The humble business rule – from a frog to a Prince

I attended the IIBA UK Chapter event in London at the end of last month, where Larry Goldberg was giving a talk about Business Rules and his latest book called “The Decision Model”.  With my BA hat on I have been monitoring what has been going on in Business Rules arena for the last couple of years.  I read Larry’s book when it was released last year and found it contained some very powerful ideas, so I was really looking forward to hearing him speak on the subject.  I was not disappointed.

In a nutshell he has come up with a clear & easy to understand context, structure, and method for describing and managing Business Rules, or more precisely Business Logic.  Traditionally Business Rules have been a bit of an “orphan” in the Business and IT domains; nobody quite knowing what to do with them, or how they fit exactly with first class citizens like Data and Process.  I am happy to report that the “Decision Model” has changed all that, at least as far as I am concerned.  We no longer need to stick them in the Appendix of our Requirements documents, hide them away inside data and process models, or awkwardly tack them on the end of Use Case descriptions.  They can now legitimately take centre stage along with Data & Process, complete with their own model.

For me the real breakthough appears to be that he has identified a standardised way to define a single rule at its most basic (atomic) level, and a method  for combining them to form a Decision structure.  Essentially he has defined an the equivalent of an Entity Relationship Diagram (i.e. a Data Model) for Rules instead of Data.  Not only is the Decision Model based on sound mathematical logic but it can also be readily be understood by both the Business and IT communities; which is an achievement in its own right!

So what does all this mean for Business Analysts?  My view is that once Decision Models gain more visibility & traction everybody will want to own them.  They are  going to be everybody’s new best friend.  As BA’s we are ideally placed to be the early adopters of the Decision Model concepts, giving us the tools to provide some much needed structure and clarity for our Business clients, around these critical, but often poorly understood, business assets. Surely that can only be a good thing.

The bottom line: the Decision Model is set to transform Business Rules from a craft to an Industrial-strength engineering discipline.

Mike Eckersley

Independent Business & Technology Consultant


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One Response to “The humble business rule – from a frog to a Prince”

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  1. Mike, I agree with you. I read this book last fall and spoke with Barbara Von Halle, the co-author. They have really come up with a solid approach to being sure your rules are well defined. This is important work.

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