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Business Rules

SMARTS for data marketplaces


SMARTS for data maarketplaces

In my earlier blog post, I explained how decision management and business rules were suitable for micro-calculations, the type of computations that businesses often codify into large spreadsheets and use to score, rate, or price items. In this post, I explain how they are also suitable to simplify data integration, aggregation, and enrichment when building and running data marketplaces.

Data marketplaces

Data marketplaces are a shift from data warehouses where the goal is not only to store large volumes of data, but to make that data be consumed as a service without resorting to IT or prior knowledge of a query language. Data marketplaces are often organized into three layers:

  • At the lowest layer, we find raw data stored in the form in which it was ingested from the data sources. Data sources can be global ERP and CRM systems, or even local MySQL databases and shared Excel spreadsheets.
  • At the middle layer, we find integrated data from multiple sources that is reconciled to resolve disparities and inconsistencies found in the original data. Often, the source systems do not have the same format for dates, names, phone numbers, and addresses. Sometimes the same object can have different attributes in different data sources.
  • At the topmost layer, we find aggregate data expressed in summarized forms, often to inform about groups rather than individuals. It is at this level that we also find data enriched by external data to make them directly consumable by the businesspeople.

To learn more about data marketplaces, I recommend the Eckerson Group white paper: The Rise of the Data Marketplace – Data as a Service by Dave Wells.

Easy to define, hard to construct

Defining a data marketplace as we have just done is simple, its construction is complicated for two reasons:

1) Data heterogeneity. It is not enough to bring together all the company’s data in a data marketplace for the data to be transformed into knowledge, forecasts, and decisions. Indeed, all data does not have the same age, the same structure, the same format, the same quantity, the same quality, and above all the same utility. If an attribute is important for a business line, it is not automatically important for another business line, yet within the same company.

Each business line has its vision of the product, of the customer, and of any entity managed by the various actors of the company. In the luxury sector for example, a dress, a bag, or a piece of jewelry, although it is a unique object, is seen through different attributes according to the databases where this same object is stored. Looking to exploit all the data available in a company to extract predictions and then decisions not only require integration but also transformation, unification, harmonization, and enrichment.

2) Data reorganization. A data marketplace would work better if data, information, and needs were always stable. But in a dynamic and rapidly changing business world, groups are reorganizing, and companies are acquired, merged or separated. For example, to simplify finance reporting, a country can change the region it was in a year ago, and it’s a safe bet that it will change yet again if a new boss is appointed, or a region is split or added. To be successful, data marketplaces must be implemented as change-tolerant projects.

These two reasons are representative of situations where decision management technologies are used: piecing together things that move independently to each other. Under the name of decision management, we group all the technologies that help organizations to automate all those simple but plentiful granular decisions and calculations that businesses often codify into decision tables, decision trees, or business rules.

Decisioning technologies to the rescue

Decisioning technologies can be used here. But one can use a database programming language or a general-purpose scripting language to automate the loading of data from the data sources into the raw data layer if the original format is kept. There is no real value using a business rules engine to do this straightforward job. The value of using a decisioning technology starts at the integration data layer, where attributes of objects are grouped together to form an updated version of an existing attribute or a new attribute.

Take the example of customer data from two different databases. Suppose that customers have their home address and business address in a first source database, and that they only have their home address in a second source database. Suppose also that the format of the addresses is not the same in the two databases. What should the integration data layer hold? An address? So, which one? And what format? Two addresses? So, what professional address to put for these customers who are only present in the second database with the home address? These questions can be easily answered through decision rules.

Now, suppose at the aggregate data layer, we want to add an average turnover with a client that buys from two business units. Here again, calculation rules can be easily used. One can use SMARTS’ look-model engine to automate such calculations.

SMARTS

SMARTS is our all-in-one low-code platform for data-driven decision-making. It unifies authoring, testing, deployment, and maintenance of micro-decisions and micro-calculations described in this article. SMARTS comes in the form of one product, four capabilities:

SMARTS has been extensively used for decisions and calculations in finance, insurance, healthcare, retail, IoT, and utility sectors. To learn more about the product or our references, just contact us or request a free trial.

Wrap-up

  • Data marketplaces promise to change the way data is consumed by businesses. Contrary to data warehouses, they are more complex to build and therefore deliver on their promises.
  • Decision management technologies simplify data integration, aggregation, and enrichment when building and running data marketplaces. They make decisions and calculations explicit and therefore easy to change whenever situations change.
  • SMARTS supplies multiple graphical representations* and engines to make such transformations, integrations, and enrichment easy to design, implement, test, deploy, and change according to situation changes.

* The following table, tree, and graph show three different representations of the same decision logic so that developers can use one that they are familiar with or that best fits the task at hand.

DecisionDecision treeDecision graph

About

Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful decision management platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers.’ Sparkling Logic SMARTS customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM (SMARTS for short) is an all-in-one low-code platform for data-driven decision-making. It unifies authoring, testing, deployment, and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Hassan Lâasri is a data strategy consultant, now leading marketing for Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at hlaasri@sparklinglogic.com.

The SMARTS way for micro-calculations


The SMARTS way for micro-calculations

Until recently, companies used rules to comply with a sectoral regulation, implement a business strategy, or automate a business process. At Sparkling Logic, we were among the few pioneers who helped customers to use business rules for micro-calculations.

Micro-calculations

By micro-calculations (analogy to Michael Ross and James Taylor’s “micro-decisions”), we mean all those simple but plentiful granular calculations that businesses often codify into large spreadsheets and use to score, rate, or price items. Think about it when you click on your smartphone on a digital bank’s app to apply for a loan, or when you go to an auto insurer’s website to find a price for your new car. To you, things seem simple, but behind the scenes there is complexity…

Indeed, as for any complex system, it is the interaction between its elements, however simple, that gives rise to its complexity. The price of insurance is not a simple numerical formula but a combination of rules and calculations, all based on data. Data is either provided by you or is internal to the insurance company. A slight change in a rule or a calculation may seem inconsequential at the micro-level but can result in incredibly significant side-effects at the macro-level. Imagine the consequences of a miscalculation in the pricing engine of the insurance company. A single miscalculation could translate into huge losses for the insurance company if the error were not visible in the rule that performs the first micro-calculation but propagates to other rules which use the result of this micro-calculation.

The SMARTS way

Based on a 20+ year experience in implementing or guiding customers to implement sophisticated data-based micro-calculation systems, the founders of Sparkling Logic have developed a way to manage the complexity of such systems. To reduce or even eliminate the potential errors that calculations can generate when modernizing or implementing a new system, they produced the following steps:

1) Start with existing data, representing past transactions. If they worked, they should continue working or at least guide the new system. It comes with a built-in engine that automatically turns data spreadsheets into a database which an application can query to perform its micro-calculations.

Take again the example of the auto insurance company. The spreadsheet may contain thousands of past transactions which, depending on the age of the primary driver, the mileage of the car, and other criteria, provides the price for this configuration. But often this price is the same for other configurations, and parts of the configuration at hand appear in other configurations, making direct use of the spreadsheet a complicated exercise. With SMARTS, the user or the application only queries the engine with a configuration and in record time it gives back the corresponding price.

2) Experiment with different representations to visualize the chain of micro-calculations that leads to the final score, rating, or price. SMARTS offers different graphical representations to express a calculation flow: tables, trees and graphs, and rules. Moreover, users can choose and switch between different representations without leaving the graphical user interface. And they can do so until they select the most appropriate representation based on the task at hand as well as the steps that they are familiar with when designing or reviewing the calculation flow.

3) Integrate testing when authoring rules. Decision logic is not software code. As a result, you cannot be satisfied with testing tools and techniques that software developers use. Testing decisions requires a different approach, different techniques, and different tools. Granted, ensuring that your decision service can compile is useful. But the end goal is really to ensure that your decision logic complies with your business objectives. To this end, SMARTS comes with an integrated dashboard where the user can define metrics against which to evaluate the rules —rule by rule, a set of rules, or the entire system.

4) Run A / B simulations. There is no such thing as a timeless business strategy. Economic conditions change suddenly, as does scoring, rating, or pricing. SMARTS allows users to run A / B tests (called Champion / Challenge simulations in credit and risk management) at any time, to evaluate the performance of different strategies, until they find the one that best responds to economic changes. Think of the eligibility criteria, the increase or decrease in prices, and all the parameters that go into the rules and calculations. For these, SMARTS supports big data simulations to experiment with different scenarios of a given strategy, using real data streams.

5) Monitor in real-time. Despite all the care you would put into designing or reviewing your spreadsheets, a typo or error might still not appear until a long time after you put your system into production. To help you manage these cases, SMARTS comes with a real-time decision analytics capability that displays measurements and triggers notifications and alerts when certain KPIs cross thresholds, or the application detects certain patterns. SMARTS pushes notifications by email or generates a ticket in a corporate management system.

Wrap-up

  • Decision management and business rules are also suitable for micro-calculations, the type of computations that businesses often codify into large spreadsheets and use to score, rate, or price items.
  • A minor change in a rule or a calculation may seem inconsequential at the micro-level but can result in significant side-effects at the macro-level. A single miscalculation could translate into huge losses.
  • Sparkling Logic has developed a way to manage the complexity of such systems: Start with existing data, experiment with different representations, integrate testing when authoring rules, run A / B simulations, and monitor in real-time.

If you are planning to upgrade or build a system with micro-calculations, SMARTS can help. The Sparkling Logic team has been involved in projects with scoring / rating / pricing data in the form of large spreadsheets.

Most often, these spreadsheets contained thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of rows. And customers were not just concerned with performance, but also maintainability. The pace of change was high and required additional monitoring and careful management to roll these rates over disparate geographies and time periods. So, just contact us or request a free trial.

Learn more


Implementing Rating Engines with Business Rules and Lookup Models, an online seminar where you will learn how SMARTS manages not only simple rating engines, but also complex pricing engines with a combinatorial explosion of specific cases and continuous evolution over time.

Best-in-class Series: Testing your Decisions, an online seminar to explore what makes decisions different, how to evaluate them, and how to automate regression tests in SMARTS.

About


Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful decision management platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers.’ Sparkling Logic SMARTS customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM (SMARTS for short) is an all-in-one low-code platform for data-driven decision-making. It unifies authoring, testing, deployment, and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Hassan Lâasri is a data strategy consultant, now leading marketing for Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at hlaasri@sparklinglogic.com.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM in 10 Questions and Answers


Sparkling Logic SMARTS in 10 Questions and Answers

Sparkling Logic helps businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a technology platform that is powerful and simple: SMARTS for short. In this post, we present SMARTS through 10 selected questions and answers.

Q&A

1) What is SMARTS?

SMARTS is a decision management platform for business analysts and ‘citizen developers’ to author, test, simulate, deploy, run, and change decisions autonomously, without involving developers or IT beyond first installation.

2) Is SMARTS a business rules engine?

SMARTS is more than a business rules engine. It integrates multiple decision technologies into the same platform. SMARTS provides eight execution engines: A decision flow engine to sequence tasks of a business process; a state-machine engine to orchestrate tasks; a rule set engine to sequence decisions; a sequential engine that either fires all or just the first valid decision; a Rete-NT engine for inference; a lookup engine for data search in large datasets; a PMML engine to execute predictive models; and a DMN 1.3 engine to execute decision models. Depending on the problem you have, you may choose one or the other, or even combine them in the same set-up.

3) What are the typical applications for which SMARTS is the best fit?

In the financial, insurance, and healthcare services, SMARTS often won over the competition for origination and underwriting, pricing and rating engines, account management, fraud detection, and collections and recovery. More generally, SMARTS is a good fit when there are a lot of decisions that are data-based, frequently invoked, and likely to change often.

4) What is the difference between authoring business decisions and rules with SMARTS and coding them directly in the final application?

You can code decision logic but you will need detailed specifications from business analysts. This process may take too much time when compared to SMARTS. And once the decision logic is coded, it becomes complicated for business analysts to understand and take control of. SMARTS targets business-critical decision logic that either implements business models, corporate policies or industry directives in a dynamic and continually changing economy. Think of all the financial, insurance, and healthcare regulations since the financial crisis of 2008 and the changes since the coronavirus crisis of 2020. These two crises are typical examples of complex situations where business decisions not only need to be implemented quickly and accurately, but they also need to change dynamically and continuously.

5) Does SMARTS come with a decision design process?

SMARTS not only supports but it also augments the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard of the OMG (Object Management Group). DMN models decision dependencies very well, but not decision sequencing, which is also a natural way experts use to describe a complete decision logic. SMARTS addresses both dependency and sequencing through the combination of Pencil, RedPen, and the decision flow.

6) What machine learning models does SMARTS support?

SMARTS supports the execution of 13 machine learning models including classification, linear and logistic regression, support vector machines (SVMs), decision trees, random forests and ensemble learning, clustering, and neural networks. SMARTS uses PMML, the standardized predictive model markup language, to import and execute whatever model your data scientists have built.

7) Does SMARTS integrate with business process management platforms?

Yes, a SMARTS decision service can be natively invoked by a business process like any other service. Also, for decision-centric processes, SMARTS provides an orchestration capability.

8) What is the difference between an RPA tool and SMARTS?

If you think of a process as a sequence of “what to do”, “how to do it”, “do it”, and “report it”, then SMARTS automates the “what to do” and “how to do it” tasks while an RPA tool automates the “do it” and “report it” tasks.

9) Is SMARTS cloud-based?

SMARTS was designed from the ground-up for the cloud. Whether you have chosen to host your application or use our SaaS solution, we provide you with the most modern tools. SMARTS comes in a container, ready to install on your premises, AWS, GCP, Azure, or Aliyun. Choose yours, change your mind, no need to recode to redeploy your application.

10) What makes you unique?

Our motto is “your decisions, our business”. We enjoy nothing more than helping customers implement their most demanding business requirements and technical specifications. Our obsession is not only to have clients satisfied but also to be proud of the system they built. So dare to give us a challenge and we will solve it for you in days, not weeks, or months. Just email us or request a free trial.

In this post, we introduced SMARTS through 10 selected questions and answers. If you have more, feel free to read our blog, sign up for our webinars, or contact us. We would be happy to get back to you very quickly.

About

Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful decision management platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers’. Sparkling Logic’s customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM (SMARTS for short) is a cloud-based, low-code, decision technology platform that unifies authoring, testing, deployment and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Hassan Lâasri is a data strategy consultant, now leading marketing for Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at hlaasri@sparklinglogic.com.

Decision Requirements and Modeling with DMN in SMARTS


DMN 1.3 support in SMARTS

In this post, we present how Sparkling Logic continues its involvement in the DMN standard, through its graphical tool SMARTS Pencil, which business analysts use to model business decisions by drawing a diagram to form a decision process.

DMN, a bit of history

The Decision Model and Notation (DMN) was formally introduced by the Object Management Group (OMG) as a v1.0 specification in September 2015. Its goal was to provide a common notation understandable by all the members of a team whose goal is to model their organization’s decisions.

The notation is based on a simple set of shapes which are organized in a graph. This allows the decomposition of a top-level decision into more, simpler ones, whose results must be available before the top-level decision can be made. These additional decisions themselves would be decomposed, and so on and so forth until the model reaches a more complete state. In addition, the implementation of the decisions can be provided, notably in the form of decision tables (which is also a very common means of representing rules).

The normalization of the graphical formalism (the DMN graph) and of the way the business logic is implemented (e.g., decision tables) allows teams to talk about their decisions, using diagrams with a limited set of shapes.

Sparkling Logic was one of the early vendors to provide a tool to edit (and execute) these decision models: Pencil Decision Modeler. It was released in January 2015, before the standard was officially approved.

Since then, the DMN standard evolved significantly, by adding new diagram elements, new constructs and new language features, while clarifying some of the existing notions. It is now at version 1.3. And we didn’t rest on our laurels either: in SMARTS Ushuaia, we made Pencil Decision Modeler part of SMARTS, as a first-class feature and added full compliance to DMN 1.3! This post describes how SMARTS supports DMN 1.3.

Basics

DMN 1.3 still defines the building blocks which were in the original standard and which I mentioned in Talking about decisions.

As a recap:

  • A Decision determines its output based on one or more inputs; these inputs may be provided by an input data element, or by another decision
  • An input data is information used as input by one or more decisions, or by one or more knowledge sources
  • A business knowledge model represents knowledge which is encapsulated, and which may be used by one or more decisions, or another business knowledge model. This knowledge may be anything which DMN does not understand (such as a machine learning algorithm, a neural network, etc.) or a DMN construct (called a “boxed expression”, see below)
  • A knowledge source represents the authority for a decision, a business knowledge model, or another knowledge source: this is where the knowledge can be obtained (be it from a written transcription or from someone)

These blocks are organized in a graph and the links between them are called requirements.

What’s new in SMARTS’ DMN Support

More building blocks

In DMN 1.3, the following elements may also be added to a graph:

  • A decision service exposes one or more decisions from a decision model as a reusable element (a service) which might be consumed internally or externally
  • A group is used to group several DMN elements visually (with whatever semantics may be associated with the grouping)
  • A text annotation is a shape which contains a label and can be attached to any DMN element

Custom types and variables

Input data, decision and business knowledge model elements all have an associated variable, which is of a given type (string, number etc., or custom). A variable is a handle to access the value directly passed by an input data element, or calculated by the implementation of a decision or a business knowledge model, from within the decision implementation.

Custom types may be defined to group multiple properties under a single type name (with structure) or to allow variables which will hold multiple values (arrays).

Boxed Expressions

A few constructs are available to provide an implementation for a decision or a business knowledge models; they are termed boxed expressions since such expressions are shown in boxes which have a normalized representation. The following types of boxed expressions are available in DMN 1.3:

  • Literal expression: this is a simple expression which can use the available variables to calculate a result
  • Context: this is a set of entries, each combining a variable and a boxed expression. Each entry in the context can use the variables of the entries defined before it, which is like using “local variables” in some languages
  • Decision table: this is a tabular representation where rows (called rules) provide the value of outputs (supplied in action columns), depending on the value of inputs (supplied in condition columns)
  • Function: a function can be called using an invocation, by passing arguments to its parameters. The result of a function is the result of the execution of its body (which is an expression that can use the values of the passed parameters). A Business knowledge model can only be implemented by a function
  • Invocation: this is used to call a function by name, by passing values to the function’s parameters
  • List: this is a collection of values calculated from each of the boxed expressions in the list
  • Relation: this is a vertical list of horizontal contexts, each with the same entries

In addition to these, SMARTS defines an additional boxed expression, called the rule set. This is a set of named rules, where each rule is composed of a condition (an expression evaluating inputs) and action (an expression providing some values to outputs).

Helping Industry Adoption

With SMARTS Ushuaia, decision models are first-class citizens. The full compliance with DMN 1.3 means that all the DMN elements and boxed expressions, as well as the ability to interchange diagrams with other tools, are part of the package.

As is usual, any model can be tested and executed in the same context as your SMARTS decision –a decision is never made in isolation, and a model is never used in isolation either. And of course, you will benefit from the great tooling we provide.

Finally, we at Sparkling Logic strongly believe that decision management technologies should be put in the hands of all business analysts. This is why we are part of the DMN On-Ramp Group, whose mission is to provide a checklist to help customers find the DMN tool to suit your needs, educate and raise awareness about DMN, and help with DMN compliance. For a great presentation of the group, check out here.

About

Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful digital decisioning platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers’. Sparkling Logic’s customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM (SMARTS for short) is a cloud-based, low-code, AI-powered business decision management platform that unifies authoring, testing, deployment and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Marc Lerman is VP of User Experience at Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at mlerman@sparklinglogic.com.

If you envision modernizing or building a credit origination system, an insurance underwriting application, a rating engine, or a product configurator, Sparkling Logic can help. Our SMARTS digital decisioning platform automate decisions by reducing manual processing, accelerating processing time, increasing consistency, and liberating expert resources to focus on new initiatives. SMARTS also improve decisions by reducing risk and increasing profitability.

Noise reduction in digital decisioning with Sparkling Logic SMARTS


noise-digital-decisioning-explicit-decisions-dashboards-analyticsIn this post, we present how to deal with the problem of noise, which is both a source of errors and biases in digital decision-making in organizations, through explicit decision rules, dashboards, and analytics. To illustrate our point, we use the example of the Sparkling Logic SMARTS decision management platform.

Noise in organizations’ decisioning and what to do about it

In an interview with McKinsey, Olivier Sibony, one of the renowned experts in decisioning, recommends algorithms, rules, or artificial intelligence to solve the problem of noise, a generator of errors and biases in decisioning in organizations. This recommendation resonates with our vision of automating decisioning — not all of the decisioning but the operational decisions that organizations make by thousands and sometimes millions per day. Think credit origination, claim processing, fraud detection, emergency routing, and so on.

In our vision, one of the best ways to reduce noise, and therefore errors and biases, is to make decisions explicit (like the rules of laws) so that those who define the decisions can test them out, one at a time or in groups, and visualize. The consequences of these choices on the organization before putting them into production. In particular, decisions should be kept separate from the rest of the system calling those decisions — the CRM, the loan origination system, the credit risk management platform, etc.

Noise reduction with explicit decision rules, dashboards, and analytics

Our SMARTS decisioning platform helps organizations make their operational decisions explicit, so that they can be tested and simulated before implementation, reducing biases that could be a failure to comply with industry regulations, a deviation from organizational policies, or a source of an applicant disqualification. The consequences of biases could be high in terms of image or fees, and even tremendous for certain sensitive industries such as financial, insurance, and healthcare services.

In SMARTS, business users (credit analysts, underwriters, call center professionals, fraud specialists, product marketers, etc.) express decisions in the form of business rules, decision trees, decision tables, decision flows, lookup models, and other intuitive representations that make decisioning self-explainable so that they can test decisions individually as well as collectively. So, at any time, they can check potential noise, errors, and biases before they translate into harmful consequences for the organization.

In addition to making development of decisioning explicit, SMARTS also comes with built-in dashboards to assess alternative decision strategies and measure the quality of performance at all stages of the lifecycle of decisions. By design, SMARTS focuses the decision automation effort on tangible objectives, measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Users define multiple KPIs through graphical interactions and simple, yet powerful formulas. As they capture decision logic, simply dragging and dropping any attribute into the dashboard pane automatically creates reports. Moreover, they can customize these distributions, aggregations, and/or rule metrics, as well as the charts to view the results in the dashboard.

During the testing phase, the users have access to SMARTS’ built-in map-reduce-based simulation capability to measure these metrics against large samples of data and transactions. Doing so, they can estimate the KPIs for impact analysis before the actual deployment. And all of this testing work does not require IT to code these metrics, because they are transparently translated by SMARTS.

And once the decisioning application is deployed, the users have access to SMARTS’ real-time decision analytics, a kind of cockpit for them to monitor the application, make the necessary changes, without stopping the decisioning application. SMARTS platform automatically displays KPI metrics over time or in a time window. The platform also generates notifications and alerts when some of the thresholds users have defined are crossed or certain patterns are detected. Notifications and alerts can be pushed by email, SMS, or generate a ticket in the organization’s incident management system.

Rather than being a blackbox, SMARTS makes decisioning explicit so that the users who developed it can easily explain it to those who will operate it. Moreover, the latter can adjust the decision making so that biases can be quickly detected and corrected, without putting the organization at risk for violating legal constraints, eligibility criteria, or consumer rights.
So, if you are planning to build a noise-free, error-free, and bias-free decisioning application, SMARTS can help. The Sparkling Logic team enjoys nothing more than helping customers implement their most demanding business requirements and technical specifications. Our obsession is not only to have them satisfied, but also proud of the system they build. We helped companies to build flaw-proof, data-tested, and scalable applications for loan origination, claims processing, credit risk assessment, or even fraud detection and response. So dare to give us a challenge, and we will solve it for you in days, not weeks, or months. Just email us or request a free trial.

About

Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful digital decisioning platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers’. Sparkling Logic’s customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM (SMARTS for short) is a cloud-based, low-code, AI-powered business decision management platform that unifies authoring, testing, deployment and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Hassan Lâasri is a data strategy consultant, now leading marketing for Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at hlaasri@sparklinglogic.com.

Authoring Business Rules with Data, Standards, and Apps in SMARTS


Nowadays, business rules automate hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of operational decisions that some organizations make every day. The most representative examples of such organizations are financial, insurance, and healthcare sectors. All these organizations make automated decisions with several combinations of terms and conditions, legal constraints, eligibility criteria, risk levels, and price ranges. In this blog, I explain how business analysts and ‘citizen developers’ author decisions with rules, data, standards, and apps in Sparkling Logic SMARTSTM.

Business rules

Business rules are not new; but until recently they were encoded in the rule syntax as “IF THIS THEN DO THAT” statements. As such, they needed detailed specifications from business analysts and skilled developers to code these business rules. And once the business rules were coded, they were complicated for business analysts to understand or control.

Authoring with data

Gone are the days when business rule creation started with lengthly interviews where IT professionals asked business experts how they made decisions in line with company policies, industry regulations, and market dynamics. Starting with data, transactions, and use cases is now the new way. Fully in line with this new approach, SMARTS provides RedPenTM, SparkL, and Pencil. These are three independent but complementary technologies that business analysts can use to import data, and start authoring rules.

RedPen is Sparkling Logic’s patented technology for authoring decisions through point-and-clicks. Using RedPen, business analysts write business rules using a use case approach. The loaded sample data provides the context to create, test, and run rules without prior knowledge of a special rule language and syntax. RedPen mimics what business experts do on paper when they flag decisions with a red pen. When business analysts activate RedPen, they can pin an existing rule, a field of this rule, or a rule set and modify it as if they were using a pen on a paper. They can also create new rules with RedPen, SMARTS will automatically turn them into executable rules. For cases where advanced logical, mathematical, and symbolic manipulations are required, business analysts can use SparkL.

SparkL (pronounced “sparkle”) is Sparkling Logic’s language for writing rules in a natural language format. SparkL can be used by business analysts with no formal technical background in rules syntax while still benefiting from mathematical expressions, string manipulations, regular expressions, patterns, dates, logical manipulations, constraints, and much more. They can express any imaginable decision logic and symbolic computation, making it the choice for highly sophisticated decisioning applications where the conditions as well as the actions can take a great variety of forms.

Other cases where the decisioning projects necessitate formal requirements and decision modeling, the standards development organization (OMG) offers a standard called Decision Model and Notation (DMN). Sparking Logic has adopted this standard and developed Pencil to operationalize DMN.

Authoring in the context of DMN standard

Pencil is a tool for users to model business decisions by dragging and dropping graphical icons to form a decision process. Pencil models comply with the DMN standard. Using an intuitive graphical interface, business analysts can immediately start capturing data requirements, decision models, and business rules, while collaborating to achieve the best explicit description of the decisions required for systems and applications. Pencil’s glossary can be used across decisions to achieve consistent use of terminology related to decisions. Business analysts can create or import data and then execute, test and continue to refine and improve decisions. Once decision modeling is done, Pencil provides a direct path to an executable decision.

With SMARTS, a user has not to adapt to the tool, but the reverse, it is the tool that adapts to the user. The business analysts select the appropriate way for the task at hand. In the same project, they may choose Pencil to model decisions, RedPen for the major part of the application, and SparkL for the rest of the application. At any time, they can choose to display the rule sets as a group of rules, a decision table, a decision tree, or a decision graph. Moreover, they can switch from one representation to another and vice versa.

Orchestrating business apps

As intuitive as a decision management tool can be, it may never meet the needs of a real business person. The bells and whistles that business analysts need can be overwhelming for the credit manager or insurance underwriter who needs access to decision logic. This person is certainly more inclined to exploit decision-making logic than interested in learning how to create it, and even less in training on a rules authoring tool.

For untrained business users, SMARTS sets the bar higher towards more simplification, and still within the same interface. They have full control over the configuration, management, and assembly of the decision applications that business analysts have developed, and they can do it all through web forms and point-and-clicks. With this added level of abstraction, untrained business users, business experts, and ‘citizen developers’ can adapt to industry regulations, company policies, and market dynamics, without IT intervention beyond the first installation.

Takeaways

  • Business rules have moved from coding rules in “IF THIS THEN THAT” statements to authoring them with data, standards, and apps
  • SMARTS implements this new way via RedPen, SparkL, and Pencil, three independent but complementary authoring tools that business analysts can use to express their decision logic
  • Business users need business applications, not authoring business rules or developing machine learning models
  • SMARTS gives business owners full control of business apps through web forms and point-clicks
  • Today change is the rule, with SMARTS, automated decisioning is flexible to accommodate ever-changing regulations, company policies, and market dynamics

If you envision modernizing or building a credit origination system, an insurance underwriting application, a rating engine, or a product configurator, SMARTS can help. The Sparkling Logic team enjoys nothing more than helping customers implement their most demanding business requirements and technical specifications. Our obsession is not only to have them satisfied, but also proud of the system they build. Just email us or request a free trial.

About

Sparkling Logic is a Silicon Valley company dedicated to helping businesses automate and improve the quality of their operational decisions with a powerful digital decisioning platform, accessible to business analysts and ‘citizen developers’. Sparkling Logic’s customers include global leaders in financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, utility, and IoT.

Sparkling Logic SMARTS is a cloud-based, low-code, AI-powered business decision management platform that unifies authoring, testing, deployment and maintenance of operational decisions. SMARTS combines the highly scalable Rete-NT inference engine, with predictive analytics and machine learning models, and low-code functionality to create intelligent decisioning systems.

Hassan Lâasri is a data strategy consultant, now leading marketing for Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at hlaasri@sparklinglogic.com.

Sparkling Logic turns data-driven businesses into learning organizations


Sparkling Logic SMARTS AI & ModelOps

Today, predictive analytics is common in any data-driven business. Typically, data scientists create predictive models first, and IT staff deploy these models in a production environment. At Sparkling Logic, not only have we streamlined this process, but we’ve extended it with prescriptive decisions. Sparkling Logic SMARTS AI & ModelOps is the third built-in capability of SMARTS to cover the full spectrum of operational predictive models, from importing models and creating new ones to initiating learning tasks. But let’s start with a brief overview of the stages data has gone through.

Data: a resource, an asset, a business

Until recently, data was a resource to conduct business and as such, it was typically managed by the CIO’s organization. The organization’s mission was to build the overall data architecture, to choose a database vendor, and to design all the applications necessary to process the data from the databases to the business and functional people screens. These applications were mostly reporting, letting the business get a sense for how the business has been doing based on the collected data.

Then came the first transformation, where data went from an asset used to understand how the business has been doing to being an asset leveraged to predict how the business could potentially do in the future. Reporting was enhanced by predictive analytics. The scope of the analytics was not only what had happened, but also what was happening and what could happen. In general, these two past-focused and future-focused activities cover most of what data science is in business, with some really important use cases on marketing, sales, and customer relationship management.

However, a new transformation is underway, first in the banking, insurance, and health sectors, but will certainly penetrate other sectors. It consists of transforming analytics into automated decisions, translating predictions into prescriptions. The goal of this transformation is to create a virtuous cycle where not only data is analyzed, but this analysis is transformed into decisions and actions that generate new data, and so on. Reporting and predictive analytics are now completed by prescriptive analytics.

Anticipating this trend, the founders of Sparkling Logic designed the SMARTS decision management platform to implement this cycle of data, insights, and decisions. Sparkling Logic SMARTS comes with a built-in AI & ModelOps environment that covers the full spectrum of operationalizing predictive models, from importing models built by data scientists, to creating new ones without prior knowledge of machine learning, to launching and managing learning jobs.

Sparkling Logic SMARTS AI & ModelOps

Predictive model import

Business analysts can import AI, machine learning, and deep learning models developed by data scientists, and leverage them in the decision logic. The models could be developed in Python, SPSS, SAS, or Project R among others. SMARTS integrates them as long as they are compliant to PMML, a standard for sharing and deploying predictive models, or are accessible as services.

SMARTS supports importing as PMML neural networks, multinomial, general, and linear/log regression, trees, support vector machines, naïve bayes, clustering, ruleset, scorecard, K-Nearest Neighbors (KNN), random forest, and other machine learning models.
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In cases where models exist but are only available as specification, business analysts can easily import these models and seamlessly transform them into business rules for full transparency and easy inspection.

There may be situations where it is necessary to call an external service that is available elsewhere. This external service can be a predictive model or a data source. SMARTS provides support for remote functions, which makes it possible to invoke an external service through JSON-RPC or REST services.

BluePen predictive technology

When time is of the essence, when models are short-lived or when expertise needs to be confronted with knowledge captured in the data, business experts can use the BluePen learning technology to quickly create a model, potentially leveraging existing models.

BluePen lets business analysts and business experts explore and analyze data using domain knowledge and expertise to identify predictors, or, alternatively, selects the predictors for them. Then, using the selected predictors, BluePen helps them to generate a model in the form of readable decision rules, tables, or trees, and integrate them into their decision logic.

Using BluePen, users can build meaningful predictive models in hours or days, rather than the months it often takes. Users can also engineer or modify the models. As a result, without heavy investment in data analytics efforts, these models can be tested, leveraged in simulations, and quickly deployed in the context of an operational business decision.

Regardless of the business analyst’s choice, he or she can operationalize a wide range of models within SMARTS. Being able to integrate models into decision logic is a central ability to test and measure the performance of the end-to-end decisioning.

Moreover, SMARTS allows the analyst to translate the insights from many different models into a decision. Typically, data-centric organizations will have many different models which each can contribute insights into what the decision should be. The orchestration of how these insights are combined is expressed in decision logic, turning multiple discrete predictions into actual prescriptive decisions.
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The benefits of combining machine learning and automated decisioning as SMARTS does are nothing less than transforming businesses into always learning organizations where data helps identify opportunities, machine learning turns that data into insights and automated decisioning turns this information into action, closing the virtuous cycle that data promises.

Takeaways

  • Data has moved from being a resource to assess how the business has been doing, to being an asset used to predict the future of the business, and finally to an asset used to improve automated decisions
  • Sparkling Logic SMARTS comes with a built-in AI & ModelOps environment that covers the full spectrum of operationalizing predictive models, from importing models, to creating new ones, to launching and managing learning jobs
  • With its AI & ModelOps capability, SMARTS helps in transforming businesses into learning organizations, closing the virtuous cycle that data promises. Data feeds analytics leading to improved decisions that generates additional data in addition to profits

About


Sparkling Logic is a decision management company founded in the San Francisco Bay Area to accelerate how companies leverage data, machine learning, and business rules to automate and improve the quality of enterprise-level decisions.

Carole-Ann is Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer at Sparkling Logic. You can reach her at cberlioz@sparklinglogic.com.

SMARTS Real-Time Decision Analytics


Real-time decision analytics
In this post, I briefly introduce SMARTS Real-Time Decision Analytics capability to manage the quality and performance of operational decisions from development, to testing, to production.

Decision performance

H. James Harrington, one of the pioneers of decision performance measurement, once said, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” This statement is also true for decision performance.

Measuring decision performance is essential in any industry where a small improvement in a single decision can make a big difference, especially in risk-driven industries such as banking, insurance, and healthcare. Improving decisions in these sectors means continuously adjusting policies, rules, prices, etc. to keep them consistent with business strategy and compliant with regulations.

Decision performance management in SMARTS

SMARTS helps organizations make their operational decisions explicit, so that they can be tested and simulated before implementation — thereby reducing errors and bias. To this end, we added a real-time decision analytics capability to the core decision management platform.

Currently used in financial and insurance services, it helps both business analysts and business users to define dashboards, assess alternative decision strategies, and measure the quality of performance at all stages of the lifecycle of decision management — all with the same interface without switching from one tool to another.

Development. From the start, SMARTS focuses the decision automation effort on tangible business objectives, measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Analysts and users can define multiple KPIs through graphical interactions and simple, yet powerful formulas. As they capture their decision logic, simply dragging and dropping any attribute into the dashboard pane automatically creates reports. They can customize these distributions, aggregations, and/or rule metrics, as well as the charts to view the results in the dashboard.

Testing and validation. During the testing phase, analysts and users have access to SMARTS’ built-in map-reduce-based simulation environment to measure these metrics against large samples of data. Doing so, they can estimate the KPIs for impact analysis before the actual deployment. And all of this testing work does not require IT to code these metrics, because they are transparently translated by SMARTS.

Execution. By defining a time window for these metrics, business analysts can deploy them seamlessly against production traffic. Real-time decision analytics charts display the measurements and trigger notifications and alerts when certain thresholds are crossed or certain patterns are detected. Notifications can be pushed by email, or generate a ticket in a corporate management system. Also, real-time monitoring allows organizations to react quickly when conditions suddenly change. For example, under-performing strategies can be eliminated and replaced when running a Champion/Challenger experiment.

Uses cases

Insurance underwriting. Using insurance underwriting as an example, a risk analyst can look at the applicants that were approved by the rules in production and compare them to the applicants that would be approved using the rules under development. Analyzing the differences between the two sets of results drive the discovery of which rules are missing or need to be adjusted to produce better results or mitigate certain risks.

For example, he or she might discover that 25% of the differences in approval status are due to differences in risk level. This insight leads the risk analyst to focus on adding and/or modifying your risk related rules. Repeating this analyze-improve cycle reduces the time to consider and test different rules until he or she gets the best tradeoff between results and risks.

Fraud detection. An other example from a real customer case is flash fraud where decisions had to be changed and new ones rolled out in real time. In this case, the real-time decision analysis capability of SMARTS was essential so that the customer could spot deviation trends from normal situation directly in the dashboard and overcome the flood in the same user interface, all in real time.

Without this built-in capability, the time lag between the identification of fraud and the implementation of corrective actions would have been long, resulting in significant financial losses. In fact, with SMARTS Real-Time Decision Analytics, the fraud management for this client has gone from 15 days to 1 day.

Marketing campaign. The two above examples are taken from financial services but SMARTS real-time decision analytics helps in any context where decision performance could be immediately affected by a change in data, models, or business rules, such as in loan origination, product pricing, or marketing promotion.

In the latter case, SMARTS can help optimize promotion in real-time. Let’s say you construct a series of rules for a marketing couponing using SMARTS Champion/Challenger capability. Based on rules you determine, certain customers will get a discount. Some get 15% off (the current offering — the champion), while others get 20% (a test offering — the challenger). And you wonder if the extra 5% discount leads to more coupons used and more sales generated. With SMARTS real-time decision analytics environment, you find out the answer as the day progresses. By testing alternatives, you converge to the best coupon strategy with real data and on the fly.

Conclusion

As part of the decision lifecycle, business analysts obviously start by authoring their decision logic. As they progress, testing rapidly comes to the forefront. To this end, SMARTS integrates predictive data analytics with real-time decision analytics, enabling business analysts and business users to define dashboards and seamlessly associate metrics with the execution environment — using the same tool, the same interface, and just point and click.

Takeaways

  • SMARTS comes with built-in decision analytics — no additional or third-party tool is required
  • You can define metrics on decision results so you can measure and understand how each decision contributes to your organization’s business objectives
  • Decision metrics enable you to assess alternative decision strategies to see which should be kept and which rejected
  • SMARTS add-on for real-time decision analytics lets you monitor the decisions being made and make adjustments on the fly
  • SMARTS’ real-time decision analytics helps in any context where decision performance could be immediately affected by a change in data, models, or business rules

About

Sparkling Logic is a decision management company founded in the San Francisco Bay Area to accelerate how companies leverage data, machine learning, and business rules to automate and improve the quality of enterprise-level decisions.

Sparkling Logic SMARTS is an end-to-end, low-code no-code decision management platform that spans the entire business decision lifecycle, from data import to decision modeling to application production.

Carlos Serrano is Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer at Sparkling Logic. You can reach him at cserrano@sparklinglogic.com.


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