From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 2: Governance and How it Relates to Rule Management

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

The first part of[1] 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[2] definition of 'business governance', given later, has two principal parts.

  1. The first definition of 'govern' from Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (MWUD)[3] 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').  

  2. 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:

    • timely
    • effective
    • selective
    • pervasive
    • traceable
    • repeatable
    • retractable

    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.  


[1]  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:  return to article

[2]  Business Rule Solutions, LLC return to article

[3]  Definition 1a of 'govern' as a transitive verb, emphasis added. return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross , "From Rule Management to Business Governance, Part 2: Governance and How it Relates to Rule Management" Business Rules Journal Vol. 7, No. 12, (Dec. 2006)

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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