Opportunities in the Rules Space: What Else Should Rule Platforms Be Doing?

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

Let's stand back and take a hard look at today's rules space. Three basic questions pop up immediately.

Question 1. Have we made significant progress?

This question is easy — absolutely! Decisions and the DMN standard[1] have made a major contribution to the industry. So, we can move right along.

Question 2. Why don't rules and rule platforms predominate?

Ten or fifteen years ago I would have thought that by now everybody in the world would be using business rules and rule tools. But they're not. Why?!

My view is that the tools the industry has offered simply haven't provided all the solutions that businesses need. We simply have not yet achieved the full potential of rules — not even close! There are still major opportunities to be seized on.

Question 3. What remaining challenges do rule tools need to address?

My three-part answer:

  1. Eliminate programmer workload.
  2. Better address sentiment and human discretion.
  3. Tie in more directly to business governance.

Behavioral Rules

It's obvious that many rules can be broken. Think laws, regulations, contracts, agreements, MOUs, certifications, warranties, etc. Such rules are often one-off and sourced directly in natural language. Rules that people or organizations can break are called behavioral rules.[2] It's a mystery why, two decades into the 21st century, rule platforms don't support them.

A great impedance mismatch exists between DMN-style decision rules vs. behavioral business rules, based on whether evaluation of rules is modeler-invoked or state-based. The burden of validating states of affairs in modeler-invoked evaluation is shouldered by coders.

Modeler-invoked evaluation does not work well for behavioral business rules. Not catching violations in real time causes snowballing errors downstream and thus extensive rework. No wonder business software remains so complex and brittle.

Flash points are the specific events when a rule needs to be evaluated based only on its semantics — i.e., using no external model or specification (e.g., procedural model or decision model). Flash points for the same rule can occur in multiple processes, procedures, use cases, etc. or at various points in ad hoc (unmodeled) business activity. Invoking flash points automatically requires 'stateful' platforms.

The opportunity for rule platforms in this decade is not just to get smarter but to eliminate programmer workload — and maybe even rote-work programmers(!).


[1] DMN — Decision Model and Notation. For more information refer to: About the Decision Model and Notation Specification

[2] For example, as specified by the OMG standard Semantics of Business Rules and Business Vocabularies (SBVR). For more refer to: Standards : SBVR Insider — Business Rules Community / Business Rules Journal (BRCommunity.com)

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Opportunities in the Rules Space: What Else Should Rule Platforms Be Doing?" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 23, No. 01, (Jan. 2022)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2022/c085.html

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 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

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