How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 1. The Challenges

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

What do business rules have to do with processes?[1]  That's no idle question.  After all, it's the processes that get the products out the door and into the customers' hands.  Your business faces a host of challenges in that regard, including:

Time shock:  As the rate of change accelerates, workers are constantly thrust into new roles and responsibilities.  They must be guided through unfamiliar procedures and/or business know-how as thoroughly and as efficiently as possible.  The business pays a price, either directly or indirectly, if getting the workers up to speed is too slow (or too painful).  Time shock is like culture shock -- very disorienting if you're not prepared for rapid immersion.

Training:  The flip side of time shock is training -- how to get workers up to speed.  Training is expensive and time-consuming.  Yet as the rate of change accelerates, more and more (re)training is required.  Where do you turn for solutions?

Adaptability:  In the National Football League (NFL), if a play is not working for a team, it will be gone from its playbook in short order (possibly along with a coach or two).  New plays can be deployed rapidly.  In effect, the plays are essentially throwaways -- cheap enough to discard readily, with minimum disruption or cost.  Businesses urgently need something similar -- throwaway procedures cheap enough to replace readily when they no longer work well (make 'yardage') for the business.

The reason NFL plays can be treated as throwaways is that the knowledge necessary to run them is embodied elsewhere -- in the scoreboard, in the skills of the players, in the heads of the coaches, and most importantly, in the NFL rulebook.  The NFL rulebook there's a real-world example of Rule Independence as per the Business Rules Manifesto![2]

Another important direction for many companies today is managing business activity on more of a beginning-to-end, value-add basis.  That requires thinking cross-organizationally about fundamental business processes.  Are throwaway procedures compatible with managing business activity on a process basis?  Can you have the best of both worlds?

Yes.  Here's the short answer why.  When business people talk about fundamental business processes they (quite naturally) mean process from a business perspective.  Value chains simply don't change that fast.  With throwaway procedures, process is viewed from the perspective of system design.  Processes involved with automated information systems do need to change rapidly.  And they can!

The long answer why requires some fresh thinking about processes in a world where business rules are externalized, evaluated, and managed separately.  In this six-part series, I will first examine the relation of processes and rules from the perspective of business people, factoring in the very latest developments now emerging in the industry.[3]  Later in the series I will examine the relation of processes and rules from the perspective of system design, to show how rule-friendly process models can achieve throwaway procedures.  In both cases, I think you'll come to agree with me:  there's something really powerful afoot here!


[1]  Excerpted from Chapter 6, Business Rule Concepts:  Getting to the Point of Knowledge (Second Edition), by Ronald G. Ross. (September 2005).  ISBN 0-941049-06-X.  Reprinted with permission. return to article

[2]  The Business Rules Group, Business Rules Manifesto ~ The Principles of Rule Independence, ver. 1.2 (Jan. 8, 2003).  Available at (in English as well as translations to numerous other languages). return to article

[3]  In particular based on:  Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR), by the Business Rules Team, August 2005.  Available to OMG members at as bei/2005-08-01:  BRT's revised submission to the Object Management Group's (OMG) Business Semantics of Business Rules RFP.   For background on the SBVR and the consortium that produced it, refer to "A Brief History of the Business Rule Approach," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1.  Available at return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "How Rules and Processes Relate ~ Part 1. The Challenges" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 6, No. 10, (Oct. 2005)

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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