One of the areas of current business rule activity that excites me the most is
re-empowerment. This type of project focuses on opportunities in the general area of CRM --
in particular, on making deals. Deals (or more precisely, contracts and agreements) are how the
company formalizes the 'rules of engagement' with each customer.
Just about every company these days, of course, wants more and more customers -- and highly individualized relationships with each and every one of them. Making the situation even more challenging is that products and services in today's economy are also increasingly complex and/or differentiated. So the question becomes how can you manage highly individualized or even "one-of-a-kind" agreements for increasingly complex and differentiated products, for increasingly large numbers of customers? And by the way, do it economically, flexibly and quickly?
One thing for sure -- you are not going to do it successfully the way it has been done in the past. The traditional approach might be summarized as follows. A manager, marketing rep, and/or lawyer comes to some agreement with a customer. Such agreement might be about the acquisition of a product/service as a whole (including options, timing, pricing, delivery, etc.), or some specific aspect thereof (e.g., discounts). Once formalized (e.g., in a contract, agreement, letter of understanding, etc.), it is then handed over to the programming staff (or
There are at least three things fundamentally wrong with this approach.
* It is far too slow. These days, 'operationalizing' an agreement needs to take place in hours or days -- not weeks or months.
* It cannot be effectively managed. Even if the programming and/or implementation is done correctly (a very big 'if'), the resulting code is far removed -- almost completely disconnected -- from the original agreement. Any resemblance in form is vague at best. Subsequent changes in the rules -- inevitable these days -- is inevitably a slow, painful and expensive affair.
* The approach is deeply flawed from an organizational viewpoint. Those workers in actual contact with the customers are displaced from those with the skills to adjust the implemented rules of engagement. This leads to gaps, inefficiency and frustration all around.
The business rule approach offers a potent two-part solution. First, deals are viewed as nothing more than collections of high-level business rules. (We call these governing rules.) The business rule approach has already evolved effective techniques to interpret and manage such rules.
Second, the programming of deals clearly must be eliminated. Rule technology solves addresses that problem by allowing the rules of engagement to be implemented much more directly.
This approach produces a huge additional advantage -- much of the business rule activity can now go outboard. By this I mean it can be removed from IT, and distributed to those directly in contact with the customers. This will empower those users to manage the rules of engagement directly. I believe enabling these power users will prove a killer app for business rules!
Excerpted with permission from Mr. Ross's upcoming book, The Principles of Business Rules, Addison-Wesley, to be published later this year. Copyright, 2002. Ronald G. Ross.
Ronald G. Ross is Co-Founder and Principal of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (www.BRSolutions.com). BRS provides workshops, consulting services, publications, and methodology supporting business analysis, business rules, and rule management. Mr. Ross also serves as Executive Editor of www.BRCommunity.com and its flagship on-line publication, Business Rules Journal. Mr. Ross is the author of a half-dozen professional books, including Business Rule Concepts and The Business Rule Book.
This was first published in April 2002