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Business Rules Forum

-- Posted by Carole-Ann

BRF Vendor Panel 

After Dallas, travel brought me to Florida where I attended Business Rules Forum.

On Tuesday, John Rymer invited me to sit in a vendor panel (the only woman).  We discussed topics such as market consolidation and evolution towards Decision Management.  As you would expect all the vendors were unanimous that they would still be in business despite the Platform play of the IBM, Oracle etc. ;-)

I was not surprised to see that BRMS vendors are trying to confuse the audience regarding Decision Management.  As an early pioneer, I am of course a great proponent of Decision Management.  I contributed to shape its vision.  Therefore it is sometimes frustrating to hear people say it is the same as BRMS.  I love BRMS too but I see a clear distinction between the two: one is a superset of the other.  BRMS focuses on business rules, in other words: "how do we empower business users?".  Decision Management looks at the bigger picture in terms of including a larger set of technologies to solve more than business rules problems: "how do we predict the ability to repay?  how do we optimize resource allocation?"  Decision Management takes a serious look at how we improve decision too: it's about providing tools and services for business users to assess how profitably new strategies will perform in various economic conditions.  This goes well beyond business rules validation as provided by the BRMS today.

Frustration can turn in great satisfaction.  Although vendors faked they did not get it (or maybe they really did not), some bloggers did not get it either, I was extremely pleased to see that the audience was getting it.  I heard several people talk about "automating and improving decisions".  They are (getting) ready for this new discipline.  I definitely perceived from the side discussions I had after the panel and my talk that enterprises are now ready to investigate or embrace Decision Management.  I did not get that feeling in the previous years so I am sensing some market maturity there.

The panel touched also on Standards.  I was probably not popular stating that we are not ready for standards.  Not that they are unimportant of course, they can definitely change the adoption of technology.  But I still feel like we are at the stage where vendors want to define standards for the sake of having standards.  I have not seen any real end-user contribute to OMG or W3C on that subject.  I do not expect them to determine what the standard should be (duh!) but I expect them to dictate what is important to focus on.  Is it all about being able to swap one engine versus another, like a rule language extension of JSR94?  Or is it about swapping BRMS and therefore focusing on HOW the rules are represented (templates, metaphors, etc.) and lifecycle management processes?  Or was JSR94 the only thing end customers really cared about?  I am pretty sure JSR94 is not the solution of course.  But I think we will run into a wall if we try to define a standard for the wrong thing.  Not knowing the objective I could define more than one perfectly engineered wrong design.  After all, this is the core reason we have product managers in the software industry: to link the solution to the root business problem.  If we miss the business problem, the solution will likely miss the point too.  Vendors tend to disagree.  Fine.  The illusion that BRMS can be swapped with no effort is pure marketing today.  What is being discussed in terms of Standard will not allow to make it real though.  No offense to the vendors involved, it is all about business.  With pragmatic people like Changhai being involved in OMG PRR effort, I feel that we have a chance to get real results *if* we focus on what the end-users really need.  This is an open call to real end-users with real business problems to speak up.

On Wednesday morning, I presented my perspective on the market evolution to Decision Management.  This was the part 2 of the pre-show webinar I blogged there.

The talk was much better attended than most of the sessions I went to.  If you were in the audience, thank you for coming.  My objective was to educate the crowd on Decision Automation technologies such as Predictive Analytics and Optimization as well as Decision Improvement concepts.  It feels like it was the right approach as the BRF attendees are not yet fluent with those concepts.  I'll provide more details on the talk in another blog entry.

One of the highlights of the show was our Customer Dinner.  We had a private reception at the Fulton's crab house.  Great food.  I also got the opportunity to spend one on one time with a few customers that I had not met before.

Overall, the show was a good Business Rules Practitioner Reunion as always but it was a disappointment to see it had not grown much.  It is understandable that the attendance is down with the crisis but it is unfortunate that quite a few sessions had to be canceled.

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James Owen


I was surprising that the vendors "don't get it" about Decision Management. That is a "core" course in almost any school of business. Since a note pad can be DM tool so can anything else. Also surprising is that a lot of folks in the BRMS space have never heard of "Constraint-Based Programming." This, also, is an essential core curriculum for MBA. We were doing this with BASIC programs long before rules picked it up. As a matter of fact, every rule is nothing more than a constraint of some kind.


Mark Many


I am glad you mention the issue around lack of business focus in many of these standardization efforts. I agree with your point that business needs to drive what the focus of the standards should be and guide the efforts. Too many of these are just too technical and the results not usable by us your customers. It works for J2EE and the like because they are solving technical issues and were driven by technical folks. But for business rules, it's different.
In the name of us your customers: it's tough to get the time and the budget to participate. But I agree that we stand to lose the most.

I enjoyed your presentation. I actually am a customer of one of your competitors but I like the vision presented. It's very complete and pragmatic, I understand it, and it will help me position the work I am doing. What you could do in a future presentation is provide guidance for us on what parts of the vision are to be applied when in the life of the application. Maybe I missed that part.




You have a great point. I used to present EDM this way. I will think about putting together a new presentation and making it available via webinar.

I would welcome your input / feedback.

If you prefer to contact me directly, my email address is





I think people "get" the individual technologies but they don't necessarily get the vision. As a BRMS vendor, one may be tempted to redefine Decision Management as only BRMS (self-serving). Actually a couple of them did that in the panel.

Carlos talked about simplifying the technology stack, assigning roles to each one of the technologies, in a comment in another blog. I think he is exactly right. This divide-and-conquer approach to the complex problem of Decision Management is what we have been preaching. Decision Management is an approach to automate, improve and connect decisions. This is actionable. From the feedback I receive, people are getting it. We will get past the resistance of BRMS-only vendors!



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