Don't choose between business rules or processes. The value is in both!

By Victor Beverloo

13-Jul-2015 14:06:00


In many companies employees are busy capturing their operations in "business processes". In defining these you face a few challenges:

  • What standard do you use, for example BPMN 2.0?
  • What drawing tool do you use, Visio or a more sophisticated tool?
  • Which level of abstract do you choose, descriptive level 1, Level 2 analytical or Level 3 executable?
  • Will you also record the business rules in the processes and if so, how?
  • How do you harmonize the processes across the locations/units/countries/etc.?
  • How do you deal with exceptions?

Puzzle_piecesTo start with the last point. How to handle exceptions? Often the first draft of a business process is drawn in a workshop. During the workshop a discussion with "yes-but" will occur. In other words, the right process is drawn, unfortunately there are some exceptions. After some discussion comes the liberating quote: "Let's not model exceptions, but the main process. We aim for a 95% coverage”. For the drawing process this approach is fine, unfortunately for implementation it’s not. The automated systems to support the processes must 'understand' when it’s permissible to deviate from the 95%. Software does not understand this automatically, so there should be clear rules for that. As a result, all transactions will be enforced through the drawn process or there is a loophole created for exceptions. When and how the loophole is used is often ambiguous.

There is a solution that always works. Capture the business rules. Business rules can be described to be 100% adequate. Just try to write all the rules in an existing process containing a decision. Drawings contain "approved / disapproved". For the approval of products, the rules could be:

  • Temperature between 2 and 5 ° C
  • Weight per bag between 10.0 and 10.5 kg
  • Label scannable
  • Packaging damage
  • Etc.

If one of the criteria is not satisfactory, it is clear that the process cannot continue. This is clear to everyone and you do not draw complicated loops in the process.

In short, in order to successfully execute a change, drawing a process is not enough. It is also essential to capture all business rules. Capturing these rules should be done by the business itself and not by ICT. ICT should make the translation into software systems and not have to write the rules. Practice shows that companies that establish their rules well in advance are 25% faster in project implementation and reduce the cost of failure by up to 20%!

Topics: business rules, business processes