Business Rules Forum

March 12, 2009
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— Posted by Carole-Ann After Dallas, travel brought me to Florida where I attended Business Rules Forum. On Tuesday, John Rymer invited me to sit in a vendor panel (the only woman). We discussed topics such as market consolidation and…

— Posted by Carole-Ann

BRF Vendor Panel 

After Dallas, travel brought me to Florida where I attended Business Rules Forum.

On Tuesday, John Rymer invited me to sit in a vendor panel (the only woman).  We discussed topics such as market consolidation and evolution towards Decision Management.  As you would expect all the vendors were unanimous that they would still be in business despite the Platform play of the IBM, Oracle etc. 😉

I was not surprised to see that BRMS vendors are trying to confuse the audience regarding Decision Management.  As an early pioneer, I am of course a great proponent of Decision Management.  I contributed to shape its vision.  Therefore it is sometimes frustrating to hear people say it is the same as BRMS.  I love BRMS too but I see a clear distinction between the two: one is a superset of the other.  BRMS focuses on business rules, in other words: “how do we empower business users?”.  Decision Management looks at the bigger picture in terms of including a larger set of technologies to solve more than business rules problems: “how do we predict the ability to repay?  how do we optimize resource allocation?”  Decision Management takes a serious look at how we improve decision too: it’s about providing tools and services for business users to assess how profitably new strategies will perform in various economic conditions.  This goes well beyond business rules validation as provided by the BRMS today.

Frustration can turn in great satisfaction.  Although vendors faked they did not get it (or maybe they really did not), some bloggers did not get it either, I was extremely pleased to see that the audience was getting it.  I heard several people talk about “automating and improving decisions”.  They are (getting) ready for this new discipline.  I definitely perceived from the side discussions I had after the panel and my talk that enterprises are now ready to investigate or embrace Decision Management.  I did not get that feeling in the previous years so I am sensing some market maturity there.

The panel touched also on Standards.  I was probably not popular stating that we are not ready for standards.  Not that they are unimportant of course, they can definitely change the adoption of technology.  But I still feel like we are at the stage where vendors want to define standards for the sake of having standards.  I have not seen any real end-user contribute to OMG or W3C on that subject.  I do not expect them to determine what the standard should be (duh!) but I expect them to dictate what is important to focus on.  Is it all about being able to swap one engine versus another, like a rule language extension of JSR94?  Or is it about swapping BRMS and therefore focusing on HOW the rules are represented (templates, metaphors, etc.) and lifecycle management processes?  Or was JSR94 the only thing end customers really cared about?  I am pretty sure JSR94 is not the solution of course.  But I think we will run into a wall if we try to define a standard for the wrong thing.  Not knowing the objective I could define more than one perfectly engineered wrong design.  After all, this is the core reason we have product managers in the software industry: to link the solution to the root business problem.  If we miss the business problem, the solution will likely miss the point too.  Vendors tend to disagree.  Fine.  The illusion that BRMS can be swapped with no effort is pure marketing today.  What is being discussed in terms of Standard will not allow to make it real though.  No offense to the vendors involved, it is all about business.  With pragmatic people like Changhai being involved in OMG PRR effort, I feel that we have a chance to get real results *if* we focus on what the end-users really need.  This is an open call to real end-users with real business problems to speak up.

On Wednesday morning, I presented my perspective on the market evolution to Decision Management.  This was the part 2 of the pre-show webinar I blogged there.

The talk was much better attended than most of the sessions I went to.  If you were in the audience, thank you for coming.  My objective was to educate the crowd on Decision Automation technologies such as Predictive Analytics and Optimization as well as Decision Improvement concepts.  It feels like it was the right approach as the BRF attendees are not yet fluent with those concepts.  I’ll provide more details on the talk in another blog entry.

One of the highlights of the show was our Customer Dinner.  We had a private reception at the Fulton’s crab house.  Great food.  I also got the opportunity to spend one on one time with a few customers that I had not met before.

Overall, the show was a good Business Rules Practitioner Reunion as always but it was a disappointment to see it had not grown much.  It is understandable that the attendance is down with the crisis but it is unfortunate that quite a few sessions had to be canceled.


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