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Using business rules and analytics together

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Using business rules and analytics together is one of the defining characteristics of an enterprise decision management approach. Dan Selman had an interesting post over on the ILOG blog today – Integrating Business Objects and JRules using SOA. The post discusses a well-written “lab” white paper that walks through the process of this integration in detail with screenshots, practical guidance etc.

While, at one level, the integration described is pretty straightforward and more to do with the integration of services built using different tools (this integration being, of course, one of the primary benefits of using an SOA), it also shows some interesting characteristics of using an EDM approach.

  • There is a nice separation of concerns with the rules engine executing rules and the analytic platform executing queries, doing sums etc
  • The rules engine uses the same view of the data that the analytic platform presents to users, ensuring that the automated decision making environment and the manual decision making environment are synchronized
  • The rules engine can use the analytic platform without having to worry about how potentially complex analytics are performed
  • Rules that use the data managed by the analytic platform to take action are easy to change rather than embedded in the analytics platform

Now, there are a few things I would like to see in addition:

  • Integration of the rules development environment with the query platform so that, for instance, a rule developer can see how real instances are distributed before setting a threshold in a rule.
  • Integration of rules testing with the query platform to make it easy to use existing data to test rules.
  • Support for data mining for rules – using data mining algorithms to develop the rules and then loading them directly into the rules environment.
  • Integration of the performance management/dashboard environment with the rules maintenance environment so that a business manager can see that a change is required, using the dashboard, and then actually make the change, using the rule maintenance environment.

A business rules management system is a the critical platform for automating decisions using EDM. Integration with analytic platforms follows it a close second.

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