New Book Release: Real-World Decision Modeling with DMN

I am pleased to announce the release of James Taylor’s and my comprehensive guide to decision modeling with the Object Management Group’s Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard. The book, “Real-World Decision Modeling with DMN”, has been published by Meghan-Kiffer Press and is now on general release, available from Amazon in paper and Kindle versions. It is also available from Barnes and Noble.

Decision Modeling is an important technique for improving the effectiveness, consistency and agility of an organization’s operational decisions and a vital enabler of the continuous improvement of its business processes. DMN is a standard that is integrated with many other established industry standards. It has been created by experienced practitioners and is maintained by the Object Management Group (OMG; a prominent standards authority). It is flexible and extensible. It is already supported by over 14 software tools. Indeed, DMN represents the most complete and best supported means of modeling business decisions that is currently available or likely to become available in the near future.

“A well-defined, well-structured approach to Decision Modeling (using the OMG international DMN standard) gives a repeatable, consistent approach to decision-making and also allows the crucial ‘why?’ question to be answered—how did we come to this point and what do we do next? The key to accountability, repeatability, consistency and even agility is a well-defined approach to business decisions, and the standard and this book gets you there.”
Richard Mark Soley, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO, Object Management Group, Inc.

Read more

New Book: Real-World Decision Modeling with DMN

I’m very pleased to announce my collaboration with James Taylor, CEO of Decision Management Solutions, on a definitive guide to Decision Modeling with the Object Management Group’s Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard. Our book, “Real-World Decision dmn front coverModeling with DMN”, will be published by Meghan-Kiffer Press in Q4-2016.

James has a vast experience of Decision Modeling and is a prominent member of the Object Management Group (OMG) panel that designed the DMN standard. He practically invented the term Decision Management. Like us, he has been applying Decision Modeling techniques to help companies master and improve their Business Decisions since the first standards emerged over five years ago. James is an insightful, shrewd and accomplished man and working with him is a real pleasure. We both aim to enrich the book with our practical experience of using DMN on large projects.

This comprehensive book will provide a complete explanation of the Decision Modeling technique, the DMN standard and of the business benefits of using it. Full of examples and best practices developed on real projects, it will help new decision modelers to quickly get up to speed while also providing crucial patterns and advice for more those with more experience.

Read more

Ruleflows Considered Harmful

ruleflow

For some time users of Business Rule Management Systems (BRMS) have used rule execution sequence as a means of binding together and orchestrating the rules in a set—providing a ‘top level’ view of their content. Nearly all BRMS products have enshrined this idea in the ‘ruleflow’ concept. In many of these products the creation of a ruleflow is seen as a standard step in packaging a rule set and many rule authors find it a natural activity.

We argue, using an example, that not only are flows rarely required, but that they are frequently harmful to the agility of a rule set, can introduce harmful and hard to find errors and can make rule sets difficult to understand by business users. Furthermore, users frequently misunderstand the goal of ruleflows and misuse them.

We show that there is an alternative to ruleflows that orchestrates rules (especially large rule sets) more effectively and is easier to understand—the business decision model.

Read more

How Decision Modeling Allows Business Rules to Scale

Experience has shown that sets of business rules, even those administered using Business Rule Management Systems (BRMS), become very hard to manage and understand once they reach a certain level of size and complexity. Although small, very tightly focused rule sets can be effective for simple business domains, large rule sets are challenging to create and even harder to maintain. Small rule sets that become large over time (scale up) present the most difficulty. They are at risk of collapsing under the weight of their own growing complexity or becoming the sole preserve of a small number of ‘gurus’ and ‘high priests’ who alone understand them—defeating a key objective of business rules.

In a previous article, I described how to overcome the challenges of maintaining a business rules over a long period. But how can you manage the complications of rapidly growing rule sets: keeping them easy to understand, changing them safely without unintended consequences  and avoiding ‘stale’ and duplicate rules? Here we show, by example, how Decision Modeling, used from the outset can address all these problems and we discuss in more detail the difference between business decisions and business rules.

Read more

Why Decision Modeling? (In 1000 Words)

In a recent article we explained why any organisation that makes business decisions needs decision management, what it is and how it helps them become more effective.

Decision Management is a means of explicitly identifying and nuturing your business’s operational decisions—much as you would any other vital business asset (like data or process)— so that you can describe, share, change manage and monitor their performance to see how they are contributing towards your enterprise goals. Decision Modeling focuses on representing decisions in a precise, standardized and transparent way.

Through Decision Modeling, businesses can:

  • Build and share a robust documentation of how their business decisions work, rendering them transparent, open to wide review and revealing any hidden flaws.
  • Tame complexity by decomposing complex decisions into smaller sub-decisions for scalability.
  • Prepare their decisions for external (compliance) audit by ensuring their behaviour can always be explained and justified against a specification.
  • Understand quickly exactly what data and business knowledge are required to support their business decisions.
  • Through a thorough understanding of decision dependencies, enable effective change impact assessments and agile change cycles.

These advantages cannot be provided by existing approaches like Business Rules alone.

In addition, decision models can be made so precise that they are executable. Modeling can also be the first step in automating decisions to reduce the cost of manual processes and capturing the expertise of manual decisions to avoid losing business expertise when key members of staff leave a company.

If your business systems make manual or automated decisions that influence your operations then you should consider adopting Business Decision Modeling as a matter of priority. Companies that leave their business decisions embedded in obscure program code, ‘technical’ business rules or in the heads of staff who manage manual operations, will be outmaneuvered by competitors who practice Decision Management and Decision Modeling and will be less able to justify the behaviour of their systems to an auditor. In this article we explain why.

Read more

New Tool Changes the Face of Business Decision Modelling/Management?

The need to cope with ever increasing rates of change in business policies has made agile decision/rule management a vital topic for enterprise architects – particularly where regulators or legal compliance are concerned – we need to involve business SMEs directly in the capture and stewardship of decisions to improve agility and accountability. Regular readers of this blog already know the significant benefits the Decision Model (TDM) offers in this area. But, until now, we’ve been hampered by the absence of cost-effective tools that support TDM and that would encourage mass adoption of the technique.

Our wait appears to be at an end.

The week before last saw the release of another tool to support decision modelling and management: BiZZDesign Decision Modeller. This offering not only boasts cost effective, fully-featured support for The Decision Model framework (including list fact types and messages), but its combination of four other features excites us, as TDM practitioners, rather more than existing TDM tools. In this article we discuss: our experiences of this product, what’s genuinely new about it and how it might change the way enterprises use TDM and existing BRMS/BDMS technologies.

Read more

The Decision Model: Business Rules Grow Up

The world of business rules and business rule management has grown up. Welcome to the world of business decisions—a much more compelling technique with which companies can manage their operational business policies.

Until now business decision analysis and maintenance—the means by which business logic is discovered within current business practices, mined from opaque legacy systems, represented in transparent format and managed as a business asset directly understood by business subject matter experts—has been rather vendor-specific and lacking in rigour and scalability. Many methods are available (e.g., EDM, ABRD and BRS), but all are either lacking in formal structure, subjective and/or poorly supported by tools. Developments of the past few years have changed this.

With the advent of The Decision Model (TDM) and tools (like BiZZDesign, Sapiens DECISION and OpenRules) that support it, an era of new rigour and effectiveness has dawned within enterprise decision management.  TDM, a precise method and framework for expressing business decisions, has addressed many of the flaws of business rules and prompted a slow evolution from business rules to business decisions. We examine these flaws, what TDM can do for you and the promise and power of this approach.

Read more

Are Business Rules Really Owned by the Business?

It is the stated intent of business rule management systems (BRMS) to support a partnership between the business and IT: they empower business users to own, maintain and test their enterprise business rules, whereas IT departments have the responsibility of integrating the rule system effectively with the infrastructure of the organization and preserving the integrity of production systems. In effect, IT are providing the business with a sandbox environment to control the decision making of their enterprise with true agility. But does it work this way in practice?

Read more

Business Rules without a BRMS

Occasionally, after delivering a design proposal for the use of Business Rule Management System (BRMS, or ‘rule engine’) in relation to a specific business problem, we’re asked:

We like the idea of using business rules for this, but is the use of a commercial BRMS really warranted? Our rules are really simple. Couldn’t we make do with a home grown product, perhaps based on a database or spreadsheet?

This is a fair question and it deserves a considered answer.

In this article I discuss the value proposition of BRMS, the pitfalls of clients attempting to develop their own tools to fulfil this function and how this approach can, in the long term, be more expensive than buying a commercial product.

Read more

BRMS: The Most Effective Way to Implement an Accounting System

When it comes to implementing an accounting system, an organisation has three basic choices: buy an ‘off the shelf’ system, build one themselves ‘from scratch’ or compromise and build one themselves using proven infrastructure from an established vendor. Here we argue, from experience, that the latter approach gives an unbeatable combination of flexibility, cost and low development risk. Furthermore a business rule management system (BRMS) is a very potent implementation vehicle for an accounting system.

Read more