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Business rules and intelligent user interfaces

I have not blogged much about SmartForms for Blaze Advisor, the extension to the base product that allows for the development of rules-driven user interfaces that take advantage of AJAX and X-Forms so I thought I would do so today. For those of you who hate it when I talk about a Fair Isaac product, please stop reading now!

So, the need for intelligent user interfaces is growing as while modern computer applications have reached new levels of sophistication, web user interfaces have not. In particular the increasingly sophisticated automation of decision-making (aka EDM) is characterized by the need to collect and use large amounts of information. Traditional user interfaces:

  • Have problems with logic propagation
  • Cannot adapt to different users
  • Fail to alter conditions within applications based on context or data

For example the forms complexity in workers comp underwriting involves 4000-8000 class codes, 50 states and unique information requirements for each code.

So what is an Intelligent user interface? Well each component is aware of the semantics of data it captures and rules and constraints applicable to the data apply to the component. Knowledge is imparted declaratively, using business rules and user interaction is modeled on natural adaptive behavioral trends.

Why might you want to do this?

  • You want to build, interactive smart applications that act as gateway to data capture and decision management
  • You want to build forms-driven work flows, with business rules controlling form behavior
  • Build reusable UI components that can be chained across a number of different process flows
  • You want to streamline an online application process
    • Build highly responsive web applications that are data and logic aware
    • Reduce the number of incorrectly filled or incomplete from submissions
    • Reduce the amount of re-work in complex transactions
  • You want to use the rules about the data you need to drive an effective “conversation” with your customers
  • You want to enhance customer satisfaction and deliver an enriched user experience

How can you achieve these kinds of interfaces? Well, combine Business Rules (for agility and consistency) with AJAX (for more responsive applications) and XFORMS, probably one of the best W3C recommendations, for platform and device-independent forms. Fair Isaac calls this SmartForms for Blaze Advisor.

SmartForms extends Blaze Advisor’s business rules capabilities by letting you create data-validation-centric business rules and validated web-based forms applications using the same business rules management capabilities as all other business rules in Blaze Advisor. You can build smart interactive decision making applications as well as dynamic “data and logic aware” user interfaces. SmartForms allows multi-step decisioning and interactive questionnaires for Internet-enabled self service.

There are lots of advantages to this - declarative validation rules, integration with back-end decisioning etc, but also in terms of security and scalability. The storing of rules in the browser is a big concern but SmartForms generates XForm pages, XSL transforms, CSS files and the rules in SmartForms are not visible on the client – they are compiled into XPath expressions loaded into memory. SmartForms does not generate any JavaScript code for a specific form (although the SmartForms processor is written in JavaScript). SmartForms is also designed to scale well for numbers of object and numbers of rules per object and the use of standard web server technologies and approaches ensures SmartForms are not the bottleneck.

The end result of all this is that:

  • Business users create and manage web-based interactive applications
  • Forms can dynamically change to capture additional data, or change validation rules, depending on previous responses
  • Forms can be integrated with back-end decisioning services built with Blaze Advisor
  • Reduced total cost of ownership through improvements in data quality and reductions in maintenance costs
  • Better data, collected faster, complete the first time

The press release on the new release (6.1) is here.

Fair Isaac also recently joined the OpenAjax initiative as noted in InfoWorld here

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Comments

Vish Desai

I believe I saw a demo of this on EBRC 2005 (if I remember right). YASU Technologies has a slightly different solution to the same problem - I've written about the "smart client kit" very briefly on my blog here: http://usecases.brmsblog.com/the-quickrules-brms-components/

During my series on "business agility primer" [http://usecases.brmsblog.com/category/business-agility-primer/], I'll try to cover both the approaches in "suggestions for building the UI for a agile system"...

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