Business Rule Solutions: Obligations are Business Rules

by Grant HEnson

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In business, obligations play a critical role, constituting a key component of day-to-day operations. Obligations are an inherent element of a myriad of activities, ranging from agreements and contracts to business policies and statutory regulations.

However, the software industry has often failed to provide direct support for obligations, a fundamental yet overlooked facet of business activity. This is a significant oversight, as obligations are essential for ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of businesses.

What are Obligations?

An obligation is a commitment or duty that is owed to another party. Obligations can be explicit or implicit, and they can be formal or informal. Some examples of obligations include contracts, agreements, policies, and regulations.

Why are Obligations Important?

Obligations are important for a number of reasons. First, they help to ensure that businesses and individuals conduct themselves in a fair and ethical manner. Second, obligations help to promote efficiency and coordination by providing a framework for how businesses and individuals should interact with each other. Third, obligations can help to protect businesses and individuals from harm by providing a way to resolve disputes.

The Role of Obligations in Business Rule Solutions

Business rule solutions are software applications that are used to automate and manage business processes. These solutions can be used to support a wide range of obligations, including contracts, agreements, policies, and regulations.

There are two main types of business rules: behavioral rules and decision rules. Behavioral rules govern the conduct of ongoing business activity by "watching" for violations. For example, a behavioral rule might state that "a student with a failing grade must not be an active member of a sports team." This rule would be enforced continuously, and if a student who is already active in a sports team lets their grades fall, the rule would be violated.

Decision rules, on the other hand, are used to make decisions about how to handle specific situations. For example, a decision rule might state that "if a customer's order is delayed, they must be notified within 24 hours." This rule would be applied only when a customer's order is delayed, and it would determine whether or not the customer should be notified.

The Importance of Direct Support for Obligations

Direct support for obligations is a critical capability that businesses need to adopt to succeed in the Knowledge Age. This means having the ability to automate and manage obligations in a way that is efficient, effective, and compliant with regulations.

There are a number of benefits to providing direct support for obligations, including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Increased compliance
  • Enhanced competitive advantage


Recognizing the importance of obligations and integrating them into business rule solutions is a fundamental step towards enhancing business agility. It equips organizations with the ability to respond to violations promptly and enforce rules effectively, thereby ensuring the seamless conduct of business activities.

Businesses need to prioritize developing robust systems that provide direct support for obligations, a cornerstone of successful business operations.

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