Business rules are meant to guide, not restrict

straightjacketRules are everywhere. Literally. You can observe them in everyday life all around you whether you’re in the office or not.

I see people standing on empty streets waiting to cross the road and blindly obeying the crossing sign for the sake of common sense. I watch people automatically line up to fob their ID badge for access into office spaces and then again to leave when only the first person needs to because at one point there was a rule by Facilities set that you had to, but the rule has become outdated and yet people still follow it by reflex and without question.

And it’s the same for business rules within processes. They are guidelines, a means to allow the business to define a loose path for a process to take before a decision needs to be made but where constraint and auto-reflex starts to appear is when an organization hardcodes business rules into process and workflow applications.

Organizations become that person on the street, forgoing common sense and blindly accepting what the rule tells us. Organizations become that person standing in line to flash his ID badge because of some long forgotten reason without questioning why.

It’s the same for compliance and regulation. They are set in place to protect and guide the consumer and the business but are more often than not interpreted as a set of immoveable goals to achieve and therefore organizations design processes around them not be guided by them. And because of this common sense and business intuition becomes removed as automated black and white reasoning takes over.

Business rules aren’t mean to be hard and fast. They aren’t meant to constrict decision making and set a workforce to automatic.

Don’t let business rules become the straightjacket for your processes.


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Categories: BPM, Process Management

Author:Theo Priestley

"I had more creative ideas from Theo in 6 months than I have had in 6 years from most people." Theo Priestley is one of the most recognised independent technology industry influencers and evangelists, ranking in the Top 100 thought leaders across Virtual/ Augmented Reality, FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things and future trends. Theo has written insights for Forbes, Wired, The European Magazine, Venturebeat to name a few, and has been interviewed for many online publications including the BBC on his thoughts on technology and the future. A regular paid keynote speaker and panelist at conferences and events, Theo is engaged for his forthright views and isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and the marketing hype surrounding the industry when presenting, never pulling punches to get the message across on how technology can be applied to improve business and the customer experience. He has also successfully organised and run TEDx and Ignite events. Highly active across social networks, he sits in the Top 1% for social media engagement on Kred and Klout and is constantly sharing articles and his analysis that he feels his audience would be interested in. Theo is also active in the startup community, mentoring within UK and US accelerators and sits on a number of advisory boards. Former VP and Chief Technology Evangelist at a Top 25 European enterprise software company with a career spanning both innovation strategy and delivery of software and business change in Financial Services, and as an independent technology industry analyst. Follow Theo on Twitter @tprstly or connect here directly for constant insights on tech and marketing trends. • Top 1% Influencer on Kred (915) • Top 1% Influencer on Klout (70+) • 12,000+ Followers on LinkedIn • 13,000+ Followers on Twitter • Recognised Top Influencer in AI, Virtual/ Augmented Reality, Fintech, IOT and Wearable Tech, Big Data and Analytics.

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3 Comments on “Business rules are meant to guide, not restrict”

  1. Jim Smith
    February 25, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    I see this everyday in my consulting practice. I’m in the business of cost reduction, but unlike traditional consulting, we follow a process and are far more likely to do away with an entire process that to fix one. Now, you can’t do away with an entire process unless you can show that it generates zero value. I’d say that nearly 100% of the time the executive to whom the process belongs will, even after agreeing with the lack of value issue, immediately go into the yea, but the policy is……..

    Many here won’t believe this, but it is absolutely true, many managers have challenged our recommendations all the way to the CEO, completely ignoring the facts, arguing instead that the policy is this or that.

    For over forty years I have followed one guiding principal: It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I even incorporate this into my employee interviewing, I ask for an immediate response to this question, when you see a “WET PAINT sign, how likely are you to test to see if it’s really wet. Those saying that they would likely test, just out of curiosity, are probably going to get hired.

    Great observation Theo!

  2. February 26, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Re ” Business rules . . . . aren’t meant to constrict decision making and set a workforce to automatic”

    I agree they are not meant to constrict decision making but in our practice we distinguish between three two types of rules

    a) advisory – e.g. you failed to record an mandatory data element,. do you want to input it now?

    it seems strange that the data element is “mandatory” but yet you can can provide a value or not provide a value – no worries, downstream from this step, you will get to a place where further progress will cause a hard stop. If the flow goes that way

    b) hard stop. here we cannot continue. example; zip code needed to mail a letter, no point sending out a letter without this.

    If the protocol has options “Ok, we cannot send a letter, would you like to send an e-mail or a fax?” then the problem of the missing zip goes away.

    Usually we include a supervisory override at hard stops i.e. the specimen missed the pickup but we will for this one time hand carry it to the lab.

    So I agree with don’t want to constrict decision making and I agree we don’t want to set a workforce to automatic.

    I also agree with “Don’t let business rules become the straightjacket for your processes.”

    But hard stop rules need not put your processes in a straightjacket. it all depends on how protocols are implemented.

  3. quentinjs
    February 26, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Policies and regulations should be questioned / challenged. BUT Rules as noted by Karl are a must. The question is when you build the process are the rules tied into the process (wrong) or are they identified and guide the business process.

    Now there are different types of rules, those for the describe level and those at the analytical level. The rules at the describe level tend to be more guiding, and those at the analytical level will likely be more of a control based. (postal code – required – error) but there will still be cases of (billing preference – optional – warn).

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