Going to Impact 2013

Well hello all

Yes, I know, I’ve been away for a while, life gets busy sometimes…

Just a quick post to say that I will be attending (and presenting) at IBM Impact 2013 which starts tomorrow in Las Vegas.

My presentations:

  • Guest Notifications: Operational Decision Management Events and Rules in Flight: a presentation I am doing with WestJet about one of the projects I worked on in 2012
  • Governing Operational Decisions in an Enterprise Scalable Way:a presentation that covers the topic of, well, governance… ūüôā and the title of the book I co-authored which released yesterday

Well, as I just mentioned, I’ve been working on a book with two other authors (Pierre Berlandier and Duncan Clark). The book released just yesterday and is available at:¬†http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/sg248127.html?Open

Enjoy!

 

 

Rules related events this fall

Although I know I am late at announcing the events, here are 2 events about rules that are coming up in the next few weeks.

I will unfortunately not be able to attend and blog from those events this year (unless someone is willing to sponsor me!) but they are really interesting events to attend.
Rules Fest at http://rulesfest.org
Dates: October 11-14 2010 in San Jose
Comments: This conference is a technical oriented conference. Last year was extremely interesting and this year Jason Morris managed to have a line up of speakers including many big names in the industry such as Mark Proctor, Barbara von Halle, Larry Goldberg, Jacob Feldman, Paul Vincent and James Taylor among others. Should be an amazing conference with that line up.
Business Rules Forum at http://www.businessrulesforum.com/
Dates: October 17-21 2010 in Washington DC
Comments: This is the more known conference which this year is colocated with the Business Analysis Forum and Business Process Forum (and advertised as the Building Business Capability conference at http://www.buildingbusinesscapability.com). A very interesting conference where most vendors are present and which allows you to meet a lot of people that work in the industry.

 If you go, let me know your thoughts!

First look at JRules Scorecard Modeler

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series First Looks at JRules 7

I recently have been able to use the new add-on to JRules called Scorecard Modeler.

Unlike the name may imply, Scorecard Modeler does not help you model scorecards at all. In other words, it is not a statistical analysis tool that would be used to create scorecard models, but simply an editor that allows easy creation of scorecards within the JRules environment.

What is a scorecard? I have recently written a post title “A quick introduction to scorecards” to go over some of the details of what a scorecard is. I suggest you start there before continuing reading this post.

Scorecard modeler is simply a new editor that will be added to your list of choices for adding rules to a rule project and in some ways it looks similar to a decision table editor.

It is a Rule Studio only editor so as of this writing, there is no RTS editor available. How does it work? It simply generates the usual IRL rules (like all other editors) for deployment. I suspect that IBM will be working on an RTS editor for this, but that is only speculation at this time.

The Review

Installation

The installation of the scorecard modeler requires that you should have JRules already installed (verson 6.7.x, 7.0 or 7.1). The installation will ask you to select the directory of your existing JRules install, but otherwise it is pretty straight forward.

The Editor

Once you have installed the modeler, when you relaunch your Rule Studio, the new editor will be available to create scorecards in JRules. Some of the options will change the number of columns that need to be filled in for the scorecard but overall it is simple to understand how to fill the information in.

There are some GUI quirks in the current interface (entering negative values is quirky, moving attributes up and down, and making the scorecard properties page appear for example) but these do not prevent the scorecard from working properly and I am hoping that IBM will eventually address these minor irritants.

Some odd behaviours

Scorecard modeler has some behaviours that are not typical of the other editors in JRules. Namely, the modeler automatically creates new BOM entries in your project and it creates a variable set that is used to create variables that point to each scorecard created. Now these are odd behaviours, but are obviously required for things to work properly. Once you are familiar with those behaviours it makes troubleshooting possibly a bit easier.

These behaviours are even more prominent if you are using an architecture that uses multiple projects to hold XOM, BOM and Rules and especially if you have multiple BOM projects. The location where scorecard modeler chooses to set the variable set up and add the BOMs might not be the one you want or expect.

Another odd behaviour that is not common to the other editors is that the scorecard modeler actually allows the selection of “non verbalized” elements from the BOM. I am not sure why that is and it is contrary to the normal behaviour of all other editors in JRules so it is good to note that a user is actually able to choose from items that are not usually available as choices (until they are verbalized).

The limitations

There are limitations that are good to know about upfront.

Naming of a scorecard has more limitations than any other “rule” in JRules. Don’t use spaces, dashes or underscores in your scorecard name. I believe that this limitation is due to the automatic creation of variables (see above) and that as long as you stick to those “naming rules” you will be doing just fine.

Renaming of a scorecard is a little more work than what we might be used to. You can easily rename the scorecard, but the automatically created variable that goes with this variable is not renamed automatically. In some cases the old variable name gets deleted, but the new one does not get created. This can easily be fixed by manually creating the variable name that matches your scorecard name in the proper variable set and everything will be OK.

Documentation generated by the rule reports will not include a copy of the scorecard and there is no copy and paste to and from the scorecard modeler. So documentation will have to be created by using the age old technique of screen capture and pasting images in documents… Not ideal. I am hoping that IBM addresses this in future releases.

There are other limitations and all users should get familiar with them by reading the readme file that comes with scorecard modeler.

The issues

As of version 7.0.2 there are some issues that I have encountered in a specific environment for which IBM had to provide hot fixes for making the scorecard modeler work in that environment. Version 7.1 fixes most of these issues save 1¬†¬†as far as I can tell (some¬†attributes with a specific configuration can’t be selected at all to be part of the scorecard).

In IBM’s defence, IBM support has been extremely responsive to help resolve¬†any of the important issues¬† encountered and the hot fixes provided make it possible to use the scorecard modeler.

The Documentation

The documentation provided with scorecard modeler is more of a relatively straight forward tutorial than actual documentation. Some of the features are not documented at all or so badly documented that even IBM has a hard time figuring out what they are for…

My suggestion on this is that new users should walk through the tutorials provided and then immediately try to make their own scorecards work in the modeler.

One of the good things from the documentation point of view is that at least the API documentation is included so that if customizations are needed for reasoning strategies and things of that sort, developers will have a starting point for working on the customizations.

The Verdict

The scorecard modeler in some cases still feels like an “early version” of the software, but with IBM’s help (through support and hot fixes) the scorecard modeler ends up being a great tool to enter scorecards into JRules.

Although a bit quirky, overall I think this tool has great potential to be a great addition to JRules.

A quick introduction to scorecards

Some may ask what the relationship of scorecards to Business rules is…

Well it turns out that IBM has created an add on to add support for scorecards in JRules and that before I go on and do my review I decided it was necessary to write a post on what a scorecard is so that I don’t have to do it as part of my upcoming review… ūüôā

What is a scorecard?

For those of you who don’t know what a scorecard is, it is a Risk Management tool used mostly by banks and other institutions to calculate the risk they take by selling you one of their products.

  • How risky a customer are you?
  • What are the chances that you might default on payment?
  • etc.

Based on that information, they may adapt their specific offer. For example, a good customer might get a better interest rate, a higher credit limit, etc.

It works like this (more or less):

  1. The company performs a statistical analysis on historical data that they have on all their existing customers
    • They may break the data down into smaller groups that have something in common (called segmentation) so that the resulting analysis is more precise
  2. From this analysis, they will identify characteristics (attributes or pieces of information) that are “predictive”
    • That is, the characteristics show a statistically significant relationship to past results (positive or negative)
  3. Each characteristic is then broken down into ranges of possible values
    • For example, a characteristic based on family income may be broken down into ranges as follows:
      • 1-30000
      • 30001-60000
      • 60001-90000
      • 90001-120000
      • over 120000
  4. Each range is then given a score and the attribute is also usually assigned an expected score. For example
  5. Characteristic Expected Score Range Score
    Family income 50 1-30000 10
    30001-60000 25
    60001-90000 40
    90001-120000 65
    over 120000 75
  6. This is repeated for many characteristics and combined together into a single scorecard.
  7. In addition to a score for each range, a reason code may be attached to a specific range value to provide some indication as to which attribute may have scored low (i.e. lower than the expected score).

In the end, when executing a scorecard the result will be a score calculated based on all the indivdual scores of each attribute and a list of reason codes (usually the codes associated to the attributes that score the most negative, if applicable).

This score can then be used as part of another calculation to calculate a risk rating, credit limit, interest rate, etc.

That is about it! Now you have a basic understanding of what a scorecard is. In the near future, I will post my review of the Scorecard Modeler add on for JRules.

In the meantime, if you have questions about scorecards or the post needs clarifications, feel free to comment and drop me a line!

#BRF Emerging Trends & Decisioning Panel – Follow up

This entry is part 24 of 24 in the series Business Rules Forum 2009

Last november I wrote many posts from the Business Rules Forum in Las Vegas, one of which was trying to capture the information from the “Emerging Trends and Decisioning Panel”. My original post can be found here:¬†https://www.primatek.ca/blog/2009/11/05/brf-emerging-trends-decision-panel/

Well, BRCommunity has publish a full transcript of the panel which can be found at: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2010/b547.html.

You may have to register to the web site to have access to the contents but if you are interested in this topic it is worth it.

Enjoy!

Book Review: jBPM Developer Guide

A few months ago, PACKT Publishing released a new book on jBPM called “jBPM Developer Guide” by Mauricio Salatino.

The book is meant for java developers, but takes the developer by the hand in the first couple of chapters to walk them through some of the required concepts and the tools that will be used in the book. I tend to like that approach since the book does not claim to be an “advanced” development book, and makes sure that the required background in the form of a tutorial is included in the book. Some more experienced developers may end up skipping the first few chapters.

Although jBPM can support many languages (jPDL, BPEL, Pageflow), the book focuses on jPDL to keep the scope of the book under control. Once again, this is a good thing to keep discussions focused on the framework, and not on the language being used with it.

After the introductory chapters, the book gets into more interesting details about jPDL, Persistence, Human Tasks, etc. The topics are covered in details, examples are provided and it does a decent job of making sure that developers have all the basic tools they need to work with jBPM.

The last chapter, chapter 12 titled “Going Enterprise” touches lightly on some of the topics required for going to a Java EE environment. It is interesting and could go in more details but ends abruptly, with a conclusion that is not worthy to be called the conclusion to a book.

The book was written with jBPM 3.2.6 in mind although jBPM 4.0 was actually released in July 2009 and jBPM 4.3 was released basically at the same time as the book was released. This may look like the author did not use the latest and greatest version of jPBM, but actually, considering the fact that jBPM 4 was a full re-write some of the features were missing from version 3.2.6 it makes sense.

Version 3.2.6 is also the latest version that was officially supported by a company, which means that if you want to use version 4 in a production environment, you are on your own with the community. For some, that may make a big difference.

Now that jPBM 5 has been announced (leaving jBPM 4 where?I am not sure),   I look forward to seeing an updated version of that book in a little while when jBPM 5 has matured into something more concrete.

All in all, a decent book for developers getting started with jBPM, as long as they are using version 3 and not version 4 of the framework.

Time to kick off 2010

Well it is time to start posting again,

After a blogging break over the last couple of weeks it is time to look at what this year will hopefully bring in for this blog.

First, I am hoping to continue blogging regularly and to work on some new series of posts.

Some of the things I have in mind:

  • A revisiting of some of the posts I made from the 2 conferences I attended in the fall. Blogging the conference is always crazy so now it is time to revisit some of those topics
  • A series of interviews with some really interesting people from the industry (I haven’t started that yet)
  • A review of a few books related to Business Rules and BPM
  • Possibly a few product reviews
  • And of course if I can, Coverage of conferences on business rules and maybe even some vendor conferences

If any readers have suggestions for related topics to cover on the blog, feel free to suggest them!

Finally, although I’m a bit late in doing so, I wish everyone the best for 2010.

Business Rules Governance and Management – Part X – Best Practices

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Business Rules Governance and Management

This post is part of a series on Business Rules Governance and Management for which the main article can be found here.

In previous posts, I have discussed almost all the topics I wanted to cover (so far) concerning Business Rules Governance and Management. This last post will look at the challenges to expect and some best practices.

Challenges

At DIALOG08, Pierre Berlandier made a presentation on the Challenges expected when implementing Business Rules Governance and Management Processes.

Here are a few :

  1. Staffing of the various roles
    • Staffing of roles is not considered a priority initially
    • Workers are performing other tasks at the same time (multi-tasking)
    • Mitigation:
    • Have a plan with realistic resource availability
    • Have staffing specific tasks in the plan
  2. Internal politics
    • The new, closer relationship between IT and business is difficult to manage
    • Mitigation:
    • This is one of the key benefits of having appropriate governance in place
    • Need to build mutual trust by having appropriate processes in place, and having well defined roles and responsibilities
  3. Lack of BRMS experience
    • Mitigation:
    • Hire outside help and take an incremental approach
    • Train your staff

Best Practices

James Taylor wrote a blog post called “Governance Change Control And Rules” based on a presentation he saw at DIALOG09.

Below is a list of the takeaways from the panel.

There are many things that can help improve the results of a governance implementation in a company. Some of these have been identified by different sources and are reported here to put emphasis on key items that will help implanting the governance process.

  • Executive sponsorship and active evangelism are key
  • Build expertise – centers of excellence – within the groups that are managing rules
  • Start early and iterate the process as you learn more
  • One size will not fit all – be flexible, classify different kinds of rule change and manage them differently
  • Give rule change authority to the people who are expert in the policy
  • People and process matter far more than tools

References

From http://blogs.ilog.com/events/2009/02/05/governance-change-control-and-rules/, by James Taylor

Live from DIALOG – Best Practices in Rule Governance, Blog Post by James Taylor On a Presentation By Pierre Berlandier at DIALOG08
http://jtonedm.com/2008/02/24/live-from-dialog-best-practices-in-rule-governance/

Business Rules Governance and Management – Part IX – Center of Excellence

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Business Rules Governance and Management

This post is part of a series on Business Rules Governance and Management for which the main article can be found here.

In previous posts I covered most of the main points relating to Business Rules Governance and Management.

I now want to put all of this work into context with an even bigger picture in mind.

Most of the business rules implementation will come through an initiative that is part of a project. An IT Project will look at what it needs to accomplish, do some research, decide they need a Business Rules Management System (BRMS) and implement one as part of the project.

The next phase will come when they are delivering the project and need to pass on the responsibility of the rules to operations in the organization. The need for management processes and governance is greater at that time and the work discussed as part of this series of posts is performed.

CoE-1

In the meantime, or as part of a separate project in the organization, another initiative that uses business rules is started. They had seen the success and benefits of the first business rules initiative and decided to start using the same approach. Eventually this new project will also need to instill management and governance processes.

CoE-2

As one can imagine, the evolution will probably not stop there and now is the time to think about how to take it to the next level.

Enters the Center Of Excellence (CoE). The CoE is the next step that the organization will probably have to take. The CoE’s mission should be to support any project that intends to use business rules.

The CoE should be the place where:

  • Business Rules specialists (Business and Technical) are united to support projects in a consulting role
  • Training for new people can be coordinated
  • Projects look to get additional resources for execution of the project plan
  • Best practices, Management Processes, Governance Processes are developed

I have covered some of this topic in a previous post called “BPM Center of Excellence applied to Business Rules” (https://www.primatek.ca/blog/2009/03/22/bpm-center-of-excellence/)

CoE-3

Once the Center of Excellence is in place, other projects can more easily benefit from the experiences of other projects.

CoE-4

Although the interactions are shown as ‚Äúone way‚ÄĚ in the diagram above, in real life the interactions are expected to be bidirectional.

In the next post, we will look at some of the challenges you should anticipate as well as some best practices to hopefully make your Governance and Management initiative a successful one.

Business Rules Governance and Management – Part VIII – Access Control

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Business Rules Governance and Management

This post is part of a series on Business Rules Governance and Management for which the main article can be found here.

In the previous article of the series, we discussed some of the more important management processes that are required for good business rules management. One of the topics that was touched on in previous articles relates to who can do what, when and the related approval processes.

Security and Access Control can end up playing a vital role in the management processes relating to business rules. There are many ways that your organization may need to control access and security but I will discuss 2 ways which should fit most organizations.

Controlling Access by Role

The list of roles created in previous steps, the life cycle of rules (states and transitions) and the processes might require that only people with specific roles are allowed to perform only specific operations.

For example, it might be unwise to let anyone push rules to production. Was the rule tested? Is it giving the right results?, etc. Similarly you may not want to let a Rule Administrator create or modify rules (their knowledge of the business and the rules might be insufficient).

Each organization will have different requirements for controlling these accesses. Each organisation will also have a very different environment in which these controls need to be implemented (from a technical point of view). It is therefore important that these topics be discussed so that appropriate control mechanisms can be put in place.

Controlling Access by Subject Area

In your organization there may be a need to limit access to specific Subject Areas or groups of rules or rulesets.

For example, all users might have the right to read all the rules, but only users from the marketing and sales area can change the business rules related to marketing and sales. Or if you have multiple product lines, you may want to limit access by product line. You may even want to break it down by rulesets within an subject area. It all depends on your organizations needs, the size of the team you are dealing with, how you are organizing work related to business rules, etc.

The Business Rules Management System (BRMS) that your organization is using should hopefully provide you with the tools or components required to fulfill your security requirements.

In the next post of the series, we will go back to a higher level view and discuss the next steps for implementation of business rules governance and management.