A Case of Dueling Manifestos? Business Rules and Enterprise Decision 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

In their new book, Smart (Enough) Systems[1], Neil Raden and James Taylor kick off with a brief Manifesto.  I like a book that tells you up-front what its basic principles are in black and white.  By the way, I strongly recommend this book.  If you are looking for a fresh way to energize and motivate your business rule initiative, this book is perhaps just the ticket.  I congratulate Neil and James for their excellent introduction of "enterprise decision management" (EDM), a notion that should become central to every organization's thinking about its fundamental direction in computing.

But enough hand-waving.  As many readers may know, there is another Manifesto 'out there,' the Business Rules Manifesto (www.BusinessRulesGroup.org) by the Business Rule Group (BRG).  By the way, the BRG's Manifesto now has translations in eleven languages.  Is this a case of dueling Manifestos?  Not at all!

Here's an interesting fact. The Smart (Enough) Systems Manifesto never uses the word "rule", and the Business Rules Manifesto never uses the word "decision".  It's sort of hard to duel if you don't even address the other's main man by name.  So how can you be sure that the Manifestos are even in roughly the same space?

Here's some background to help explain the perspective of EDM.  Would you say "flow" when you mean "business process"?  (Well, if you do, you shouldn't.)  A business process is supported by flows (flows of work products, data and information, and hand-offs between tasks), but "business process" is the actual thing at the business perspective you want from those flows.  In other words, it's the business process that provides the actual value-add for the business.  So clearly that's the thing you should be talking to business executives about.

Similarly, the thinking in EDM is that you shouldn't say "rule" when you mean "decision".  In other words, it's some decision that rules can be used to make that provides the actual value-add for the business -- not the rules per se.  To say this differently, rules are simply the means to some important business end, some operational decision(s) to be made.  So the EDM message is that you shouldn't talk to business executives about the means (rules) when it's the ends (decisions) that really matter.  It's simply the wrong artifact.

It's an excellent point.  It's not rules per se that makes a company act smarter; it's enabling better decisions that makes the company act smarter.  Rules and rule management are simply a means to that end.  I'm very comfortable with that view and I think the message is a good one.

The table below presents some point-by-point evidence to show how well the Manifestos align.  I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  Do I think the Smart (Enough) Systems Manifesto is perfect?  No.  I'll talk about why in a future column.  But that's secondary.  The important thing is that EDM provides important -- indeed groundbreaking -- innovations for the practice and acceptance of business rules.  In upcoming columns, I'll be talking more about that too.

For more information on EDM and related ideas by the authors of Smart (Enough) Systems, access a free recent webinar at [URL to BRForum website access point].

Table. Corresponding points in the Business Rules and the Smart (Enough) Systems Manifestos

Business Rules Manifesto

Smart (Enough) Systems Manifesto

2.2 Rules are not process and not procedure.  They should not be contained in either of these.

2.3. Rules apply across processes and procedures. ...

High volume operational decisions can be identified and successfully automated.

Automated decisions can be ... consistent across channels, geographies, time, and associates

3.5. Rules need to be nurtured, protected, and managed.

...decisions must be measured, tracked, and improved over time.

5.1. Business rules should be expressed in such a way that they can be validated for correctness by business people.

Business users can't control or even understand the decisions embedded in systems built with standard programming tools and approaches.

6.1. A business rules application is intentionally built to accommodate continuous change in business rules.

The pace of change keeps increasing. Therefore, successful organizations will be those more adept at changing their behavior quickly, so the way they make decisions cannot be static.
As an always-on, interconnected world becomes a reality, organizations must operate so that decisions are made and appropriate actions are taken around the clock.

6.2. Executing rules directly -- for example in a rules engine -- is a better implementation strategy than transcribing the rules into some procedural form.

Traditional technology approaches won't succeed in automating these decisions ...
Existing "legacy" systems with hard-coded decisions are too hard to change quickly in a rapidly changing world.

10.1. Business rules are a vital business asset.

10.2. In the long run, rules are more important to the business than hardware/software platforms.

10.3. Business rules should be organized and stored in such a way that they can be readily redeployed to new hardware/software platforms.

Taking control of decisions is increasingly a source of competitive advantage ...
As the world becomes flatter -- that is, more global -- the connections between organizations, their suppliers and partners must become more automated. Therefore, organizations that can automate good decisions will have an advantage. ...
As business processes and supply chains become more electronic, using Internet technologies and electronic data capture systems such as radio frequency identification (RFID), organizations that can decide faster can move faster.

10.4. Rules, and the ability to change them effectively, are fundamental to improving business adaptability.

Automated decisions can be ... agile, in that they can be changed to react to new ideas and new opportunities.



[1] Neil Raden and James Taylor.  Smart (Enough) Systems:  How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions.  Prentice-Hall (June 2007).  ISBN: 0132347962.return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "A Case of Dueling Manifestos? Business Rules and Enterprise Decision Management" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 8, No. 8, (Aug. 2007)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2007/b357.html

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 BRCommunity.com 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 http://www.brsolutions.com/category/blog/. For more information about Ron visit www.RonRoss.info. Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

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