The Business Rules Approach—a Zero-Sum Game?

Proponents stress that the business rules approach isn’t a zero-sum proposition for developers, and to the extent that few companies today embrace business rules without also involving IT, this is true.

“The programmers actually become converts to it. It gets you out of that situation where business departments are saying, ‘How come you can never get the system implemented?’” says James Taylor, director of product marketing for business rules specialist Fair Isaac Corp. “Instead, IT can say, ‘We’ve looked at the problem, here’s a structure for the kinds of rules in your business, and we’re going to let you decide what the requirements are. I build the sort of template for the kinds of rules you want, I don’t have to worry about the nit-picking details.’”

That’s the business rules approach in the here-and-now. The long-term prognosis, on the other hand, looks increasingly zero-sum.

Even supporters of the technology, some of them steeped in ars enterprise software development, acknowledge as much.

“The current generation of technologies to do this [business rules approach] still requires developers, so there’s no immediate danger of having tools so powerful that it takes the IT developer out of the loop,” says Ron Ross, co-principal of consultancy Business Rules Solutions LLC, member of The Business Rules Group, and executive editor of, an online resource for developers and business users working with business rules. “There are capabilities on the horizon, and to some extent becoming to be available, that more seriously restructure who does what and how.”

Nevertheless, Ross says, codejockeys should probably be more concerned about other trends. “If I were a developer, I’d be a lot more concerned about my job being outsourced to India than about some rules engine taking my job away a decade or so from now,” he says.

Besides, Ross points out, disruption in one business or programming domain can create opportunity in another. “Even if you have your business rules separate from your processes and your software tools, you still have to implement those platforms,” he says. This creates an opportunity for programmers to get back to the basics and concentrate on creating innovative, inceptive code.

For other codejockeys, Ross speculates, the ascent of a more-or-less turnkey business rules approach could pay other dividends, too.

“There’s a different kind of professional, a lot of times you find them on the IT side, a lot of times you find them on the business side, who enjoy the precision of language, who enjoy nit-picking to the point where you have something very precisely well defined and captured and expressed, and that’s exactly what the rule technologies need. There’s sort of something for everybody, and generally people usually fall into one group or another,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].