Discovering and analyzing your business policy change templates is one of the several key aspects documented in the ISIS methodology, and that must be addressed as part of defining your Rule Governance processes.
The reason why a BRMS component is brought to a company’s IT application mix is because it facilitates the implementation of decision services, but also, and more importantly, because it helps manage their rapid evolution. It is thus surprising that the task of preparing the system and its supporting organization for business policy change management does not always get the attention it deserves.
Note that we are not talking here about preparing for change at the level of the business rule elements, which are the atomic building blocks of a policy. These are usually (or should be) well covered by generic rule governance processes for authoring, validation and deployment. We are talking about change at a macro-level, where it is expressed in terms of raw business policy statements instead of individual business rules. Think change to a paragraph of the underwriting policy used as the reference document by the loan underwriters, for example.
During the application analysis steps, the main questions to the business stakeholders revolve around capturing as accurately as possible the definition of the business policies that will be implemented by the system. However, when analyzed from a snapshot, the policy can appear monolithic or prompt a decomposition along some logical or system-related concepts which are not adapted to the future need to accommodate business changes.
Therefore, another critical task that must be addressed early on in the analysis process is focused on producing an inventory of the probable ways in which the policies may or will change, and with which frequency.
This requires the policy managers to reflect on their experience and come up with as many concrete examples of discrete policy changes that have they have been witnessing regularly in the past. These examples can then be arranged in a taxonomy of business policy change templates.
The most frequent changes are usually the most simple and precisely described ones. The more complex and less frequent ones will often contain some unknowns. For example, the possible templates for a loan pricing application may be:
- Changing the base rate values (may occur weekly).
- Changing the add-on, minimum rate, or fee values (may occur monthly).
- Creating or retiring “specials” for selected regions or channels (may occur quarterly).
- Creating or retiring the pricing structure for a new product (may occur once or twice a year).
Of course, not all changes are predictable. Important and unpredictable ones come, for example, from external regulatory rules or from newly devised company strategies. But for the more banal and recurring ones that can be identified and dissected in advance, the benefits are multiple.
Some of the artifacts that can be prepared for a given business policy change template are:
- A template for change submission, which precisely describes the change and the different parameters involved.
- A process map to implement the change, detailing which rule should be updated, created, or deleted, in which package, whether an update to the rule flow is warranted, etc…, and which specific resource is needed.
- An accurate time and effort estimate to implement this change, from authoring to deployment. The estimate is developed and agreed upon by both IT and business stakeholders, and helps in setting the release schedules and expectations.
- A set of rule templates to facilitate the implementation and reduce the risk of introducing defects.
- A precise test plan and set of test cases. And since the scope of the change is well defined, it is easier to apply techniques such as Delta Testing, which help get extensive test coverage and minimize the updates needed on test cases.
For traditional software, requirement tracking is an important pre-requisite to smooth system maintenance. It allows to analyze the impact of a requirement change to the underlying implementation, and plan the change accordingly.
Business rules management systems take maintenance to the next level and make it a standard activity. It should thus be expected that the efforts on requirement tracking are pushed accordingly to collect and analyze the patterns in requirement change.
To know more about Rule Governance, join me in a 1-hour webinar on May 28th (click here to register). Like our mission states, we are here to help your business handling change and complexity, and rule governance is a key element to make sure you can attain such a goal!