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DecisionCAMP 2017: Day 1 Part 1


After yesterday’s pre-conference day on DMN, the main program started today. All the slide decks are all available on the DecisionCAMP site.

Edson Tirelli started things off with a session to demystify the DMN specification. DMN does not invent anything, he says, but takes some of these concepts and defines a common language to express them. To take advantage of it we need to implement it, develop interchange for it and drive adoption.

Edson developed a runtime for DMN that takes DMN XML and executes on the Drools engine. This takes interchange files from tools and executes the logic from those files. This drives his focus – he’s thinking about execution. He has a set of lessons learned from this

  1. You need level 3 conformance to generate code. He walked through the conformance levels – all have Decision Requirements Diagrams but the decision tables go from natural language (level 1), simple expressions only (level 2) to full expression language (level3). He pointed out that level 3 is not much more than level 2.
  2. Conformance levels do not reflect reality in that vendors do not comply neatly with the levels nor is there an outside way to verify the conformance. To help with this, Edson (and others) are working on a set of Test that are publicly available to help folks test their ability to develop and consume XML.
  3. Spaces in variable names are a challenge but necessary because users really want them in their object names. This is not as hard as people think and is really important.
  4. DMN Type system is not complete because there are some like lists or ranges that cannot be defined although they are allowed in the expression language.
  5. Some bugs in the spec, but the 1.2 revision is working on these
  6. Gert involved with the community – the specification is a technical document and subject matter experts and others in the community are very helpful

Jan Purchase and I spoke next, discussing three gaps in the specification that we see in the specification. Here’s our presentation and you can get more on our thinking in our book, Real-World Decision Modeling with DMN:

Bruce Silver came next to discuss the analysis of decision tables. DMN allows many things to be put into decision tables that are “bad” – not best practices – because the specification cannot contain methodology, because there are sometimes corner cases and because there are some disagreements, forcing the specification to allow both.

Bruce generally likes the standards restrictions on what can be in a decision table and has developed some code to check DMN tables to see how complete they might be.  While these restrictions are limiting they also allow for static analysis. He checks for completeness (gaps in logic for instance), compares hit policy with the rules to make sure the rules and hit policy match and to spot problems like masked rules (rules that look valid but are never going to execute due to the hit policy). It recommends collapsing rules that could be combined and makes other suggestions to improve clarity.

It also applies “normalization” based on the work of both Jan Vanthienen and some of the later work done for The Decision Model by von Halle and Goldberg. These are applied somewhat selectively as there are some that are very restrictive.

A clear approach to validating decision tables based on DMN – very similar to what BRMS vendors have been doing for years but nice to see if for DMN.

A break here so I’ll post this.