Answers to Top BRMS Questions

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1 November 2009 Answers to Top BRMS Questions Answers to ten frequently asked questions about what business rule management systems are and how they are used Brett Stineman Product Marketing, Business Rules Management (WebSphere), Application and Integration Middleware Software, IBM Software Group

2 Page 2 Answers to Top BRMS Questions In the current economy, interest in business rule management is coming from not only IT, but often business managers eager to respond more quickly to change and improve control over their critical business systems. Those new to business rules usually have the following questions about the technology, how it applies and what results are like. What do business rule management systems do? What s the difference between a BRMS and a rules engine? How can I tell whether a BRMS is a good fit for an application? What are typical applications for BRMS in financial services? How should we start using BRMS? What skills are needed for a successful BRMS deployment? Can non-technical staff easily work with the system? What does system maintenance involve? What improvements can be expected from a BRMS? How does BRMS fit into standard IT platforms like Java,.NET or COBOL?

3 Page 3 What do business rule A Business Rule Management System (BRMS) is an integrated application management systems do? development and execution platform that allows organizations to define, deploy, monitor and maintain the vast variety of automated decisions used by operational systems. A BRMS allows decision logic to be extracted and managed separately from core application code, so that it can be easily understood, maintained and reused across the organization. By externalizing conditional rules from application code and process models, business experts can own their definition, maintenance and governance, reducing the amount of time and effort required to update automated decisions in production systems, and increasing the organization s ability to respond to changes in the business environment. A BRMS is designed to both handle decisions that change frequently and those with high variability from one customer interaction, transaction or process to the next. Because a BRMS is able to base each decision output on a variety of input data and multiple interrelated rules, it is able to apply fine-grained terms, offers, actions or other custom decisions at the individual level, while also enforcing compliance with internal business policies and external regulations when required.

4 Page 4 What s the difference between a A business rule engine is a component of a BRMS. It allows disparate systems BRMS and a rules engine? to invoke rule execution, and determines the proper firing of rules based on the context of the request. Rule engines can combine data with rules to determine a result (decision), which is then passed back to the system that made the request. When rule technology first became commercialized, the products were focused on the execution engine and the algorithms that rule engines used to determine which rules are applicable and in which order they should be evaluated for a given request. Over time, tools and capabilities were added to allow business user involvement in managing rules, including the ability to test the business impact of changes to rules. It is with these improvements that rule engines went from being standalone products to components within a BRMS. A BRMS includes, at a minimum, three primary components: A repository allowing rules to be externalized from core application code. The repository allows decision logic to be managed as an enterprise asset, making it easier to understand and update automated, operational decisions. The repository also enables decision logic to be consolidated from disparate applications and information silos so that it can shared and reused across the organization. Tools allowing both technical and nontechnical business system stakeholders to define and manage decision logic in the repository. These tools give business functions the ability to define rules that will guide the behavior of operational systems, while also facilitating collaboration between business and IT on application development and maintenance. A runtime engine allowing production systems to access and execute decision logic managed within the BRMS. The rule engine executes requests based on specific business context, using a combination of data inputs, sets of applicable rules, and execution algorithms that define how to process the data and rules in order to provide a decision output.

5 Page 5 How can I tell whether a BRMS is a A key factor is the degree and frequency of change in a particular business good fit for an application? operation, especially when that change affects critical business systems. Organizations that are looking to accelerate their responsiveness to change (due to market demands, competitive actions, new business models/strategies or regulatory requirements) look at using a BRMS in order to enable quick changes without lengthy IT projects. Another factor is the level of complexity of the decisions in question. For applications with large volumes of complex and interrelated business policies, like those involving risk-based pricing or point-of-sale decisions that can require hundreds to thousands of business rules, then a BRMS would be a good fit. Ownership can also determine fit. Regardless of the frequency of change, some rules, like those in risk assessment or sales offers, need to be in the tight control of business users. A BRMS provides a comprehensive yet user-friendly environment for rule creation, access and maintenance. One especially important capability of a BRMS for business users is the ability to define rules in a non-technical (and easily customizable) syntax, but which still allows for the rules to be deployed into the production environment for use by operational business systems. Another consideration is the need to justify actions or decisions. Why was this loan application rejected? Why was that claim settled for US$550? A BRMS handles decisions consistently and documents the reasoning behind them, yet allows permissible situations to be handled according to their specific needs and context. This yields drastic savings of time, error and liability, and shifts the focus to exception management. In terms of auditability, the BRMS repository provides a history of policy changes over time, so that decisions can be matched to the specific versions of rules fired at the time the rule engine was invoked by a transactional system or process a powerful way to quickly and thoroughly meet any compliance mandates.

6 Page 6 What are typical applications for Organizations across all industries and the public sector have been able to BRMS in financial services? improve their operational systems through the adoption and implementation of a BRMS. Some examples of applications include: Banking loan origination, cross-sell offer management, payment fee calculations, credit risk decisions Capital markets trade order validation, account on-boarding, anti-money laundering compliance, general ledger data validation Health care and life sciences clinical decision support, drug interaction assessment, clinical trials data validation Insurance policy underwriting, claims processing, risk rating, commission calculations Manufacturing order configuration validation, contract-based billing, order prioritization Public sector services entitlement and benefits calculation, tax fraud assessment, homeland security screening Retail online recommendations, pricing and tax calculations, loyalty program offer management Telecom offer configuration, service prioritization and assignment, cross-network billing, loyalty programs Travel and transportation loyalty programs, contract-based billing management, ticket pricing Customer relationship management (CRM) and point-of-sale (POS) enhancements are in high demand at the moment due to current market conditions and higher scrutiny over business operations. CRM and POS with embedded BRMS have been proven to drive higher customer acquisition rates through better customer experiences and highly personalized offers. Complex functions, like creating unique bundles based on the best fit between a customer s goals, preferences and risk profile are automated in real time.

7 Page 7 How should we start using BRMS? While a BRMS can be used across many different functions of an organization, ideally it is deployed gradually. First, identify pain points within your organization s operations and processes where there are frequent changes to business policies and decisions, and which require fast implementation. Look at business areas you are trying to improve with better responsiveness to changing conditions, fewer manual steps, higher consistency, more granular customization, or with more transparency and visibility these are the low hanging fruit areas where BRMS-based automated decisioning will provide dramatic returns. Also, initially look for applications that have well-known and documented business policies, because less time will be spent on harvesting and understanding rules before putting them into the BRMS. Once the first application has been deployed, the IT and business teams can leverage best practices for the creation, implementation and maintenance of new rule-based applications and further expansion can be made with greater confidence.

8 Page 8 What skills are needed for a successful BRMS deployment? It is critical that both business and IT stakeholders are involved. The business representatives are experts on the functions being automated, and the IT people help deliver the infrastructure that will support business rule management. Typically, a BRMS team is made up of the following roles: 1. BRMS project lead defines the task level implementation plan, the resources, the task dependencies and so forth. The lead is also responsible for defining the rule governance process. 2. Enterprise architect defines the overall solution, including the technical architecture and the integration of the BRMS into the technology stack. The architect also keeps an eye on the reusability of the infrastructure and BRMS-based decision services across other product lines, divisions or lines of business, making sure the BRMS investment is fully leveraged through expansion. 3. Business policy analyst defines the rule structure, which is the organization of rules into logical categories and rule sets that correspond to the way that business experts think about their policies and rules. 4. Rule developer responsible for implementing the business rules applications. 5. Internal business experts subject matter experts who are involved in defining the goals of a rule-based application and maintaining the rules for their areas of domain expertise. Professional consultants and methodology experts have also proven their worth many times over by bringing projects and teams together quickly and successfully. They can be involved lightly or deeply, from blending in with your teams to helping set up the whole BRMS infrastructure, accelerating breakeven and ROI. In some instances, such as legacy modernization projects, people with specific experience (for example, COBOL programming) may be needed to harvest rules from existing systems.

9 Page 9 Can non-technical staff easily work Most often, nontechnical staff should be involved in updating and with the system? maintaining the business rules, so your BRMS evaluation should include a close look at the non-technical business user interface and tools. The BRMS should provide specific environments for each type of user, from business experts to developers to systems administrators. Some BRMS products have a Web-based interface for business users, providing graphical and natural-language rule editors. In these cases, rules are accessed and maintained through this interface, which might also include the ability to perform testing and simulation, as well as methods for routing rules to IT or a rule governance team for approval and deployment. Some BRMS offerings may also include guided authoring and maintenance of rules in desktop applications such as Microsoft Word or Excel. What does system maintenance For maintenance, it is helpful to think of the business rule life cycle in which involve? rules are defined, validated, tested and then deployed to a production system. Rules are monitored and updated with versioning controls as they change to meet new business circumstances, and then are retired when no longer relevant. As far as who maintains the various aspects of rule-based applications, business users usually handle policy management, which consists of the creation and/or update of business rules. IT typically manages the BRMS platform itself, such as adding or phasing out decision attributes, updating rule vocabulary or reorganizing rule hierarchies. IT also makes sure that technology integration testing is done alongside the business outcome testing. Also, there are system administrators who take care of deploying business rule applications and SOA-based decision services, as well as monitoring the rule execution throughout all systems. Again, it is vital that a BRMS address the specific maintenance needs of each stakeholder in the rule life cycle with tools and environments designed for both non-technical and technical participants.

10 Page 10 What improvements can be expected The most common improvement is decreasing time to market for products, from a BRMS? services and business policy implementation. Companies often experience significant speed gains, like the threefold improvement achieved by one topfive diversified financial company in the United States. Updates to product or eligibility guidelines can be rolled out in a matter of days or hours when using a BRMS, instead of weeks or even months without. Streamlined operations are a common result, including cost reductions, faster processing and better customer service. We hear a lot about shifting customer service organizations from a transaction orientation to being focused on nurturing customer relationships. Of course, there will always be exceptional situations that require manual intervention, but a BRMS enables many customers to dramatically increase the number and frequency of automated decisions in their operational systems. You can also expect higher quality decisioning, applied quickly and consistently. Some decisions among IBM WebSphere ILOG BRMS customers use over 3,000 rules, delivering a level of granularity that would be impossible with traditional embedded decision logic. Example cases include a large health insurer that cut its claims processing time by over 30 percent, while also automating about 80 percent of the decisions that were previously handled manually for dramatic improvements to operations. Another company achieved a fivefold reduction in staff days by implementing policy changes with WebSphere ILOG BRMS.

11 Page 11 How does BRMS fit into standard IT The ease of integration depends on the BRMS. When a BRMS is natively platforms like Java,.NET or COBOL? built in the platform of your business, the design, maintenance and execution of BRMS applications are simplified. From a developer standpoint, the BRMS needs to fit within the most frequently used development environment. For Java stacks, for example, the BRMS development tooling should fit within the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). For.NET development, it needs to run within Microsoft Visual Studio. The BRMS should also support a variety of operating systems, application servers, databases and other platform infrastructure. COBOL-based applications are an interesting case. So much is said about legacy migration, but high investment and reliance in COBOL-based systems make it difficult to consider wholesale replacement for many organizations. For these instances, a BRMS system with COBOL code generation and deployment capabilities can resolve both the need for improved system agility and the protection of previous investments. This approach enables externalization of business logic from legacy COBOL code for better and faster change management, while ensuring the continued business operation of core business systems.

12 Page 12 Learn More For more information, please visit the following IBM WebSphere ILOG BRMS sites: BRMS home page on ibm.com < BRMS home page on IBM developerworks < developerworks/websphere/zones/brms/index.html> inquiries to Copyright IBM Corporation 2009 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America November 2009 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, and ibm.com are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol ( or ), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at Copyright and trademark information at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. This document and the software described in this document are the property of IBM and are protected as IBM trade secrets. They are furnished under a license or nondisclosure agreement, and may be used or copied only within the terms of such license or nondisclosure agreement. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. Recyclable, please recycle. WSW14085-USEN-00

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