Rules are everywhere. Literally. You can observe them in everyday life all around you whether you’re in the office or not.
I see people standing on empty streets waiting to cross the road and blindly obeying the crossing sign in absence of common sense. I watch people automatically line up to fob their ID badge for access into office spaces and then again to leave because at one point there was a rule that Facilities set that you had to, but the rule has become outdated and yet people still follow it by reflex and without question.
And it’s the same for business rules within processes.
Jim Sinur has said at the Gartner BPM conference that the Business Rules Engine business will explode because, among other things, advanced processes will need constraints but I have to add a note of caution here. They are guidelines, a means to allow the business to define a loose path for a process to take before a decision needs to be made. Where constraint and auto-reflex starts to appear is when an organization hardcodes business rules into process and workflow applications ad nauseum.
It will be very easy for an organisation to become that person on the street, forgoing common sense and blindly accepting what the rules tell us.
It will be very easy for an organization to become that person standing in line to flash his ID badge because of some long forgotten reason without questioning why.
Business rules are also set in place to protect and guide the consumer but are more often than not interpreted as a set of immoveable goals to achieve and therefore organizations design processes around them, not be guided by them. And because of this common sense and business intuition becomes removed as automated black and white reasoning takes over.
There is an inverse law that needs to be applied for advanced processes.
In order to be adaptive and agile, processes require little constraint otherwise they become just as hard and fast as their older cousins built on ageing BPM solutions. Not only this, but the effort and expense required to maintain and update complex rules outweighs the benefits of the agility touted. It’s a specific skillset that not everyone can fulfil and potentially puts business’rules out of the reach of the business itself if the rules engine is a beast to wrestle.
It also means that you’ll never reach that rung on the Maturity Model because you’re constantly chasing your tail.
Business rules aren’t mean to be hard and fast. They aren’t meant to constrict decision making, process efficiency and set a workforce to automatic. They aren’t meant to cement an agile organization with concrete boots.
Don’t let complex business rules become the prison for your processes.