Six Business Problems the Business Rule Approach Addresses

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
I'm frequently asked to summarize what business problems the business rule approach was created to address.  Here's my take on that important question.  I believe the potential benefits for your company are altogether compelling.  P.S.  There's a small little surprise at the end about the origin of this discussion.

1.  Ad hoc rules:  Most businesses have no logical approach for defining their business rules.  As a result, business workers often make up the rules as they go along.  This leads to confusion, contradiction, and operational inefficiency.  After-the-fact resolution of these problems wastes time and resources and causes frustration for customers and staff alike.  The larger the organization, the bigger the problem.  Also, since many business rules involve monetary transactions (for example, whether a customer should be given a discount and, if so, how much), this problem can also directly affect the bottom line.

Business rule solution:  A structured approach helps you think through rules before the fact.

2.  Miscommunication:  Misunderstanding of key business concepts inevitably results in miscommunication.  Does preferred customer discount mean the same across all departments?  If not, what are the differences?  What rules apply?  Do these rules differ for different areas of the business?  Are the rules consistent?

Business rule solution:  A clear set of concepts provides a foundation on which rules can be directly based.

3.  Inaccessible rules:  Finding out what rules apply to a given business situation often involves an open-ended search through multiple sources.  It is not uncommon in the end to resort to the application source code.  Pursuing rules in this fashion is time-consuming, inefficient, and inaccurate.

Business rule solution:  A way to manage business rules provides direct accessibility.

4. Massive differentiation:  Many businesses seek to support highly-individualized relationships with growing numbers of customers and other partners for ever more complex products or services.  How can businesses massively differentiate between business parties and, at the very same time, conduct each business transaction faster, more accurately, and at ever lower costs?

Business rule solution:  A rule-based approach featuring rapid development and deployment of rules supports differentiation.

5. The need to keep up to speed:  Rapid change, at an ever faster pace, is a fact of life.  In the Internet Age, people expect almost instantaneous implementation of changes.  How can line workers consumed with day-to-day activities ever hope to keep up?

Business rule solution:  Real-time delivery of business logic to knowledge workers as errors actually occur creates a seamless, never-ending, self-training environment.

6. Knowledge walking out the door:  By and large, baby boomers created much of the operational business capacity and operational systems we see in place in larger organizations today.  Much of the related knowledge still sits in their heads — and nowhere else.  What will happen when they retire?  On a smaller scale, people with vital operational knowledge walk out the door almost every day.

Business rule solution:  A systematic way of capturing, documenting, and retaining the business rules prevents the loss of knowledge when people leave.

Postscript:  This list of benefits was written over a dozen years ago.  About the only thing I would change today is to add the following buzzwords for the respective problems listed in the following table.  Strange how sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.


New Buzzwords


Consistency (of Decisions and Business Responses)


Customization and Personalization


Business Agility


Knowledge Retention

For further information, please visit      


Excerpted from Principles of the Business Rule Approach, by Ronald G. Ross, AddisonWesley (2003), pp. xx-xxii.  

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Six Business Problems the Business Rule Approach Addresses" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 16, No. 5, (May 2015)

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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