On Creating Successful Business Rules

Today, I attended a webinar by FICO called “11 Secrets of Creating Successful Business Rules” for which a recorded version should eventually be available (see www.fico.com/events). Here are some of the takeaways from that webinar.

[Update: 2009-06-26] The recording is available at: https://www106.livemeeting.com/cc/fairisaac/view?id=06242009


Some people oversimplify Business Rules Applications and make claims that may give a sense that business rules is easy, but we should be wary of such claims.

A developer may claim that they can write a certain number of rules per day but can the business user modify them? Are these rules documented and traceable to the original source of the rule? Could the rules be audited?

Others may claim that all rule engines are the same, it’s all in a spreadsheet. What about other types of rules such as decision trees, scoring models, etc. What about reuse of the rules?

A quick regression test of the rules is sufficient. Does a quick regression test check for missing conditions, overlapping rules, contradicting rules? With that level of testing are we reasonably certain that there won’t be some unwanted side effects to rule changes?

The 11 Secrets Of Creating Succesful Business Rules

I won’t go into all the details of the secrets here, but this should give you an idea. For the details, you can go to the presentation.

11. Select the right application

I’ve covered some of the characteristics that make an application a good candidate for rules before in this post, but in short: Are rules changing frequently? is there a short time to market window? Do the rules need to be maintained by Business Users?

10. Follow a methodology

ILOG and FICO have the same idea. Use an iterative methodology, RUP inspired. Start small and build bigger and steps.

9. Document, Document, Document

Detailed and rigorous documentation is required. Use document templates to make your life easier.

8. Manage Traceability

Make sure that the traceability to law, business unit and owner is documented as well.

7. Analyze & Establish Rule Quality

There are qualities of good business rules, conciseness and atomicity are the two qualities that were touched in this presentation. Hmmm… That gives me an idea for a new blog post…

6. Choose the right metaphor

Basically, use the right representation of the rules to fit the needs of the business. Drop down boxes? Decision tables or trees? Scorecards?

5. Validate the Rules

Have the business users configure and run test cases.

4. Perform Complete Verification

Verify the rule logic with tools, not manually

3. Simulate to Analyze Business Impact

This is to make sure that although the rules might be correct (see Secret 5.), that the effect of the changes has been measure to the fullest. What is the impact to the numbers in the end?

2. Structure for Reuse and Governance

Make sure that your business rules repository and processes allow for proper governance and management of the rules.

1. Operationalize Analytics & Improve Decisions

This is the item I am most unclear about. It seems to be taking simulations (Secret 3.) to the next level. Creating some mathematical models to estimate some pre-determined KPIs.

If you find this post somewhat interesting, I suggest you go see the recorded webinar.

[Update: 2009-06-25]

As I was browsing looking for something else completely, I stumble on the associated white paper from FICO which can be found here: http://technology.searchcio-midmarket.com/document;5136646/midmarket-abstract.htm

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