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Understanding the Basics of a Business Rules Engine

March 10, 2020

Whether you’re aware of it or not, rules provide necessary logic and structure to any business. These rules define the job responsibilities for each of your workers, establish expectations for workplace behavior, and offer guidance for a wide range of operational procedures that take place every day at your company.

Business rules make it possible to manage a large organization and create efficiencies from what often looks like chaos. That’s why a business rules engine offers so much value to virtually any type of business. But before you can start leveraging this intelligent tool within your company, you need to understand the basic principles of business rules and how they can be used to automate and improve a wide range of processes within your organization.

With that in mind, here’s an introduction to the basics of business rules.

What Is a Business Rule?

In the simplest terms, a business rule is a guideline that dictates how businesses should operate in a certain circumstance. Business rules are typically placed in the context of a workflow, governing individual stages in that process or providing overall parameters that should be followed at all times.

Business rules offer clear direction. Although they can be as simple as a yes or no or as complicated as a complex scoring method or algorithm, business rules provide unambiguous guidance to ensure that tasks and workflows are appropriately managed and completed.

When used to automate tasks and processes, business rules offer several benefits to organizations. They make it possible to deliver repeatable, predictable outcomes, which can improve internal efficiency and enforce quality assurance. This consistency also reduces the risks created by data or procedural errors. As a result, workers are more productive, experience fewer on-the-job errors, and are able to use the time created by this automation to work on other important projects within the organization.

Examples of Business Rules at Work

Business rules have broad applications across a wide range of industries and verticals. Any task, process, or workflow taking place in a company—whether handled via automation, manual human labor, or a combination of the two—can potentially benefit from the use of business rules.

Some common examples of business rules include:

  • Gathering the appropriate signatures for contracts or other paperwork. This could include human resources paperwork during the employee onboarding process or more complex contracts and paperwork related to business agreements.
  • Delivering product recommendations to online consumers. An algorithm or other complex calculation can use shopping histories and other data to display personalized recommendations to shoppers.
  • Adjusting rates based on financial terms. Finance and lending companies can use business rules to guide automated financial tools or financial products that adjust interest rates based on the customer’s desired terms.
  • Identifying errors or inconsistencies in a form field. If letters are entered into a numerical field, for example, business rules can flag this error and request a change.
  • Adding or eliminating stages to a workflow based on individual needs. If you’re onboarding a patient at a healthcare clinic and the patient reports risk factors for an infectious disease, business rules can guide that patient through a specific process and ensure that the appropriate personnel are notified.
  • Referring tasks to human employees if circumstances go beyond the capabilities of your workflow. Whether it is a customer service inquiry or another complicated business process that can’t be handled by automation, business rules can direct the process to an employee who can directly manage it and guide it toward the necessary results.

This is far from a comprehensive list of business rules use cases, but it illustrates the broad capabilities of this technology and its ability to enable greater automation throughout an organization.

The Difference Between Business Rules and Workflows

Business rules and workflows are closely related, but they serve distinct purposes within the larger infrastructure of business IT. Workflows are familiar to any professional, providing a framework for managing processes and ensuring that necessary steps are completed in a logical, efficient order.

Business rules represent a set of conditions applied to those workflows to support accurate, efficient decision-making and task completion. Business rules are commonplace whenever you’re automating processes at your organization, but they can also provide guidance for manual processes handled entirely by your employees.

As workflows progress, business rules can help ensure that the necessary signatures are gathered, regulatory laws are followed, and data collection from customers is both appropriate and accurate.

Implementing a Business Rules Engine

Business rules engines aren’t cookie-cutter solutions to add into your existing workflows. Rules engines must be fully customized to your specific needs and able to account for the unique variables you face in your organization.

Interested in learning more about business rules engines? We recommend watching our “Business Rules Basics” webinar.

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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