Business Rules

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As a business analyst, you are a problem solver. You are skilled at tailoring an approach to a business situation with different kinds of models.  However, until now, you are missing one. Worthy of its own model, there is an important dimension left behind.  It lies buried, capable of wreaking havoc.

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With current economic conditions, companies are striving to do more with fewer resources, both human and material. So it should be no surprise that the fusion of business processes and practices is both relevant and necessary. Over the past two decades business methodologies and corporate programs have established track records that demonstrate performance and quality improvements within their organizations.

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Processes are the user interface to a solution – as such they are highly visible and a lot of project effort is focussed on process modelling. In fact, there is a perception in some quarters that Business Analysts just draw process models and this is all they do. However, process models (the drawings of processes) are only one facet of the specification of a process.

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Have you ever thought the following thought while describing business processes? A decent percentage of the work business analysts (BAs) do is repetitive in nature. Business rules define the various subject matters, different businesses, or just differences in doing business. Just recently, I have again used a use case approach to a business process reengineering (BPR) problem. The aim was restructuring along natural business module borders, so that different applications (new and existing ones) can handle the business process more efficiently, more secure and within the right stakeholder's responsibilities. As almost always, documentation of the business processes had undergone aging as well.

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Business analysts are at the sharp end of one of the great challenges of information technology – how to build the systems organizations need. At the same time, organizations are demanding more sophisticated systems – the “dumb” systems of yesteryear are no longer enough.

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The problem of business-IT alignment is of widespread economic concern.

As one way of addressing the problem, this paper describes an online system that functions as a kind of Wiki -- one that supports the collaborative writing and running of business and scientific applications, as rules in open vocabulary, executable English, using a browser.

Since the rules are in English, they are indexed by Google and other search engines. This is useful when looking for rules for a task that one has in mind.
The design of the system integrates the semantics of data, with a semantics of an inference method, and also with the meanings of English sentences. As such, the system has functionality that may be useful for the Rules, Logic, Proof and Trust requirements of the Semantic Web.

The system accepts rules, and small numbers of facts, typed or copy-pasted directly into a browser. One can then run the rules, again using a browser. For larger amounts of data, the system uses information in the rules to automatically generate and run SQL over networked databases. From a few highly declarative rules, the system typically generates SQL that would be too complicated to write reliably by hand. However, the system can explain its results in step-by-step hypertexted English, at the business or scientific level.

As befits a Wiki, shared use of the system is free.

Author: Adrian Walker

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