Building Your Own Rules Engine is Not As Simple As You Think


Integrating a rules engine into existing software can fix inefficiencies and help companies develop innovative and competitive products. Companies are often torn between building their own rules engine and buying from a vendor.

While the benefits of building your own customized business rules engine sound enticing, the pressure on time and resources makes such an undertaking impossible for most businesses. 

Companies often overlook the fact that designing their own business rules engines is expensive and disruptive. Even worse, sometimes the development process fails completely, which means no return on resources invested.

There are many hidden costs to building your own business rules engine, which most companies don’t see when they start the development process. 

The Real Costs of Building Your Own Rules Engine

Before embarking on this journey, ask yourself whether your company currently has the capability to build, maintain, and support the rules engine.

Some companies start off by building a simple rules engine and falsely believe that future updates will be just as simple. It gets exponentially more difficult when you start adding important features such as versioning and user permissions.

In other words, underestimating the costs of building a rules engine can seriously harm a business. 

Time and Planning

Building your own rules engine is neither simple nor cheap. 

Even carefully planned projects are vulnerable to loss of productivity due to scope creep,  budget overrun, and missed deadlines.

Building a business rules engine takes an enormous amount of time, resources, planning, and expertise. And that’s assuming that you’re working with an experienced development team that has successfully completed many projects. 

On the other hand, the time to implementation can be as soon as a couple of weeks when buying a rules engine from a vendor, instead of potentially over a year (likely more) that will be spent building the solution on your own.

Maintain the Code

Software requires constant maintenance. Whether it’s hackers finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities or users demanding updates to the software, your business will have to focus on the rules engine all the time. The costs just keep coming. 

The operations side of managing your own rules engine comes at a steep price — your company will need to invest resources into customer support, training, security updates, bug fixing, and continuous customization. You will have to maintain the software indefinitely.

Since leading vendors have a large customer base, they are able to charge much less for implementing and maintaining rules engines than it would cost you to build a custom business rules engine.

That’s why most companies choose to simply buy a proven business rules engine from a reliable vendor like Higson. This is our core business which is why we’ve invested thousands of hours into building our hyper-efficient rules engine and thousands more into ironing out all the kinks.

We also offer expert support and training to help onboard your users. In fact, the entire burden of maintenance, quality assurance, security testing, patch fixes, and the deployment of product upgrades is the responsibility of Higson. 

Once the Rules Engine is Built

Once the testing is completed and you release the product, then the stabilization period begins when you find new bugs and corner cases you haven't thought about during the implementation. 

Security Threats

Creating your own solution means you have to create a team that will take care of this software forever. For example, a flaw in Log4j, which is a widely used Java logging library that’s been around for years was the most serious and high-profile vulnerability on the internet in recent years. It required immediate action and our team had to quickly fix the problem and send an updated version to all of our customers.

Security threats are frequent and widespread, and even old and established libraries like Log4j can contain a dangerous security hole. And if you don’t have a team that can efficiently handle such threats, then this poses a very serious problem to your business. 

You have to factor in that you’ll be paying for constant security audits out of your own pocket.

Therefore, due to new security flaws found you need to update libraries and release a new version from time to time. 

GUI Update

Updating your GUI is another concern that you would have if you were to build your own rules engine. GUIs get older and you may find yourself in a situation where a web application development framework releases a new version, which is not compatible with the previous one. 

This means that you’ll need to rewrite large portions of the frontend. A vendor can perform these comprehensive updates because they have a large customer base. However, this is a very clear cost for you. 

Also, commercial rules engines are designed to suit a wide range of users with different technical skills levels. Therefore, these software tools have a vastly more user-friendly GUI. 

As Zack Hendlin, VP of Product for OneSignal states, “Buying a solution that is well-tested, feature-rich, used successfully by a lot of other companies, and supported with knowledgeable staff is much more efficient (and cheaper) than going through all the steps to build something.”

Bottom Line

Between putting together a dedicated development team, planning the build process, implementing and testing it effectively, building your own rules engine can turn into a multi-year process that requires regular maintenance.

The fact of the matter is that in most cases the right rules engine for your company is already available. 

Why spend countless resources to have your team build a rules engine when a proven one already exists? 

A vendor has already found a solution for that exact same (or very similar) problem hundreds of times, which enables them to pass on the benefits of their experience to their clients. 

If you choose to go your own way and build a rules engine, then you risk having to start so far behind your competitors that by the time your rules engine is up and running, they will have increased the distance. 

When buying a license from a vendor, your business gets everything from training to hosting to maintenance. As a result, you are able to focus on your core business instead of falling behind the competition. 

Very often your rules engine will have lower functionality than a commercial solution. A paid license gives your software new features at no additional cost. 

Simply put, unless you’re willing to experience major disruptions to your business, you should buy a proven and established business rules engine from an experienced vendor. 

Higson is used by major companies in multiple industries, including insurance, finance, healthcare, and retail. Get in touch with us today and let us show you why Higson is a good fit for your business.

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