Decision Management Unlocks Business Operations Innovation
- May 29, 2018
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In a report by Derek Miers (then of MWD, now at Gartner) in 2017, MWD says: “Decision Management Drives Disruption“: Part of this research report is available for free and the rest with a subscription, and it is good enough that I’m linking to it here.
It could have easily been titled “Decision Management Drives Transformation” or “Decision Management Drives Digital Operations” – because at the end of the day, understanding and automating decisions is key to making it possible for our operations to support all the changes we want to make to support digital initiatives.
DMN is Making Decisions more Relevant to Digital Transformations
The digital transformation initiatives and customer experience initiatives in many firms are creating new opportunities for decisioning software. While the disruption that MWD refers to is among the BPM and Decision Management software vendors as they adopt DMN to varying degrees, the disruption our clients are interested in is changing the way decisions are understood, modeled, and executed. While modeling DMN is pretty straightforward, as with other models, a faithful execution engine is required, of which there are several. MWD points out that the key is to have FEEL level 3 support, something which our own team at BP3 agrees with:
“What’s fundamentally different about the DMN standard is that the standardisation and accessibility of the notation is enabling a new wave of innovation; a wave that has managed to overcome many of the limitations of previous attempts to move toward model-driven applications.
However, that promise only comes to reality with full support for FEEL level 3 compliance. An open source execution engine for Level 3 compliance is available as a part of Red Hat’s implementation for DMN. While FEEL support may appear challenging to implement, it is certainly possible with a few months of programmer time.”
Compliance with level 3 is important because it affects the kinds of decisions you can represent without writing a lot of code. It sounds like jargon thanks to standards that are a bit of alphabet soup, but in this case compliance isn’t just a wonky thing for the R&D guys to worry about, it directly affects the business value you can derive from DMN on that decision engine.
So what is DMN?
“The primary goal of DMN is to provide a common notation that is readily understandable by all business users, from the business analysts needing to create initial decision requirements and then more detailed decision models, to the technical developers responsible for automating the decisions in processes, and finally, to the business people who will manage and monitor those decisions.”
In many ways it is analogous to BPMN and process engines – a notation which can be understood by many constituents of a business, while simultaneously lending itself to an execution model that a software engine can execute. FEEL (Friendly Enough Expression Language) is the more detailed level of the specification.
Why Should Businesses Care?
We should care because aligning decision-making with our business objectives is the key to business alignment and execution. Decision Management also enables businesses to make changes to decisions without impacting the software lifecycle of many other software infrastructure elements : for example, changing a rating engine doesn’t require re-deploying the loan origination system, which reduces test surface area and complexity.
Reduce complexity and testing surface area means that our businesses can react faster to market conditions and the changes our executives want to make.
One of the drawbacks of decisioning systems, historically, is that a naive implementation can result in a very complex system. Ironically, the combination of millions of simple rules can result in a very complex system. In one client case, the combinatorics of a simplistic approach to the decisions for a single business case would result in more trillions of test cases being required for complete test coverage. Writing good decision systems takes both good tools and expertise.
How BP3 Creates Value with Decisions
What we have found, with a combination of DMN and other BP3-specific methods and tools, is that we can reduce the testing surface area of most rule-based systems through intelligent and thoughtful design, and in one case from over a quadrillion test cases to a much more manageable 1000 or so. This makes the maintenance of good rule systems affordable.
More than that, we can help clients see opportunities for encapsulating critical business decisions in a way that simultaneously makes them more transparent, more aligned, and more cost-effective. We’ve found opportunities in extending the value of RPA with good decisions around the implementation of the automation. Decision systems also pair well with machine learning – giving the learning algorithms a head start, or providing some guard rails that are human defined and transparent. And well-designed decision management has great value for healthcare providers (as well as payers).
Decision Management is a key component of the Digital Operations playbook – read up on the MWD research to go deeper on this topic, or connect with our experts at BP3, we can help craft the right decision management solution and practice for your business operations.