BRF Day 1: Ron Ross keynote

After a brief intro by Gladys Lam, the executive director of the Business Rules Forum, the conference kicked off with a keynote from Ron Ross, the driving force behind this event and a big name in the business rules community. A couple of things are distracting my attention from his talk: I’m up directly after him, and I’m presenting in this room, which is the main (read: big) conference hall. Let me make my ever-present complaint about passworded wifi in the meeting room and no free wifi or wired internet in the hotel, since I know that my regular readers would be disappointed without that news from the front lines. 🙂

Ron and I have exchanged email over the years, but this is our first opportunity to meet face-to-face; I’ll also have the chance to meet James Taylor and a few others who I only know from afar. Today, Ron’s talking about the shift from business rules to enterprise decisioning. This is the first business rules conference that I’ve ever attended, which means that most of the attendees likely know a lot more about the subject matter than I do, and most of the sessions will be new material for me.

Ron predicted that no one will be talking about SOA at a major conference in 15 years, but they will be talking about business rules or decisioning; I certainly agree with the first point, and the second makes a lot of sense.

When he said “we want our business processes to be smarter”, it was like music to my ears, and a direct lead-in to my presentation. He talked about three trends in the decisioning space:

  • The shift from an exclusive focus on BPM to a balanced approach on enterprise decision management (EDM). He mock-grudgingly admitted that business processes are important, but pointed out that the “smarts” provided by business rules provides agility in the processes (which is exactly the point that I will be making in about 45 minutes — maybe the material here won’t be all that foreign after all).
  • The shift from an exclusive focus on data quality and accessibility to a balanced approach on decision deployment. This is the whole convergence of BI and BR into decisioning — again, a key point in my presentation. I think that Ron is scooping me! He included a great quote from Taylor and Raden’s new book, Smart Enough Systems: “Making information more readily available is important, but making better decisions based on information is what pays the bills.”
  • The shift from an exclusive focus on rules to a balanced approach on decisions. My key takeaway for this conference is figured out a good distinction between business rules and decisioning, since these terms seem to be used interchangeably in some cases; it seems that decisioning is about (not surprisingly) decisions, which in turn are based on business rules and some information about the current scenario.

He finished up with some pointers on where to think about applying decisioning in your business through a few use cases, such as creating “rules of record” for compliance purposes.

Like every other technology-specific conference (especially the BPM ones that I typically attend), this one has at the heart of it that its subject matter is the most important technology in an enterprise, and that herein lies the key to business perfection. I’m being a bit facetious, but we really do need to start getting a bit more cross-over between some of these conferences and technologies.

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