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Decisioning platforms and managing business rules


While at the recent Gartner BPM conference (twitter feed at #gartnerbpm) I got some interesting questions from @gagan_s. He saw my posts on the bare essentials of making rules work and @skemsley‘s post on my advanced decisioning for process excellence session (recording here).

The first question he asked was a follow-up to Jim Sinur (@jimsinur) saying that organizations would end up with multiple rules engines – that they would be embedded in all sorts of things from applications to event processing engines to Business Process Management Systems and more. The question was whether a true Business Rules Management System replace multiple rule engines in an enterprise? As I said to him, a full blown BRMS could replace all these rule engines but it is probably unrealistic to expert it to do so. Just as companies may try and standardize on a single DBMS but often find this impossible. And some of these rule engines will be tightly coupled with their host and it may not make sense to extract them – removing routing rules from a BPMS and managing them in a BRMS does not make sense, for instance. So my advice was to get good at federated rules management.

In response he asked the obvious follow-up – was I saying that companies need to manage federated business rules but at the same time centralize decisioning? Is that, he asked, a separate decision management system sitting over BRMS & BPMS? The answer to this one brings us back to a definition of decision management as a business discipline not a technology stack. Identifying, separating and improving decisions is something I believe companies will find tremendously beneficial. It would be easiest to do if all the rules behind those business decisions (which is not the same as all the rules in the enterprise) were managed in one tool but I doubt most organizations will manage this. So impact analysis, governance, audit and more will need to reflect the fact that rules are in multiple places.

Finally he asked me if a decisioning system was the same as a BRMS? And the answer is yes and then again no. From a technical perspective the platforms that are good at managing decisions at execution time are largely BRMS products. From a business perspective the discipline of decision management will, I think, spawn a new class of products in the same general category as business process analysis tools – tools designed to help you think about and design decisions that can be mapped to multiple execution platforms.

Hope that helps.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sofia October 13, 2009, 4:28 am

    It certainly does help, thank you. It’s a tricky topic to get one’s head around but I enjoyed and actually found your post rather helpful. Thanks agian!