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Top 10 excuses to avoid business rules: #8 we’re doing fine

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#8. We’re doing fine as we are; why fix what isn’t broken?

What this normally means is that there are no obvious decision-centric problems in the current IT portfolio. I am reminded of a story I heard a long time ago. An IT leader was called in and asked to give a report on the status of development. He proudly pointed out that the vast majority of systems were on time, on budget and to specification. To this the CEO said “I know and if things don’t improve I am going to outsource the whole department”.

Why did he say this? Well, the problem was that by the time the systems were done, even though they were on time, they no longer did what the business needed. Sure, they did what the business needed when the spec was written but times change. The IT folks thought they were “doing fine”, the business did not.

Let’s assume though that this is not your problem – that you really don’t have a huge backlog and that users aren’t working around systems that don’t quite work the way they need to any more. Well then the core decision automation benefit that is being overlooked is agility. Even if everything is going fine, how quickly and cost-effectively could you respond to a competitive issue, new regulations, a new channel, or some other major change? Decision automation technology like business rules helps reduce the odds that a change will derail you.

One last thing. Sometimes it seems “too hard” to rip the rules out of the 14 legacy applications that currently have them hard-coded (in theory all identical implementations of the rules). This concern that it will be hard to automate a decision where the logic is too deeply embedded in code no one understands, or in the brains of people that are too core to the business to take them away from what they are doing, is real. However the alternative is to cross your fingers and hope the system holds together. Not, perhaps, the world’s greatest risk management strategy. Take it incrementally, don’t bite it all off at once but do start now while you still don’t need to. Once you need to, it may be too late.

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