Business Rules Forum: Vendor Panel

All the usual suspects joined on a panel at the end of the day to discuss the vendor view of business rules: Pegasystems, InRule, Corticon, Fair Isaac ,ILOG (soon to be IBM) and Delta-R, moderated by John Rymer of Forrester.

The focus was on what happening to the rules market, especially in light of the big guys like SAP and IBM joining the rules fray. Most of them think that it’s a good thing to have the large vendors in there because it raises the profile of and validates rules as a technology; likely the smaller players can innovate faster so can still carve out a reasonable piece of the market. Having seen exactly this same scenario play out in the BPM space, I think that they’re right about this.

The ILOG/IBM speaker talked about the integration of business rules and BPM as a primary driver — which of course Pega agreed with — but also the integration of rules, ETL and other technologies. Other speakers discussed the importance of decision management as opposed to just rules management, especially with regards to detecting and ameliorating (if not actually avoiding) situations like the current financial crisis; the use of predictive analytics in the context of being able to change decisions in response to changing conditions; and the current state of standards in rules management. There was a discussion about the difference between rules management and decision management, which I don’t believe answered the question with any certainty for most of the audience: when a speaker says “there’s a subtle but important difference” while making hand motions but doesn’t really elaborate, you know that you’re deep in the weeds. The Delta-R speaker characterizes decision management as rules management plus predictive modeling; I think that all of the vendors agree that decision management is a superset of rules management, but there are at least three different views on what forms that superset.

As a BPM bigot, I see rules as just another part of the services layer; I think that there’s opportunity for BRM in the cloud to be deployed and used much more easily than BPM in the cloud (making a web services call from a process or app to an external rules system isn’t very different than making a web services call to an internal rules system), but I didn’t hear that from any of the vendors.

That’s it for the day; I know that the blogging was light today, but it should be back to normal tomorrow. I’m off to the vendor expo to check out some of the products.

5 thoughts on “Business Rules Forum: Vendor Panel

  1. “I think that all of the vendors agree that decision management is a superset of rules management”.

    I’d like to respectfully disagree 🙂 with the panelists on this one, but of course their definitions of DM and BRM probably differ from mine.

    For sure the domains of decisions and rules overlap (e.g. a BRMS manages an operational rule that makes a decision in a BPM system), but I’m pretty sure no-one would claim that, for example, an SBVR policy-type rule *is* a decision. Or an SBVR-type rule that defines the relationship between business terms.

    Cheers

  2. This is a debate in which we can spend the rest of our lives.

    SBVR overlaps but is neither a subset nor a superset of business rulesin the typical acceptance of the notion, as implemented by the big guns: Ilog, FairIsaac, Pega. It’s a standard effort, and by nature of these standard efforts, something for everybody.
    We can spend a lot of time arguing who is right and who is not, but the reality is that we are dealing with a space which is tough to define because it covers logic, which in itself is more fluid than data. A very expansive definition of business rules will cover all constraints that you define in databases, but that is not a practical definition for the industry.

    I agree with the panelists that, in practical terms, and standard efforts aside, the reality is that decision management is a superset of business rules management – to the extent that business rules management is just one of the aspects of decision management.

    There was no more hand waving in that panel than when you ask any panel of BPM vendors to define where BPM starts and where it stops. I have been there, and seen it, and it still happens. Each and every vendor will define its boundaries where their products start and stop.
    Now, if we want to talk CEP… it ain’t gona get any nicer 🙂

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