1. You want my business users to do WHAT?
Yes, pure fear is the number one reason. There are still a lot of IT departments who cannot accept the idea of the business community maintaining business rules. Mostly this is aversion to the perceived risk but sometimes it is simple fear that they personally will somehow lose value if business logic isn’t written in code. For many it is simply outside their comfort zone.
So why should IT departments use decision automation and business rules to put their business users in the driving seat? One word – change.
One of the hardest things for most IT departments is change. Regulatory changes, business changes, competitive changes, requirement changes, process changes, policy changes. All this change creates a maintenance nightmare so that in many IT shops the majority of time is spent not building cool new applications but editing and “fixing” code in old systems. Now IT people, like most people, like to finish things and get the rewards and kudos that come with that. But constant change in the business environment can make it impossible to finish. By putting some power to manage decisions in the hands of your business users you can get yourself out of this hole. That’s the opportunity. But what about the risk? Can you really let business users change the system? Yes, a good business rules management system will let you do this with enough control, and enough restrictions, that you don’t need to hyper-ventilate each time your users tell you they have made an update.
Remember that business users do not, in fact, want to maintain their systems or their business rules – they think that’s your job! What they want to do is run their business. To get them involved in managing change by maintaining the system you will need to make sure they can point and click, select from lists etc. in a familiar way so it does not seem like an extra task. Then you will need to tightly integrate this with their environment. If they have a place where they see reports that might cause them to change, say, their product promotions then they should be able to change the rules right there in the same application. If there is a database table of territories then the list of territories to select to use in a rule should be that list. And so on.
These first two things will get them involved but how do you keep them, and your system, safe? They are going to need to have a template that controls what they can change, how they can change it, what options they can use and so on. Otherwise some fool will break the system. A good template should also let you control how each rule is presented so you can make it as clear as possible to those doing the editing. Remember also that different users will have different environments and will have different rules to edit. The other key to keeping them safe is to provide audit trails on changes made and changes deployed and controls to make sure updates and changes are managed and restricted. Your users may not appreciate this, but you will….
It is worth automating decisions and putting business users in the driving seat and it can be done at an appropriate level of risk. Using a business rules management solution to collaborate more effectively with your users can give you more time to focus on the kind of IT work that’s actually fun and get some of your users off your back.