Back in my early product management days, I looked at several tools for requirement capture. I found quite a few good solutions for product requirements, but nothing I really liked for capturing source rules. When working on business rules or decision management project, I leaned towards Spreadsheets and Word documents. And then, DMN was created!
With the DMN standard (Decision Model and Notation), we finally have a notation that works with a powerful underlying methodology. I really like that the notation forces you, the business analyst, into thinking about the ultimate decision(s) in a structured way. Instead of thinking exhaustively about all the rules that exist in your business, the methodology encourages you to decompose your big decision into smaller sub-decisions. This iterative process is very friendly, and very easy to share with your colleagues.
In our upcoming webinar, on April 11, we will introduce the DMN methodology. We will illustrate actual use cases using our Pencil Decision Modeler.
We are pleased to announce that, by popular demand, we will redo our presentation on Spreadsheets in Decision Management. Due to the many requests since, we will host an encore presentation. Join us on March 14th, or sign up for the on-demand recording.
To begin with, we will explore how Excel Spreadsheets are used in the industry. Do these challenges sound familiar?
- documents that the business wants to keep updating in this form
- classification data that matches configurations or rate tables
- gigantic documents with tens of thousands of rows, or more!
Finally, we will demonstrate several techniques, and guide you in selecting the best design for different projects.
James Taylor, one of the leading experts on decision management, recently wrote an update on his blog featuring Sparkling Logic’s products. James is the CEO and a Principal Consultant of Decision Management Solutions. He is a well-known author and speaker on using decision modeling, business rules, and analytics to improve decision making to enable a more agile, analytic, and adaptive business.
In his recent blog post on Sparkling Logic, James does a great job of summarizing the key features of PENCIL Decision Modeler and the more recent features we’ve added to SMARTS Decision Manager since he last published an update on us. He highlights key features of PENCIL including the DMN decision diagram and glossary, and the ability to generate a project in SMARTS for execution, testing, simulation and deployment.
For SMARTS, he covers features we’ve added since his last update in 2013 including:
- Cascading or inherited decisions
- Native PMML support
- Lookup models
- Champion/Challenger testing
- Lifecycle management and task automation
Most of these are unique SMARTS features not found in other decision management products. **Spoiler Alert** He also mentions a feature in our upcoming release, Quebec, which supports graphical investigation of rules fired for specific transaction.
James’ “First Look” product updates are a great source to learn details about product offerings in the decision management space and we appreciate the recent update on our products. His blog and the Decision Management Solutions website are great resources to learn more about decision modeling and management.
Last year we were one of the organizers and sponsors of the inaugural Decision Camp. Decision Camp is a free event where practitioners, industry thought leaders, and vendors come together to share and exchange information on decision management technologies (business rules, business intelligence, analytics, and optimization). Over 300 people attended last year’s conference over the 3 days of the event!
Decision Camp is unique. Not only is it free, it is one of the few conferences focusing on decision management in practice where you’ll learn how decision management has transformed the business for organizations in healthcare, manufacturing, insurance, banking, retail, utilities, and telecommunications ! You won’t want to miss this year’s event as it promises to be bigger and better. The call for speakers is open until May 31, so if you are currently involved in a decision management project and would like to share your experiences with other practitioners, you should consider joining us as a speaker this year!
Our latest SMARTS release, Marrakesh is out! This release introduces a significant number of improvements and enhancements, primarily driven by customer requests. This release is a bit like a souk (an open-air marketplace) in Marrakesh where there are lots of interesting things to see and something useful for everyone!
Browse through the list of new features in Marrakesh, and see if something doesn’t catch your eye!
Support for Functions – You can now define functions in the SMARTS form and invoke them in your decision logic. Functions are like computations that allow you pass arguments when you invoke them. Two types of functions are supported, local functions and remote functions.
A good use for local functions is formatting an output message with additional details from your input data and/or a date/timestamp. The message itself could be passed to the function as a parameter. In the screen shot below, we pass a message as a parameter to the Message function.
The formatted output from the function is shown in the Decision Outcome section including the name of the applicant and date the application was submitted.
Remote functions are used when you need to retrieve information from an external service as part of decision evaluation. Remote functions are defined with a JSON-RPC 2.0 service entry point. Obviously, you should exercise some caution when invoking functions in rule conditions as they can be executed many times resulting in poor performance.
Support for Decimal types – Decimal types allow you to define the format and precision of your data. Formats supported include Currency, Scientific, Percent, Hexadecimal and more. The decimal data type supports up to 29 significant digits. It is particularly suitable for financial calculations that require a large number of digits and can’t tolerate rounding errors.
In the screen shot below, the field Premium has been defined as Currency with two decimals.
Segmented Simulations – SMARTS has always had the ability to run local simulations, allowing you to execute your decision logic against the currently loaded data sample and produce reports in the SMARTS dashboard. In our Honolulu release, nearly two years ago, we introduced the ability to run remote simulations against very large data samples with potentially millions of records. These remote simulations execute asynchronously on the server using the SMARTS out-of-the-box MapReduce framework. New in this release is the ability to run segmented simulations. A segmented simulation allows you to select one or more segmentation fields (included computed fields). SMARTS segments the data sample based on the distinct values in the field(s) and executes the simulation against each segment. You can then view the dashboard reports for each segment in addition to the overall simulation results for the entire data sample.
The screen shot below shows a dashboard report, Decision Outcome, produced by executing a segmented simulation by state, showing the decision outcome (number of applications approved, referred, and denied) for the entire data sample (in blue) and the number for each unique state.
Customized Form Import – SMARTS makes it easy to define your decision inputs, outputs, and intermediate values. In SMARTS you can import a data sample (from a JSON, XML, or CSV file) and automatically create a form describing the structure (sections and fields) of the data sample. SMARTS infers the field type based on the values in the data sample. Once the form is imported, you can modify the form to make it more readable and business-friendly by renaming fields and adding new fields, including computations. New in Marrakesh is the ability to customize the form on import, allowing you to change the display name, data type, or cardinality. This is a convenient feature that can save you some time when starting a new project.
Disable/Enable Rules and Rule sets – During development and testing you may need to disable some rules or rule sets to help you understand how your changes are impacting your decision results. One way to do this is to temporarily add a guard condition (setting the guard to false) to keep the decision logic from executing. Prior to Marrakesh, this was the only option. In this release you now have an option in the rule and rule set menus to explicitly disable and enable. Disabling a rule or rule set makes it invisible to compilation and execution, so you can temporarily remove rules or rule sets from the decision’s execution.
Guards are different- they are compiled and evaluated at execution time so that the rule or ruleset will only execute if the guard condition evaluates to true. You can use guards when you need to dynamically determine whether or not to apply a rule or rule set to the current document or transaction.
Assume you want to disable your Senior / Low Mileage rule for testing. In the screen shot below, you can see the menu item to disable the rule.
Once the rule is disabled, the name of rule (or rule set) will have a line through it as shown here:
Markdown in Descriptions – The ability to maintain traceability from a rule or rule set to its source requirements is a common requirement in business rule and decision management applications. Many of you requested the ability to provide a link to an external document or repository containing the source policy, regulation, or requirement. In Marrakesh, we now support Markdown in descriptions for decision artifacts. Markdown syntax is very readable, easy to learn, and can be converted into HTML. So now, you can include hyperlinks in your descriptions and you can format your descriptions too!
In addition, Marrakesh includes some exciting new features and enhancements to BluePen, the analytics module for SMARTS.
Improved Scalability and Performance – You can now run analytics jobs against much larger data samples. Also, many of the key algorithms for rules generation have been enhanced for better scalability and performance.
More Algorithms – new algorithms have been implemented for variable identification, variable discretization, and rules generation.
Segmented Analytics Jobs – Just as for simulations, you can now run segmented analytics jobs, selecting one or more segmentation variables and triggering jobs that will execute against each one of the corresponding segments. This will potentially yield results that are better tailored to each segment.
Streaming Rules Generation Algoritms – Beta support for streaming rules generation algorithms has been added. These algoritms don’t require that all the documents in the data sample be in memory and therefore can scale to very big data sizes with very little memory.
We hope you enjoy our latest SMARTS release. We appreciate all the suggestions you provided that shaped this release. Please let us know what you think.
If you haven’t yet used SMARTS, some of the new feature descriptions likely lack context. SMARTS is the most intuitive and powerful decision management offering on the market. Attend one of our product tour webinars or sign-up for a free trial to learn more!
2014 has just started. We are foreseeing lots of activity this year in the decision management industry and want to mark its beginning with a new look.
Let us know how you like our new site and relocated Decision Management blog!
I just got the word from Jason Morris, Chairman of the show. The show’s website is now open for registration!
If you have practical experience with Decisioning technologies like
- Business Rules,
- Complex Event Processing,
- Predictive Analaytics,
- Optimization or
- Articifial Intelligence,
Then you should consider submitting a paper to:
Please keep in mind that we are looking for hands-on experience, lessons learned, those kinds of things. Vendor pitches will not be accepted of course.
Sparkling Logic has teamed up with Gartner to launch a
Revolutionary Approach to Decision Management
at BPM Summit in Baltimore on April 27-29.
Be the first to learn how Sparkling Logic, the secret ingredient to the Formula for Sustainable Business Value, can help you Uncover, Automate and Improve your decisions. Come to the show and stop by our booth!
Carlos and I, the founders of Sparkling Logic, will be there in person to share our secrets. In particular, we will demonstrate:
– How real Business Users can participate actively without embarking on a huge modeling effort
Reduce the learning curve!
– How you can ensure Business Performance improvement
– How to bridge the gap between manual and automated decisions
When exception-handling requires a little creativity!
So, why is BPM Summit the right place for our launch?
You certainly know, from our past posts on Pattern-Based Strategy and references to Jim Sinur’s work to name a few, that we share a common vision on Decision Management. I have been to the show year after year because I care about those technologies but also because I think that Jim and his team provide some good pointers to companies that are getting started. The focus of the show this year on sustainable business value fundamentally resonates with the Sparkling Logic vision and values. We believe that the discipline & technology need to be made accessible to the masses. The steep learning curve of existing solutions requires organizations to set up Centers of Excellence, to find rare talent and to focus on high-ROI projects. We believe that lowering that learning curve can alleviate this mandate and allow for more and cheaper successes. I am sad that Jim will likely not be there in person but I am also excited about the innovation in the industry. We are excited of the Decision Management Innovations we will be unveiling at the Summit of course, but we are also looking forward to the progress made in the rest of the BPM space — because those two disciplines are joined at the hip.
To schedule a 1:1 session with either of us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org