Jim Sinur had an interesting post this week – Don’t Get Stuck with Bad Policy/Rule Management. In it he said
I think organizations that do not manage their policies/rules may find themselves behind the eight ball
a sentiment with which I completely agree. But I would go one step further, organizations that do not manage their policies, rules and decisions will find themselves in trouble. Jim’s diagram of how policies, rules, mission, goals etc relate omits decisions and I think that’s a problem. It is decisions that tie business rules to the goals and objectives of an organization – how we make decisions determines our results and our results determine if we met our goals or not. We still need to establish links between our rules and the policies that constrain and drive them but we need to link back from rules to goals through the objectives that those rules implement.
So here’s what my version looks like. You still have a mission and a set of goals/objectives that support it. You still define various scenarios and think about how you would succeed in your mission and meet your goals in each. All of this drives a current set of policies that will constrain and drive your business rules, just as Jim says. But you also know and keep track of the business decisions that affect those goals and map these decisions to the rules that implement them. Your goals allow you to see what a good decisions looks like (it moves you closer to your goal) and the outcomes of your decisions drive your progress towards these goals. This let’s you tell which rules are working and which are not.
For instance, if you have a customer retention goal then that might drive some policies around how aggressive you are with retention offers, initial pricing, discounts etc. These will be reflected in business rules you write. You make many decisions that contribute to retention – you decide who to retain and how to do it, you decide when to make refunds, you decide how to route calls from a customer and much more. The results of these decisions materially affect your likelihood of meeting that retention goal. To close the loop you need to understand the linkage between decisions made and your goals.
Decisions are critical if you are to “get out from behind the 8 ball”