thinking in rules

Changing Gears in Application Development

Mike Grucella | 9/3/2013

In most high population urban areas, traffic and congestion is a major aggravation. Take it from someone who has serious bouts of road rage, there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a car and not knowing how much longer you will have to endure it. “Is there an accident up ahead?” “Why doesn’t anyone know how to merge?!” “Why does this joker think he can cut across 3 lanes of traffic?!” Mix in a few choice words and you get the idea. All you want to do is get from point A to point B as quickly and painlessly as possible, right?

You have options other than driving, of course, but they typically come with their set of risks. Public transportation is great if it can get you in the general vicinity of your destination. Cabs are fine but can be expensive (and sometimes terrifying). The ideal solution would be cost-effective, low (or no) maintenance, easily accessible and readily available. So what’s the solution?

Author Mike Grucella checks out the Chicago Bike Sharing Program Divvy.

Author Mike Grucella checks out the Chicago Bike Sharing Program, Divvy.

Fortunately, the City of Chicago recently implemented a newbike sharing program called Divvy. Now, it’s not like Chicagoans couldn’t ride their own bikes before. They could. But with the Divvy program, now the city has exposed a greater percentage of its population to the practicality of riding bikes to get around. With this program, docking stations are available every few blocks throughout the city limits. Members of the program can check-out a bike from a station, ride it to their destination, and check it back in to the nearest docking station.

When I first heard about this I thought “What took you so long?” It just seems like the most practical solution to a lot of the problems that commuters face today. By making the stations and the bikes accessible from anywhere, more people have a new option to consider – one that is low cost, efficient and convenient. And there is no learning curve involved: “once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget”.

The next thing I thought is “This seems awfully familiar.”  The bike sharing program leverages Chicagoans existing skills and makes renting a bike accessible, convenient, and cost effective. As it goes for bike sharing, so it goes for software development. Business Rule Management Systems are like Bike Sharing Programs.  Someone who is a business analyst can apply their existing skills and knowledge to the creation of the business rules that are consumed by their system applications. They can literally check those rules out, make changes to them, and check them back in. The convenience factor is significant. Now those people are no longer dependent on programmers to make code changes every time there is new logic that needs to be implemented. Think about the impact that has on maintenance. Your programmers can focus on the technical aspects while your business analysts maintain the pieces they are knowledgeable in. That’s about as cost-effective and time-efficient as software development can get.

Where applications were once built by only those with the technical know-how, we’ve now come to the point where we can build those same applications using the knowledge from people with different expertise. By doing so, we are now in the “bike sharing” phase of building software applications where anyone with the access to information can participate in the development through products like a business rule solution.  And the best part is we can now get from Point A to Point B quicker than ever before.


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