Business Rules is a grass-roots movement that has little support from the BSchool community. Yet, it seems that effective it should be critical to a modern approach to business. At the beginning of the book Barbra and Larry state:
"Business rules are an under valued asset at most organizations today." ... " may hold the key to organizational agility, consistency and organizational knowledge"
With out a grand digression into the history of business rules, the books authors have arrived at these conclusions from the view point of practice. The organizations they serve have experienced such pain in creating reasonable change that they are willing to look beyond stale management practices.
You do not need to look far to find this in the literature. My friend, Art Tortolero, from Sungard recommended this book, a product of MIT research:
I have been reading this text carefully and I have many comments. It is well written and the language is clear. The premise of Enterprise Architecture as Strategy is that companies should develop a 'foundation for execution'. Next they should select an operating model for the levels of Process Standardization and Process Integration.
Early in the book (page 5) the authors list some of the characteristics of a company that has an Enterprise Architecture that is weak and did not support strategy:
"Different parts of our company give different answers to the same customer questions..." I guess these parts do not know where the policy or constraint is, or where to find a policy to answer the customers question.
"Meeting a new regulatory or reporting requirement is a major effort for us..." Where are the old policies? Again, here emerges a strong argument for business rules.
"Our business lacks agility-every strategic iniative is like starting from scratch" If your foundation for execution does not include agile processes, those with the characteristics implied by my earlier posts (here and here), how can your foundation for execution be expected to be agile?
There are other characteristics and each one points to the need for a rules approach in the enterprise architecture's foundation for execution. Certainly, business rules is not the only factor. Business process is also critical, yet Ross, Weill and Robertson have not touched on this critical topic.
On page 28 the authors state:
"The biggest challenge of integration is usually around data. End-to end integration requires companies to develop standard data definitions and formats for data that will be shared across business units or functions."
To me, this is naive. Take for instance the customer discount in a sales transaction. A simple database table with the discount column does not reveal the manner in which the discount was applied. Without business rules integration, systems integration is a delusion.
Businesses operate through Business Processes. Policies control business processes. Period. Unless the foundation for execution defines the roles of business rules in the enterprise architecture, it is unlikely that organization will achieve business agility. Your management will not have a process for articulating and changing critical elements of the business. Technology will bury business rules, either in Java Code within legacy business process tools, or in code such as in PL/SQL in the database.