Home > Articles > Business & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Business Rules and the "Know"

Rules for Processes and Rules for Products/Services

Over the years, developers of expert-system applications have consistently focused on a fundamental aspect of business problems that most IT professionals fail to perceive. The reverse, however, is also true. Most developers of applications using traditional expert systems fail to perceive what IT professionals know almost intuitively. Consequently, almost all approaches to developing business systems fall woefully short in one respect or the other. Let me explain who is missing what and how the problem can be corrected.

Decision Points

Developers of expert-system applications have traditionally focused on decision points in the work environment. A decision point is where some critical decision (usually a complex one) must be made. Such a decision typically might have to do with one of the following kinds of tasks: classification, diagnosis, assessment, monitoring, prediction, assignment, allocation, and so on.

The rules governing such decisions are usually viewed as peculiar to and characteristic of the company's product/service offerings. These offerings invariably involve the company's special area(s) of expertise. Examples of such decisions include whether or not to:

  • Approve an application for automobile insurance

  • Pay a claim

  • Buy a stock

  • Declare an emergency

  • Give an on-the-spot discount to a customer

  • Assign a particular resource to a given request

  • Diagnose a patient as having a particular disease

  • Accept a reservation

  • Indicate possible fraud

Such decision points, all rule-intensive, are of vital importance to the business. Capturing the relevant rule sets should therefore be a key component of a company's approach to developing its business systems.

Unfortunately, most approaches for system development used by IT professionals have never done this outright. Most such approaches are highly procedural and offer no direct support for capturing large numbers of rules in declarative form. By and large, IT professionals have not even grasped how significant this omission really is.

Work Avoidance

Turning now to developers of expert-system applications, what is typically missed in their approaches? The answer requires digging a bit deeper into two basic assumptions of traditional expert systems.

Expert-System Assumption 1. It is possible to define all relevant rules well enough for automated decision making to be effective.

There are, of course, some very difficult problems (for example, weather forecasting) where this assumption does not hold true today. In the typical business, on the other hand, a large number of important decision points in day-to-day operations come nowhere near that magnitude of complexity.

So this first assumption is basically correct for business systems. Indeed, if the business goals for a project include disintermediation (that is, eliminating the middleman, as in Web-based self-service applications), capturing and managing these decision-making rules is a must.

Expert-System Assumption 2. The cost and difficulty of gathering the appropriate data is a relatively trivial issue compared with the complexity of the rules.

This is a point about business systems—a huge one—that developers of expert-system applications historically got wrong. In a business context it can be extremely costly and difficult (and inefficient) to gather all the appropriate data simply to set things up for all the decision-making rules to fire.

Let me offer a simple example. An automobile insurance company might have the following business rule: An application for car insurance may be approved only if the applicant is at least as old as the minimum driving age. This rule, of course, might be only one of hundreds determining whether an application should be approved. Other rules might involve creditworthiness (which could involve an extensive credit check), previous driving history (which could require requesting records from the state), and so on. In other words, there is a lot of work (time and money) involved in gathering all the data required to support all the rules.

Consequently, one of the basic goals in designing business processes is what I call work avoidance (no pun intended). For example, if the applicant for automobile insurance is less than the minimum driving age, why perform the credit check and acquire the driving records (and so on)? If you can determine up front in the business process that the applicant is too young, all that other data-related work can be avoided.

Simply capturing all the decision-making rules is clearly not enough for effective support of business systems. In fact, capturing the rules is only half the problem. First you need to develop the workflow for the business process in order to fully explore all opportunities for work avoidance. Rules governing the business process (such as the minimum driving age rule above) must be tested as early in the workflow as possible. Waiting to test them at some downstream decision point is simply inefficient. This early-bird testing of business process rules is a basic principle of the business rule approach.

The Workflow Imperative: Early-Bird Testing of Rules

To avoid unnecessary work, rules should be tested as early as possible.

Business Process Rules versus Product/Service Rules

This insight sheds new light on the knowledge principle (what the company knows should be balanced with what it does). It comes down to these final points.

Two Kinds of Rules.

To some extent, every company has both business process rules and decision-making rules (usually product/service rules). The "know" part really has two dimensions, both crucial. Examples of business process rules and product/service rules for three different organizations are given in the following boxed item.

Examples of Business Process Rules versus Product/Service Rules

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Business Process Rule

Rule: A processed tax return must indicate the IRS Center that reviewed it.

Product/Service Rule

Rule: Calculated total income must be computed as tax return wages (line 1) plus tax return taxable-interest (line 2) plus tax return unemployment compensation (line 3).

Ministry of Health

Business Process Rules

Rule: A claim must be assigned to an examiner if fraud is suspected.

Rule: An on-site audit must be conducted for a service provider at least every five years.

Product/Service Rules

Rule: A claim involving comprehensive visits or consultations by the same physician for the same patient must not be paid more than once within 180 days.

Rule: A claim that requests payment for a service event that is a provision of health service type 'consultation' may be paid only if the service event results from a referral received from another service provider.

Ship Inspection Agency

Business Process Rules

Rule: A ship inspection work order must include at least one attendance date.

Rule: A ship must indicate a client who is financially responsible for inspections.

Rule: An inspection due for a ship must be considered suspended if the ship is laid up.

Product/Service Rules

Rule: A ship area subject to corrosion must be inspected annually.

Rule: A salt water ballast tank must be inspected empty if the ship is more than five years old.

Rule: A barge must have an approved bilge system to pump from and drain all belowdeck machinery spaces.

Do the Business Process "Know" First. If a project will address both kinds of rules, workflow model(s) for the business process (and the associated business process rules) should generally be developed first. The reason is that decision-making tasks (and the associated product/service rules) are always embedded within a business process and therefore dependent on its basic sequence, specification, and vocabulary.

Do the Product/Service "Know" Too. Capturing the workflow models (the "flow") and the business process rules is by no means sufficient. To fully support the "know" part, the product/service rules must be captured in an appropriate manner too.

Business-Driven Solutions

The business solution should be worked out completely before any system is designed—and for sure before any coding begins.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020