Introducing the First Social Logic Platform
Social logic meets decision management: This is a big moment for all of us at Sparkling Logic. After months of intensive work collaborating with customers and prospects on design and implementation, we are finally announcing the company’s first product: Sparkling Logic SMARTS™. We had the privilege of launching the product at Gartner’s BPM Summit in Baltimore last week. To our satisfaction, we received a great reception with significant customer and partner interest. Of all the numerous product launches I’ve been involved with in this space, SMARTS™ is the one that I am the most proud of. Please apologize that I use this post to convey our enthusiasm with this new approach and product.
Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ is a new kind of Decision Management product. SMARTS™, we believe, represents a radical shift from the current way of thinking about Decision Management. This shift is even more momentous than the introduction of the Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS). We were responsible for that introduction through Blaze Advisor circa 1997. BRMS revolutionized our industry by combining AI rules engines with Business Rules methodologies.
No-Man’s Land in Decision Management
The Decision Management industry is stuck in no-man’s land. On one hand, Decision Management remains at the core of many mission critical systems. These large implementations impact our daily lives, from what ads we see to how we get sued. On the other hand, it has not risen to the expectations we had regarding the value it brings to the table. Even more worrisome, many Decision Management projects fail to deliver on the promised ROI. Too many projects fail before delivery due to the time and resources needed.
At Business Rules Forum last year, I asked the vendors panel why this is the case and what the industry should do about it. To their credit, the representatives from Pega Systems and InRule provided some constructive insight on the issue. However in general, very little introspection has effectively taken place lately. The industry remains in that no-man’s land.
Crossing No-Man’s Land
Acknowledging there is a problem is the first part of the journey towards the solution. The next step is to identify the root causes so that we can envision a way out of it. After leaving our former employer, Carole-Ann and I invested a significant amount of time discussing with industry leaders as well as enterprise application technical and business leaders. We collected ideas and identified the key attributes of a decision management solution that delivers on its promise.
Our goal was to empower all decision makers, regardless of their role. Whether decision area specialist or case worker, we were going to enable all users to manage decisions in the context that they naturally evolve in, using the paradigms that they naturally use.
Complex Cases Require Manual Review
First, it’s important to recognize that most complex decisions in enterprise applications are part automated and part manual. In general terms, typical cases are usually automated while exceptions require some sort of manual review.
Let’s take the decision to accept or not an electronic payment as an example. The automated system identifies that a particular payment presents a quality of customer risk that needs special attention. Instead of rejecting the transaction, the system will defer judgment to a human (case worker) to make the decision. The process the case worker follows to get to a decision is part of the overall business decision. Case workers are an essential part of the decision management system. They handle complex cases, often where most of the risk and opportunity lies.
Business Decisions Require Different Roles
There are thus at least two key roles involved in making, codifying, operationalizing decisions. First, the traditional business user is one who understand the business problem, automates decisions, and improves them over time. Second, the case worker user is one who manually reviews exceptions and participates in the overall enterprise application eco-system.
An effective decision management system must take all roles involved in decision-making into account. Traditional BRMS-based Decision Management systems ignore case management. Meanwhile, most Case Management-based decision support systems ignore automated decisions. As a result, most large enterprise decision management applications include both BRMS-based and Case Management-based decision systems. These systems do not communicate well with each. At best, a business can route logic and operational data schemas from one to the other.
We created Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ with all roles in mind. Through SMARTS™, businesses can achieve full visibility of decisions throughout their real complete lifecycle, both automated and manual.
Different Roles Speak Different Languages
To address different roles, we had to ensure that all users would be effective on the same decision logic. This was not an easy task. Technically savvy business experts tend to view decisions in forms, using graphical representations like flows and trees. Business domain experts tend to view decisions in terms of policies. Case workers tend to view decisions in terms of cases.
Finding Common Ground
But all view decisions in the context of both data and objectives supported by metrics. In the process of harvesting rules, businesses will usually spend time coming up with “prototypical cases.” This involves identifying common scenarios, categorizing them, and creating the corresponding abstraction (decision tree, rule template, etc…).
The process starts with data (cases) and known objectives. In my earlier example, we want to reduce the number of fraudulent payments while minimizing the number false positives. To achieve this objective, we need metrics. Examples include the number and total amount of fraudulent payments authorized, the number and total amount of legitimate payments denied, and churn. Both business users and case workers need access to the data and metrics throughout their daily decision-making work.
Taking users out of their normal context and forcing them through a methodology dictated by technology is actually dangerous. Users must not only think about all the fine details of the decisions they manage but also adopt new approaches, vocabulary, and tools. It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a disconnect between what business users communicated and what was actually implemented using Traditional BRMS-based Decision Management systems. Even metaphor-based (for example rule-tables) or template-based systems face this problem. While this approach provide some flexibility, it doesn’t fully capture the reality of how business users make decisions.
Decision Management In-Context through Social Logic
Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ is the first Decision Management System that enables the business user to design the decisions by actually making them. Design by doing – a very powerful concept, one that is starting to see the light in the BPM world under names such as Dynamic BPM or Adaptive Case Management. The business user continues working manipulating the concepts they usually manipulate, dealing with business data and with the objectives and the metrics always present and contextually available, focusing on making decisions and capturing the decision logic in the process.
Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ uses patent-pending technology to let business users manipulate the decisions by actually doing them – and in the process enabling the collaboration between all different roles and stakeholders in the management of the decisions through the lifecycle. We have invented a very pragmatic approach to solve one of the key problems in the adoption of Decision Management Systems, and we have implemented it in Sparkling Logic SMARTS™.
Decisions are Social
They involve multiple stakeholders – even at the objectives level, different stakeholders have different objectives for a single decision, yet the decision taken is in general only one. In the previous example, accepting or denying the internet payment. So, by nature, the making of the decisions and its codification for repeated making will represent a compromise among multiple stakeholders – a compromise that will not be perfect at any point in time and that will need to evolve.
Similarly, making or improving a single good decision may involve deep expertise which is available within the organization but not directly to each and every one of the decision makers, rule designer or codifiers. The roles cooperate. And they do it today in ad-hoc semi-formal manner – discussions in meetings, email exchanges, and, more and more, ephemeral instant messages.
Enabling that collaboration and gathering information on how the decision is managed in the process extends the reach of the individual business user to the collective, and increases the quality of the decision codification and improvement processes. The Enterprise 2.0 movement has seen it clearly – companies like Moxie Software are the new alternative to the old Knowledge Management systems, and one that is far more effective and adaptive. It’s not a surprise that one of the most popular Salesforce products is Chatter, for the same reasons.
We built Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ around a social collaboration platform, implementing effective collaborative decision management through a number of social techniques, including some patent-pending ones. Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ is the first Social Decision Management system that covers the full lifecycle of decisions and their operationalization through both systems and humans.
We Call that Social Logic!
Sparkling Logic SMARTS™ revolutionizes the decision management approach. Through social logic, SMARTS™ enables business users to design and manage operationalized decisions collaboratively. We allow businesses to make the system accessible to all roles involved in decision-making. As a result, businesses can be more resilient and quickly adapt to new conditions, risks and/or opportunities.
Stay tuned for further announcements and discussions. We’ll talk more about the details on how the product delivers on its promises.
And in the mean time, tell us what you think!
Learn more about Decision Management and Sparkling Logic’s SMARTS™ Data-Powered Decision Manager