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Business Rule Representation: A Tradeoff of Complexity and Linguistic Power

by David McCoy  |  March 10, 2009  |  4 Comments

I have just put the last comma in a new piece of research that will be out this quarter, entitled: Taking the Mystery Out of Business Rule Representation.  As a hint at what we researched, I am including one of the main graphics: a chart that shows the various rule representation approaches plotted against two axes:

  1. Complexity – How hard is it to use one of these techniques? How much work do I have to do to make it work for me?
  1. Linguistic Power – What do I get in return for my hard work? How close can I come to representing the real language dynamics that real speakers use when talking about business rules?

The research analyzes each alternative approach and advises on how users and rule developers can optimize the complexity-versus-linguistic-power dichotomy.  Watch for the research, and if you have any comments, fire away.

Business Rule Representation: A Tradeoff of Complexity and Linguistic Power


Source: Gartner

Category: business-process-management-bpm  business-rule-management-brm  technowishing  

Tags: business-rule-management-brm  david-mccoy  gartner  

David W. McCoy
Managing VPt
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

David McCoy manages the analysts on the IT Procurement and Asset Management team. David started Gartner's BPM research and is credited with defining the market that emerged ...Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Business Rule Representation: A Tradeoff of Complexity and Linguistic Power

  1. James Taylor says:

    Interesting topic. I wrote a response (linked from my name) and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the report.
    # Where would template-driven rules fall?
    # What about some of the graphical representations for individual rules?
    # How does the imprecision of natural language affect its linguistic power?

    James Taylor
    CEO, Decision Management Solutions

  2. David McCoy says:

    Hi James

    I read your post. Great questions. Three answers:

    First, I did not cover every known rule representation type, so the individual rule approach you mention is not explicitly covered. However, I tried to write this research at a meta-level and talk about categories versus instances. In that case, you might be able to slot additional approaches into my defined buckets.

    Template-driven rules fall in the structured-language category, in my taxonomy. They are more complex than graphical aids (trees, tables), but an easier form of language than CNL.

    Ambiguity can certainly equal power – but it’s a different kind of power. Ambiguity and imprecision are socio-political powers, purposefully or accidentally hiding the truth. My definition of linguistic power implies intent and capability to be clear and precise. So, by definition, imprecision is a weak point. If imprecision is used as a purposeful weapon, it is a weakness; if it is accidental, it is a weakness – as far as business rules go. For political speeches and short stories, the analysis would be radically different.


    David McCoy

  3. […] need visual metaphors (Decision Tables or Rule Flows) to solve the problems.  My point here is echoed by Dave McCoy with the Gartner […]

  4. […] The vast majority of the business rules literature (1)(2)(3)(4) and products are built on the assumption that business rules should be expressed as a linguistic, symbolic or interpreted evaluation of facts. However, the characteristic of this approach make it difficult to create, control and manage changes (5)(6). […]

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