Decision Management, as a best practice for (larger) businesses, has gained increased attention in 2020. The best definition of decision management is James Taylor's Decision Management Manifesto, which everyone should read. A few premises from the Manifesto (italics added) are:
- "Decisions are first class objects, just like business processes or data, and should be identified, described, modeled, reviewed, and managed in business terms as part of a business architecture.
- Business, IT, and analytic professionals all have a role in identifying, describing, modeling, reviewing, and managing decisions.
- A decision can have analytic insight that shows how it can be improved or made more accurately.
- If technology is applied to a decision, it may be to support a human decision-maker or to explicitly automate and manage the decision.
- A Decision Service is decoupled from and provides decision-making to existing systems, business processes, or event processing environments."
An accompanying white paper, available at the above URL, illustrates the use of tools based on the DMN (Decision Model and Notation) standard to do this. DMN specifies both a Decision Requirements Diagram (DRD) that can model a complex decision, sub-decisions and information requirements, and a standard for Decision Tables and "boxed expressions", where business rules are written in a notation called FEEL (Friendly Enough Expression Language).
Frontline's software has always been used to make analytics-based decisions, and we strongly agree with these premises. (Our own decision flow and decision table tools closely follow the DMN standard.) We've seen too many efforts at business process automation that fail to separate the decisions from the process, too many analytics efforts that offered insights but no decisions, and too many cases (often data science, AI and ML projects) that yielded predictions but no decisions, and were never deployed.
Decision Management Suites
Gartner analysts W. Roy Schulte, Erick Brethenoux, Pieter den Hamer and others have written several reports on Decision Intelligence and Decision Management Suites, including an April 2020 report How to Choose Your Best-Fit Decision Management Suite Vendor (document ID G00439904 if you're a Gartner client), which we recommend. An accompanying toolkit (PDF plus Excel spreadsheet - document ID G00450843) provides an in-depth feature comparison of 20 vendors' software products, including Frontline Systems' RASON Decision Services. In our latest (July 2020) RASON release, we've gone well beyond the features listed in this toolkit.
Nearly all of the products covered in this toolkit are based on earlier Business Rule Management Systems (BRMS), and they retain a "rules-centric" approach. A majority of applications for these DMS / BRMS systems are in financial services (banking and capital markets) -- heavily regulated industries -- and government itself, where codified rules, in laws, policies and regulations, dominate decision-making. Our perspective, from experience with over 1,200 large-organization customers in a wide range of other industries, is somewhat different: Where other products are "rules-centric", with some analytics added, RASON is "analytics-centric", with DMN-compatible business rules added.
Business Process Management
Many of the other products in Gartner's toolkit feature their own, proprietary "business process management" tools, used to orchestrate process flows. (The canonical example, used in the DMN specification, is a residential mortgage application process.) Decisions may or may not be clearly separated from the process flows. Our perspective is that decisions are "first class objects", and that Decision Services should be "decoupled from" business processes and existing systems. Our message to managers who are seeking to automate business processes, and inject some "decision intelligence" into them, is: Try Microsoft Power Automate -- it's powerful, flexible, supports RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and RASON Decision Services works really well with it -- better than any tool we know of.
Beyond Business Rules and Processes
We'll go further: We believe there are many applications of Decision Management outside of automated (or orchestrated) business processes, and there are many Decision Management applications, powered by predictive and (especially) prescriptive analytics, that aren't "rules-centric" at all -- they make use of only the simplest rules (e.g. "if the analytic churn score is 0.6 or higher, make a special offer"), or no rules at all.
The principles from James Taylor's Manifesto still apply: Decisions are first class objects; Decision Services should be decoupled from other systems; technology may support a human decision-maker or automate the decision ... and especially: Business, IT, and analytic professionals all have a role in identifying, modeling, and managing these decisions. And of course, we believe that RASON Decision Services is best in class for these applications -- especially for organizations using the "Microsoft stack", with Azure, Office 365, Power Platform, and/or Dynamics 365.