Streamlining Processes With Business Rules

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

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At Business Rules Solutions, we're big fans of "policy busting," something we encourage analysts to do before attempting to change their processes. One of our clients in New Zealand coined the term 'policy busting' for the work we had done for them. Essentially, before we redesigned their business processes, we challenged their existing policies. What they found was that some of their policies had existed for many years and the reasons why they had been created no longer applied. Once we had "busted" their core policies, redesigning their processes followed organically.

If you change your processes without changing your policies, you're basically just shuffling things around without making any actual improvements.

Business Rules Guide Business Processes

When you design your processes, you also need to create rules to guide behavior and make decisions.

When collaborating with organizations that have done a lot of work in process management, I often come across overly-complex process models. These models, frequently spanning pages and pages, are very hard to follow. Why are they so big? Often, it is because a lot of rules are imbedded in your process model. If you see a lot of diamonds nested together in your process model, you have a lot of rules.

My Advice? Externalize those Rules

The advice I give in this case is the following: extract those rules and manage and represent them separately. Your process model will be more simple and easy to follow, and you, your stakeholders, and your teams will be much happier.

We worked with a large pharmaceutical company in New Jersey who came to us with a 30-plus page business process model that no one, according to the manager, could follow or understand. So what did we do? You've guessed it — we extracted the rules from the process model and brought it down to four pages.

The result? A clearer, more straightforward business process model that made sense to everyone.

Remember, process is about doing the work; rule is about providing guidance and making decisions. Two sides of the same coin!

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Standard citation for this article:

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Gladys S.W. Lam, "Streamlining Processes With Business Rules" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 21, No. 05, (May 2020)

About our Contributor:

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 (, 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, 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.

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