As part of our ongoing “Meet our Partners Series” I caught up with Claye Greene of TechBlue, a Decision Management Solutions partner. Claye and I made this recording of a webinar on legacy modernization.
Please describe your current role and title and tell us a little about your company
I’m Claye Greene, Managing Director of TechBlue. TechBlue is a management consulting company. Our primary focus is working with organizations to translate challenges into opportunities, and opportunities into sustainable value.
Since the beginning, Decision Management has been a core capability, and we have contributed to strategic, technological and organizational adoptions of Decision Management capabilities for companies around the world.
Overall our approach is about adoption and transformation, not solely implementation. Our work focuses on three core areas necessary for successful adoption: strategy, technology and organization.
How did you come to get involved with Decision Management?
I have a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence, which gave me the foundation for understanding the concepts and objectives of applying analytical processing to understand and respond to situations.
In terms of what we know as Decision Management today, I worked for FICO from 1999 to 2004, and served as a Technical Manager in the Professional Services group, implementing Blaze Advisor for companies around the world.
I began as a developer, actively using the technologies to delivering solutions. As time passed, my role evolved to one that is more strategic, helping clients to understand why they are adopting Decision Management, not just what it does.
What are some of the key business challenges facing your clients?
Many clients struggle with getting started. They realize there are technology options, yet they also realize that successful Decision Management adoption is more than a traditional “install-and-go” initiative. Their concerns typically stem from not knowing what a pothole looks like, how many they could possibly run into, and how each one could impact their momentum.
Many of our clients want us to talk to them about the challenges with adopting Decision Management, and not necessarily the technologies. This is a good step in the maturation of Decision Management overall, because as all technologies and disciplines evolve and mature, questions and concerns also evolve from “how”, to “why”, “where” and “when”.
Answers to these questions fall in the “strategy” and “organization” focus areas. In addition to the technological implementations, we help our clients to develop strategies that mitigate the potholes, and answer these types of questions.
In your experience what are some of the top challenges for those working with business rules in terms of maximizing the business impact of what they do?
One of the largest challenges is knowing when they are creating a level of return that they anticipated from the beginning, and exactly how much return.
The truth is, anyone can learn to write a business rule. We all write rules in some shape or form, every single day. Couple that with the ease of many of these technologies in writing rules with familiar, non-technical web-like interfaces, and the ease with which rules can be written, can simultaneously be the greatest challenge.
Our experience shows that the majority of business rules implementations don’t struggle because of the technology. They struggle because of everything else important to address. Rule governance, capture, analysis, authoring and testing are key components of the Rule Development Life Cycle, and most companies that struggle, fail to solidify how they will address and manage each.
Legacy Modernization is a great example. Many organizations struggle with what leads up to writing rules – capture, analysis, re-expression, etc. Rules are pulled one by one from the legacy system. And without a firm understanding of rule capture and analysis, that’s how they are implemented in the BRMS. The result? They just created their next legacy system. Unfortunately many BRMS implementations require a major refactor after about 2 years. For many of our clients, it’s all about how to avoid that fate, and develop a BRMS platform that is going to change the business, change the culture, and with regard to their operational performance, change the game.
How does Decision Management address those challenges beyond what the technology offers?
Decision Management is a culture, a way of thinking, a way of governing. It’s more than just a technology. Decision Management offers practices, processes and procedures that have been proven over and over again, to help companies change the way they think about their decision-making.
For many of our clients, they come to realize that the technology is really just a variable in the equation. The governance, processes and procedures are what facilitate success. That’s what Decision Management, as a discipline, is all about. You have to focus on more than just the technology… you have to also focus on strategy and organization to be truly effective.
Can you share a success story or two that illustrates the power of Decision Management?
One of our clients had embarked on legacy modernization initiative that included a BRMS implementation. The first phase was wholly a technological success. A BRMS was operational, with re-expressed business rules, and web services that could sufficiently respond to system requests.
Despite their success, leadership was unable to generate the anticipated ROI. Historically the business would write fundamental requirements for the IT function, and IT would, in turn, maintain the business logic in the legacy application. The BRMS implementation was planned and implemented with the same approach, management and governance. The focus was too much about technology implementation, instead of capability adoption.
TechBlue conducted a business value analysis to understand objectives, identify opportunities to improve, assess the gaps to desired future state, and select a suitable path for achieving the end result. A key determination was that the BRMS implementation didn’t enable one of the key benefits of BRMS – business maintenance. Instead of increasing agility and speed of change, both business and IT personnel were growing frustrated, and the rules in the BRMS hadn’t been changed in years. In essence, despite using a BRMS, they had effectively created another legacy application.
TechBlue designed a plan for refocusing the BRMS effort on all three core principles for Decision Management success: strategy, technology and organization. Through our efforts, the client refactored its Decision Management approach, focusing on governance and collaboration to redefine processes, and realign business and IT to better meet objectives.
Over the next six months several key steps were taken to increase Decision Management ROI. First, the technical implementation was improved to facilitate more effective collaboration between business and IT, and truly allow rule maintenance by non-technical users. Second, a formal Rule Development Life Cycle was implemented, including a robust governance strategy that defined how, when, where and why rules would be implemented in the BRMS. Third, a comprehensive training curriculum was developed to educate business and IT on both the technology and governance.
In six months, the returns on their new Decision Management approach were impressive. Business owned 100% of the business rule maintenance, IT reduced their operating costs because they were no longer maintaining business rules, and the time to change for new business rule logic was reduced from 30 days to 3 days.
How does decision modeling play a role in this kind of success?
Legacy modernization presents an excellent case for what could happen without proper decision modeling. In legacy systems, rules are inherently expressed in ways that make sense for the architecture of the system, not the context or intent of the business. Add to that, in many cases we see legacy modernization carried out by literal extraction of decisioning logic from the system. While this is effective to create an inventory of rules, we too often see the extraction serve as the source for BRMS re-expression. The result is a BRMS implementation that still doesn’t meet the needs of the business, because it doesn’t reflect the context of the business. In short, many decision management experts refer to these implementations as J.A.B.O.R. (Just A Bunch Of Rules).
Decision modeling should be a key component of an effective Decision Management adoption strategy. When decisions are properly modeled prior to implementation, the result is a BRMS that reflects the business context and need, and ensures a higher decision value and yield.
TechBlue recently became a Decision Management Solutions partner. What are you looking forward to working on with us in 2014?
We are extremely excited to partner with Decision Management Solutions and make Decisions First Modeler a strategic component of our BRMS adoptions. The strength of modeling decisions will contribute to our strategy, technology and organization approach.
Last question – what advice would you give those working with business rules to help them maximize the value they create for their organization?
Ultimately, your objectives are key – understanding them, identifying what opportunities you have to meet them, assessing the gaps to future state, and selecting a roadmap that stresses strategy, technology and organization. All three focus areas are critical to success – it’s not just about implementing a technology.
Don’t forget, for more on legacy modernization there’s this recording of the webinar on legacy modernization we did with TechBlue.