BRF Day 2: How Business Rules Re(Define) Business Processes: A Service Oriented View

For the last session today, I attended Jan Venthienen’s session; he’s a professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. He talked about different representations of rules, particularly decision tables (at length, although in an interesting way). He talked about the problems with maintaining decision trees, then as he moved on to business processes, he showed how a business process with the rules encoded in the process as routing logic was really just a form of decision tree, and therefore difficult to maintain from a rules integrity standpoint. As rules are distilled out of and separated from the processes, the processes become thinner and thinner, until you have a single branch straight-through flow. I have the feeling that he’d like to reduce the process to a single activity, where everything else is done in a complex rule called from that step. I’m not sure that I agree with that level of stripping of logic out of the process and into the rules; there’s value in having a business process that’s understandable by business users, and the more that the logic is encapsulated in rules, the harder it is to understand how the process flow works by looking at the process map. The critical thing is knowing which rules to strip out of the business process, and which to leave in.

He’s doing research now to determine if it’s possible to specify business rules, then automatically derive the business process from the rules; an interesting concept. In order to do this, there must be rules that constrain the permission and obligations of the actors in the process, e.g., an order must be accepted before the product is shipped. This presents two possible architectural styles: process first, or rules first. In either case, what is developed is an architecture of rules, events and services, with a top layer of business rules and processes, a middle layer of services and components, and a bottom layer of enterprise applications.

4 thoughts on “BRF Day 2: How Business Rules Re(Define) Business Processes: A Service Oriented View

  1. Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for your great coverages of the forum! We can imagine a model only contains flow (this is one extreme, and it would look like a tree), and a model that all flow control logics are defined by rules (this is another extreme, the model has no flow diagram, and it would be very flexiable). In many cases, a “balanced” model makes better sense (Ron’s talking about balance, right? :-)).

    I attended Professor Venthienen’s session in the BR forum last year. Very interesting.

    By the way, among projects that I have been involved so far, roughly 50% of rule projects are initiated by IT and 50% of rule projects are initiated by business. How about the BPM sides? How many BPM projects are initiated by business?

    Gene

  2. BPM projects are being initiated by the business side more and more — I see that in more than 50% of my customers. I believe that rules and BPM together will be driven by the business side.

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