From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 2: Governance and How it Relates to Rule Management
The first part of this four-part series discussed the real-world meaning of 'governance', or more precisely, what 'governance' means in natural language. The real-world sense of 'governance' is not specialized to any of the following: IT governance, the IT process of developing requirements (i.e., system design methodology), or data governance. But it does have everything to do with business rules. This column extrapolates that intrinsic connection to rule management.
To start with, what do we mean by 'business governance'? The basis for our definition of 'business governance', given later, has two principal parts.
- The first definition of 'govern' from Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary
(MWUD) is as follows.
to exercise arbitrarily or by established rules continuous sovereign authority over; especially: to control and direct the making and administration of policy in
Policy and rules are obviously key elements of this definition. Equally important is the key phrase "... making and administration...". In other words, both of the following are central to the activity of governing:
- How policy and rules are created ('made').
- How policy and rules are deployed (managed, distributed, and monitored) within
the actual day-to-day operations of the business ('administration').
- How policy and rules are created ('made').
- As pointed out in Part 1 of this series, the definitions of 'governance' given
by MWUD cover four specific aspects: the process, function, manner
or method, and/or system of governing.
Accordingly, the definition we use for 'business governance' is as follows.
a process, organizational function, set of techniques, and systematic approach for creating and deploying policy and rules into day-to-day business operations
Clearly, this definition, as well as the effectiveness of business governance in real life, hinge on the ability to deploy policy and rules effectively. Such deployment should be:
We also want the activity to be transparent (to those authorized by position or statute), and to be able to hold accountable those parties responsible for specific actions.
For effective deployment, all four of the aspects mentioned above -- a process, organizational function, set of techniques, and systematic approach -- are essential. Given the complexity of the activity, however, the one that is perhaps most basic is simply having a systematic approach.
That's where rule management comes to play. Unfortunately, many people take an IT perspective on rule management -- for example, many IT professionals talk about "rule management" in the technical context of managing production rules for inference engines. That view badly shortchanges the business rules vision for rule management.
From a business perspective, rule management (or business rule management, if you prefer), requires two fundamental ingredients.
- A rich architecture and tooling for recording policies and rules.
- A high-powered ability to trace the interpretation and deployment of policies and rules into business operations, as well as to the software (and/or rule engines) that support them.
Put simply, you need a business rule repository -- one whose interfaces must be business-person-friendly. We say, database your business rules!
What company these days would attempt any large-scale operations without databases? Yet for the governance problem -- now a problem looming ever larger in its own right -- most companies languish in a pre-database stage. That's not where you want to be!
So step one in moving toward smarter governance is simply gearing up to 'database' the central stuff of governance -- policies and rules -- in a business rules repository. That gives you your systematic approach. Then you can start talking seriously about re-engineering the process of governance. That's where things start to get really exciting!
The third column of this four-part series will discuss what it really means to re-engineer the governance process.
 Ronald G. Ross, "From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 1: Governance and How it Relates to Business Rules," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 7, No. 11 (Nov. 2006), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2006/b318.html
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