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Business Rules, Decision Management and ASUG


I do a lot of work with companies and organizations adopting business rules and Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS) such as BRFplus and NetWeaver BRM. I wanted to share two things (as I head off to Sapphire/ASUG).

First, I often find that when organizations start with business rules they begin by just trying to capture business rules the way they would capture any other kind of requirement in their blueprint. This is not an effective approach and results in what I call the “big bucket of rules.” As I said on my blog earlier this year, you need to start with decisions not with business rules. Identifying the decisions that can and should be automated, decomposing these into their dependent pieces and then identifying the rules for each piece is a much better strategy and is the basis for my work in Decision Management and my recent book on the topic – Decision Management Systems: A Practical Guide to Business Rules and Predictive Analytics (see Carsten Ziegler’s comment on the book here). Begin with the decision in mind.

Second I find that organizations often don’t think about business rules and decision management as solutions to their problems. To help with this I have found a number of things are worth looking for in a project – these will make business rules and decision management a good candidate:

  • The requirements are driven by policy or regulation documents
    Decisions around eligibility or validation based on these are often effective when implemented using a BRMS
  • There is a requirement for regular or rapid change
    If the business want to make changes to behavior regularly, or if the pace of change is picking up for a module, it is almost certain to be a decision-making component and business rules will be a good basis for automating it.
  • There are complaints about usability
    Many complaints about usability arise because the users are being forced to use the system for something it could do itself. An approval screen might be “unusable” and generate many complaints if someone has to use it for every transaction. If the Approve decision is handled by a BRMS 80 or 90% of the time then the usability of the screen may not be so much of an issue.
  • There is an overcomplex process
    Mixing decision-making into process designs often results in very over-complex processes and using business rules to automate some of the decisions in the process can result in smarter, simpler and more agile processes.
  • There is a plan to use analytics
    Using analytics to change the behavior of a system can be difficult unless you understand which decision the analytics are trying to improve and have control of that decision because you have implemented it in a BRMS

The good news for anyone coming to ASUG/Sapphire 2012 is that Carsten Ziegler and I have a couple of sessions on these topics. On Wednesday at 3pm he and I are hosting a micro-forum on “Smarter, Simpler Applications with Decision Service Management.” Carsten is the author of a great book on SAP’s rule engine BRFplus and the discussion will focus on decision service management (DSM) – a strategy that helps make business processes and systems more efficient and more agile.

After that, at 4:15pm, he and I are presenting on “Building Flexible, Easy-to-Change and Rock-Solid Applications with BRFplus Decision Services:”

SAP ABAP business applications can be rightly described as high performance, robust and rock-solid. Making them also flexible and easy to change is a challenge faced by many companies. Taking control of the critical decisions in these applications by developing BRFplus decision services resolves the challenge, giving business experts more insight into mission-critical decisions taken by the system. With BRFplus, business users can make the right change, right now without destabilizing the application or using over-stretched IT resources, improving process quality and compliance. The approach will be illustrated with real cases and TCO/ROI examples and a demo will show the creation of a decision service, implementation, and continuous improvement by business experts. Presented by a leading expert in decision management systems and the chief product owner and inventor of BRFplus, this approach can easily be applied by nearly all SAP customers to their critical business problems.

The session is in S310F

Decision Management and the use of business rules has tremendous potential for SAP customers. To help realize this value, Decision Management Solutions (my company) has become an SAP partner. We are already working on some BRFplus projects and we look forward to helping organizations see where Decision Management and business rules can offer a high ROI to SAP customers. If you have questions, drop me a line at jtaylor@decisionmanagementsolutions.com

Cross posted from my blog on SAP SDN