• The MicroGuide to Process and Decision Modeling in BPMN/DMN: Building More Effective Processes by Integrating Process Modeling with Decision Modeling
    The MicroGuide to Process and Decision Modeling in BPMN/DMN: Building More Effective Processes by Integrating Process Modeling with Decision Modeling

Entries in Decision Management (2)


Use Cases for the Internet of Things

A use case is a description of steps or actions between users, (participants, products) and core software systems which leads the user towards something useful.  In our practice of business process modeling, particularly at Bosch, I have been encountering many ‘Internet of things’ use cases. These ‘things’ or products are process participants, as opposed to simple data feeds or event sources. They are responsible for activities. They send and respond to signals.

Use Cases for the Internet of Things

In the new world of process modeling for the “things world”, product features respond (process) to their environment (events) according to the needs and desires of their owners (decisions and rules). In addition, process activities are continuously updated and communicate in a globally connected environment. This is the nature of the internet of things or the ‘things world’. Some, aspects of the process, events and decisions will be controlled by the end-user. Other aspects are controlled by the things, outside agents, products or by others, such as weather or an electrical utility (smart grids).
The goal of BPMN and other visual environments, such as Visual Rules is to empower the stake-holders, such as product experts, to control their area of concern, without writing computer code. End-users can configure the actions in the use case, according to their needs.  This is referred to as the ‘user creating the application’. In the ‘things world’, a wide range of products that will interact in unanticipated ways. Cameras, household appliances, security sensors and many other things will interact. The end user will probably not use BPMN for this; however, they will want to change the sequence of tasks and the nature of responses to events.

BPMN in the Things World

The visual approach, including BPMN, is a common way to model process and rules, and now even events.  What can be difficult to relate is how to build a use case that matches ‘things’ requirements with a list of objectives for events, processes and decisions. What is needed is a context for arranging the vision into a form that can be incorporated into products.
The outcome should be to define services that support product features, events and decisions that carry out the use case objectives. This is the beginning of an iterative process, a starting point for building a core set of services that support a more integrated portfolio of capabilities.
There are many native benefits to the combined Process/Event/Rules approach that enhance competitiveness. The result should be a portfolio of agile products and process features that increase agile responses to customer requirements, economic or competitive challenges. Over time companies, by adopting the strategy, will build an agile core for managing a collection of common events/process/decisions and information structures that support the objectives of the business. This is the clearest path to the ‘internet’ of things.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the ‘things world’ is not just sensors, appliances and cameras connected to the internet. This connectivity will spawn new business models and new opportunities.  To wit, there are underpinnings, including vocabulary, product/services, organizations, and personnel and training data structures that are critical to every process, and therefore every ‘internet of things’ initiative.

Tom Debevoise


Unpacking Decision Management: A Changing Landscape

There is an excellent recent review of knowledge management as written by Fahmi Ibrahim (here). I was struck by the parallels between KM and business rules, so I 'borrowed' his conclusions and mapped them to my understanding of the business rules industry.


Key Points 

Poor Conceptual Understanding

The vast majority of the business rules literature (1)(2)(3)(4) and products are built on the assumption that business rules should be expressed as a linguistic, symbolic or interpreted evaluation of facts. However, the characteristics of this approach make it difficult to create, control and manage changes (5)(6).


The alternate approach views business rules as a set of sequential sequence of logic that categorize, compares, computes and controls a business decision or direction.


Many organizations have successfully implemented both approaches.

Lack of Common Framework

In reviewing the literature and standards, business rules and the business rules approach lacks a common framework and there is no consensus of a working definition of either. Commercial software focuses on IT infrastructure. In the OMG standard there is the semantic business rules vocabulary (SBRV). SVBR has very little to do with the needs of IT operations. Consequently, the business rules are misunderstood and underutilized, especially in rules intensive-areas such as health care, logistics, risk management and finance,

“Rebottled Old Wine‟

Many products employed expert systems that were developed over 3-decades ago to solve unrelated AI problems. Other approaches evolved from the limitations of the relational data bases (7)(8). The result is that the definition of business rules and business decisions is too narrow and will not encompass the evolving event driven infrastructures of tomorrow.

Bandwagon Effect

In the last 10 years, many companies jumped onto the rules bandwagon without understanding the meaning and implications of expert systems, fact-based modeling, or vocabulary approaches. In fact, many companies became bogged down in analysis paralysis and endless ‘death by meeting’.

Success or Failure

The business rules approach has delivered significant results but the success rate is mixed. There are many examples of organizations which have successfully implemented BRA. Yet anecdotally, we encounter initiatives will fail to have significant results. Like knowledge management, some have declared that BRA is a fad without real business benefits.

Value and Measurement

While business rules are widely recognized as a valuable metaphor for controlling business results there is little understanding of how to manage these.

I think business rules should support an expanded view of business rules in the enterprise-one that encompasses and moves beyond supporting a process decision (or endless meetings that might make that someday). New metaphors, especially events, are on the horizon. As with every method, the complexity of the situation will significantly expand. To survive, the business rules approaches should reduce complexity and increase transparency with today's model-driven approaches.