Introducing a new white paper: The Five Categories of Operational Decisions and their Impacts on Business Process Models
Business processes should enforce compliance to operational, legal and risk objectives. Yet how can one be assured that their processes are compliant? Increasingly, the best practices is to use a combination of business process modeling with a business rules approach- the operational decision (OD) approach. These frequently occurring, repeatable decisions are key to enforcing compliance.
A combination of BPM, OD and event processing can create comprehensive, agile solutions in many problem domains. In a new white paper from Bosch Software Innovations, we explain the role and interrelationships of these different visual modeling approaches. Most process modeling methods parse directly requirements into BPMN process elements. They incorporate with workflow patterns. There are alternate approaches that start with business rules and Bosch Software Innovations can support either. This white paper discusses how to develop processes requirements from a business rules perspective. Starting with this definition of a business process:
A business processes is an organized, coordinated flow of activities, conducted by participants, acting on and deciding with data, information, and knowledge, to achieve a business goal.
We can design a digitized business process based on business rules that describe the means of compliance, operational controls and risk mitigation. So, from the perspective of the business process as per Ron Ross:
“A business rule is a statement that defines or constrains some aspect of the business. It is intended to assert business structure or influence the behavior of the business.”
The objective is the digitized process so the rules are expressed in executable, directed graphs and decision tables. When we design processes, we are defining the behavior of the business, so that processes comply with business rules by making operational decisions—a rules-compliant process.
Operational decisions are frequently occurring, repeatable decisions that implement the compliance, operation and risk controls. They are settled with process data and evaluated by digitized business rules. So a business rule is an atomic logic step that uses data and knowledge to evaluate a part of a proposition about a process decision3.
In a BPM/Business Rules approach, processes are activated by business events. Chandy and Schulte define a business event as:
”A business event is an event that is meaningful for conducting commercial, industrial, and governmental or trade activities.”
The differences between process, rules and business events are simple; rules are overarching, stateless directors of behavior, processes are stateful responders to the directives, and external business events, are detected and processed.
The recent research of Martijn Zoet, Richard Welke, et al found that business managers expect business rules to govern and control business operations with on five concepts:
- Rules should influence, order or sequence a process’ tasks, decisions and internal events
- Rules should influence and decide who is included in and assigned to a task
- Rules should influence and decide what course of action is taken
- Rules should influence and decide what data is retained, its validity, and duration and
- Rules should detect, control, and respond to events
When they are dynamic or controlled in a BRMS, these five concepts are categories of operational decisions. Static elements become elements of a business process map or diagram—transitions, activities and gateways. We described five different ways that a decision’s outcome can direct the pathways of the process. As a nexus for governance, risk and regulatory compliance, the process decision is both an important management concept and a strategic design tool for achieving business objectives and goals.
Our new white paper clearly demonstrates how the 5 categories of decisions create processes that are compliant with the operational, compliance and risk management objectives. We lay out an effective design method that recognizes that process behavior considers decision-generated events. Also, from a single operational decision, events and data can trigger and control many aspects of a business processes.
The figure below depicts these 5 categories:
The Bosch Software Enterprise Platform provides a powerful design environment that simplifies management control of business processes. The result of separating processes from rules stabilizes business processes and permits operational decisions to change without having to change the process application. Understanding the five operational decision categories simplifies the choice of what should be a dynamic operational decisions supported by business rules and what should be a static part of the process. The white paper presents approaches for deciding what should be an operational decision (business rule) and what should be on the BPMN process diagram (gateways and conditions).
You can download the complete white paper here:
 Martijn Zoet, Richard Welke, et al, ‘Aligning Risk Management and Compliance Considerations with Business Process Development’, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg 2009
 K.Chandy, R. Schulte, Event Processing: Designing IT Systems for Agile Companies, McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2009
 The Microguide to Process Modeling in BPMN 2.0, Debevoise, Geneva and Welke, Advanced Component Research, 2010