A Brief History of the Business Rule Approach, 3rd ed.

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This Brief History examines events that have taken place specifically and selectively under the banner of 'business rules'.  Our simple, pragmatic criteria in that regard are fourfold:  (1) The participants themselves described what they were doing (2) at the time they were doing it (3) as primarily of, for, and by 'business rules' (4) in a public, rather than a private, setting.

We invite commentary and feedback on any or all parts of this history, which continues to unfold at an ever-accelerating pace.
  Of particular interest are the origins of specific ideas and techniques that have been incorporated into the business rule approach. [1]

This History has been updated to reflect new developments in 2007 and 2008.


Section 1.

The central themes of the business rules approach are discussed in Section 1.  These characteristics make the approach distinctive.

Section 2.

The most prominent definitions of business rule developed for the business rules approach over the years are listed in Section 2.  To provide a historical view, the entries appear in chronological order and therefore reflect some evolution over time.  The major themes apparent in these definitions are discussed below.

Section 3.

A central role in developing core notions of the business rule approach in its current form has been played by the Business Rules Group (BRG), whose origins trace to 1989.  Refer to Section 3 for significant milestones and work products[2] in the activity of the BRG.

Section 4.

The clearest and most succinct statement of the principles for the business rules approach is the Business Rules Manifesto, a 2003 work product of the BRG.  The Manifesto is now available in 12 languages:  Chinese (Classic and Simplified), Dutch, English, French, German, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish, with additional translations in progress.  Refer to Section 4 for additional information.

Section 5.

Professional awareness is an essential part of the business rules movement.  The most relevant books are referenced in Section 3.  Refer to Section 5 for a brief itemization of conferences, public seminars, and non-commercial websites.

Section 6.

Standardization is a key part of a maturing discipline.  In 2003, the Object Management Group (OMG) initiated intense efforts in the business rules area.  In 2005, the OMG announced two important business rule standards.  Section 6 provides a quick overview of OMG activity to date.

Section 7.

The first OMG standard for business rules, "Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules" (SBVR), was approved to become a final adopted specification in September 2005 and was published as a Draft Adopted Specification in November of that year.  In December 2007 the first version of the SBVR standard was approved, and the version 1.0 document was published in January 2008.  SBVR is briefly described in Section 7.

Section 8.

In 2005, the OMG put the BRG's work product "The Business Motivation Model" (BMM) on its fast-track standardization path.  The BMM was accepted for Finalization in December 2005 and published as a Draft Adopted Specification in July 2006.  Finalization work was completed and approved in 2007, and the OMG version 1.0 document was published in August 2008.  BMM is briefly described in Section 8.

Section 1.
Major Themes of the Business Rules Approach[3]

Non-technical origins

Although technology is obviously important for business rules support, you will not find software vendors listed in this history.[4]  An interesting and perhaps unique thing about the business rule approach is that it did not arise as a response to any emerging new class of software tools — knowledge-oriented or otherwise.  Rather, the business rule approach is a real-world, grassroots movement whose driving force is business practice, not technology.  It arose from the vision of dedicated professionals with many years of experience in the trials and challenges of business software.  Their goal:  to offer companies the best possible approach to developing business solutions involving automated systems.[5]

Terms, facts, and rules

In the 1990s, a general consensus emerged among the originators of the business rule approach that business rules specifically involve terms, facts, and rules.  This important breakthrough, sometimes called the Business Rule Mantra, is credited to the GUIDE Business Rules Project and was originally reported in its 1995 paper.  Literally, in the business rule approach, rules always build directly on facts (or fact types), which in turn always build on concepts, as represented by terms.  The Mantra prescribes a powerful building-block approach for business rules and, more generally, for business knowledge.

Business versus system perspective

Although all the definitions in Section 2 are consistent in theme, if you look closely, you will see tension between a purely business perspective (see the Business Rules Group definition from 1998) versus a system perspective (see the Ross and Lam definition from 2000).  Both perspectives are correct — just different in their viewpoints.  Definitive specifications for the business perspective are a fundamental part of the new OMG standard, "Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules."  (See Sections 6 and 7.)

Fact models

Note the term business structure in the 1995 GUIDE Business Rules Project definition (given below).  This term actually refers to the structure of basic business semantics — that is, terms that stand for concepts and how they relate to one another in the form of facts.  Fact models are a means to portray such structure, which is rooted in formal logic.[6]

Level of enforcement

The 1995 GUIDE Business Rules Project definition includes both the word control and the word influence in reference to business behavior.  If you think of rules only as hard and fast constraints (asserting strict control), you miss at least half the scope of the business rules approach — operational-level clarifications, suggestions, guidelines, heuristics, and so on.  Another important contribution of the Business Rules Group (BRG) is that the meaning of a business rule is separate from the level of enforcement the business applies to it.

Atomic form

The word atomic appears explicitly or implicitly in several of the definitions.  This reflects an important goal for business rules — to achieve the most granular level of specification possible.  Formal logic provides the necessary theory in this respect.


Note the terms re-usable and declaratively in the Ross and Lam 2000 definition (cited below).  Declarative specifications are what you get when you express business logic in the form of terms, facts, and rules.  This approach has crucial advantages, not the least of which is that your business logic becomes reusable across both processes and hardware/software platforms.  As such, it becomes both highly re-engineerable and highly re-deployable.

Structured Business-level Rule Syntax

Key to the business rule approach is business-friendly, rule-oriented syntax and guidelines to enable business people or business-oriented analysts to capture the business meaning of rules in a platform-independent fashion.[7]

Rule Verification and Management

Once business rules are captured and expressed, concerns turn toward verifying the consistency of rules and managing them from a business, not software, perspective.  This is especially critical as initiatives scale up toward larger numbers of rules.

Section 2.
Definitions of Business Rule in Key Published Work[9]

Source [10] Definition Comments

Daniel S. Appleton, "Business Rules:  The Missing Link," Datamation, October 15, 1984, pp. 145-150.

"... [A]n explicit statement of a constraint that exists within a business's ontology." [p. 146]

This article represents the earliest known published use of the term 'business rule'.

Appleton's use of ontology seems prescient given the growing use of this term in the industry, especially concerning rules.

Ronald G. Ross, Entity Modeling: Techniques and Application, Database Research Group, Inc., 1987.

"... [S]pecific rules (or business policies) that govern ... behavior [of the enterprise] and distinguish it from others....  [T]hese rules govern changes in the status [state] of the enterprise." [p. 102]

Includes an early attempt to capture and categorize business rules declaratively based on data models.

Ronald G. Ross, The Business Rule Book (First Edition), Business Rule Solutions, LLC., 1994.

"... [A] discrete operational business policy or practice.  A business rule may be considered a user requirement that is expressed in non-procedural and non-technical form (usually textual statements)....  A business rule represents a statement about business behavior." [p. 496]

The major contribution of this voluminous work (and the Second Edition in 1997) was to compile and categorize 500+ business rule examples, illustrating and defining the scope of the problem domain, and identifying core categories and patterns of business rules.

"Defining Business Rules ~ What Are They Really?" (formerly known as the "GUIDE Business Rules Project Report," 1995), edited by David C. Hay and Keri Anderson Healy, Business Rules Group, (Third Edition.), July 2000.

"... [A] statement that defines or constrains some aspect of the business ... [which is] intended to assert business structure, or to control or influence the behavior of the business.  [A business rule] cannot be broken down or decomposed further into more detailed business rules....  [I]f reduced any further, there would be loss of important information about the business." [pp. 4-5]

Commonly cited as the seminal paper for business rules. Refer to Section 3.

Available at www.BusinessRulesGroup.org

Ronald G. Ross, The Business Rule Book (Second Edition), Business Rule Solutions, LLC., 1997.

"A term, fact (type) or rule, representing a predicate." [p. 380]

Available via www.BRSolutions.com

Business Rules Group, 1998.

"A directive that is intended to influence or guide business behavior.  Such directives exist in support of business policy, which is formulated in response to risks, threats, or opportunities."

From a prepublication 1998 draft of the first release of "The Business Motivation Model," then called "Organizing Business Strategy:  The Standard Model for Business Rule Motivation" [Business Rules Group, 2000].

Available at www.BusinessRulesGroup.org

Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S. W. Lam, Capturing Business Rules, 2000.

"An atomic piece of re-usable business logic, specified declaratively."

Public seminar material, presented in Boston, MA, June 19-21, 2000, and regularly thereafter through 2004.  Refer to Section 5.

This seminar, first taught in 1996, introduced Ross's notion that "the business rule is the error message [for business people]."

Barbara von Halle, Business Rules Applied: Building Better Systems Using the Business Rule Approach, Wiley Computer Publishing, 2002.

"... [C]onditions that govern a business event so that it occurs in such a way that is acceptable to the business." [p. 28]

Note:  von Halle adopts the GUIDE Project definition (1995).

Nonetheless, this excerpt is an excellent and succinct characterization of 'business rule'.

Tony Morgan, Business Rules and Information Systems, Addison-Wesley, 2002.

"Basically, a business rule is a compact statement about an aspect of the business....  It's a constraint, in the sense that a business rule lays down what must or must not be the case.  At any particular point, it should be possible to determine that the condition implied by the constraint is true in a logical sense; if not, remedial action is needed.  This interpretation, which might be described as Boolean from a software perspective, is the main reason that the term business logic is so commonly used." [pp. 5-6]

Note:  Morgan also adopts the GUIDE Project definition (1995).

This excerpt characterizes business rule very well from a system perspective.

Ronald G. Ross, Principles of the Business Rules Approach, Addison-Wesley, 2003.

".rules build directly on terms and facts.  Actually, a rule should simply add the sense of must or must not to terms and facts that have already been defined in the fact model and Concepts Catalog.  In business problems involving hundreds or thousands of rules — not at all uncommon — there is no way to achieve consistency across such large numbers of rules without a common base of terms and facts." [pp. 69]

Note:  Ross also adopts the GUIDE Project definition (1995), as well as the Business Rule Group definition (1998) above for the business perspective.

Refer to p. 72-73 for discussion of Ross's notion "the business rule is the error message [for business people]."

James Taylor & Neil Raden, Smart (Enough) Systems, Prentice Hall, 2007.

". represent the logic of business decisions." [p. 180]

Taylor and Raden link business rules to decisioning (Enterprise Decision Management) within organizations.

Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR), OMG, 2008.

". a rule that is under business jurisdiction."

Refer to Section 7.  SBVR introduced the notion of operative rules vs. structural rules, based on deontic and alethic modal logics.[11]

Section 3.
Milestones in the Work Activities of the Business Rules Group (BRG)[12]

1989-91:  IBM GUIDE[13] "Modeling Extensions" Project

  • Included 'business rules' as a major topic.
  • Agreed on preliminary standards for data modeling at the business perspective, system perspective, and technology perspective (Zachman[14] rows 2, 3, and 4, respectively).
  • Established the need for rigorous specification of business rules, although no agreement reached on standards.

Members Currently Still in the BRG

Other Members

Co-Project Managers

Allan Kolber

Brian Carroll


Michael Eulenberg
John Hall
John Healy
Keri Anderson Healy
Ronald G. Ross
John Zachman

Chris Bird
Robert G. Brown
Chris Gane
William McGee
Keith Robinson
Ron Schultz
John Sowa
Dan Tasker

1992-96:  IBM GUIDE "Business Rules" Project

  • Formed with goal to establish standards for business rules.
  • Published project report in 1995, "Defining Business Rules ~ What Are They Really?"[15]  (Revised Versions[16]:  1.2 in 1997; 1.3 in 2000).
  • Produced a meta-model of business rules at the logical system perspective.
  • Involved data and rules at the designer perspective (Zachman columns 1 and 6, at row 3).

Project Manager

Allan Kolber


Charles Bachman
E.F. Codd
Michael Eulenberg
Carlos Goti
John Hall
Barbara von Halle
Terry Halpin
David Hay
John Healy
Keri Anderson Healy
Terry Moriarty
Linda Nadeau
Bonnie O'Neil
Jerry Rosenbaum
Ronald G. Ross
John Zachman

1997:  Business Rules Group formed as independent research and standards body

  • Formed with the goal to establish standards for all aspects/perspectives of business rules.
  • Co-Chairs:  Cheryl Estep, Keri Anderson Healy[17]

2000-2003:  The Business Motivation Model (BMM)

  • Developed a meta-model for the concepts of business plans and how they inter-relate, including business policies and business rules.
  • Addressed business motivation at the business perspective (Zachman row 2, column 6).
  • Published "Organizing Business Plans - The Standard Model for Business Rule Motivation"


Ronald G. Ross
Keri Anderson Healy


Cheryl Estep
Michael Eulenberg
Neil Fishman
James Funk
John Hall
David Hay
John Healy
Allan Kolber
Gladys S.W. Lam[18]
Terry Moriarty
Warren Selkow
Dennis Struck
Harry Williford
John Zachman

2003:  Published Business Rules Manifesto

Available at www.BusinessRulesGroup.org - Also refer to Section 4 below.

2003-2008:  Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR)

  • Participated in OMG Business Rules SIG and in development of OMG's RFP "Business Semantics for Business Rules" (BSBR).
  • Joined Business Rules Team (BRT) consortium to respond to this OMG RFP.
  • BRG members John Hall, Donald Chapin[19], and Ronald G. Ross[20] become three of the five BRT Governing Board Members; BRG Members Cheryl Estep, John Healy, Keri Anderson Healy, Allan Kolber, Markus Schacher actively participate.
  • September 2005:  SBVR accepted as an OMG adopted standard; document finalization initiated.
  • September 2007:  SBVR Finalization work completed.
  • December 2007:  SBVR approved by OMG.
  • January 2008:  SBVR 1.0 published.
  • 2008 work on SBVR 1.1 ongoing by the SBVR RTF (Revision Task Force).

(Refer to Section 7.)

2005-2008:  The Business Motivation Model (BMM)

  • Release 1.1 of the Business Motivation Model, renaming the 2003 "Organizing Business Plans" paper to "Business Motivation Model:  Business Governance in a Volatile World."
  • September 2005:  Business Motivation Model updated to Release 1.2 and accepted by the OMG for fast-path adoption as an OMG Standard.
  • December 2005:  BMM accepted as an OMG adopted standard; document finalization initiated.
  • September 2007:  BMM Finalization work completed.
  • December 2007:  BMM approved by OMG.
  • August 2008:  BMM 1.0 published.
  • 2008 work on BMM 1.1 ongoing by the BMM RTF (Revision Task Force).

(Refer to Section 8.)

Section 4.
The Business Rules Manifesto

Available at www.BusinessRulesGroup.org


  • To provide a clear, concise — and relatively brief — statement of the business rule 'message' as the Business Rules Group (BRG) sees it.
  • To declare independence for rules in the world of requirements and models.
  • To signal the birth of a new, revolutionary kind of business architecture and IT platform.

A Brief Background

  • A 2002-2003 work product of the BRG.
  • Each item approved by unanimous vote.
  • Version 1.0 completed in January 2003.
  • Submitted as part of the BRG's OMG BR SIG RFI response in January 2003.
  • Presented to the OMG BR SIG in February 2003.
  • An interim version distributed for comment and suggestions, April - August 2003.
  • Finalized Version 2.0 released at the Business Rules Forum Conference 2003.


  • Edited by Ronald G. Ross
  • Available via www.BusinessRulesGroup.org
  • May be reproduced freely with BRG's copyright and publication notice included


  • Article 1.  Primary Requirements, Not Secondary
  • Article 2.  Separate From Processes, Not Contained In Them
  • Article 3.  Deliberate Knowledge, Not A By-Product
  • Article 4.  Declarative, Not Procedural
  • Article 5.  Well-Formed Expression, Not Ad Hoc
  • Article 6.  Rule-Based Architecture, Not Indirect Implementation
  • Article 7.  Rule-Guided Processes, Not Exception-Based Programming
  • Article 8.  For the Sake of the Business, Not Technology
  • Article 9.  Of, By and For Business People, Not IT People
  • Article 10.  Managing Business Logic, Not Hardware/Software Platforms


  • Chinese (Classic and Simplified) - coordinated by Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC
  • Dutch[21d] - coordinated by Silvie Spreeuwenberg, LibRT, B.V.
  • French[21f] - coordinated by Silvie Spreeuwenberg, LibRT, B.V.
  • German - coordinated by Markus Schacher, KnowGravity, Inc.
  • Lithuanian[21l] - coordinated by Silvie Spreeuwenberg, LibRT, B.V.
  • Polish[21pl] - coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy, BRCommunity.com
  • Portuguese[21pt] - coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy, BRCommunity.com
  • Spanish[21sp] - coordinated by Rik Gerrits, LibRT, B.V.
  • Swedish[21sw] - coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy, BRCommunity.com
  • Turkish[21t] - coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy, BRCommunity.com

Section 5.
Conferences, Public Seminars, and Non-Commercial Websites


North America

  • Business Rules Summit 1996, 1997
    • Produced by Miller-Freeman

  • Business Rules Forum 1997, 1998
    • Produced by Technology Transfer Institute
    • Co-Chairs - Barbara von Halle, Ronald G. Ross

  • Business Rules Forum 2000-2006.
    • Produced by Terry Moriarty (Inastrol) and Gladys S.W. Lam (Business Rule Solutions, LLC)
    • Co-Chairs - Terry Moriarty, Ronald G. Ross

  • Business Rules Forum 2007.
    • Produced by Gladys S.W. Lam (Business Rule Solutions, LLC)
    • Co-Chairs - Terry Moriarty, Ronald G. Ross

  • Business Rules Forum 2008.
    • Produced by Gladys S.W. Lam (Business Rule Solutions, LLC)
    • Chair - Ronald G. Ross
    • Co-located with 1st Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) Summit, chaired by James Taylor & Neil Raden


  • European Business Rules Conference 2002, 2003.
    • Produced by John Hall (Model Systems) and Markus Schacher (KnowGravity Inc.)

  • European Business Rules Conference 2004, 2005, 2006.
    • Produced by Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT, B.V.), John Hall (Model Systems), and Markus Schacher (KnowGravity Inc.)

  • European Business Rules Conference 2007.
    • Produced by Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT, B.V.) and John Hall (Model Systems)

  • 1st SBVR-2008-NL Conference.
    • Produced by the SBVRfoundation.eu

Public Seminars[23]

  • Ronald G. Ross, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 1996-1999.
  • Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2000-present.
  • KnowGravity Inc., public SBVR-compliant business rules courses in German, June 2004-present.

Non-Commercial Websites

Section 6.
Object Management Group[24] (OMG) Involvement in Business Rule Standardization

About the OMG's 'Business Semantics of Business Rules' RFP[25]

  • The OMG procedure is to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), open to all OMG members.

  • In 2002, the OMG issued the RFP for Business Semantics of Business Rules (BSBR), stating:

"The objective of this RFP is to allow business people to define the policies and rules by which they run their business in their own language, in terms of the things they deal with in the business, but in ways that are clear, unambiguous and readily translatable by Information systems experts into executable rules for many kinds of automated systems."

  • Responses were required by January 2004, and three were received, from:  the Business Rules Team (BRT), IBM, and Fujitsu.

  • The BRT's response, "Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules" (SBVR) was approved to become an OMG adopted standard in September 2005.

  • The first version of the "Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules" (SBVR) standard was accepted in December 2007 and published in January 2008.  (See also Section 7.)

Other OMG Initiatives Related to Business Rules

Production Rule Representation

On September 12, 2003, the OMG issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) on Production Rule Representation (PRR).  Two rule engine vendors, Fair, Isaac & Co. and ILOG, responded to this RFP with an initial submission on August 2, 2004.

OMG PRR (Production Rule Representation) is in its final (finalization) stage for version 1, which sets out a basic rule metamodel for UML behaviour and extends it with a production rule metamodel.  This is expected to be complete early in 2009, to provide a baseline for (technical) rule modeling in UML.  For a follow-up, the PRR team will need to consider both the modeling language for rule conditions and actions (that is suitable for UML users but more abstract than vendor tools), and rule metaphors like the commonly used, executable decision table.

Regulatory Compliance

The OMG has launched two complementary initiatives in the area of Regulatory Compliance.  The Regulatory Compliance SIG is developing open specifications that will result in interoperable tools to support compliance.  The OMG Regulatory Compliance Alliance (ORCA) is developing a global reference database of regulations, promoting best practice and providing compliance services.

Foundation Vocabularies

In June 2008 the OMG issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for an OMG specification for "Date-Time Foundation Vocabulary."  This RFP calls for "the development of a consistent set of Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Rules (SBVR) vocabularies, Ontology Definition Metamodel (ODM) domain theories, and Unified Modeling Language (UML) reusable models for concepts about date and time.  The distinguishing characteristics of this RFP are: 
    (a) provision of an SBVR business vocabulary for date and time concepts; and
    (b) the standardization of the same concepts in these multiple technologies." 

The "Date-Time Foundation Vocabulary RFP" focuses on the specification of dates and times, rather than uses of, or references to, dates and times in business documents, business models, or IT system models, which will be dealt with in the specifications and standards that make reference to dates and times.  The intent is to include all the date-time concepts commonly used in the operation of organizations, and the concepts needed to define additional customized date-time concepts.  Every effort is being made to build on existing time standards and to collaborate with all of the key experts working on ontologies of time.

Specification of a Business-Friendly Vocabulary/Rules Notation

Since the Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Rules (SBVR) specification does not include any normative specification of a language to be used by business people to express their vocabulary and rules, the OMG is considering the definition of at least one standard language in which business people can express their vocabulary and rules.  An initial draft RFP for "Business-Friendly Notation for Business Vocabulary and Rules" was circulated in June 2008 for discussion.  It calls for specifying at least one standard language that can be read and written by business people to express business vocabulary and rules.

The development of a "Language Analysis Framework" (LAF) was offered as an alternative approach.  The LAF work in ISO TC37 proposes an XML-based exchange standard for parsed natural language.  The proposed OMG activity would specify a subset of the possible LAF constructs and then develop a mapping from that subset language to SBVR.  As of this writing, the ISO LAF standards activity was just getting underway, and further OMG consideration was awaiting an initial ISO draft that the OMG team could refer to.

Business Rules Management

On June 24, 2004, the OMG issued a Request for Information (RFI) on the subject of Business Rules Management, which requests information on topics such as collection, organization, validation/verification deployment, and tracing of business rules, among others.  Three companies and the University College London responded with initial submissions.

Section 7.
Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR)


The "Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules" (abbreviated SBVR) comprises a business vocabulary for business vocabulary and rules that is intended for business audiences.  It also involves an XMI Schema for the interchange of business vocabulary and rules, which is for a tool vendor audience.

With respect to OMG's Model Driven Architecture (MDA), SBVR starts from a business vocabulary perspective and derives the object-oriented model from it.  Underlying assumptions include the following:

  • High-quality domain models must be founded on real business understanding, which in turn is attained using shared business vocabulary.
  • Shared business vocabularies also support standards integration.

Design objectives for SBVR include the following:

  • Business-friendliness.  SBVR has no reference to information or information systems concepts; rather it is conceptualized optimally for the way business people actually think.  It is defined using the most common dictionary definitions applicable, and expressed using the everyday word most commonly used for that meaning.
  • Business rules specified entirely from the business vocabulary.
  • Business people exchange their business vocabulary and business rules in their own language.
  • Semantic-integrity rules based on predicate logic.  Predicate logic is to be used as linguists use it to capture semantics.
  • Business people (as the 'customer') provide business vocabulary and business rules as purchase order specifications to IT (as the 'supplier').

Overview of SBVR[32]

SBVR can be viewed as having five major aspects, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  The Five Aspects of SBVR


The basis for business rules is community.  The community of primary importance is the enterprise for which the business rules are being established and expressed.  However, other communities — the industry in which the enterprise operates, partner enterprises, standards groups, regulatory authorities, etc. — also need to be recognized.

An important aspect of community is that sub-communities within an enterprise may need shared concepts, facts, and business rules to be expressed in different vocabularies, ranging from specialized jargon to different natural languages.[33]

Business Meaning

A community has a shared body of concepts, facts, and business rules.  What is shared is the meaning, not the form of expression.  Clearly, for shared knowledge to be exchanged, discussed, and validated, it must be expressed.  But the SBVR model separates the business meaning from any particular form of expression.  The structure of its model of business meanings (i.e., which concepts play which roles in facts, which facts form the basis of which rules, etc.) is defined by associating abstract elements of business meaning, not by associating statements in any given language

Logical Formulation

Logical Formulation provides a formal, abstract, language-independent syntax for representing the model of business meanings.  It supports multiple forms of representation, such as:  noun and verb forms of expression, reading of associations in both directions.

This logical formulation of semantics supports two essential features of the SBVR model.  First, mapping of business meaning to vocabularies used by communities that share the meaning of concepts, facts, and business rules.  Second, the mapping to XMI that enables interchange of concepts, facts, and business rules between tools that support SBVR.

Business Expression

Concepts, facts, and business rules need to be expressed in vocabularies acceptable to, and usable by, communities that share their meaning.  These vocabularies may be in different natural languages, in artificial languages such as the UML, or in specialized subsets of natural languages, as used by (for example) engineers or lawyers.

The SBVR model supports mapping of business meaning (via logical formulation) to concrete language.  Part of this is strong support for adoption from external sources, such as standards bodies and industry groups.  For example, the BRT's SBVR itself adopts some of its basic definitions from the International Standards Organization (ISO) standards for terminology and vocabulary.[34]

Formal Logic

The SBVR model has a sound theoretical foundation of formal logic, underpinning both the model of business meanings and logical formulation.[35]  The base is first-order predicate logic (although there is no restriction on extension into higher-order logics), with some limited extensions into modal logic — notably some deontic forms, for expressing obligation and prohibition, and alethic forms for expressing necessity and impossibility.

Additional Notes

An important feature of the SBVR model is that it is self-contained.  It supports three levels of abstraction. 

  • The highest defines the business rules and (English) vocabulary for creation of business rules and vocabularies. 
  • The next supports community-specific business rules and vocabulary, formulated using the higher-level constructs. 
  • The third supports individual concepts, and facts based on them, where they are needed for formulation of business rules (e.g., to support the need for business rules specific to 'USA', 'Euro', and 'Bill Gates' as well as for 'country', 'currency', and 'person').

An important effect of this is that, for interchange, tools need to handle only a single model (or three models that all have the same semantics and XML syntax).

Reference Implementation

Under OMG policies and procedures, a reference implementation is required for each standard.  By this means the OMG can ensure implementability and relevance to the commercial marketplace.  The reference implementation for SBVR was produced by Unisys, under a team headed by Don Baisley, as a tool called Rules Modeler.  In January 2008, Microsoft acquired the Intellectual Property (IP) and most of the engineering team for Rules Modeler.

Section 8. 
The Business Motivation Model (BMM)

In January 2004, the BRG was asked to submit its "Business Motivation Model" (BMM) as a Request for Comment (RFC), an OMG fast-path for adopting external standards. The OMG accepted the BMM for Finalization in December 2005 and published as a Draft Adopted Specification in July 2006.

Overview of BMM[36]

The Business Motivation Model provides a scheme or structure for developing, communicating, and managing business plans in an organized manner.  Specifically, the Business Motivation Model does all of the following:

  • It identifies factors that motivate the establishing of business plans.
  • It identifies and defines the elements of business plans.
  • It indicates how all these factors and elements inter-relate.

Among these elements are ones that provide governance for and guidance to the business — Business Policies and Business Rules.

Core Ideas of the Business Motivation Model

There are two major areas of the Business Motivation Model.

  • The first is the Ends and Means of business plans.  Among the Ends are things the enterprise wishes to achieve — for example, Goals and Objectives. Among the Means are things the enterprise will employ to achieve those Ends — for example, Strategies, Tactics, Business Policies, and Business Rules.

  • The second is the Influencers that shape the elements of the business plans, and the Assessments made about the impacts of such Influencers on Ends and Means (i.e., Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

The Ends, Means, and Influencers are related to each other in order to answer the following two fundamental questions:

1.  What is needed to achieve what the enterprise wishes to achieve?

This question is answered by laying out the particular elements of the business plans - in other words, the Means necessary to achieve the desired Ends.

2.  Why does each element of the business plan exist?

This question is answered by identifying the particular Ends that each of the Means serves, and the Influencers that underlie the choices made in this regard.  This is what is meant by 'motivation'.

All elements of the Business Motivation Model are developed from a business perspective.  The basic idea is to develop a business model for the elements of the business plans before system design or technical development is begun.  In this manner, the business plans can become the foundation for such activity, connecting system solutions firmly to their business intent.

Business Rules in the Business Motivation Model

Business Rules play an important role in development of business plans.  For example, they can serve the following purposes:

  • Make business tactics sufficiently well developed to guide the actual performance of work.
  • Provide fallback positions when some element of the business plans fails.
  • Resolve conflicts when the Ends the business seeks are in conflict with one another.

Because of this key role — which is often make-or-break for the very success of business plans — developing the motivation for Business Rules from the business perspective is fundamentally important.

Business Rules in the BMM and in other OMG Standards

When the BMM was moved into the OMG process, a noteworthy adjustment was made.  It was agreed that BMM would adopt its definition for 'Business Rule' from the SBVR standard.  The focus of BMM is on the elements of business governance in general and, from that perspective, Business Rules can be viewed as simply one such element.  (This placeholder approach is also used for Business Process.)  By this adoption approach, the BMM can indicate how Business Rules relate to other elements of the Model, while deferring to other standards activities for a more comprehensive definition and treatment of Business Rules.


[1]  For example, decision tables, inference engines, etc.  return to article

[2]  Citations for these work products are included in Section 1.  return to article

[3]  Based on Principles of the Business Rule Approach by Ronald G. Ross, Addison-Wesley, 2003, pp. 183-184.  return to article

[4]  Refer to BRCommunity.com [FAQs / Technology tab] for a listing of current tools, including rule engines.  It should be noted that although the expert systems that arose in the 1980s were important forerunners of current software tools, their focus did not exactly align with the today's business rule approach.  The emphasis in the business rule approach is broader, more pragmatic, and not at all focused exclusively on individual subject matter experts.  In addition, the business rules approach deals directly with rules that people can break.  return to article

[5]  You will also not find discussion about commercial business rule methodologies.  However, two consultancies, Business Rule Solutions, LLC and Knowledge Partners, Inc., are noteworthy in this area for having developed and applied methodologies starting in the 1990s that were fundamentally based on business rule principles.   return to article

[6]  Pioneering work in both theoretical and practical aspects of this area has been produced by Terry Halpin, specifically in the Object Role Modeling (ORM) approach.  Refer to Information Modeling and Relational Databases, 2nd edition, by Terry Halpin and Tony Morgan, Morgan Kaufmann (2008), San Francisco.  ORM in turn had its roots in Sjir Nijssen's NIAM (Natural Language Information Analysis Model).  Refer to p. 107 of Halpin and Morgan's book.  return to article

[7]  Significant contributions in this regard include:

  • RuleSpeak® from Business Rule Solutions, LLC, pioneered in the late 1990s.  (Refer to Chapters 8-12 of Ross's Principles book.)
  • Terry Halpin's ORM and its verbalization for business rules.  Refer to BRCommunity.com [Halpin's regular "Modeling Concepts" column]
  • SBVR Structured English in the Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules document — in particular, refer to Annex C.  (Refer to Section 7.)  return to article

[9]  Based on Principles of the Business Rule Approach by Ronald G. Ross, Addison-Wesley, 2003, pp. 183-184.  return to article

[10]  Not included in this list are the following books:

  • Business Rule Concepts by Ronald G. Ross, published in 1998.  A Second Edition, updated for SBVR, was published in 2005.
  • How to Build a Business Rules Engine, Extending Application Functionality Through Metadata Engineering by Malcolm Chisholm, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, 2004.  Chisholm supports the GUIDE Project definition (1995).  return to article

[11]  For explanation, refer to Chapter 5 of Business Rule Concepts, 2nd Ed., by Ronald G. Ross, 2005.  return to article

[12]  From conference presentation material produced and given by Allan Kolber.  return to article

[13]  GUIDE was a premier IBM user group, with thousands of members in the heydays of the mainframe.  return to article

[14]  John Zachman and his Enterprise Architecture Framework has had significant influence on the work of the BRG, many of its individual members, and many others.  Refer to John A. Zachman, The Zachman Framework:  A Primer for Enterprise Engineering and Manufacturing (electronic book), 2002.  Available at www.ZachmanInternational.com  return to article

[15]  First GUIDE paper to be published on Internet.  return to article

[16]  Published under the auspices of the BRG.  return to article

[17]  Subsequent Chairs include Keri Anderson Healy (individually), John Hall, and for most of the 2000s until the present, Cheryl Estep.  return to article

[18]  Gladys S.W. Lam pioneered the Policy Charter approach in the 1990s, which specifically applied business rule principles in the context of developing strategy.  Refer to Gladys S. W. Lam, "Business Knowledge — Packaged in a Policy Charter," DataToKnowledge Newsletter, Vol. 26, No. 3 (May/June 1998).  URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a1998/a385.html  return to article

[19]  Representing Business Semantics, Ltd.  return to article

[20]  Representing Business Rule Solutions, LLC  return to article

[21d]  Initiative of and by drs. Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT).  Thanks to mr. dr. Henriette Gelinck (Utrechtse Juristen Groep), drs. Leo Hermans (Everest), dr. Stijn Hoppenbrouwers (Universiteit Nijmegen), prof. Jan Vanthienen (K.U. Leuven).  return to article

[21f]  Initiative of, and coordinated by, drs. Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT) together with Patrick Albert (Ilog), prof. Francois Fages (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en automatique), Antoinne Lonjon (Mega), prof. Jan Vanthienen (K.U. Leuven).  return to article

[21l]  Initiative of Gediminas Vedrickas and coordinated by drs. Silvie Spreeuwenberg (LibRT).  return to article

[21pl]  Initiative of Artur Kasprzyk (aion.com.pl) and coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy (BRCommunity.com).  return to article

[21pt]  Coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy (BRCommunity.com), with José Alferes (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and António Pinto (I2S Informática - Sistemas e Serviços, S.A.).  return to article

[21sp]  Coordinated by Rik Gerrits (LibRT), with Antonio Catalá.  return to article

[21sw]  Initiative of Thorsten Karlsson (Gribby Business Cognition) and coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy (BRCommunity.com), with Claas Åkesson (IRM AB) and Urban Lepik (Integrata).  return to article

[21t]  Initiative of Seçkin Ikiz (Finansbank) and coordinated by Keri Anderson Healy (BRCommunity.com), with Bahadir B. Odevci (Finansbank), Meriç Aykol (KoçSistem Information Communication Services Inc.), and Dr. Levent Mollamustafaoglu (NATO C3 Agency, The Hague).  return to article

[23]  The Business Rule Solutions seminars, formerly offered by Digital Consulting, Inc. (DCI), are now via AttainingEdge, www.AttainingEdge.com.  Information on the seminars offered by Knowgravity is available at www.knowgravity.com.   return to article

[24]  The Object Management Group (OMG) is an open membership, not-for-profit consortium that produces and maintains computer industry specifications for interoperable enterprise applications.  Its membership includes virtually every large company in the computer industry, and hundreds of smaller ones.  The OMG is, worldwide, the most influential body in development of computer industry software development standards.

   The OMG's flagship specification is the multi-platform Model Driven Architecture (MDA), based on existing OMG modeling specifications:  the Meta-Object Facility (MOF), the Unified Modeling language (UML), XML Metadata Interchange (XMI), and the Common Warehouse Metamodel (CWM).

   MDA is structured in three layers:  Business Model; Platform Independent Model (PIM), and Platform-specific Model (PSM).  Until recently, almost all OMG development was IT-oriented and could be positioned in the PIM and PSM layers of MDA.  Between 2002 and 2004, the OMG launched some major initiatives to support the MDA Business Model layer, including the Business Process Description Metamodel, Business Semantics of Business Rules (BSBR), and the Organization Structure Metamodel.   return to article

[25]  Contributed by John Hall.  return to article

[31]  Contributed by Donald Chapin.  return to article

[32]  Contributed by John Hall.  return to article

[33]  The SBVR has been significantly influenced in this regard by its European participants.  return to article

[34]  The relevant ISO standards are the following:

  • ISO 1087-1:  Terminology work - Vocabulary — Part 1:  Theory and Application.
  • ISO 704 (Second Edition):  Terminology work — Principles and Methods.  return to article

[35]  Halpin's Object Role Modeling (ORM) has played a central role in this regard.  return to article

[36]  From The Business Motivation Model ~ Business Governance in a Volatile World. 1.3 ed., Sept. 2007.  Originally published as Organizing Business Plans ~ The Standard Model for Business Rule Motivation, Nov. 2000.  Available from http://www.BusinessRulesGroup.org  return to article

# # #

Standard citation for this article:

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Business Rules Journal, "A Brief History of the Business Rule Approach, 3rd ed." Business Rules Journal, Vol. 9, No. 11, (Nov. 2008)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2008/b448.html

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