Roy Schulte of Gartner gave a rapid fire session on business rules. Business rules he says can be used in multiple ways in a Business Process Management context. It can be used to make applications smarter and more flexible by externalizing rules. You can also use them to control process flow. And you can use it in conjunction wiht anlaytics (decision management).
- Using BRMS to make an application smarter and more flexible
Imagine a generic business process with steps that are a mix of systems and people, managed perhaps using a BPMS. The BRMS is used to manage the business logic in one of the systems. Roy identified several scenarios for using a BRMS:
- If it has a lot of conditional logic – more than a few conditions – then rules will be a more effective way to manage this logic than a 3GL.
- If the rules change regularly then that too makes a BRMS a better fit. This might be because of changing business conditions but it might also be because you don’t really know what the rules are
- A BRMS allows changes by end users and allows these changes to be deployed quickly
- Finally using a BRMS represents a separation of concerns and makes reuse of rules more likely and practical
- Using BRMS with BPM to make a business process smarter and more flexible
As well as the use of a BRMS to improve an application, it can also be used to improve processes.
- Rules can analyze a situation and determine which process should be started.
- Rules can make a complex routing or escalation decision that the BPMS would not manage well and can add new steps/invoking a suitable sub-process
- Rules can make business decisions as an activity in a business process – allowing STP by skipping steps or approvals for instance
- Using BRMS with analytic tools
The final and perhaps the most valuable scenario is the use of business rules with analytics to make decisions. Gartner call this Intelligent Decision Automation.
- This might operate in conjunction with a complex event processing scenario, for instance, where the outcome of a event correlation is trigger a Decision Service built with a BRMS that will decide what should happen next – tell someone to do something, invoke a process, invoke a system etc.
- It might also work with a CEP engine to monitor an executing process. The CEP or Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) environment might invoke a rules-based Decision Service based on analytics. In these circumstances it may also be effective to embed predictive analytics in a Decision Services along with simulation, optimization and more.
Roy went on to talk about the current state of the art in BRMS, pointing out that the rule engine is now combined with a repository, rule modeling and simulation, monitoring and decision analysis, rule management and template capabilities and a robust IDE. Roy pointed out the many, increasingly sophisticated BRMS products out there (check out my Product News section to see reviews of many of them).
Two interesting questions came up:
Do business experts or IT write the rules – both and a good BRMS should support both
Can you mix and match BPMS and BRMS vendors – yes you can, a good Decision Service implementation is reusable across business processes and BPMS.
Don’t forget my webinar on Webinar: Increasing BPM agility and effectiveness with Decision Management