BRF Day 2: Using Business Rules to Enable a Closed Loop of Compliance

I’m eager to learn more about the relationship between policies, procedures and rules, and how they relate to compliance, so I sat in on a presentation by Peter Still of RuleBurst. There’s a pretty high percentage of vendors on the speaker roster, but so far the quality has been good so no complaints.

The theme of Still’s talk is that the business rules approach will only gain critical mass if it stops being a technical implementation tool and starts being a business problem-solving tool. The current pitch from the business rules vendors is that this is a way to implement systems faster and cheaper, while allowing the business to access some tuning parameters, but this is really focussed on the technological capabilities and not the business value of business rules. This is such a perfect mirror of the BPM field, where BPM has just barely moved from a purely technical sell to something that’s now being sold more and more to the business side of an organization, so I can completely understand where the business rules market is and the challenges that lie ahead in shifting the focus of their marketing message. Worldwide market for business rules product revenue is $250M — not a lot when you consider the size of related markets — and it could be a lot larger if there was greater recognition of the business benefits of business rules.

A perfect business case for re-targeting the business rules message is compliance: it’s an enterprise-wide initiative with executive support where business rules can be included in the decisioning at key points of the process. Although business rules aren’t the complete answer to compliance since compliance is a very process-focussed initiative, rules can be a significant contributor to compliance efforts. One of the difficulties with compliance is that many regulations, such as Sarbannes Oxley, are pretty vague since they have to deal with such a broad range of companies, and it’s difficult to determine precise business rules to implement them. Compliance at a transactional level is a mostly automated application of BPM and business rules, but as you move up to risk management and higher-level compliance factors, there’s less automation although still opportunities for business rules to be wrapped in a compliance framework, such as using business rules to classify a risk although the management of that risk may be done manually. Still maintains that there’s a link between transactional and operational compliance, and believes that business rules can help with that link although that’s not recognized by most business rules vendors.

As with most other complex applications of technology, you can solve this with an integrated compliance and rules solution from a single vendor, or go for a best-of-breed approach. Still recommends the former approach, and invited us to drop by his booth to check out what RuleBurst has to offer in this area.

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