Dirty Little Secret of Business Rules?

James Taylor is out again revealing secrets. Here is the latest dirty laundry.

Business users don’t want to “maintain rules” any more than they want to “write code”

What they want to do is run their business better……

…..They can’t and don’t want to use the same technology IT does but they can and should be brought into the process. To deliver this requires thought and effort but it will pay off in increased agility, decreased costs and improved precision in decision-making.

I agree with James’ prescriptions on what IT needs to do to make it easier for business users to define business rules that ‘run the business’. The Business Rules Engine interface needs to be intuitive and  familiar;  presented in a business metrics context; allow ‘what-if’ scenario building; and provide audit and governance ‘under the covers’.

The underlying assumption here is that business users do have a reasonably well-defined and agreed-upon decision-making criteria. So when ‘business rules’ need to be built into the ‘business logic’ of a system, the IT team should be able to pick up the binder listing all the rules and start implementing the system. In an Orwellian parallel universe maybe. Not in the real world.

Too frequently the business needs to think through the business processes, objectives, decisions and rules first before any system can be implemented. These rules are again subject to change depending on business direction and market conditions. So IT is increasingly abstracting the business-rules-engine component out of the underlying implementation.

IT can develop and procure Web Services that enable individual business processes – and provide ‘switches’ to configure the process and its interaction with other processes. The Business Rules Engine that brings the full value chain together is then the ultimate responsibility for business domain experts within the business.

No matter how dirty, techie, complex or ridiculous the Business Rules Engine is, the business needs to know where the switches are and how to drive. Can the business visualize a Ferrari dashboard or is a Model-T ‘dashboard’ sufficient?