Jim Sinur, newly returned as analyst for the Gartner camp, just made an interesting post on rule representations. As TIBCO is attending the OMG and W3c rule standards meetings this week, we’re probably in a good position to critique Jim’s view (and make some, er, suggestions).
Lets start at the top. Jim says business rule experts can choose from a variety of representations:
- “semantics” (by which I think Jim means formal vocabularies rather than OWL-type ontologies and things like Common Logic)
- decision tables, as offered by most BRMS tools include TIBCO BusinessEvents‘ Decision Manager
- “rule hierarchies” which may mean decision flows or decision graphs [*1]
- natural language, which usually means writing rules in any way you want, but could also imply using Ron Ross’ Rulespeak or the OMG SBVR standard, or a constrained language specified by a rule management system for operational (executable process) rules.
Jim then starts talking about rule *execution* rather than business rule representation. I should be clear that “business rules for business people” as defined by BRG et al refer mostly to policy-derived rules, which may be used to guide the development of executable business processes and their associated decisions (such as process gateways or decision services). Typically such policy-type “business rules” are at the OMG MDA computation independent model level. Executable business decisions, on the other hand, typically are at the OMG MDA platform independent model level, which is an IT layer. Such decisions or operational rules may be embedded in process models like OMG BPMN, or (ideally) kept as shareable, declarative production rules per the OMG PRR standard – probably what Jim means when he says “stand-alone rules that can be executed in dynamic sequence where rules are reused in different sequences” (although, Jim, please note that there are precious few rule engines that can forward and backward chain using the same rule definitions). Complex Event Processing is a type of automated process than can use production rules as in PRR.
Jim goes a bit off-track talking about OMG BPDM. Perhaps he was thinking about something else, because BPDM is the Business Process *Definition* Metamodel, not Data Model, and is meant to be a “metaprocess” model [*2]. And it doesn’t have much to do with business rules, other than potentially sharing vocabularies with SBVR and possibly referencing PRR type rules. The latter is unproven at this point in time, but BPDM is interesting simply because of its development potential to provide, in some future version, a shared abstract behavior for both simple and complex event processing. It certainly deserves more support from academic research teams.
In other, related, news from OMG this week:
- Apparently the BPMN 2.0 notation is to include more sophisticated event handling. We’ll have to wait until we can review the latest draft, but it will be a pleasant surprise if this provides some CEP modeling capability out-of-the-box.
- PRR made some good progress, and will hopefully move to Finalization Task Force 2 to complete – with thanks to Robert Ong at / and MagicDraw for their metamodeling re-work. One of the Forrester analysts endorsed this PRR work this week, too.
- There was an interesting panel (OK, it was the *subject matter* that was interesting, not us panel members) on the relationships between rules, processes, and business architectures. And we could have thrown in business events, too. My main points were that “rules” meant both SBVR-type policy rules and PRR-type automated operational rules / decisions, and that vendors need customer support to encourage them to develop standards. And that OMG should not be incubating standards for the sake of it, certainly not without academic contributions.
- TIBCO was one of 2 vendors providing feedback on Dynamic Business Activity Modeling. This includes iProcess Conductor, goal- and plan-driven business processes, usually teamed with TIBCO BusinessEvents for decisions on plan selection, plan creation, and plan automation – including event-driven replanning. Also TIBCO BusinessEvents itself is used to model high-level event-driven rule-based state models to drive BPM workflows from business events.
- As a consequence of the above, it looks like there is interest in a standard model for Case Management. Supporters are to gather at the next OMG meeting to discuss what this will entail…
- Looks like Event Metamodel and Profile and Agent Metamodel and Profile will be issued as RFPs. Any TIBCO customers interested in these, please let us know via email or TIBCommunity!
- EPTS membership discussions with OMG started.
- Good to see Rob James (HSBC) of NRL fame at the meeting (another Natural Language for rules for Jim’s readers to consider, and a possible candidate to help automate SBVR type rules).
- OMG passed the FTF2 resolution for PRR to get onto its final track, with new additions to the FTF2 team from Inferware, 88Solutions and Unisys.
- W3C made good progress on some of the RIF PRD (production rule dialect) with many of the same people in PRR. PRD contributors included TIBCO, Ilog, Inferware, RuleML, Fair Isaac and Oracle.
 Interesting to see one of the few vendors to provide decision graphs has just been acquired. Is there anyone else left out there?
 I attended some of Conrad Bock (NIST)’s “advanced BPDM tutorial” this week, so am reasonably confident about this!