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Business Rules: Engines & Tools

Instructor: Elizabeth Wamicha

Elizabeth teaches undergraduate courses in Business and Information Technology for the last 7 years. She is currently on course to completing a Doctorate in Information Systems

In this lesson, you will learn about business rules engine software and their importance. You will also learn more about the tools that are used in the process of developing and using business rules.

Defining Business Rules Management

In order to better understand what exactly business rules are, let's look at the following scenario: a large organization called PQR Manufacturing Limited has a number of very complex steps that they follow when they are procuring raw materials from their suppliers. The raw materials have to be in a specific quantity, of a specific quality, and so on. PQR Manufacturing also deals with more than 100 different suppliers in the procurement process, which makes the process even more complex. For this company, running the procurement process manually would be a serious uphill task. It would be much easier for them to automate these different steps and run the procurement process using some automated platform. Business rules management is the term that describes the automation of these complex processes into simple step-by-step actions.

Business rules are formal statements that an organization uses to maintain a logical flow of actions throughout a given business process. Procurement, hiring and firing, and sales and distribution are a few examples of business processes. In most cases, business rules are automated.

For example, if the procurement officer of PQR Manufacturing decided that it was time to buy a certain raw material that was running out of stock, they would use business rules to make certain decisions, such as the quantity of the raw material to be bought, the specifications of the raw material (its dimensions, weight, and so on), and even the particular supplier to purchase the raw material from. All of these decisions in the procurement process can easily be automated using business rules. All the business rules of an organization (these can be many, depending on the complexity of the business processes of the organization) can be stored in a business rules engine (BRE). Through the BRE, these rules can be retrieved and used by a relevant business process automatically.

Let's take a look at the different components of the BRE.

Components of the Business Rules Engine (BRE)

As we mentioned earlier in this lesson, business rules are formal statements that are used by business processes in an organization. Business rules enable a logical flow of actions throughout a given business process. Business rules are automated and can be converted into software. The BRE acts as the software that stores the business rules and the business logic of various business processes within an organization. The most important parts of the BRE are:

  1. The Business Rules Database: This component stores all the business rules of the organization. The database also stores information about all the business processes and the business rules that they apply. For example, the procurement business process can have a series of business rules that it applies from the start of the procurement process until the end.
  2. The Business Logic: This component provides the sequence of actions that is performed when a certain business rule is applied. For example, if the business rule states that if a certain raw material is to be bought, then a certain supplier must be used, business logic facilitates this logical sequence of steps.
  3. A Reporting Feature: Most BREs also provide a reporting feature that can be used by the organization to establish if the business rules are being used effectively. The reporting feature can also help the organization determine if any business rules require tweaking.

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