Being Business-Friendly About the Life of Business Things

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

The key words in coordinating operational-level things in a business are event and state.  An event is simply something that happens in the business.  A state is simply a condition or form of being.  When an event happens, something always goes into a new state.

In day-to-day business activity, that 'something' is usually an instance of an operational business thing.  For example, we might say a received order is now credit-checked.  If the business cares about the events and states for some operational business thing, each instance of the operational business thing is said to have a life.

Two things are implied by an instance of an operational business thing achieving a new state in its life:

  • Some business action (transform) has completed successfully.  For example, if we say an order is now credit-checked it might mean the business task Check credit has finished successfully.

  • All business rules applicable to the new state have been satisfied.  For example, if we say an order is now credit-checked it means that all business rules pertaining to credit-checked orders have been satisfied at that point in time.

Each recognized state in the life of an operational business thing has a starting point called a business milestone.  Analysis of business milestones is an excellent tool for capturing and analyzing related business rules.

The Happy Life

Operational business things such as orders have a life that encompasses an overall regime, a set of states that start with origination and end with final resolution.  If all goes well (from the business point of view) this regime represents a happy life.  Figure 1 illustrates a happy life informally for orders.

Figure 1.  Informal Representation of the Happy Life of Orders.

This happy life of orders involves six business milestones.  At each business milestone, an instance of order enters a new state, each closer to final resolution.  The arrows represent the operational business events (successfully completed transforms) that get individual orders into the next state.

Note that each state is expressed using a past participle (e.g., received, credit-checked, filled, etc.).  In English, a past participle represents a completed action, so states are always designated in this fashion.  The past participle selected to designate any particular state should be one that is natural for business people.

Unhappy Business Milestones

In real life, unfortunately, things don't always have a happy life.  For example, an order might be cancelled somewhere along the way.  Best practices in developing business milestone models include:

  • Developing the happy life as fully as possible before addressing any unhappy states.  Following this best practice will help you get started much easier.

  • Segregating states that are very unhappy (ones that are undesired and preclude successful termination).  This approach enhances clarity and avoids conflicts among business rules.

Expressing Business Rules for States

Having developed a model for the life of an operational business thing, now you can write business rules.  Some examples:

Business rule:  A rejected order must not be credit-checked.

Business rule:  A cancelled order must not have been shipped.

Remember that any such business rule applies to all

  • business processes within scope, not just one.
  • business tasks within each of those business processes (as relevant).
  • ad hoc business activity (as relevant).

When are Business Milestone Models 'Done'?

A business milestone model is not complete as long as there is any state some business rule needs to single out (reference).

Analysis of business milestones should be undertaken for each operational business thing within scope that has a happy life.

Other operational business things can have life too.  An employee, for example, might be active or retired.  Where there's life, there are probably business rules.

For further information, please visit BRSolutions.com     

# # #

Standard citation for this article:


citations icon
Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam , "Being Business-Friendly About the Life of Business Things" Business Rules Journal Vol. 17, No. 12, (Dec. 2016)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2016/b885.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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