Strategic BPM: The Business Rules Bonus An ACI Worldwide White Paper

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1 Strategic BPM: The Business Rules Bonus An ACI Worldwide White Paper In today s volatile business climate, agility and flexibility are two requirements for survival. Companies must be able to react to changing market pressures and new market opportunities faster than the competition to ensure success. Many companies are turning to business process management (BPM) software to accomplish this by optimizing existing processes and automating new ones. BPM solutions essentially help organizations define, optimize, execute, monitor and manage processes that are critical to the business. Typically, BPM involves integrating both systems and applications with human workflow and exception handling processes, which enables organizations to quickly modify their business processes in response to changing business needs. white paper

2 2006 ACI Worldwide 330 South 108 th Avenue Omaha, Nebraska All rights reserved. All information in this document is confidential and proprietary to ACI Worldwide Inc. No part of this document may be photocopied or reproduced in any manner without the prior written consent of ACI Worldwide.

3 Table of Contents Executive Overview...1 How BPM Addresses Business Process Challenge...2 Business Rules Why Bother?...3 The Business Rules Engine (BRE)...4 When Should an Organization Consider a BRE?...5 The Benefits of a BRE...6 Where BPM and BRE Fit Together Best...7 Conclusion...9 Combining BPM and BRE for Maximum Advantage...10

4 Executive Overview In today s volatile business climate, agility and flexibility are two requirements for survival. Companies must be able to react to changing market pressures and new market opportunities faster than the competition to ensure success. Many companies are turning to business process management (BPM) software to accomplish this by optimizing existing processes and automating new ones. BPM solutions essentially help organizations define, optimize, execute, monitor and manage processes that are critical to the business. Typically, BPM involves integrating both systems and applications with human workflow and exception handling processes, which enables organizations to quickly modify their business processes in response to changing business needs. But for most organizations, BPM solutions are just one part of the solution for creating a flexible and agile set of automated business processes. Business rules technologies (also known as business rules engines or BREs) are an important complimentary technology that enable organizations to realize the full value of BPM and reduce the amount of work required to modify critical business processes. Any organization evaluating or deploying BPM should understand and explore the role that business rules play in a process-oriented solution, as well as where the organization may gain benefits from using a BRE. ACI Worldwide offers BPM solutions that combine BPM and BRE to deliver maximum business benefits. This paper identifies the values of both BPM and BREs and the type of business problems best suited for these solutions. It provides business managers with a high-level background of both technologies and discusses where the combination of the two can maximize the business benefits to an organization. 1

5 How BPM Addresses Business Process Challenges BPM helps organizations define, optimize, design, integrate, automate, monitor and manage business processes that support the strategies and goals of the organization. Using tools such as business process designers and integration tools to connect existing systems and applications, BPM solutions provide a structured way to streamline critical processes, improve organizational efficiency and responsiveness, and monitor and manage those processes for optimal business benefits. With BPM, companies can solve the tedium of their existing business processes and increase their agility to compete more effectively in today s business climate. Although BPM solutions can be effective at the departmental level, organizations realize the real value of these solutions when a process extends across departments and involves multiple systems and human touch points. For many organizations, this is where technologies that complement BPM such as business rules engines can become effective instruments. Complementary technologies, such as business rules, enable organizations to extend the benefits of BPM and optimize their business performance by enforcing corporate governance and policies across the enterprise. 2

6 Business Rules Why Bother? Automating business processes with BPM is only one part of creating a flexible and agile IT infrastructure. Beyond the definition and automation of business processes, most organizations (and business processes) are governed by complex rules that provide the guidelines and conditions under which they operate. These business rules, whether explicit or implied, often define how the company will operate and ultimately determine whether the company will succeed. In BPM pilot projects or limited-scope BPM projects, most companies identify the business rules that impact the particular process being automated, then hard-code them into scripts, code or part of the process design itself. In a traditional BPM solution, designers and developers must script the individual business rules into the business process. This is often a highly involved task, particularly because business rules are difficult to define. If a rule hasn t been previously defined, then taking time during the BPM process design phase to identify, define and code the business rules adds complexity and time to the project. Unfortunately, once the rules have been hard-coded into the business process and the new process is released into production, it is difficult to modify the business rules. It also becomes difficult to share the rules with other business processes. The result is silos of business rules that only apply to a particular process and make it difficult for an organization to respond to market changes or business opportunities. That s where BREs can be influential. 3

7 The Business Rules Engine (BRE) Many organizations are addressing the challenge of managing business rules across the enterprise by investing in a BRE. A BRE is designed to bring order and structure to the often scattered use of business rules throughout an organization. By encapsulating, packaging and deploying the business rules and decision logic that make a company unique, a BRE empowers the company to compete more effectively in today s markets. The key advantage of a BRE resides in its ability to add another layer of agility and flexibility to the corporate IT infrastructure. Just as BPM solutions enable them to define, execute, monitor and manage their business processes, BRE solutions enable organizations to define, reuse and manage the rules and decision points that feed into their business processes. With a BRE in place, organizations can centralize their business rules, thus eliminating multiple definitions of the same rule while allowing distributed rules creation and modification at the local level within individual departments. This enables them to adapt and modify their processes and decision criteria more rapidly, often without IT or developer resources. By removing the silos of rules that are hard-coded across separate applications, an organization can operate more efficiently. Business rules can be reused and applied consistently across business processes and throughout the organization. As a result, companies can truly leverage one of their most valuable resources. BREs also allow organizations to simplify business processes where a business rule can actually take the place of one or more business process steps. This enables organizations to further streamline important business processes and eliminate needless steps. Today s leading BREs provide a graphical interface for defining rules, which replaces the traditional format of creating if, then, else statements. This makes them much more intuitive for users who are unfamiliar with rules logic. The interface also enables rules to be quickly modified to reflect changes in business strategy or requirements. 4

8 When Should an Organization Consider a BRE? Although a BRE is not required to achieve benefits from a BPM solution, it can significantly enhance the benefits. Without a BRE, a company implementing BPM may find that it is still unable to change things quickly enough to respond to business needs. Instead of being able to make a fast change to an important business rule by themselves, business analysts must seek the help of IT or process designers, which can take additional time. Furthermore, when IT has to change the hard-coding of a business rule, it often has a domino effect throughout the process and takes even longer than initially anticipated. Simply put, without a BRE, the new BPM-enabled business processes will not provide the maximum flexibility or agility. So how can an organization determine whether it needs both BPM and a BRE? The answer depends on the organization s specific situation, but there are some general guidelines. For organizations that have well-defined business processes with decision points and variables that do not frequently change, a BRE may be unnecessary. If the processes run well without the need for optimization or continuous fine-tuning, then BPM alone may be sufficient. Similarly, organizations that are in the pilot stage of BPM or have only recently launched a BPM trial most often do not require a BRE at those points of the project. Conversely, organizations with business processes that require dynamic decision points or contain process steps that will vary over time need a BRE. An example of such a company would be one that has a gold-level customer definition. This business rule defines exactly what customers qualify for gold level and impacts every interaction the company has with the customer, including special pricing, added services or benefits, and contract terms. The definition of gold-level customer may need to change frequently, and its impact will be felt across processes and systems. For a company like this, a BRE makes perfect sense. A company that has moved beyond a BPM pilot project and is deploying one or more BPM applications will also most likely benefit from a BRE. In this case, a BRE becomes particularly valuable because it reduces the time required to make modifications to the rules that are tied closely with the business processes and typically do not require IT involvement. Additionally, a BRE allows organizations to define standard business rules or rule services that can be used consistently across business processes and applications. This contributes to organizational efficiencies and overall effectiveness and brings measurable business benefits. 5 As stated previously, organizations can implement BPM without a BRE. However, should an organization decide to incorporate a BRE at a later date, it is best to understand now what impacts and benefits it will have on the BPM solution and IT environment.

9 The Benefits of a BRE Once a company has assessed its current position on the BPM continuum, it will have a better understanding of how a BRE will fit into its business process initiatives. Taking a closer look at some of the benefits of a BRE can help organizations understand exactly what impact it can have on their current efforts. Reduce Maintenance Costs. Implementing a BRE reduces the cost of rules maintenance because it provides a centralized repository for rules and eliminates the need for rules silos throughout the organization. Additionally, there is only one copy of a rule, so only that rule needs to be changed when modifications are necessary. Improve Productivity. With a BRE in place, organizations can reap the benefits of streamlined business rules and definitions, as well as replace a significant number of manual processes with repeatable, reusable business rules. Reduce IT Requirements. By using a BRE with a BPM solution, organizations empower business users to make changes in rules that reflect business changes. IT no longer has to manage the process, and developers can be redeployed to other projects rather than spending time re-scripting the changes. Improve Efficiency. An organization can experience significant improvement in efficiency from a BRE. By moving all business rules into a centralized storage location with streamlined creation, deployment and management, organizations can maximize limited resources. Consistent Execution of Business Policies. By adding a BRE to a BPM solution, organizations can achieve a level of consistency that might previously have been difficult, if not impossible. With a BRE, companies can define their policies in the form of business rules (for example, the VIP customer creates a consistent definition of preferred customers) and ensure that they are executed across the enterprise. These business benefits illustrate some of the ways organizations can realize returns on investment with a BRE. Armed with this information, business managers and IT leaders can make a compelling case for a BRE. 6

10 Where BPM and a BRE Fit Together Best Understanding how a combination BPM/BRE solution works can help organizations to assess the true business value of adding a BRE to BPM. Consider the following scenario of an automotive parts distributor that has benefited from adding a BRE to its BPM system. FastParts Corp. is a leader in its market for selling automotive parts. The company has built its reputation on delivering quality products quickly to its dealer and repair shop base. In recent years, with the competition increasing, the company has tried to differentiate itself by offering red-carpet services to some of its best customers. Several of its regional sales managers have identified the criteria by which they judge their VIP customers, including the amount of sales each year, frequency of orders and on-time payments. Each regional sales manager has a slightly different definition of the VIP customer, and they have incorporated these rules into their ordering processes. FastParts recently adopted a BPM solution and successfully piloted an order management application for a small group of salesmen. The order management process has involved a step where certain discounts and other extras are offered depending on the customer level. In the pilot, the rules of what makes a VIP customer were coded into the process, and it worked well when it was released. Now the company wants to roll out the order management application to the entire sales force. They need to establish a standard definition for VIP customers, as well as customary levels of benefits for all customers. To achieve this without a BRE, the company would have to hard-code the rules into each new application created for the various business processes that involve the customer, including order management, returns management, billing and customer service. After researching BREs, FastParts realized it could benefit from adding a BRE to its BPM suite. Once the BRE is in place, the company can create a global definition for VIP customers and apply it to all of the business processes becoming automated. In addition, the BRE provides the business analyst associated with the sales department the ability to alter the definition of the VIP customer as the business climate changes. Similarly, individual departments, including accounting, sales and customer service, can define their own rules relating to their processes and manage them at the local level all the while ensuring that they support the defined global business rules. 7 With the BPM/BRE combination, FastParts can better meet the needs of its customers, and deliver superior services and benefits consistent with corporate strategy. However, the company still enables individual departments to customize for

11 specific situations. In addition, the BRE provides the flexibility to make changes to the business rules as the business changes its strategy, without extensive or costly IT development resources. 8

12 Conclusion With all of the technologies available to enterprises today, purchasing decisions can be challenging. BPM has gained attention in recent years because of its ability to deliver business benefits relatively quickly. By automating and streamlining core business processes, organizations can gain competitive advantage, improve efficiency and eliminate unnecessary costs. All of these benefits make a compelling case for BPM. At the same time, BREs enable organizations to gain control of valuable business rules and manage them in a more efficient manner. Combining a BRE with a BPM system enables organizations to maximize the power of business processes and put that power into the hands of business users. Companies currently embarking on BPM should carefully evaluate BRE as a complementary technology. 9

13 Combining BPM and BRE for Maximum Advantage ACI Worldwide understands the value of a combined BPM and BRE solution. ACI WorkPoint is a powerful BPM solution that automates tasks, optimizes resources and manages human and automated processes across the enterprise. WorkPoint offers platform and database independence, which maximizes the flexibility of the BPM solution and provides an extensible, scalable solution for organizations embarking on BPM initiatives. In addition to this enterprise BPM solution, ACI offers ACI WorkPoint Advantage, which is the WorkPoint BPM solution combined with a complementary BRE. WorkPoint Advantage provides a way of encapsulating, packaging and deploying the business rules and decision logic that make a company unique and leverage best practices. With WorkPoint Advantage, companies can quickly and efficiently capture key business changes and decision criteria, as well as optimize complex business processes. WorkPoint Advantage enables users to leverage the in-depth process orchestration, integration and monitoring of BPM with the rules engine to handle complex logic and eliminate errors in scripting these rules. The results include simpler process definitions, less coding and the ability to respond to changing business needs immediately. Existing WorkPoint customers can add a BRE to their current BPM initiatives by upgrading to Workpoint Advantage to increase the efficiency of their business processes and reduce the cost of managing the rules and processes. The WorkPoint Advantage BPM/ BRE solution offers several benefits: Increased flexibility and agility to respond to changing business needs Ability to manage complex business rules and process logic Ability to reduce deployment costs while improving operational efficiencies Replacement of time-intensive manual human decision points with automated business rules that streamline automated business processes and eliminate user errors ACI s BPM/BRE solution is more compelling than alternative solutions because of its flexibility and scalability. WorkPoint is an enterprise BPM solution that can operate in both Microsoft Windows and UNIX environments, and it provides the tools to easily integrate with existing enterprise applications and systems. In addition, WorkPoint s BRE deploys with minimal requirements, thus providing organizations with additional flexibility, including the ability to use the same WorkPoint server for the rules engine. The fluency of the rules design environment makes it easier for business users to define rules, thereby improving productivity and reducing costs. With the combination of WorkPoint and a rules engine, organizations can leverage the promise of BPM and BRE in an integrated, scalable environment. 10

14 ACI WORLDWIDE IS A TSA COMPANY. NASDAQ : TSAI. WWW. ACIWORLDWIDE. COM OFFICES IN PRINCIPAL CITIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD A M E R I C A S A S I A / PAC I F I C E U RO P E / M I D D L E E A S T / A F R I C A AWP

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