You think that authoring business rules is difficult? If you attend a decision management show, you will likely hear many business analysts share their frustration while struggling with their first rules project. For instance, I remember vividly ever-lasting conversations aimed at defining what a rule is. As a consequence, I made it my personal mission to address this challenge. Business analysts should be able to log into their decision management tool and feel confident.
Clearly, authoring decision logic is not rocket science, but the tooling you use plays an important role. In other words, if that tool looks like a software development environment, it will only feel intuitive to software developers, which, as a business person, you might consider rocket science! Overall, look for advanced capabilities that support what you need, as a business analyst:
- Get started writing Business Rules intuitively in the context of data
- Adapt your view depending on the task at hand, switching from text to a decision table, tree or graph
- Combine business rules with very large MS Excel spreadsheets for efficient lookups
- Design a business app, for those that need to access the decision logic in their own terms
Intuitive authoring in the context of data
As a business analyst, your business is your comfort zone. For example, an insurance business analyst will speak about applications, eligibility criteria, claims, and more. Asking that person to think in terms of “IF” and “THEN” and rules cannot feel natural out of the box. The solution is to bridge those two worlds by overlaying decision logic in the context of data. That is to say that you can click on Joe’s age to indicate that he does not meet the policy’s age requirement. Et voila!
Change representation at any time
Having to decide what representation is the most appropriate can be paralyzing. Often, requirements are bound to evolve over time. As a result, what seemed like a good candidate for a decision table may end up filled with scattered data. Assuming your tool locks you into a single representation after that initial choice, the cost of a bad choice becomes unbearable. A dynamic representation removes that dilemma. Just get started, and switch representation if and when you need a different way to interact. The nature of the rules may very well dictate a natural representation. For the convenience of editing, it may make more sense to change that view temporarily. As a compliance officer, you may prefer to look at a graph that documents all the paths that lead to an adverse action.
As a business analyst, I bet you have to deal with quite a few spreadsheets. Once, I met a lady that managed around 10,000 spreadsheets for an insurance company! While many spreadsheets contain requirements that need to turn into business rules, many do not. In this lady’s case, a great number of these spreadsheets contained rating tables, which were regularly updated in that format. When it is the case, you want to keep those very large MS Excel spreadsheets as spreadsheets. We call them lookup models, for which you only supply the formula to read the data, aka which columns you need to match and how, and which columns you need to return. In the end, when you need efficient lookups, you need efficient lookups. Not every requirement needs to turn into a rule.
Business users may need business apps, not business rules authoring
As intuitive as a decision management tool can be, it may never meet the needs of a true business person. The bells and whistles that business analysts need, may be overwhelming for the financier or underwriter that needs access to the decision logic. In short, that person needs the decision logic abstracted into a business app. As the business analyst, you have full control of the capabilities you expose. Should you expose some thresholds? Or expose all rejection criteria? In some cases, you may not need to expose any of the decision logic, but rather give him or her the ability to run a simulation, and the authority to promote the decision to Production. Once again, business rules are an important part of the decision management project, but not everything has to do with authoring ‘just business rules’.
I will actually present a webinar in January, and would love to have you join me.
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