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9 Signs You Might Need a Rules Engine

September 24, 2020

The importance of business rules and decision making in the age of automation

As the world produces more and more data, organizations are connecting disparate systems to leverage this data to create competitive advantages. With data and systems better integrated, more processes can be automated leading to nimbler more effective decision making. Business rules and process automation are the keys to leveraging greater availability of data to effect better outcomes faster.

This trend is making decision making much more efficient but also more complex. Businesses need a firm understanding of how to leverage rules and workflows to manage this complexity. Quicker decisions are also leading to rapidly changing markets making greater business agility paramount.

Business rules are everywhere throughout your organization. In some cases, they are managed in manuals or guides or built into spreadsheets. Business logic built into software applications also typically incorporate multiple business rules. These rules may work great today but the business world can be disrupted overnight requiring the wholesale rewriting of business rules and processes. The spread of Covid-19 is perhaps the most extreme example but shows how what works today may be impossible tomorrow.

Business rules engines separate the business rule from the application so it can be managed and changed as business environments shift. They can also be integrated with workflow and automation platforms to support much more complex rules and processes that can scale.

Is a business rules engine right for my organization?

Everyone should be thinking about how digital transformation can help them be more competitive or simply stay in the game. There are a lot of options out there and business rules engines are not always the best path. For organizations that are debating whether a business rules engine is right for them they may consider some of the following questions:

  1. Is there an advantage for your rules to be created/edited and tested by business analysts rather than programmers? In many cases, rule specs are provided to developers who incorporate them into business logic. Even if the logic is implemented as specified, the rule may not behave as the business analyst or manager expect. Modern rules engines can allow business analysts to implement and test rules on their own to ensure that they work as desired.
  2. Is there a need to understand what combination of rules applies to a specific interaction or decision? For example, would it be helpful to know that an insurance claim was denied because of rule a, b and c. Modern rules engines have sophisticated reporting and analytics capabilities that can break down each decision based on which rules are applied.
  3. Do you need to know what rules are applied to a certain transaction at a specific moment? When the outcome of a certain decision is not optimal, it is helpful to understand what automated decisions were made and when. Modern business rules engines enabled analysts to audit workflows and rule logs to see when rules are applied.
  4. Do you want to be able to test rules outside of the context of the application to ensure the logic is right? Business logic that is built into software applications makes it difficult to test independently of the application. Business rules engines let you test rules outside of the application to see exactly how certain business logic is implemented and behaves.
  5. Do your rules consistently change, or do they need to change rapidly? When rules are locked in business logic that is implemented across a software stack, changes can be time consuming and expensive. If you have rapidly changed rules, a rules engine can make it much easier to manage and adjust rules.
  6. Do you have checklists, just like this one, that you use to evaluate things in your organization? When rules live in manuals, guides, and checklists they can be hard to access and can’t be automated. Business rules engines can automate these checklists so they are more efficient and are implemented consistently.
  7. Are there manual or automated processes and workflows in your organization that need ‘thresholds’ applied to them? Do you need to flag processes that are producing data that are outside certain parameters? Business rules engines can set up thresholds to monitor processes so if outputs are not within specifications, action can be taken.
  8. Do you have business rules locked in various silos or SaaS platforms? Do you have processes or business rules in different applications that are linked by inflexible code or manual processes? Is this inflexibility limiting your ability to address edge use cases? Rules engines in conjunction with workflow engines can integrate rules and workflows to eliminate inefficient processes and streamline edge use cases.
  9. Do you have manual or inflexible processes that are difficult to scale or limit your ability to serve customers effectively? Rules engines that drive process automation platforms can build arrays of rules into workflows that enable complex rules to scale.

Business rules engines can be assets to any organization across any industry that is looking to improve the efficiency of their operations and scale their business. Organizations should take the time to fully understand how business rules and automation fits into their digital transformation strategy. If you would like to see a great rules engine in action, contact Decisions to see a demo and learn how your organization can try the platform for free.

Becky Simanowski
Becky Simanowski is the Digital Marketing Director at Decisions and manages all digital marketing programs including SEO, SEM, Email, Social Media, and Conversion Rate Optimization.

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