Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Business Rules Forum 2006

OK, this one is NOT technical and might be considered a plug for Ron Ross. It isn't. A plug, that is.

On the other hand, imagine, if you will, a technical, national conference where there are lots (25 to be exact) Vendors BUT none of the vendors actually give any of the presentations. At the recent November 2006 Business Rules Conference in Washington D.C., they did just that. Actually, there were more than 25 vendors but only 25 had booth space. Most of the presentations were given and explained in the detail by the ultimate, end customers themselves complete with Q&A from packed audiences, mostly dealing with, "HOW did you do that AND are those really the ROI results or just estimates?" Most new attendees were totally incredulous (may I say disbelieving) about the results for re-structuring and using a decent BRMS tool.

Why, you might ask, is this important to me? Most of us can see the importance of attending a supply chain management conference, a Java conference, a J2EE/EJB conference or something along those lines. If your company already uses some kind of Business Rule Management System (BRMS - or rulebased system) then you might be aware of the advantages of using such a tool. Or not. If your company does not use a BRMS at this time, then you are rapidly falling behind the leading (not bleeding) edge of technology. One personal note: I have YET to initiate a BRMS for a company where they did not fully believe that they already knew their own business logic and work flow BUT when we began to implement the rules we discovered many, many errors in logic, procedures, work flow and documentation. Time after time, they business guys had to clean house BEFORE the geeks could help out with the implementation of the BRMS.

One of the biggest impressions that I got out of the conference was that most newbies to the Rule Conference found it hard to believe that with most of the companies IT and Business were finally communicating and (almost) walking hand-in-hand. Some of the most unbelievable things that we heard was, "We are able to do analysis projects that used to cost $1M and do them now for only $50,000." (page 17 of Ron Ross 6/11/05) "It used to take two months to train someone how to do a certain process. Today it takes about two hours on-line. All because we put intelligence into our training program." (Peter Schoenrock, Equifax, 7/11/05) See? Intelligent rules can be put into almost any part of your company and greatly improve the measurable ROI.

But, and this is one thing that repeatedly was pointed out by most of the older, more experienced, BRMS guys - it isn't easy. You can not take a procedural Java, COBOL or C++ programmers and architects and overnight turn them into declarative language programmers or architects. It takes time. It takes training. It takes experience. But, onece implemented, the ROI of such an adventure is absolutely astounding! So, why didn't the vendors have a major presence in the presentations? Because the founders of the conference felt (and rightly so, I might add) that the most important person in the process is the customer. If the customer can explain what they did and how they did it and the technology involved, then other customers might believe the incredible hype surrounding the industry. (After all, don't all salesmen lie?)

But customers actually said things like, "I don't know. Let me get back to you on that one." And they did. Unbelievable. Not only that, most of those giving the presentations had in-depth knowledge of the tool that they used, their own business plans and how things had so dramatically improved. The conference itself is now in it's 10th year (they skipped 1999 because of the Y2K problems ) and they had such luminaries as Dr. Charles Forgy (the inventor of the Rete Algorithm) and John Zachman (the originator of the Zachman framework) at the conference. Dr. Forgy has been given credit with having given "commercial legs" to rulebased systems back in 1979 when he improved the response time of a rulebased system by more than 3,000 times.

Zachman took the concept of using a rulebased system in the business world and came up with a framework on which to hang all of the various components of an enterprise business. Ron Ross, a widely respected author and entrepreneur, organized all of this into an annual conference where real "birds of a feather" could congregate and learn from each other. BRMS has now reached critical mass where even Microsoft, Computer Associates and Oracle are getting into the act. We could list all of the vendors, give a synopsis of the talks, and provide link upon link for pursual by our readers. However, if you go to either or to you should be able to find most anything that you need along those lines. Suffice it to say that if you missed the conference this year, you probably should not miss it next year.

Next blog: The session on benchmarks and the panel discussion - don't miss it. :-)

Copyright (c) KBSC 2006

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