Business Rules Solutions: Process Modeling and the Knowledge Economy

Understanding, modeling and managing a business capability effectively requires a balanced view of six basic questions (following Zachman). Table 1 enumerates the six questions.

BRS-Process-Modeling_fig1

If your business does nothing but manufacture or produce physical widgets (nevermind the meta-data about those widgets), you will probably emphasize question 2 (i.e., process) above the others. Your overall approach and architecture will reflect that.

That tendency has at least three basic risks, even for organizations that do fall into the nothing-but-widgets category:
Your metrics will largely focus on process productivity (e.g., throughput, bottlenecks, latency), rather than strategic goals and alerts centered on external risks. E-suite executives tend to be much more focused on the latter.


 Your mindset will be procedural, rather than declarative, which can cause you to embed business rules in process flows rather than externalize them. As a result your process models will be unnecessarily complex and your overall solutions un-agile.


You approach will fall woefully short in addressing the intellectual capital that underlies your processes. Such operation business knowledge ranges from simple meta-data, to the business logic that underlies operational business decisions. Fewer and fewer business problems these days fall into nothing-but-widgets category. Even for widget-centric businesses, at least three needs are increasingly urgent:
Ensuring the quality of meta-data.


Demonstrating compliance based actual rules, rather than the artifacts and effects that IT systems produce.


Retaining, teaching and repurposing intellectual capital.
These are not strengths of many process-oriented practices.
For all the non-widget-centric business activity in the world – which includes just about all every conceivable form of white-collar work – these needs become paramount. And make no mistake, the future lies with automation that white-collar work.
What would I do to correct the shortcomings of your approach? Our answer is to become more why-centric, as opposed to narrowly how-centric. That shift has the following essential features.

Understanding business strategy as something distinct from business processes. Business goals and business risks should be drivers of business process design – not the other way around. You need to be strategy-driven, not simply process-driven.


  • Designing core metrics around business goals and business risks – the things that concern C-suite executives the most.

  • Realizing that for white-collar work the 3-D world of widgets has vanished, and that tolerances and quality can be expressed only in terms of business rules.

  • Treating business rules as a first-class citizen, externalized from process models.3
  • Identifying operational business decisions (based on encoded business rules) as a crucial focal point in re-engineering business processes.


Including a Why Button as part of every business solution.4 Pressing the Why Button leads immediately to the business rules that produced the results you see from any process

1Refer to Business Rule Concepts: Getting to the Point of Knowledge (4th ed), by Ronald G. Ross, 2013, Chapter 1 and Part 2. http://www.brsolutions.com/b_concepts.php
2 Refer to Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules by Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, 2nd ed. (Sept, 2015), an IIBA Sponsored Handbook, Chapter 4. http://www.brsolutions.com/b_building_business_solutions.php
3 Refer to the Business Rules Manifesto, now in almost 20 languages: http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/brmanifesto.htm
4 Refer to: Ronald G. Ross, “The Why EngineerTM,” Business Rules Journal, Vol. 14, No. 11 (Nov. 2013), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2013/b727.html

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.
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