ProcessWorld Day 2: Services industry breakout with Marshal Edgison of ELM Resources

The first breakout of day 2, I attended a session on “Optimizing Process Through Business Rules” with Marshal Edgison, Director of Application Development for ELM Resources, a not-for-profit organization focussed on facilitating and processing student loans, about how they’re leveraging both the process modeling and business rules modeling functionality of ARIS in order to drive their modernization efforts. The rules engine integrated into ARIS as the ARIS Business Rules Designer is Corticon.

They selected ARIS because they wanted a modelling tool that was not closely associated with the technology (i.e., from the process execution vendors) and could be used by business analysts. As a loan processing organization, their processes are very rules-based, and they found that their business rules were everywhere — in application code, in database triggers, in user interfaces — and were hard-coded into the system: the classic situation where business rules can be of enormous benefit. They saw an opportunity to not just model their business processes in order to get them under control, but modelling their business rules and encapsulating them into a business rules management system.

They recognized that BRMS could add agility to processes by automating recurring decisions, centralizing rules for easy management and consistent deployment, manage complex logic (they had over 1 million interdependent rules, although they fall into about 5 basic categories), increase development speed and reduce maintenance time and costs. With the ARIS Business Rules Designer, the rules could be seamlessly integrated into processes as automated decision points: ARIS defines the enterprise data model and vocabulary, and the BRMS leverages that vocabulary in transaction processing.

Edgison went through a case study of a new federally-mandated graduate loan program that came into effect in February 2006, with all participants required to support it by July 2006. Many of the financial institutions who are ELM’s member organizations were unable to comply within that timeframe, and it took ELM six months and more than $500K to implement it. As part of the sales cycle for the ARIS Business Rules Designer, they redid this using ARIS and the BRMS: it took one day with four people.

He ended up with some notes on determining whether business rules are right for you:

  • Do you have decision-intensive processes?
  • Do you have operational inefficiencies around decisions?
  • Do you have dynamic, frequently changing rules?
  • Do you need better synergy between business requirements and IT implementation?

Although a bit wordy and totally unable to control one the audience member who asked about 12 questions, Edgison was a great speaker: very knowledgeable about both his projects and the importance of business rules in modelling processes, with the ability to communicate his ideas clearly and in a compelling manner.

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