Decision Management

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There is much written today about separating business rules from other dimensions of automated business systems. Without proper separation, they operate in enterprises without a great deal of thought given to them. Ironically, they may be the most important dimension because they represent important business thinking behind processes, use cases, for example. This article discusses various approaches for dealing with business rules and use cases.
 

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This article provides the business analyst an analogy on how process owners manage value chains by monitoring leading and lagging metrics. The article highlights the need for business analysts to provide process owners with these metrics. These metrics provide indications of positive and negative process and business risks. Examples of the traditional risk response types of accept, avoid, mitigate, transfer, exploit, enhance, and share are provided.

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Decision tables have long been a successful technique for representing structured logic. Being visual, they circumvent the need for unnatural formal language or grammar. We use them not only to communicate that logic, but also to automate it. They are especially useful for validating the logic’s completeness and consistency.  Yet, this article advocates that this is not enough.
 

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There is a great deal of confusion about the role of the Business Rule Management System (BRMS). Given the prominent role of the words “business” and “management”, one would be forgiven for believing that a tool thus named would manage the business aspects of the rules of the business. But to the contrary, across the entire class of these tools there is little business management of business rules possible. For the most part, and almost without exception, these tools are provided by the vendor to ensure the most efficient execution of “business rules”, rather than the efficient management by the business of them.

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This article promotes a new approach to requirements management that reduces project complexity and improves communication between business and IT. This new approach can be used on its own, or as a supplement or precursor to existing approaches. Critical features of the approach are: detachment of business requirements from individual projects; and the production of testable requirements that can be shown to be complete, consistent, and correct prior to use within the SDLC.
 

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We present a requirements framework and methodology that may be different from what you are doing. Its three prominent characteristics are a framework, a new model, and visualization. The framework ensures completeness of all requirements. The new model is the Decision Model, transforming important business thinking into a tangible and manageable business requirement. The visualization simulates user scenarios, alleviating the need for abstract specifications or models.
 

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Until business analysts really begin to understand the difference between rules of the business (business rules), and choices about system design, we’ll keep falling to the same requirements and legacy traps as always. In my previous column I looked closely at the meaning of business rule. Now let’s probe the two fundamental categories of business rules: behavioral and definitional.

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For business analysts, understanding decision logic from the perspective of business people is key. For that you need business rules. But when can a rule be considered a business rule, and when not? This article presents five pragmatic tests for knowing when you have identified a true business rule.

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Last time, we proposed that, with business rules, we surely can. The traditional way we manage business rules is time-consuming. It focuses on details rather than the bigger picture. The details are the business rules themselves - expressed, analyzed, approved, and stored in a safe place. But, viewed as details, they lose momentum, postponed until design or implementation. Perhaps we deliver too much too early. But, we can do it differently by delivering less up front and evolving it into something more important.

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A businesses rules management system (BRMS) can help a business in almost any industry realize two goals: make faster decisions with an automated process; and make better decisions for more profitable results. Unfortunately, many businesses assume that the road to decision management success ends simply with selection of the right BRMS. But that’s just one step—one that should be accompanied by 11 others.

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Does the business perceive business rules as a true organizational asset? Are they visible, valuable, and universally accepted as data is? Above all, does business rule management attract and sustain enterprise-wide high-level management attention?

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The goal of rulebook management is to give business workers and business analysts the ability to access and manage decision logic directly. The focus is on the kinds of challenges these business workers and analysts face on a day-in and day-out basis.

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Every project in which we have implemented the Decision Model has seemed to bring further proof that – in the world of business logic or business rules, it seems to create a frictionless environment. We see “Ah ha!” moments time and again when people realize the simplicity to which their complex logic or business rules may be reduced by applying the model.

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In a previous column, we looked at how Decision Models improved an actual project. Below, we explore why the Decision Model is the next logical (and simple) advance in process modeling and business rules. We do so by addressing five questions. How does the Decision Model improve a business process model? Where did the business rules go? Why did the business process model become simpler? How does the Decision Model transform a business? Finally, why should business analysts upgrade from a traditional business rules approach to Decision Modeling?

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Whether you’ve never heard of business rules or you are a business rules guru, you need to understand that business rules need to be a first-class citizen of the requirements world. In this interview, Ronald G. Ross, recognized as the “father of business rules,” shares his wisdom on business rules and what every business analyst needs to know about decisioning and business rules.
 

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