, conduct each business transaction faster, more accurately, and at ever lower cost?

Business Rule Solution:  a rule-based approach featuring rapid development and deployment of rules.

Keeping Up To Speed.  Rapid change, at an ever faster pace, is a fact of life. In the Internet age, implementation of changes is expected almost instantaneously.  How can line workers consumed with day-to-day activity ever hope to keep up?

Business Rule Solution:  real-time delivery of business logic to knowledge workers as errors actually occur, creating a seamless, never-ending, self-training environment.

Knowledge Walking Out the Door.  By and large, the baby-boomers created much of the core business system capacity we see in place in larger organizations today.  Much of the related knowledge still sits in their heads and nowhere else.  What will happen when they retire?  On a smaller scale, vital operational knowledge walks out the door almost every day.

Business Rule Solution:  a systematic way of capturing, documenting, and retaining the business rules.

Never-Ending IT Projects.  Why do so many projects miss their deadlines?  Delivery dates are adjusted time and time again.  Primary requirements are forever changing mid-stream, causing endless rework.  Some projects never deliver anything at all.  Is this really simply a fact of computer-age life, or does it perhaps suggest that primary requirements are not being gathered completely and accurately before development starts?

Business Rule Solution:  a means to capture true business requirements up-front, before costly rework is required.

IT Driving the Business.  The capabilities of information technology (IT) have advanced explosively in the past several decades.  Businesses continue to devote significant resources to exploit these new capabilities, and there is no end in sight.  How does the business decide which kinds of automation are really beneficial and which are not?  How can the business be sure it will use new technology for the maximum business benefit?

Business Rule Solution:  an approach enabling the business to drive development of requirements.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Business Problems Addressed by the Business Rule Approach" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 4, No. 3, (Mar. 2003)

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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