thinking in rules

Shout Out from BBC Vegas 2013

Mark Lonsway | 11/18/2013

This year's Building Business Capability conference (formerly Business Rules Forum) kicked off at the expansive Mandalay Bay in scenic Las Vegas, which ironically could be viewed as one of the more "rule-free" destinations by some.

Mandalay

The event is designed for business analysts, enterprise architects, and rule practitioners alike. Since I was fortunate enough to attend both the pre-conference workshops as well as the main conference, I managed to accumulate a copious amount of information worth sharing, but will stick to a few of the more noteworthy highlights.

How to Capture and Analyze Business Rules by Ronald Ross and Gladys Lam. It was a bit rejuvenating to take a step back and explore the background and philosophy behind business rule analysis. Ron and Gladys's main messaging is still based on their RuleSpeak methodology, which provides guidelines for documenting and articulating business rules by adhering to a subject-oriented format followed by conditional keywords such as "..must have" and "...only if". They managed to navigate around much of the semantic debate regarding rules, process, and decisions, but Ron did get a few chuckles when he stated that "Moses did not come down from the mountain with a process".

Building Mental Muscle by Steve Erlank. A high energy session focused on Metacognition: Thinking about Thinking. Three styles of thinking imperative for a business analyst were examined - analytical (problem-oriented, pattern seeking), creative (solution-finding, generates multiple options), and critical (reason-oriented, renders judgment). This session brought home how the different thinking styles relate to various business analysis and problem-solving scenarios. Steve also walked through a host of brain-teasing logic puzzles, which are always entertaining in a group setting (or at least I tend to think so).

Driving Decisions with Predictive Analytics by Eric Siegel. This session provided a compelling look into the relevance of big data driving strategic business decisions. Eric explored narrowing down traits across positive responses in order to get a "lift" (better hit rate) on new campaigns. One JPMorgan Chase case study focused on the resulting decision tree of probabilities derived from historical data indicating mortgage client retention. The really exciting part though is when he showed how the decision tree was operationalized as rules in what he referred to as "multi-variant learning" - which the geek in me had to admit was really cool. Alas, I was not able to translate these predictive abilities to the poker table, but such is life.

Throughout the main conference sessions, it was also validating to see some of the end client case studies including Northwestern Mutual, The Principal Financial Group, and MMG Insurance who had all applied their own variations of rule and decision management disciplines. Their stories were uniquely compelling, but followed similar paths with emphasizing the importance of a common vocabulary, consistently structured rule artifacts, and human understandable business concepts.

There were many other mentionables from the conference and overall I give it a resounding a thumbs up. For anyone interested in rules, process management, and business architecture, I think the BBC is a fine venue for information sharing and networking, albeit it is more on the analysis and modeling side as compared to executable technology. I hear next year is back at Fort Lauderdale, so hope to see you there!


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