SBVR Speaks on Rules: Authorizations

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

SBVR makes a 'light world' [1] assumption about rules. In a light world, anything that is not expressly prohibited is assumed permitted, and anything not expressly declared as impossible is assumed possible. Business rule practice indicates that this choice is the appropriate one for the large majority of business problems.

Occasionally, practitioners may discover 'dark areas in a light world' — areas in which the opposite assumption is appropriate. In such a dark area, anything not expressly permitted is assumed prohibited, or anything not expressly declared as possible is assumed impossible. Dark areas of the former kind — the more important and common of the two cases — might involve use of, and/or access to, resources that are deemed especially sensitive, dangerous, scarce, and/or valuable. For that reason, it makes sense to grant permission for use and/or access explicitly. Such permissions are often called 'authorizations'.

In everyday business language, an authorization is generally understood to mean a sanction or a warrant [Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (MWUD)].

[MWUD "sanction" noun]: 6a. explicit permission or recognition by one in authority that gives validity to the act of another person or body

[MWUD "warrant" noun]: 2a. a commission or document giving authority to do something : an act, instrument, or obligation by which one person authorizes another to do something which he has not otherwise a right to do and thus secures him from loss or damage

For SBVR, it is important to note that an authorization is explicit (from "sanction"), and that without it, there is not otherwise a right to do something (from "warrant").


[1] Ronald G. Ross, "The Light World vs. the Dark World ~ Business Rules for Authorization," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 5, No. 8 (August 2004),

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "SBVR Speaks on Rules: Authorizations" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 21, No. 03, (Mar. 2020)

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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