New Wisdom was founded in 2006 (as a spinoff of Lambert Consultants) to develop software for managing business source rules. The product, RuleGuideTM, is designed to capture metadata about the rules and to support discovery and analysis of rules in projects adopting a business rules management system (BRMS). They see this as about 65% of a project and claim to be able to reduce it by half for a net gain of 30%+. Besides being a large time investment, this part of a project is also a high risk area for projects. The various sources for rules (legacy code, policy manuals, regulations, SMEs) need to be analyzed and the results stored in some kind of repository. Doing this in Excel (perhaps the most common approach) has obvious challenges in terms of versioning, ownership, shared access etc. Add in things like a need to support KPI decision models and Business Process Models and the need for some kind of bridge from source to execution platform gets even stronger. RuleGuide supports this process and acts as a real bridge from the sources to the execution model.
RuleGuide has three key features. First it has a Glossary for storing a comprehensive glossary of terms. Secondly it stores a rule Inventory and associated metadata – descriptive information about the rules. Thirdly it supports various decision structures to provide a business context for rules and direct connections to process and event models. In addition it provides some analysis of the rules, traceability from source to production, change control with versioning for audit and tracking, and a repeatable process for rule analysis.
RuleGuide is a web based application with a rich client interface and using an Oracle database (other databases are planned) and Java and designed for enterprise use scalable across multiple organizations and projects – multi-user and real-time updates for example. The product is highly configurable with most lists and drop downs being set by the organization as they adopt/use it.
The organization’s structure and some information about initiatives, motivation (goals) can be specified. Terms and facts can be defined as can rule types. Sources can be defined and linked/stored and then natural language rules can be specified. This stage is the first opportunity to capture rules and is very freeform. Meta data such as stakeholder, organization that owns it, decisions it impacts, rule family to which it belongs etc. are also recorded.
The next stage is to develop structured rules – what RuleGuide calls rule templates – for these rules. These templates are linked to some number of the source rules (though the mechanism for selecting these was pretty limited – just a list) and the conclusion and conditions for these rule templates are specified using the terms and operators defined. These structured rules can be automatically grouped into rule families based on common conclusion types and rule patterns. Rule families group rule templates via rule patterns and display all the conditions used in those templates (as columns). Families can be supported by other families.
There is some analysis of these rules but mostly users ensure consistency and completeness through inspection and reporting. Rule families display the conditions in a way that makes it easy to review them for completeness and the tool allows reporting and searching by metadata. It also provides some impact analysis reports to show which terms are used by which rules and so on.
Event Rule Groups are used to package rules up for passing to the production system, for instance, and to define decisions in processes. Event Rule Groups contain rule templates or structured rules. Rules can be added and removed based on Rule Families or Rule Type.
RuleGuide clearly makes it easier to manage rules, link to sources and do impact analysis than Excel spreadsheets or something custom in Access. I would hope to see more automated quality checks and completeness reporting in the future.
Several companies are working with RuleGuide on one-way interfaces into the rules production environment and current partners are ILOG JRules (IBM) and FICO Blaze Advisor (Fair Isaac). Hopefully some of these integrations will develop into two way integrations in the future. RuleGuide is also working with KPI to implement the Decision Model on the methodology side.