Business Rules Solutions: Pattern Questions for Harvesting Business Rules from Business Process Models

Excerpted with permission from Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Ed.), by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2015, 308 pp, http://www.brsolutions.com/bbs

Think of a business process model as a recipe. I'm no cook, so if I want to bake a cake, I'd better follow the recipe. The great chefs of Paris don't need to though. As long as they produce outstanding results and follow all the rules about health and sanitation, so what?!

A model of a business process, like a recipe, is a task-by-task blueprint for performing repetitive work. A recipe doesn't imply any particular rules, and a rule doesn't imply any particular recipe. (A rule might effectively disallow some recipes, but that's a different matter.) A recipe and a rule are simply different.

What do business rules do for business processes? Collectively, business rules provide guidance and know-how. They shape judgments and operational business decisions in day-to-day business activity. With business rules you can create smart business processes.

Basic business rules1 can be captured from business process models using the pattern questions presented below. Use of these pattern questions represents an important step in externalizing semantics from business process models.

What Are Pattern Questions?
Over the past decade we have developed a series of well-structured pattern questions. These pattern questions represent thinking tools to help practitioners harvest business rules from different kinds of models (e.g., business process models, concept models, etc.). Each pattern question:
  • focuses on a particular topical concern and some particular construct (pattern) found frequently in models of a given kind.
  • typically leads to many business rules for the same model.
The pattern questions are designed to assist practitioners in asking the right kinds of questions in the right ways. Answers typically lead to more questions — and to more business rules. The answers also frequently prove useful in validating and refining the underlying models.

Conditional Flows

Pattern Question for Conditional Flows

Figure 1.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate 
Pattern Questions about Conditional Flows


Figure 1. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Conditional Flows

Pattern-Questions_img1

Comment: This first pattern question is fundamental in externalizing business rules from business process models in an organized and intelligible way. As the example illustrates, the conditional flow is named, but the criteria for deciding whether any given case follows the conditional are not embedded within the business process model itself. Instead, some separate business rule(s) express the criteria. This approach simplifies the business process model dramatically and permits the business rule(s) to be revised independently.

Production and Use of Outputs

Figure 2.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Production and Use of Outputs


Figure 2. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Production and Use of Outputs

Pattern Question for Existence of Prior Output

Pattern-Questions_img2

Comment: Presumably, reason(s) for denial is an output of the business task Adjudicate Claim. The business rule indicates the business task Notify Claimant may be performed for a case (i.e., some claim) only if Adjudicate Claim has produced some reason(s) for denial for that case. Additional points:

  • Business rules about outputs are not limited only to those business tasks leading directly into the targeted business task.
  • Production of some output does not necessarily mean the business task that produced it is complete. A business task is over only when its whole transform finishes and results in some recognizable state. If a business rule actually requires a state to have been achieved, rather than simply some output produced, we use a different set of pattern questions aimed at business milestone or state analysis.

Pattern Question for Specific Use of Prior Output

Pattern-Questions_img3

Comments:

  • As before, reason(s) for denial is presumably an output of the business task Adjudicate Claim. The business rule indicates that the follow-on business task Notify Claimant must use those reason(s) in a specific way (present them to the claimant) in each case of notification about a claim being denied.
  • To use or apply an output in a specific way, that output obviously must have been produced. So this pattern question is actually a stronger version of the previous one.

Inter-Task Timing

Pattern Question for Immediate Inter-Task Timing

Figure 3a.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Immediate Inter-Task Timing


Figure 3a. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Immediate Inter-Task Timing

Pattern-Questions_img4

Comments:

  • An arrow represents a hand-off of work between business tasks. This pattern question asks whether the follow-on business task is to be initiated for a case immediately upon hand-off from the previous business task.
  • Often immediate initiation isn't necessary or even desirable, so no business rule like the one above would be needed. More likely one of the next two pattern questions would apply.

Pattern Question for Maximum Inter-Task Timing

Figure 3b.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Maximum Inter-Task Timing


Figure 3b. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Maximum Inter-Task Timing

Pattern-Questions_img5

Comments:

  • Maximums and minimums represent distinct business rules, so we separate the related pattern questions and address them in pairs as above and below.
  • A maximum timing criterion is not limited only to business tasks that lead directly into the targeted business task.
  • If an external actor is involved (as in this example) you can think of the maximum timing criterion as defining a service commitment.

Pattern Question for Minimum Inter-Task Timing

Figure 3c.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Minimum Inter-Task Timing


Figure 3c. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Minimum Inter-Task Timing

Pattern-Questions_img6

Comments:

  • As for a maximum timing criterion, a minimum timing criterion is not limited only to business tasks that lead directly into the targeted business task.
  • You can think of a minimum timing criterion as allowing the business some 'float' time, especially if money or other valuable resource will be handed off.

Timing and Iteration for Loops

Figure 4.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Timing and Iteration for Loops


Figure 4. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about Timing and Iteration for Loops

Comment: The business process model snippet involves a loop (a 'pig's ear') on the business task Request Additional Information. Such loops enable iteration for any given case, which could potentially go on endlessly. The business rule provides a way 'out' of the loop.

Pattern Question for Maximum Timing between Iterations

Pattern-Questions_img7

Comment: We use the keyword phrase if more attempts disallowed for a conditional flow as a standard device to exit a loop. As always, business rules provide the criteria for determining when the condition more attempts disallowed becomes true for a given case.

Pattern Question for Minimum Timing between Iterations

Pattern-Questions_img8

Comment: RuleSpeak prescribes that whenever a business rule counts or measures something in order to constrain it, that something should be indicated as the subject of the sentence. In the example above, the amount of time between successive requests for additional information is being measured and constrained. Following this guideline as a best practice is highly recommended.

Pattern Question for Maximum Iterations

Pattern-Questions_img9

Comment: This pattern question, like all others, is really about working with business people to establish an optimal business policy on the matter.

Pattern Question for Maximum Time for Completion

Pattern-Questions_img10

Comment: Think about the clock ticking while we might try and try again. The business can wait only so long for something to happen.

Events Initiating a Process

Pattern Question for an Actor Event Initiating a Process

Figure 5a.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about an Actor Event Initiating a Business Process


Figure 5a. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about an Actor Event Initiating a Business Process

Pattern-Questions_img11

Comment: If an actor is permitted to present a new case (e.g., a claim) at any time, no business rule like this one is needed. A case can be made (or received) at any time.

Pattern Question for a Temporal Event Initiating a Process

Figure 5b.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about a Temporal Event Initiating a Business Process


Figure 5b. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about a Temporal Event Initiating a Business Process

Pattern-Questions_img12

Comment: In a temporal event, no actor has to do anything to kick-start the business process. So business rule(s) are needed to express relevant timing criteria. The same is true about spontaneous events, as illustrated below, except that the criteria need not pertain to timing.

Pattern Question for a Spontaneous Event Initiating a Process

Figure 5c.  Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about a Spontaneous Event Initiating a Business Process


Figure 5c. Business Process Model Snippet to Illustrate Pattern Questions about a Spontaneous Event Initiating a Business Process

Pattern-Questions_img13

Comment: Whether a claimant has a history of fraudulent claims probably requires additional rule analysis.

My next Column focuses on pattern questions specifically for state transitions, and are especially relevant for case management.


1All business rule statements in this discussion are expressed using RuleSpeak®. The RuleSpeak guidelines for expressing business rules in structured natural language are free on www.RuleSpeak.com.
Ron Ross

Ron Ross

Ronald G. Ross is Co-Founder and Principal of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (www.BRSolutions.com). BRS provides workshops, consulting services, publications, and methodology supporting business analysis, business rules, business vocabulary, and rule management. His popular public seminars on business rules and business analysis, the first on business rules (starting in 1996) and the longest-running in the industry, are given through AttainingEdge (www.AttainingEdge.com). At BRS, Mr. Ross co-develops Proteus®, its landmark business analysis and business rules methodology, which features numerous innovative techniques including the popular RuleSpeak® (available free through www.BRCommunity.com). These are the latest offerings in a 30-year career that has consistently featured creative, business-driven solutions. Mr. Ross also serves as Executive Editor of www.BRCommunity.com and its flagship on-line publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a regular columnist for the Journal's Commentary section which also features John Zachman, Chris Date, Terry Halpin, and Roger Burlton. BRCommunity.com, hosted and sponsored by BRS, is a vertical community for professionals working with business rules and related areas. Mr. Ross was formerly Editor of the Data Base Newsletter from 1977 to 1998. Mr. Ross is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He has served as Co-Chair of the annual Business Rules Forum Conference since 1997. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of the two landmark BRG papers,"The Business Motivation Model: Business Governance in a Volatile World" (2000, revised 2005) and the "Business Rules Manifesto" (2003). He is also active in OMG standards development for business rules and business models. Mr. Ross is the author of eight professional books. His newest are: Business Rule Concepts (2005), a second edition of his popular, easy-to-read 1998 handbook, and Principles of the Business Rule Approach, Addison-Wesley (2003), featuring the business rationale and opportunity for business rules. An earlier work, The Business Rule Book (1994, 1997), was the seminal work in the field. Mr. Ross received his M.S. in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology, and his B.A. from Rice University.
Share

Speak Your Mind

*