Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Concept Models

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
Gladys S.W.  Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal , and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam
Excerpted with permission from Building Business Solutions:  Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Ed.), by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2015, 308 pp.  URL:http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs

A structured business vocabulary (concept model) is fundamental to analyzing and managing business know-how.  The concept model represents what can be communicated about basic day-to-day business activity in a standard, consistent way.  All expression of business rules should be based on the concept model.

Basic business rules[1] can be captured from concept models[2] using the pattern questions presented and illustrated below.  Use of these pattern questions represents an important step in ensuring the validity of how the business thinks about its day-to-day business activity.

What Are Pattern Questions??

Over the past decade we have developed a series of well-structured pattern questions in our methodology for business analysis, BABusinessSpeak™.  These pattern questions represent thinking tools to help business analysts harvest business rules from different kinds of models (e.g., business process models, concept models, etc.).  Each pattern question:

  • focuses on a particular topical concern and some particular construct (pattern) found frequently in models of a given kind.

  • typically leads to many business rules for the same model.

The pattern questions are designed to assist practitioners in asking the right kinds of questions in the right ways.  Answers typically lead to more questions — and to more business rules.  The answers also frequently prove useful in validating and refining the underlying models.

Categories

figure
Figure 1.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about Categories.

Pattern Question for Mandatory Categorization

Pattern Question CM1: 
Mandatory Categorization
 
  Is categorization mandatory for each instance of a term?  
Ask specifically:  
  Is every (insurance) policy required to have a policy class?  Can any (insurance) policy ever not have a policy class?  
Sample business rule specifying at least one category is always required:  
  A policy must have a policy class.  
       

Comment:  If this business rule were not specified, policies could exist that have no policy class.

Pattern Question for Mutually-Exclusive Categorization

Pattern Question CM2: 
Mutually-Exclusive Categorization
 
  Are categories mutually exclusive for each instance of a term?  
Ask specifically:  
  Are policy classes mutually exclusive for each (insurance) policy?  Can an (insurance) policy ever have more than one policy class?  
Sample business rule specifying more than one category is not ever allowed:  
  A policy must not have more than one policy class.  
       

Comments: 

  • If the business rule were not specified, policies could exist that have multiple policy classes.

  • If each instance of a term must have at least one category, but not more than one, a single business rule can be expressed using exactly.  For example:  A policy must have exactly one policy class.

Connection Counts

Pattern Question for Minimum Connection Count

figure
Figure 2.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about a Minimum Connection Count.

Pattern Question CM3: 
Minimum Connection Count
 
  What is the minimum number of connections that each instance of a term in a verb concept is permitted to have?  
Ask specifically:  
  Given each claim, what is the minimum number of claimants required to make the claim?  
Sample business rule specifying a minimum connection count:  
  A claim must be made by at least one claimant.  
       

Comments: 

  • If this business rule were not specified, claims could exist without any claimant.

  • This pattern question should be asked for each term involved in the verb concept.  Starting from the other 'end' of the verb concept we can ask:  Given each instance of party, what is the minimum number of claims the party is allowed to make?  Presumably the business will be involved with parties who have made no claims (e.g., agents, new insureds, etc.) so probably no business rule is appropriate in this respect.

  • Counting connections as in this pattern question is more or less the business-level equivalent of cardinality or multiplicity in data modeling.

Pattern Question for Maximum Connection Count

figure
Figure 3.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about a Maximum Connection Count.
Pattern Question CM4: 
Maximum Connection Count
 
  What is the maximum number of connections that each instance of a term in a verb concept is allowed to have?  
Ask specifically:  
  Given each (insurance) policy holder, what is the maximum number of policies the policy holder is permitted to hold?  
Sample business rule specifying a maximum connection count:  
  A policy holder must not hold more than ten policies.  
Ask specifically:  
  Given each policy, what is the maximum number of policy holders permitted to hold the policy?  
Sample business rule specifying a maximum connection count:  
  A policy must not be held by more than one policy holder.  
       

Comments: 

  • This pattern question has been applied to both terms involved in the verb concept 'policy holder holds policy'.  Maximum connection counts have been given as business rules for both.

  • If each instance of a term in a verb concept has both a maximum and a minimum connection count and the counts are the same, a single business rule can be expressed using exactly.  For example:  A policy must be held by exactly one policy holder.

Conditional Connection Counts and Restrictions on Facts

figure
Figure 4.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about Conditional Connection Counts and Restrictions on Facts.

Pattern Question for Conditional Minimum Connection Counts

Pattern Question CM5: 
Conditional Minimum Connection Counts
 
  Given an instance of a term, if some specific condition or qualification holds true is there a minimum number of connections required for a verb concept??  
Ask specifically:  
  Given each claim, is there a specific condition or qualification
that requires the claim to be assigned to some minimum number
of adjudicators?
 
Sample business rule specifying a conditional minimum connection count:  
  A claim over $500 must be assigned to an adjudicator.  
       

Comment:  A claim $500 or less need not be assigned to an adjudicator.  Any claim over $500, however, does need to be assigned to at least one adjudicator.  In other words, the verb concept is assigned to is conditionally mandatory for claims.

Pattern Question for Conditional Maximum Connection Counts

Pattern Question CM6: 
Conditional Maximum Connection Counts
 
  Given an instance of a term, if some specific condition or qualification holds true is there a maximum number of connections allowed for a verb concept?  
Ask specifically:  
  Given each adjudicator, is there a specific condition or qualification that requires the adjudicator to be responsible for no more than a maximum number of claims?  
Sample business rule specifying a conditional maximum connection count:  
  A junior adjudicator must not be responsible for more than
15 claims.
 
       

Comments: 

  • If an adjudicator is not junior, there is no maximum number of claims that adjudicator can be responsible for.  For any adjudicator who is junior, however, the maximum permitted is 15.

  • There is no need to express the following:  An adjudicator who is not junior may be responsible for any number of claim types.  Unless some other business rule takes that degree of freedom away, such permission is simply assumed.

Pattern Question for Restriction on Connections by a Category

Pattern Question CM7: 
Restriction on Connections by a Category
 
  Is a connection disallowed for a verb concept if an instance of one of the terms has a specific category?  
Ask specifically:  
  Is there any adjudicator grade to which a claim must not
be assigned?
 
Sample business rule specifying a restriction on connections by a category:  
  A claim must not be assigned to a trainee adjudicator.  
       

Comments: 

  • This business rule expresses a business practice that claims are not be assigned to trainees.

  • Disallowing a connection is the same as expressing a maximum connection count of zero.

Pattern Question for Restriction on Connections by a Combination of Categories

Pattern Question CM8: 
Restriction on Connections by a Combination of Categories
 
  Is a connection disallowed for a verb concept if the
instances of the terms have some specific combination of categories?
 
Ask specifically:  
  Is there any kind of claim to which an adjudicator of a certain adjudicator grade must not be assigned?  
Sample business rule specifying a restriction on connections by a combination of categories:  
  A junior adjudicator must not be assigned to a bodily-injury claim.  
       

Comment:  This business rule indicates a business practice that bodily-injury claims are not be assigned to junior adjudicators.  This business rule naturally raises the question:  Why does the concept model provide for a possibility that a business rule prohibits?

Specific Instances

figure
Figure 5.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about a Restriction on Connections by Specific Instances.

Pattern Question for Restriction on Connections by Specific Instances

Pattern Question CM9a: 
Restriction on Connections by Specific Instances
 
  Given an instance of a term, is a connection for a verb concept disallowed with some specific instance of another term?  
Ask specifically:  
  Is there any claim type that a material-damage claim must not be classified as?  
Sample business rule specifying a restriction on a connection with a specific instance:  
  A material-damage claim must not be classified as 'F648'.  
       

Comment:  Double squiggly lines on a connection indicate the connection represents a classification.  The two things on the bottom, F648 and H113, represent instances of the term on the top, claim type.

Pattern Question for Restriction on Connections with a Combination of Specific Instances

Pattern Question CM9b: 
Restriction on Connections with a Combination of Specific Instances
 
  Given an instance of a term, are two or more connections for a verb concept disallowed with some specific combination of instances of another term?  
Ask specifically:  
  Are there any combinations of claim types that a claim must not
be classified as?
 
Sample business rule specifying a restriction on connections with a combination of specific instances:  
 

A claim must not be classified as more than one of the following:
  •  'F648'
  •  'H113'

 
       

Comment:  This business rule references two instances of claim type.  The same claim must not be classified as both at the same time.

Mutually-Exclusive Connections and Connection Cycles

Pattern Question for Mutually-Exclusive Connections

figure
Figure 6.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about Mutually-Exclusive Connections.
Pattern Question CM10: 
Mutually-Exclusive Connections
 
  Are connections for two or more different verb concepts mutually exclusive for an instance of a term?  
Ask specifically:  
  Can a claim be assigned to an adjudicator and be litigated by
a lawyer at the same time?
 
Sample business rule specifying mutually-exclusive connections:  
 

A claim must not indicate more than one of the following:
  • It is assigned to an adjudicator.
  • It is litigated by a lawyer.

 
       

Comment:  If the business rule were not specified, connections of both types could exist for a claim at the same time.

Pattern Question for Restrictions on Connection Cycles

figure
Figure 7.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about Restrictions on Connection Cycles.
Pattern Question CM11: 
Restrictions on Connection Cycles
 
  Is a connection for a verb concept allowed only if two or more other connections in a recursive structure complete
(or do not complete) a connection cycle?
 
Ask specifically:  
  Can a claim payment be issued to some party other than a claimant that makes the claim for which the claim payment compensates?  
Sample business rule specifying a cycle restriction:  
  A claim payment may be issued only to a claimant who makes the claim for which the claim payment compensates.  
       

Comments: 

  • You can't just pay any party a claim payment.  A claim payment is acceptable only if it is issued to a claimant for the given claim.

  • The verb concepts is issued to, makes, and compensates for form a recursive structure of verb concepts.  A connection cycle is a set of connections for a recursive structure, one connection per verb concept, that begins and ends with the same instance of a term (e.g., a given payment).  Business rules about connection cycles are far more common than you might think.

Volume Limits

Pattern Question for Volume Limits

figure
Figure 8.  Concept Model Snippet Used in Illustrating Pattern Questions about Volume Limits.
Pattern Question CM12: 
Volume Limits
 
  Is there an upper limit on the number of instances
of a term that may exist at any one time?
 
Ask specifically:  
  What's the absolute limit on the number of trainees at any
one time?
 
Sample business rule specifying an absolute volume limit:  
  The total number of trainee adjudicators must not exceed 100.  
Ask specifically:  
  How many trainees are allowed at any one time relative to the number of senior adjudicators?  
Sample business rule specifying a relative volume limit:  
  The total number of trainee adjudicators must not exceed the
total number of senior adjudicators
.
 
       

Comments: 

  • If these business rules were not specified, there would be no absolute or relative limits on the total number of trainees.

  • Volume limits on terms are one of the few pattern questions involving no verb concepts.

 

Next month's discussion focuses on pattern questions specifically for business milestone or state transition models.

For further information, please visit BRSolutions.com      

References

[1]  All business rule statements in this discussion are expressed using RuleSpeak®.  The RuleSpeak guidelines for expressing business rules in structured natural language are free on www.RuleSpeak.com.  return to article

[2]  The diagram snippets of concept models in this discussion follow the BRS ConceptSpeak™ conventions.  Refer to:  Business Rule Concepts, by Ronald G. Ross, 4th ed., 2013.  return to article

# # #

Standard citation for this article:


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Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam , "Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Concept Models" Business Rules Journal Vol. 17, No. 5, (May 2016)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2016/b858.html

About our Contributor(s):


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 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

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys  S.W. Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal , and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Gladys S.W. Lam is a world-renowned authority on applied business rule techniques. She is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (BRSolutions.com), the most recognized company world-wide for business rules and decision analysis. BRS provides methodology, publications, consulting services, and training. Ms. Lam is Co-Creator of IPSpeak, the BRS methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak. She is Co-Founder of BRCommunity.com, a vertical community for professionals and home of Business Rules Journal. She co-authored Building Business Solutions, an IIBA® sponsored handbook on business analysis with business rules.

Ms. Lam is widely known for her lively, pragmatic style. She speaks internationally at conferences, public seminars and other professional events. She is also Executive Director of Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, which includes the Business Rules & Decisions Forum and the Business Analysis Forum.

Ms. Lam is a world-renowned expert on business project management, having managed numerous projects that focus on the large-scale capture, analysis and management of business rules. She advises senior management of large companies on organizational issues and on business solutions to business problems. She has extensive experience in related areas, including BPM, structured business strategy, and managing and implementing information systems.

Ms. Lam is most recognized for her ability to identify the source of business issues, and for her effectiveness in developing pragmatic approaches to resolve them. She has gained a world-class reputation for fostering positive professional relationships with principals and support staff in projects. Ms. Lam graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Computer Science.

Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam
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