Business Rules, Business Decisions, Intelligent Processes, Enterprise Decision Management
Two analyst reports and an article came together today to reinforce both the core concepts of enterprise decision management - EDM - and its timeliness. First there was When Rules Go Inside Out With BPM (subscription required) by Jim Sinur of Gartner, then there was Intelligent Process Automation: The Key to Business Process Automation (subscription required) by Steve Hendrick of IDC and last there was a piece on InfoQ on business rules and business processes. It seemed to me that, taken together, all three of these:
- Established that decisions are important in business processes (consider decisions as well as rules and processes)
- Identified agility as a key criteria for successful decision automation (I have talked about Gartner's view on agility before)
- Talked about management as important in the context of processes and decisions (manage decisions as a real corporate asset)
- Identified business rules management systems (BRMS) as a primary mechanism for automating decisions
In addition, Steve's piece talked about the use of advanced analytics in this context, something Jim and others at Gartner are also doing. For instance, consider Gareth Herschel's presentation on Analytics: action based on integrating processes and applications recently. This allows you to create anaytically driven processes.
Jim's piece talked explicitly about managing policies/rules as an important business resource. Indeed he went further and said:
"Rules that are encased inside business processes are stealing business opportunities that depend on speed of change"
He suggested conducting volatility analysis to find the rules that should be externalized. This is similar to what was proposed in the InfoQ article. I think that decision volatility and reuse should be considered, not just rules. All processes contain decisions that must evolve and change and decisions are particularly prone to having most of their life be what has been called "change time" - that is time after they are first implemented during which they must evolve. Jim states, and I agree, that rules (decisions) buried in processes, or even worse in legacy applications orchestrated by processes, are not agile. Jim talks about scenario management - having different decision approaches "on the shelf" - as another advantage of separating out decisions and that this focus on rules/decisions separate from processes also allows personalized customer treatment through transaction or customer-driven processes (I blogged about how to get personalized or 1:1 communication that scales this way once before). Finally Jim talks about the value of empowering business users to manage rules themselves, something about which I have shared some secrets for success.
Meanwhile Steve's piece also talked about increasing your decision-making capabilities inside business processes by bringing together rules, processes, events and analytics. He makes the point that business process management (BPM) provides an effective context for advanced analytics and goes on to say:
"Intelligent process automation is an IDC term that describes the union of business analytics and business process management with a goal of achieving significantly better decision-making capabilities"
He discusses using business activity monitoring, BAM, as the start and then adding analytics and rules and event processing. His paper contains a neat diagram of how these pieces fit:
This made me think about my POV in terms of EDM. I think:
- You need to consider performance management. If I monitor events and processes, what might I do in response to what I see (answer, change the way I make decisions)
- I need to bring rules and analytics to bear inside a process. I would do this through a decision service
- Some events trigger processes but others must be decisioned before I know what to do and for that I would also use a decision service
- All the data I collect is turned into useful analytic insight, models, and injected back into my processes (through decisions)
Or something like this:
I have blogged before about the role of decision management, EDM, in BAM and at the intersection of BAM/BPM and SOA and I participated in an interesting ebizQ podcast on the future of BPM, and the role of decision management within it, here. I have also written an article about how focusing on decisions, and automating them with business rules, can enable you to make business processes more intelligent through embedding analytics here and discussed similar concepts to Intelligent Process Automation under the labels of transaction-centric processes or analytic process controlling.
EDM is how you can make all this work together.