BBC 2011 – Keynote, focusing on Business Rules

on November 1, 2011
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What challenges do organizations face today?

This morning, Ron Ross set the tone for the conference with a quote dear to me, from Darwin.  He stresses the need for Business Agility.  Our systems must adapt, adjust.  He claims that the industry is finally getting it, and is finally getting that Business Rules is the solution.  The maturity of this market is certainly evolving.

The second challenge he sees is Business Communication.  His perspective is obviously about defining a common vocabulary that help clarify communication.  I am glad that communication is getting more visibility at the conference.  I would add though that Communication will be enabled by more social and collaborative interactions around the business.  A lot of knowledge disappears in the black hole of emails, instant messages and coffee chats.  Having more actionable conversations in context of business concepts will help reduce the ambiguity of conversations.  I see both aspects contributing to improving communication: common understanding of business concepts and open social interactions.

Ron’s last point is about managing the business know-how.  You may have seen the many retweets yesterday on his quote: “We live in a knowledge economy, we are just not acting like it”.  His solution to managing this know-how requires that we capture it in a tangible way, aka Business Rules.  How could I disagree with that statement?  I think that Knowledge Management must become a standard discipline.  It covers more than Business Rules though.  Again, as I pointed out last week at Rules Fest, the capture of knowledge in the world out there includes the textual capture a-la wiki and social platforms.  Some knowledge is not actionable.  It may be provided at the fingertips of call center agents or in FAQ of self-service.  That being said, there is also a clear need for a good part of this knowledge to become actionable and this is where decision management does help.

What are the emerging capabilities you need to be effective?

Ron thinks that nobody is talking about Enterprise-level Business Rules initiatives.  He recommends using it for individual projects.

Ron has developed a rule-friendly methodology in his latest book.  Interestingly, this has been an area of focus in our latest presentations and articles: Agile Knowledge Elicitation.  I wonder how they compare…

The capabilities he is advocating is traceability -> transparency -> accountability.  This is about Rules Management.  I am looking forward to talking more about that.  Rule execution is not any longer the core capability.  It is about management.

Ron sees Rule Analysis as an emerging capability.  His recommendation is to look at Decision Tables…  I agree that it is a great representation of rules for very regular decisioning.  My issue with unique representation is that it can’t handle very well exceptions, and business rules do end up with mushrooming exceptions.  I remember a very large project in a past life for which decision tables had to evolve to handle this very issue.  Understanding the interplay and navigating their ultra-segmented business became quickly limited by this representation.  It fits on scenario and should definitely be used, but it can’t be the only one.

How do these capabilities relate to the other conference areas?

You need business rules and business processes.  This should be clear by now.

Excellent emphasis on Business rather than technology.  Alignment is not important between business and IT; but it is important to align business strategies.  I could not agree more!

How can you get the most out of the conference?

“It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter”.  You need to change how you go about your work.  You need to change your approach.

Ron goes after Agile methodology.  Chuckle from the room.  Agile has been in the hot seat recently, but I do believe that some things are good about it and can help work smarter, focusing on Business.  I assume that Ron was arguing about Agile applied to writing software code.  But some aspects like transparency and communication, as well as incremental approach, actually fit very nicely into the rules approach!

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