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Business Rules Forum 2009 Winds Down

With the vendors gone the main hall seemed spacious during the morning keynote and lunch time presentations.  James Taylor [of "Smart (Enough) Systems" fame] delivered the keynote address.  He always has interesting insights regarding the state of affairs for agile systems design, both leveraging automated decisioning and workflow processes. 

James made the point that systems need to be more agile given higher levels of uncertainty with which our businesses deal.  The need to adjust and react is more critical as our business strategies and goals flex to the changing environment.  Essentially he seemed to be saying that businesses should not reduce their efforts to be agile during this economic downturn.  Rather, it is more important to increase agility in order to respond quickly to shifting opportunities.

Following the keynote I attended Brian Dickinson’s session titled, “Business Event Driven Enterprises Rule!”  The description of the session in the conference guide had caught my attention since it mentioned “event partitioning” which was a phrase I had not heard used in terms of designing automated solutions for businesses.

I was glad that I went.  Brian was an energetic speaker!  It was clear that he was deeply committed and passionate about focusing on events rather than functionality when considering process automation.  The hour-long session flew by and it was apparent that we hadn’t made a dent in what he really wanted to communicate.

Brian was kind enough to give attendees a copy of his book, “Creating Customer Focused Organizations” which I hope expands on the premise of his presentation today.  Although quite natural as a design paradigm when building event-driven UI’s and multi-threaded applications, I have not spent time focused on events when designing the business and database tiers of applications.  For me, the first step of working with his central tenants will be to try applying them, at least in a small way, on my next architecture project.

The last two sessions I attended were delivered by Keri Healy and were focused on the SBVR.  These were the first two sessions I highlighted in the conference guide when I initially reviewed it.  The SBVR is an OMG specification defining a model for representing business rules being expressed in a structured language.  My definition isn’t precise but I think it is orders-of-magnitude more concise and accurate than it would have been before I attended the two sessions. 

SBVR caught my attention when it was released.  I knew it was supposed to allow for a standardized representation of business rules.  However, after trying to read the standard (a 422 page document) and not understanding it, I postponed further exploration.  My interest comes from the fact that I am constantly seeking a structured representation of business rules in order to apply automation during the design, implementation and testing phases of rule-centric projects.

With my new-found understanding, thanks to Keri’s concise discussion focused on SBVR’s structure around business rules and vocabulary, I am inspired to create an application that supports the SBVR model.  Once I have such an application, I will be able to explore SBVR’s potential to support transformation of rule definitions between our project SDLC artifacts.  At least I now know where to look within the standard for the details I need to automate the model.  I also have a better understanding of the scope of the standard.  For instance, I thought the standard would dictate a specific language structure but it doesn’t.

Following on the heels of the BRF is the co-located RuleML conference.  I will be attending  its sessions tomorrow.  This is a group about which I am curious, owning to their focus on metamodels supporting rule interchange, among other topics.  I hope to gain some insight into the organization and the current state of its projects.

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