How Business Rules Drive Your Automation Strategy
Blog: The Data Center
As the world adapts to the new reality of Covid-19, businesses are being forced to adapt or die. Managing and automating decision making with a rules engine can improve business agility and resilience. Business rules live throughout your organization and dictate how it runs. These protocols also represent the retained knowledge that informs the decisions that lead to the best outcome for your business. This makes rules important assets and the key to smooth operations.
Digitizing these rules not only makes them more accessible throughout the organization but automating them can improve your ability to respond to change. When COVID-19 hit, companies that performed fewer manual tasks and could quickly pivot business processes uniformly across the organization were in a much better position to weather the storm.
Automating business rules and workflows can also help organizations serve customers in ways that may have been too cumbersome via a more manual process. This is particularly important with the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic limiting how physically present employees can execute tasks.
Banks that could renegotiate existing loans and underwrite new Covid-19 relief loans rapidly were in a much better position to capture this new business. Those that relied on manual processes could not scale their operations to meet the spike in demand. Trying to negotiate these loans from a home office makes it even more challenging with manual processes.
As organizations think about how to automate business rules, they must not forget that these rules change often and the pace of change will only accelerate in the future. Any business rule automation strategy must be flexible.
Defining Business Rules and Workflows
Business rules can be thought of as declarative statements of fact, both simple and complex. Rules can produce outcomes ranging from a simple yes/no decision to complex scoring based on multiple criteria. Even more complex rules could involve analyzing data streams in real-time to detect defined events that trigger rules that are nested in another set of rules that dictates a particular action in a broader workflow.
Workflows process information through a series of steps with people interacting at some points to make decisions and software automating at others. Rules are a critical part of any workflow because they are applied to data to make decisions within the workflow.
Understanding how rules and workflows work together to optimize the automation of business processes is an important part of an automation strategy.
As organizations begin to understand what is possible with business process automation, rules inevitably become increasingly complex. Organizations need a plan to manage this complexity.
A business rules engine may be the right answer. Rules engines can separate business rules and workflows from an application, making them more flexible and accessible. Also, a rules engine helps you reduce duplicate rules that may be locked in the various SaaS applications used throughout your organization. With less duplication, rules are easier to keep consistent as they evolve.
Like business rules, data, the lifeblood of the rule, are usually not confined to a single system but distributed throughout an organization. Modern rules management systems need to be extensible so they can ingest data and provide output via APIs. This way a single rule can be managed from one place yet drive processes across applications.
Getting it Right
An automation strategy is not always about technology and can lead to cultural shifts where teams work more collaboratively. One important part of this shift is the ability for the business units and IT to work together to solve problems. This can be a challenge with different skill sets; IT knows the bits and bytes but business leaders know the processes. Terminology can also be unique to each group leading to miscommunications which can easily lead to errors and wasted time.
Business rules engines and workflow software can function as a collaboration center where business leaders, business analysts, data scientists, and developers can work in the same environment to improve operations. But, these platforms need to be accessible to all participants. They can’t be intimidating to non-technical stakeholders. This is where a graphical interface and a no-code approach can have a significant impact. Collaborators can work together in a common drag and drop environment that is easy for all to understand.
As rules get more complex there is also a higher chance that they will not always behave the way that they should. Like software applications, workflows need to be tested. A modern rules management system will include tools to test rules to make sure that they work the way that they are intended to.