Business Rules Management (BRM) is a recognized approached for achieving business agility that made its way in the last 20 to 30 years and allies management disciplines and results from the research community on business rules. Now, business rules are changing the way organizations think about their business.
As we are switching from a procedural way of viewing the business, to a rule-based perspective, we are only just entering the age of the business rules enabled business. And this age will lead us to ask some fundamental questions about many aspects of conducting the business. As I will concentrate on showing it in a first series of articles on business rules, decision management and knowledge management are two aspects of the business strongly influenced by business rules.
One aspect business are struggling with is to find a common informational basis on which to build business rules. Before modelling and managing business rules, business and rule experts have to define and agree on what they seek to model decisions for. Without a clear definition of the aspects of the business rules are enacted on, rules are of no value to any organization. The problem with this is that usually, stakeholders in the process of defining business rules depend on the use made of these rules. These stakeholders should all be included in the process of defining rules. One aspect of this involvement is their participation in the definition of a common task-dependent business model for the rules.
This common understanding can be modelled by the definition and use of a business vocabulary. The necessity of having a common vocabulary for all the stakeholders involved in the business rules management process has often been signalled. In his business rules reference book: "Business Rule Concepts" (), Ronald G. Ross explains the necessity of using a common facts and terms model. Term models allow the different stakeholders involved in the BRM process to agree on the scope they are considering for rules, and on the signification (formally weak but clear semantics) they give to these terms. Facts are simple assertions about commonly agreed on truths on the terms. Facts allow the BRM stakeholders to define properties of facts and relations between facts. As in , “a fact model establishes the basis for shared operational business knowledge”, Ronald G. Ross acknowledges and motivates the need for the definition of these facts and terms models, to form the business vocabulary.
Business rules without a business vocabulary cannot transport decisions effectively, since no clear definition is given to the concepts handled by rules. Hence, rules may lead to unexpected or wrong decisions from the point of view of stakeholders. Most BRM products offer functionalities to build a business vocabulary. But which requirements should be defined for a vocabulary model to be efficiently used? Where does the definition of such a vocabulary fit in a BRM lifecycle? I will discuss this in the next post.
References:  Business Rule Concepts. Second Edition. Ronald G. Ross.