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Check out the new Forrester report on Business Rules

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John Rymer and Mike Gualtieri of Forrester have just published the Business Rules Platforms Wave for 2008 (you can get it here as part of your Forrester subscription or for about $800). The folks at Forrester do a pretty thorough job of reviewing platforms for these Wave reports – actually getting vendors in to work on problems and calling reference accounts, not just looking at PowerPoints. One of the nicest features is that, if you get the full report, you get Excel files with the results allowing you to change the weightings assigned to features – allowing you to highlight things that are really important to you or eliminate features about which you do not care. This allows you to get your own rankings and is a highly recommended approach for those of you doing evaluations.

Overall I like their focus on the need to engage the business collaboratively in managing business rules and thus application logic and I completely agree that SOA is a key driver in adoption as the combination of rules and SOA is very effective. Let’s take a few comments from their summary:

Forrester evaluated 13 platforms from 11 vendors using 175 criteria and found ILOG JRules, Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor, and Pegasystems PegaRULES to be resounding Leaders as general-purpose business rules platforms.

This is not, perhaps, surprising. ILOG, Fair Isaac and Pegasystems have been working on rules-based solutions for years. The products are well established, proven and well known. I understand why they did not include the open source products but it sure would have been nice to have them included as they are making great progress.

Haley Limited (Haley Expert Rules), Corticon Technologies, and Innovations Software Technology also emerged as Leaders, and InRule Technology followed close behind.

I think this is great news. While Haley and Corticon have been competitive for a while, it was nice to see Innovations and InRule coming on strong. A mix of vendors, some with established but evolving products and others with no history or baggage is good for a market and the rules market is no exception.

Forrester created five views of the business rules market, including: general-purpose platforms, specialized platforms, platforms for Java application developers, platforms for .NET application developers, and platforms for business analysts who develop and maintain applications.

This is interesting. I agree that it is necessary to think about these different perspectives and I am glad they have called them out. I worry somewhat that they are breaking it down in such a developer-centric way. If you tell vendors that the markets are developer-based then you get features aimed at developers, not at the larger business problems.

John and Mike clearly understand the power of business rules to deliver dynamic business applications (about which I have blogged before). They do have a tendency to lump all the uses of business rules together – a technology centric view – where I would talk about decision management as one key business purpose for business rules, in dynamic applications for example, while also stressing that process rules, transformation rules and other kinds of business rules should be managed by the platforms aimed at those problems.

I think the report would benefit from an additional cut at the data – the value of each platform for decision management, not just rules management. This would give the report the decisioning focus it lacks and allow it to more coherently discuss data mining, optimization and analytics – other critical decision making technologies.

Overall it’s another good report and worth reading/buying/using as part of looking at business rules technology.

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