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Agility is the ability to move quickly and act fast. Business agility is the ability to adapt and respond to the change rapidly. Notice the difference? In business, the emphasis is on flexibility.
Of course, I am borrowing this concept from software development, where agile development is the new norm. But think about this: if businesses are built on systems that are, in turn, built using agile methods, then does that make your business agile?
No. An emphatic no.
You still need to engineer the systems that run your business to be accommodating to changes, to be flexible and without rigidity.
All businesses run on a set of business processes and rules. Systems are engineered—or over-engineered, if you will—to automate these complex processes and business rules. IT takes the business rules and hard-codes them into the application in a language business people can’t always understand. But business rules change frequently. When there’s a new regulation, they change. When there’s a new competitor in the market, they change. It can change over the course of a meeting.
When sales at ControlExpert, the German insurance, automotive and car leasing industries services provider, started skyrocketing, they transformed their processes. They didn’t just automate claims management, they infused it with intelligence to identify patterns and discrepancies in claims. As a result, their agents could make the right decisions faster to accept payouts. This enabled them to minimize overhead costs and exceed customer service expectations.
Business rules are not simply the rules you play by. In fact, they are very specific statements that are the foundation of how business decisions get made. They answer questions like:
- Who’s eligible for loans and what are the terms of repayment?
- Should the pricing of the product vary by state?
- At what purchase value should a customer become eligible for a loyalty bonus?
Each gives well-formed, practical guidance focused on making a specific decision. Each uses terms and facts about business concepts, which should be well-defined. Each is declarative, rather than procedural.
This requires business and IT to work together to make improvements and a new architecture for systems that drive business.
“Agility increases when companies use the expertise of all of the major stakeholders to identify, understand and respond to accelerating change and disruption as it occurs.” – IBM Business Agility Study, April 2011
Operational Decision Management allows and accommodates this flexibility for line of business to make changes to the decision logic as and when needed and in natural language. It is a strategic advantage and perhaps a vital missing link in your quest to define your organization as agile.
I encourage you to read more in this whitepaper that articulates how decision management provides the critical link to business agility. You can also follow the conversation on @BPMfromIBM. And feel free to comment below about how your organization is embracing agile methodology to define your business.