Inspired by a post of Jim Sinur’s – Can the Business Really Use BPM Technologies Without Help? – I started thinking about the decision management corollary: Can the business use decision management technology without help?
Regular readers will know that I often refer to the dirty secret of business rules:
Business users don’t want to “maintain rules” any more than they want to “write code”
What they want to do is run their business better. This means making sure that what you want them to do (maintain the business rules in critical decisions) looks to them like changing their risk exposure, promoting a slow moving product or allowing representatives to spend more to retain more customers. Of course these are all ways of describing business users managing decisions (by controlling certain rules or analytic models in the decision services within their systems), but that’s not how business users (mostly) think.
There are going to be some key characteristics if this is going to work:
- Decision maintenance must be presented as a business function and with a business context
It cannot look like maintaining code or that it was designed for IT people. It should feel like part of running the business, use the terminology the business uses etc.
- The process of decision maintenance must be integrated with other systems used by the business people
They should be able to look at a KPI and their performance against it, decide it is unacceptable and go immediately to the decisions that impact that KPI so that those decisions can be changed to have a positive impact on the KPI. They should be able to go from a process environment to maintaining the decisions that the process needs. It should seem seamless.
- Impact analysis and simulation are critical
Before any change is made the business user should be able to tell what it is going to do – what the impact will be. They should be able to try various alternatives out, see which are most appropriate or profitable and easily put those into production.
- The whole thing must be secure & controlled
Audit trails, management, security, built-in verification and validation, error prevention etc.
- The environment for decision maintenance must be familiar
Same kind of browser-based, point-and-click UIs they are increasingly used to.
With these caveats, business users can use decision management technology without IT help. They can’t and don’t want to use the same technology IT does but they can and should be brought into the process. To deliver this requires thought and effort but it will pay off in increased agility, decreased costs and improved precision in decision-making.