Making Change Work To Your Advantage

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 by Mistlee

Making Change Work To Your Advantage

After a fascinating lunch with Sandy Carter (of which more later), Steve Demuth gave the BRMS track keynote - Make Change Work to Your Advantage. Steve's focus is on the potential competitive advantage of rules.

Automate decisions, he said, are everywhere - with which I would completely agree - especially if you correctly consider micro decisions( wiki). They are also unstable - they change continually along two axes. They have variations (for segments or micro-segments or jurisdictions) and for change (market change, regulatory change, mergers and acquisitions etc). What you need are systems that respond to change by design, does so safely and predictably and in doing so harnesses the energy of change. Change becomes your core competency.

What does this take - processes, policies, infrastructure, data are needed and must all change. Process change needs a BPMS, policy change needs a BRMS, infrastructure and data change require an SOA. BPMS and BRMS are part and parcel of this SOA wave, not just complimentary. SOA is not enough. You must be able to put these automated decisions into your core SOA components - not just bolt them on. If you don't use a BRMS to do this then you are missing a huge opportunity to take more advantage of change. Steve talked through some of the historical decomposition of the application with processes and data being put in their own repository and made the case for business rules being the next step, primarily so that the business experts can own the business policy. Managed business rules enable the IT/business partnership for change regardless of the details of how this is accomplished using a BRMS.

Steve laid out steps to success from application logic externalization to enterprise rules (or decision) management. Apart from the first and last the others are assembled as needed.

Application Logic Externalization
The first step is simply to extract a decision, implement a decision service and have developers right the rules. Business users can read these rules more easily and they are managed declaratively. Now separate and visible as a decision that can be deployed as a decision service ( wiki).
>> Better IT agility, moving up the learning curve, less of a gap between expression and implementation. Can be too programmer-centric and seem like a lot of work for small benefit.
Business Expert Access
Reporting and read-only access for business experts so they can investigate the system's behavior themselves.
>> Better understanding of the rules, common vocabulary and moving towards business ownership
Decision Cycle Testing and Deployment
Business demand drives releases not IT. Test business decisions as business decisions.
>> Business agility, more business-centric.
Business Expert Authoring
Templates or metaphors that allow some business user authoring
>> Increased business agility, decreased IT workload, foundation for business ownership - eliminate many of the change requests that IT hate. Business is in charge of more changes.
Business Contextualization - Process and Decisions
Embed rules into concepts like product, contract or customer. Embed rule authoring into applications for these entities.
>> Business elements fully dynamic, policy maintenance is part of product/contract/customer maintenance.
Full Business Ownership and governance
Rule governance structure, integrated with policy-related workflow, business owns the policies
>> True business/IT partnership, transparent and demonstrable compliance.
Simulation and What-If
>> Increased confidence in planned policy changes. You CANNOT get this without a BRMS.
Rule Service Strategy
Build out SOA around business decision services.
>> Rule-based agility within services, clear separation of service infrastructure from business function
Model and Rule Sharing
Reuse common objects and rules
>> Improved compliance and reduced cost
Rule Stewardship
Make it an organizational competency with rule stewards
>> Consistency in implementation, advocates for reuse and effectiveness, focal point for compliance
Enterprise Rules Management or Enterprise Decision Management

Steve made the point that none of this is really ILOG specific, and it's not, and then gave some great examples of customers taking this approach. He wrapped up with some lessons:

• Change and variation are ubiquitous and essential
• Success increasingly relies on being able to change quickly and predictably - make this a core competency.
• SOA + BRMS = Safe, easy, predictable policy change

Neil and I laid out a whole adoption path for rules and analytics, with much in common with this approach, in our book ( Smart (enough) Systems) chapter 9.

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