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The growing impact of Business Rules and Decision Management. What a difference 5 years makes!


Back in 2008 I wrote this post – The small impact of business rules on the big players, bemoaning the lack of serious investment in business rules on the part of major software companies. As we enter 2014 I thought I would revisit this post and consider what a difference 5 years makes. Let’s consider some of the world’s top enterprise software  vendors:

  • IBM
    IBM has become a major booster for both Decision Management and business rules. The old ILOG product is now Operational Decision Management and has seen significant and continuous investment since IBM acquired it. Decision Management is one of three pillars of IBM’s Smarter Process initiative and every year it seems to have more visibility at events like IMPACT as well as with IBM’s sales teams and partners. Meanwhile the SPSS acquisition made a little later had already begun to head toward Decision Management and IBM’s analytic portfolio now contains IBM Analytical Decision Management. This is increasingly integrated with ODM and with other IBM products. IBM is seriously into Decision Management.
  • SAP
    SAP has continued to use its acquired technology in its NetWeaver BRM product but for me at least the more interesting activity has come on the application side. Here the various home-built business rules technologies have consolidated into BRFplus, used now in many SAP Applications. The newest product, SAP NetWeaver Decision Service Management, brings a Decision Management focus and a powerful ability to inject business rules into very old SAP systems. Add in SAP’s work on Predictive Analytics and their acquisition of KXEN and their Decision Management stack is looking strong.
  • SAS
    SAS has a long history with analytics but had not ventured into the rules space until very recently. This year though they released both SAS Business Rules Manager and SAS Decision Manager. While these products are new they make SAS’ interest in having a serious Decision Management product clear.
  • Oracle
    Oracle continues to struggle with a somewhat disparate product portfolio with multiple business rules product (Oracle Business Rules and Oracle Policy Automation). Oracle Real Time Decisions, however, is a strong Decision Management product and Oracle’s investment in Oracle Data Mining and other advanced analytics gives them the components of a strong Decision Management stack if not yet the top level visibility of some of the others.

Wow. IBM, SAP, SAS and Oracle all have Decision Management stacks. I guess we’re done arguing if Decision Management is a “thing.”

It’s not all good news of course. If we consider the other software vendors in this size range then Microsoft and HP still don’t seem to have much of a Decision Management strategy while CA seems to have dropped out of the rules business. EMC has invested in advanced analytics but not so far in rules, Fujitsu’s Interstage team still partner with multiple business rules vendors and Adobe’s position on business rules is opaque (to me at least). Specialists like Ericsson, Symantec or VMWare may be embedding rules and analytics in their product but don’t offer Decision Management tools you can buy.

How about the specialty product vendors? Here the focus has clearly shifted from business rules to Decision Management with Drools, Experian, FICO, InRule, Pegasystems,Progress Corticon and Sapiens all talking Decisions or Decision Management not just business rules while folks like IDIOM and Sparkling Logic started with decisions or Decision Management on day 1. Meanwhile analytic vendors like  StatSoft have joined IBM/SPSS and SAS in adding business rules to their analytic tools and focusing more explicitly on decisioning.

The stage is set for Decision Management. Let’s see what 2014 brings shall we?


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