How Long Will Your Fact Model Last? — The Power of Structured Business Vocabularies

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 early 2011, one of our first business-side clients from the 1990s called out of the blue.  We last worked with them in 1998 helping first to create a Policy Charter and future-form business process model, then a fact model (structured business vocabulary) for an entire line of business.  We had since lost touch, so they brought us up to date.

In 1998 and 1999 they built a completely new system (largely in an early version of Java) based on our work together.  The system had supported world-wide business operations quite well until just recently.  In the past year or two though, the business had expanded both in volume and variety, and the existing system architecture had simply maxed out.

A pleasant surprise awaited me when I went for an on-site visit a few days after the call.  Sitting on the conference room table in front of the business managers was a large plot of the 1998 fact model!  They said, "The fact model is still about 90% accurate.  We've determined it's really the only thing we can salvage from the legacy environment.  It's our business blueprint for a next generation of software."  Although lots had changed in their dynamic business space through the intervening years, the core know-how had remained 90% the same.

Then they explained why they had called.  The 1998 fact model focused on a single line of business.  Led by IT, their other major line of business unfortunately had opted not to use the relevant portions of the fact model or follow the approach.  (They estimated about 60% overlap between the two lines of business.)  In the dozen years since, this other line of business abundantly demonstrated the business (and software) pitfalls of not having done so.  Side-by-side comparisons of key business concepts highlighted the shortcomings.

Recently the organization had acquired a third line of business, also inter-related.  Management understood they needed an integrated, holistic view of the business.  Expanding the fact model to include the other two areas was the obvious path forward. 

Your fact model is about the business and its core know-how, not IT.  That's why it will stand the test of time.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross , "How Long Will Your Fact Model Last? — The Power of Structured Business Vocabularies" Business Rules Journal Vol. 12, No. 5, (May 2011)

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 IPSpeak 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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