Business rules have become a hot topic. At an industry event such as ACORD/LOMA, you'll hear many vendors talk about having business rules. We've all been here before; the buzz makes it hard for many of us to consider what we really need in those rules that help us automate processes such as claims and underwriting. Much of what we are struggling with is whether we should buy proprietary business rules capabilities that have been built into our applications, or if we should demand that our application vendors use enterprise-strength business rules solutions.Let's discuss the spectrum of what business rules can be. First, flexibility is important. At one extreme is the ability to change parameters, such as age, within the pre-defined rules for a given decision. At the other extreme are flexible solutions, where any new rule that relates to the problem can be added. The first is great when the rules are known, consistent and won't change. But, often the original application design doesn't consider industry, market and legal changes that cause us to have to define new rules we had not considered might be needed. As we have seen over the past 20 years, flexibility is critical to our ability to keep our application current.

Second, consider enterprise use of rules and decisions. When business rules are deeply embedded within a given application, these rules are usually not available to other applications. As an example, we might want a set of rules associated with decisions such as defining a premier customer or identifying and verifying (ID&V) a customer when we interact with that customer.

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