Software // Information Management
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11/27/2007
09:14 AM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
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Consolidation Hits the Business Rules Market

Business rules engines are yet another example of a niche technology that is powerful, yet seemingly needs to constantly strive for the recognition it deserves. Other eclectic-yet-deserving technologies in this category include master data management and data quality solutions, etc. The challenge is to be perceived as an essential part of the corporate technology portfolio...

The consolidation game continues apace, this time in the Business Rules solutions marketplace. I received an e-mail message from Paul Haley, the erstwhile founder and chairman of Haley Systems, one of the better-known business rules software in the US, informing me that Haley Systems had been acquired…and that, not having gone with the acquisition, he himself is now once again foot loose and fancy free ("like you, vendor neutral," as he put it).

For the record, Haley Systems was acquired by RuleBurst, which is an Australian firm with a good footprint in areas of the world that Haley Systems did not cover, so there is now another truly global player in the business rules market.Business rules engines are yet another example of a niche technology that is powerful, yet seemingly needs to constantly strive for the recognition it deserves. Other eclectic-yet-deserving technologies in this category include master data management and data quality solutions, automated testing tools, etc. The big challenge for these technologies is to be perceived as an essential part of the corporate technology portfolio, deserving of (or at least, capable of) implementation as an independent initiative, rather than needing to piggyback off of other, more dominant technologies or solutions in the overall corporate architecture.

I asked Haley if he thinks rules technology is getting the recognition it deserves. "Reasoning technology, and more generally artificial intelligence, is critical to increasing agility and continuous improvement of business," he responded. "If by 'recognition' you mean that people should be thinking more generally about the relevance of abstract reasoning and formulating more strategic plans that involve them, I agree."

Haley believes natural language provides the most accessible and general-purpose metaphor for rules engines (a point I explored in last year's review of Haley Authority v5.1). That point seems hard to argue with.

Reasoning capabilities do promote business agility, and IT management needs to consider rules management tools as an essential component of the technology portfolio. Unfortunately, bringing in a business rules solution only in the tunnel-vision context of some other project often reduces our ability to fully realize its potential. From a practical perspective, this approach also makes it harder to justify the investment in time and cost. Business rules can benefit a wide variety of applications, from OLTP to BI; an initial assessment will help clarify the value of a business rules management solution across the enterprise.

What about the recognition?

"Of course, it would be nice if recognition was more forthcoming," Haley says. "I'll give it another decade or two!" Given the power of the technology, it will take a lot less time than that, I should think. Do you agree?Business rules engines are yet another example of a niche technology that is powerful, yet seemingly needs to constantly strive for the recognition it deserves. Other eclectic-yet-deserving technologies in this category include master data management and data quality solutions, etc. The challenge is to be perceived as an essential part of the corporate technology portfolio...

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