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Enterprise Decision Management and the future of application development

(Posed by guest blogger, James Taylor)

I read an interesting paper by Joseph Feiman of Gartner today - Prepare for a Paradigm Shift to Automated Application Development. This is described as "maverick" research but I thought it was pretty compelling. Here's the (free) summary:

Gartner's forward-thinking "maverick" analysis strongly suggests that the long-awaited convergence of economic, technological and cultural factors promises to make automated application development a reality at last. Enterprises, application developers and IT professionals in many areas should use this assessment of the developments to come in order to fundamentally reassess their approach to this critical task.

Joseph talks about the challenges of poor productivity in application development combined with both skills shortages and evolving technology driving us towards automated application development. He sees this causing a move away from purely technology-driven developers to those able to use technology to solve business needs and a general trend that application development is not just for developers any more - something we already see with mashups and knowledge workers building their own reports.

Clearly the combination of Business Process Management (BPM) on a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is important to this idea. Equally the processes that are more repeatable and formalized are more likely to be automated in this way - especially those with what Joseph calls "algorithmic" decisions - decisions that can be described in terms of rules and formulae. Enterprise Decision Management, with its fit with both BPM and SOA and its ability to put non-technical developers in the driving seat when it comes to the "algorithms" being used is part and parcel of this trend with the added advantage that you can use it now, without having to automate the whole application development process.

Indeed, EDM addresses (or helps address) some of the problems of human interactions caused by the differences between business people and technical people. By providing a way for business and IT folks to collaborate on applications, especially on the core decisions within them, EDM paves the way for business-driven ownership of application development and evolution.

Joseph sees that application composition and built-in agility are key and he identifies rule engines as part of the technology stack for this. He goes on to talk about "rule-driven composition" which is a great phrase, although I would talk about decision-driven composition as decisions can be based on rules, analytics or a combination of the two and that makes more sense in a modern, data-rich enterprise. Like Joseph, I see roles such as business modeler and business rule manager surviving even as more narrowly focused technical roles become automated.

I also though his point about extending to third parties - supporting an extended enterprise - was worth nothing. In fact it prompted me to blog my list of criteria for a smart enough system.

Even if you think the automation outcome he discusses is unlikely any time soon, he makes some great points and the report is definitely worth a read. Regardless of how right he is about the automation of application development, EDM should be part of your planning as it addresses some of the critical issues he (and others) see in application development and does it now with technology and approaches that are proven already.

Some other posts that seem relevant include:


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Thats very true James. I agree with you and Joseph.

I think, now Decision Management is slowing picking up being a full fledged business vertical which includes MIS Reporting, General analysis, Business Rules, Predictive Modeling and Forecasting etc. This DM process has both the components, repetitive and innovation. While the second needs extensive human interaction and research, the first can be automated to save the time and human resource.

The only fear I have about DM process automation is de-linking people from process. We will still need smart people to look at those automated processes' outputs, who can transform into action. I have seen few firms depending purely on systems and I see them losing.


David Wright

OK,I didn't jump over to the Gartner article, but what this makes me think of is the on-going automation of anything that can be automated, while still leaving a set of hard-core problems that can't be automated...yet. This has been going on for a long time, back to the prediction in the earlier part of the 20th century that the growth of telephone use would require hiring the entire female population to be telephone operators!... or something like that, anyway.

The emergence of SOA, BPM, BRE and EDM is an example of a portion of what was previously required to be custom-coded now being "automatable". This still leaves a lot of software 'domains' that resist such automation so far, plus new domains being added on that we didn't know we didn't know about. It reminds me that all automation has immediate benefits to the first adopters, but benefits reduce over time as the rest of the world catches up... and that the real money is usually made by the sudden emergence of a new product that can't be readily duplicated; not fair, really, but what is.... So, all of us who do see the SOA to EDM cycle as beneficial need to get on it now and reap those early adopters' benefits ASAP.

However, James, that begs the next question? What comes after EDM? (impatient, ain't I...)

Dave Wright

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