- Most BPMS don’t have sufficient functionality in their in-process expression builders to offer true business rules capabilities. A notable exception is Pega, which is built on a rules engine. I’m not going to wax poetic on the benefits of business rules, since there’s lots of other people who can do that better than me, but take my word for it: you really need business rules.
- Having the ability to change work in progress. If the business logic is embedded within the process map, then typically that logic is fixed for a particular item of work at the time that it is instantiated. For straight-through short-running processes, this isn’t a problem, but for long-running processes (with or without human interaction), it is, since most BPMS don’t provide for changing the business logic or process map for an item of work once it is instantiated. If the BPMS retrieves its rules from a BRE at the time that each rules-oriented step is executed, then the rules are as current as what’s in the BRE.
- Using the same rules engine and rules across multiple applications, not just within the BPM. Imagine it: the same business rules about, for example, how you deal with a customer’s order in a particular situation being applied identically across your CRM, your BPMS, and any other applications that it might impact, because they all retrieve their business rules from a common business rules repository at the time of execution. This idea is just starting to creep into the consciousness of most large organizations (they’re still digesting the first two reasons), and is ultimately the most critical since it not only provides for greater business agility, but also has a huge impact on compliance.
This last point is exactly why I see Pega’s position as a disadvantage rather than an advantage: although they market themselves on the fact that they’re built on a BRE, the requirement for business rules in multiple applications across the enterprise is finally being recognized, and stand-alone BRE will become more commonplace in organizations in the next few years. And if you’re using Fair Isaac for all of your business rules across the organization, you’re not going to want to use a different, proprietary BRE inside a BPM product to re-implement some of the same rules that exist elsewhere in the organization.
I thought of this last week at the TIBCO seminar when I learned that they also have a proprietary rules engine embedded in their BPMS, although the BPMS is not based on the BRE (as with Pega), it’s just there to provide additional functionality, and TIBCO allows for integration with popular third-party BRE including Fair Isaac and ILOG. My prediction is that as organizations start to roll out these best-of-breed BRE across the enterprise, TIBCO will abandon their own rules engine in favour of integrating only with well-known third-party BRE.