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First Look: IBM ODM 8.5


I last got an update on IBM’s Operational Decision Management (release 8) back in April 2012. IBM is positioning its Operational Decision Management capability as part of its Smarter Process stack, alongside Business Process Management and Case management. The ongoing focus is on managing business policies at scale and providing enterprise-class governance. With ODM 8.0 IBM delivered an integrated events/rules management capability, a more social and collaborative rule management environment and support for large scale simulation as well as Z Series.

The key feature in 8.5 is the new Decision Governance Framework. The new capabilities are designed to support a specific governance process and provide a stronger sense of context for changes. Crucially they have also introduced the explicit management of Decision Services within the environment, something to group all the projects and artifacts required for a decision service deployment. This not only groups all the elements required but also acts as a simplified unit of work for change management. In addition several pre-defined life cycles are available for releases, changes and validation.

The governance framework involves 4 major new concepts:

  • Releases to initiate change cycles.
    Releases have due dates, status, owners/approvers etc as well as documented objectives. All rule management activities and approval take place in the context of a release – the release provides a boundary, start and finish, for all activities.
  • Change activities to modify rule content.
    Within a release the team creates one or more change activities for the release and assign multiple people to work on these. Users work on the rules in the context of these activities, logging their completion as they go.
  • Validation activities to verify and evaluate changes.
    Similarly users can be assigned to run validation activities, tests etc and log when these are complete.
  • Tracking and audit with release and activity timelines.
    Releases, activities and rules can all display a timeline of changes and snapshots of the release are taken automatically as the release changes state. These snapshots can be compared side by side and changes to elements of rules or decision tables are clearly shown in context (cell by cell for instance).

The governance framework is optional, so users can work in the context of projects (old way) or decision service releases (new way).

While the governance framework is the focus of 8.5 there are a number of other new features. In particular the editors, especially the decision table editor, have been upgraded. The decision table editor was upgrade in 8.01 to provide better in-cell context menus, optimization functions for row ordering/partitioning, improved math operators/formatting and smooth scrolling/lazy loading of large tables. In 8.5 the editor adds undo/redo, cut/copy/paste/insert, automatic or manual ordering, custom cell formatting and improved error/warning display. Large blocks of cells can be cut and pasted between the editor and Excel and rows can be added automatically to fix identified gaps.

Both the new decision table editor and the intellirule guided rule editor are now embeddable as Dojo web components. This allows direct programmatic and embedded access to rulesets and decision tables embedded in other user interfaces, making it easier to develop fit for purpose rule management interfaces that, for instance, allow a marketing person to edit the creative content of a marketing offer alongside the rules for that offer.

A Worklight Adaptor and RESTful API have been provided for improved mobile support, allowing direct access to decision services in mobile applications and for geolocation and device information to be provided to decision services.

Legacy modernization is a powerful use case for business rules and IBM ODM has extended its support for Z/OS to include PL/1, allowing PL/1 to call a rule service and pass its data to that service to get a response. The rules involved can also be deployed to newer platforms, supporting migration to new channels by sharing rules across legacy and modern channels.

Finally a new application pattern for ODM and support for integration with the IBM Integration Bus (WebSphere Integration Broker as was) – running decision services natively in the message broker.

You can get more information on IBM Operational Decision Management here and IBM is one of the vendors in our Decision Management Systems Platform Technology report.


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