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Users taking over business rules management

Business rules are becoming dynamic, so dynamic that they are moving out of IT and over to the business side of corporations, contends Jim Sinur, vice president and research director at Gartner.

Noting that businesses have seen the end of the stable world where organizations could write policies, procedures, guidelines and processes in stone, he said business rules now have to change quickly and IT has to change with them. Spending weeks or even months re-coding business processes does not compute in today's economy and it is costing companies money, he said during a Webcast on business rules sponsored by Pegasystems Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

''There's a drag on rules agility and we're missing business opportunities,'' he said. ''There's a significant amount of savings in the IT department if you can reduce the amount of effort involved with the rules, which would include even business users changing the rules.''

Based on a recent survey, Sinur said Gartner ''conservatively'' estimates that 10% to 15% of IT budgets now spent on managing rules could be saved if they were externalized to business users. He said cost savings might be as high as 70% in businesses and industries experiencing volatility requiring high levels of rule changes to keep up with fluctuating economic conditions and new government regulations.

Sinur identified insurance, banking, the oil industry and healthcare as being hot spots of business rule volatility. He added that saving IT costs of 10% to 15% or more provides the ROI justification for purchasing Business Rules Engines (BREs) with tools to allow business users to make changes in English rather than requiring programmers to make changes in Java.

However, Jon Robert Pellant, director of product management at Pegasystems, suggested that there could be resistance in IT to externalizing rules management so business users could change them. He said IT managers and directors fear losing control of rules governing the operation of mission critical systems.

Sinur agreed that there could be initial resistance and suggested that organizations will need to put processes in place with stewards to be responsible for changes to business rules. He also said IT may need to ''lock down'' certain rules that are too critical to overall systems operation to be left open for business user's changes.

But the Gartner analyst likened the externalization of business rule management to the change in the past decade that put query and reporting tools in the hands of business users.

''What happened is when we went through the process in IT of delegating reports to end users we went through that initial resistance,'' Sinur said. ''But as soon as business users and IT got used to it they saw it became a great way of offloading. We see the same thing with critical business rules. We see that eventually the business users will learn how to deal with rules, IT will be comfortable with it and say, 'Hey, look, this did not have a negative effect on the infrastructure and it had a positive effect on the business.'''

The externalization of business rule management is made possible by the emergence of what Sinur characterized as a second generation of rules management products designed for the business users. He said it is also being necessitated by tight IT budgets and limited IT staffing in tough economic times, which require IT managers to find ways to ''do more with less.''

For more information, click on http://www.gartner.com or http://www.pegas.com.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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