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3 Tricks for Building Truth Tables

February 17, 2020

Truth tables date back as far as 1902 to logician Charles Sanders Peirce, who used them as a method to display algebraic logic. Truth tables have evolved over the years. As more people rely on them to represent logical outcomes, they have become more useful in other fields, and are now instrumental in business process and automation.

What Is a Truth Table?

A truth table is essentially a rule represented as a table. However, there is more to these tables than just this basic definition. They are a way to represent information and the logical flow of what input data does next.

Truth tables are built into Excel like tables complete with rows and columns. At the top of the table, in the column headers, are the conditions that the rule is based on expressed in a noun/verb structure.

For example, if you were to create a truth table that was pulling the type of car from a list of automobile manufacturers, you may have a column with a heading that reads “CarType In List.” “CarType” would be the noun and “Contains” would be the verb. The rows below this would then express the different types of cars. It is important to note that a truth table has the ability to compare all of the possible combinations from multiple inputs; it is not limited to the input from one single column.

This helps businesses by allowing the truth table to close the loop with an output. The last column in a truth table expresses the output after collecting the data from the input or inputs. The output may be another piece of data or it may be the instructions for what type of action to take by calling a flow. Just as they have the ability to handle multiple inputs, truth tables have the ability to return more than one outcome.

Key Tricks for Building Truth Tables

Traditional truth tables’ reliance on math may make it a bit difficult to put into a business perspective. However, when you look to truth tables as a way to determine logical outcomes, it is easier to see how they are applied toward business and process automation. Thinking this way helps you understand some key tricks that will make creating and using truth tables easier so that you can leverage them to help your business process flows and automation.

1. Understand the different output types
The first trick to building truth tables is to understand the different output types:

  • A data return rule (single) returns a single variable into the flow.
  • A data return rule (multiple) returns multiple variables into the flow.
  • A composite type for when you have multiple outputs in a truth table, if you want access to each output individually rather than as an object.
  • An action rule passes in value and executes a flow.

Understanding the different rule types allows you to better grasp the concept of what you can do with truth tables and the rules you create with them.

2. Understand how truth tables automate flows

This is extremely helpful when you need to analyze data from different inputs and make a decision based on the evaluation of this data. Based on the evaluation of the input data, a truth table can output a yes or no decision, provide an estimated cost, or request more information. This can be helpful if you are trying to automate a self-service flow for your end users. Truth tables also give you the ability to forward information on for approval or automate data entry based on the evaluation of the input. For instance, if an input is red, the data may be sent to one department or person for approval. If the input is blue, the data would move to a different department or person.

3. It is possible to use external truth tables

Not all truth tables require manual input of data. In fact, external truth table data is a common method of populating the columns of a truth table. Excel spreadsheets, CSV files, databases, and even data from a web service or message queue are all able to populate the inputs of truth tables, which allows the truth table to collect information from external sources to avoid duplicating data entry. This not only saves time but also keeps a single source of truth because data from an external truth table must be edited at the source and not within the truth table itself. Register to watch our recent webinar on external truth tables here.

How Decisions Software Helps You with Truth Tables

When it comes to truth tables, you want a solution that makes it as easy as possible to not only build them but also turn the output into automated flows.

This is where Decisions makes the difference.

When it comes to building truth tables, the wizard the software provides makes it easy to set your statements at the top to create your noun/verb conditions along with columns that dictate what happens with the output. Automation is easy to build into your truth tables leveraging the same easy-to-use wizard. Tell the software what you want to happen with the output, and it helps you create that automated flow.

Support for external truth tables rounds out the benefits of using Decisions to create truth tables that help your business move more efficiently and effectively. If you would like to discuss your particular use case, we would love to hear about it. Please contact us at sales@decisions.com.

Gordon Jones
Gordon Jones has founded and sold three companies with the last built using Decisions technology. He has also led factories and large IT implementations both in the US and in Asia, where he lived for over seven years.

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