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Begin with the Decision in Mind #BBCCon11


I had no slides for my session but I thought I would post my notes or outline:

I have just written a new book called Decision Management Systems about a class of system not widely deployed in organizations. They’re not new systems – I have been talking about them and helping people build them for the better part of a decade and the reality is that they have been around significantly longer even if the category itself was not well established as an umbrella. Recently the pace of adoption, the pace of change, in decision management has really picked up. And it’s done so because the business world is changing in 3 ways

  • Changing Expectations
    • Real-time responsiveness is expected
    • Global customers expect global service
    • Self-service expectations have risen as we enter the 24/7 world
    • Changing Interactions
      • More mobile interactions
      • Increasingly social interactions
      • Changing organizational structures with outsourcing and partner networks
      • And, of course, Changing Scale
        • Big Data
        • More pressure on efficiency
        • Increasing transaction Volumes

These changing expectations, interaction styles and scale mean that companies have to change the kind of systems they build.

  • From built to last to built to change – Agile
    So they can handle changing circumstances, deliver agile compliance and support ongoing process improvement
  • From seeing data as something to be processed to seeing it as something to be used – Analytic
    Used to manage risk, reduce fraud, target and retain customers and focus resources
  • From passive and repetitive to learning and Adaptive
    They must help find new approaches, support test and learn and manage increasingly complex trade-offs

In each case these new systems are built around an operational decision. What are operational decisions? Decisions involve making choices or selections from a range of possible actions. They are action-focused – not just learning but doing. And operational decisions are focused on a single customer a single transaction a single loan a single claim a single marketing interaction. These matter because

  • They implement business strategy
  • They manage risk
  • They are where customer centricity happens
  • They are where operational and analytic systems come together

The most powerful stories of Business Rules Management Systems are all about automating these decisions. Focusing on operational decisions makes it easier for business and IT to collaborate – decisions become a shared object that avoids the “big bucket o rules” problem where business or IT creates long lists of rules without context. A focus on decisions also addresses the problem that business rules get everywhere – UI, process, MDM etc. A clear focus on decisions makes it obvious which rules should be managed in a business rules management system and which ones need not be.

And business rules management systems are critical to these kinds of systems. They offer the design transparency needed for agility as well as allowing for business ownership for BUSINESS agility. Their support for execution transparency supports test and learn as well as impact analysis. They provide a platform for collaboration across the three legged stool of business, IT and analytics and they represent a great deployment approach for analytics.

When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. It is easy to see everything as a process. Some processes are not really processes at all but simply decisions. Other processes are very complex because they include decisions and would be much simpler if the decision was managed separately. Sometimes there are fewer processes than you think because the differences between processes are all about decision-making. And sometimes it is the need for a decision that eliminates the local exceptions to your global process. There’s more on this in my white paper Decisions at the Heart of Your Process.

Bottom line? It’s time to build Decision Management Systems that are Agile, Analytic and Adaptive. To do so apply the 4 Principles of Decision Management System:

  • BWTDIM – Begin with the Decision in Mind
  • Be Transparent and agile
  • Be predictive not reactive
  • Test, learn, adapt, improve

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