The Power of Rule Repositories in Decision Engines Across Industries

MARCIN NOWAK
May 24, 2024
Blog

$4 billion in GDPR fines.

$5,8 billion in AML violation fines for cryptocurrency industry, $835 million for banking.

$250 million and 530,000 workdays wasted on meaningless meetings.

Not to mention jail time.

These are the consequences of chaos, work and information overload, ever-changing law, and relying on inefficient solutions.

This all could be avoided with rules engines.

Predefined rules help execute complex decision logic in a matter of minutes without prolonging meetings, thinking. 

And every business rule engine needs a rule repository. This is the core of managing business rules, and the reason why auditing of your company will be smooth, the cost of compliance will drop, and making changes to business logic could happen without IT dependency.

The Role of Rule Repositories in Rule Engines

A rule repository is a centralized database that stores all the business rules governing an organization's processes and decisions. Within a business rules engine, rule repositories serve as the single source of truth for business logic. They decouple rules from application code, enabling easier management, reusability, and consistent enforcement across systems. 

Rule repositories facilitate version control, auditing, and rule sharing, while allowing business experts to directly author and maintain the rules. During runtime, business rule engines retrieve relevant rules from the repository to execute and produce outcomes based on the evaluated rules.

Benefits of Centralizing Business Logic in Rule Repositories

Improved Governance and Control

Centralizing business rules in a rule repository provides improved governance and control over an organization's business logic. With a single source of truth for all rules, it becomes easier to manage and enforce them consistently across different applications and systems. This centralized approach enables:

  • Centralized Business Rules Management System: All rules are stored and managed in one place, making it easier to maintain, update, and deploy changes to the business logic.
  • Easier Auditing and Compliance Tracking: Rule repositories often provide version control and auditing capabilities, allowing organizations to track changes to rules over time and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements or internal policies.
  • Consistent Enforcement of Rules: The same set of rules can be applied consistently across different processes, applications, and systems, reducing the risk of inconsistencies or errors due to duplicated or conflicting rules. 

Increased Agility and Flexibility

Separating business rules from application code and storing them in a centralized repository increases an organization's agility and flexibility in responding to changing business requirements.

It is well-known, that the cutting down time-to-market can be a huge difference maker in terms of revenue and profit. 

This is achieved through:

  • Ability to Quickly Update and Deploy New Rules: Since business rules are decoupled from application code, they can be updated and deployed independently, without requiring changes to the underlying applications or systems.
  • Separation of Business Logic from Application Code: This way, organizations can easily maintain and evolve their applications without directly impacting the business rules, and vice versa.
  • Easier Adaptation to Changing Business Requirements: Rules can be updated in the repository, and the changes will be automatically reflected in business operations, relevant applications and processes, without the need for extensive code modifications.
  • Streamlining complex decision-making processes: partially automated decision-making processes, speeds up decisions decreasing the impact of bottlenecks, reduces the risk of errors, and shortens the time spent (and wasted) on countless meetings. 

Enhanced Collaboration and Transparency

Centralizing business logic in rule repositories promotes collaboration and transparency across different teams and stakeholders within an organization.

This is especially true for stakeholders (non technical users, business analysts, subject matter experts, developers, etc.) can access and understand the business rules within decision engine, fostering a shared understanding of the organization's policies and decision-making process.

With a centralized repository, different teams can collaborate more effectively on defining, updating, and validating business rules, reducing silos and miscommunication. A report estimates Employees waste 5.3 hours per week because of data silos, and the total cost of data silos inefficiencies to U.S. businesses is estimated for $1.8 trillion a year.

Rule repositories can serve as a valuable resource for knowledge transfer and training, as new team members can easily access and understand the organization's business logic and decision-making processes.

Technology Behind Rule Repositories

Rule Representation and Modeling

Some common approaches to Rule repositories include:

Decision Tables Decision Trees Rule Syntax and Languages Rule Authoring Tools and Interfaces
Rules are represented in a tabular format, with conditions and corresponding actions or outcomes. Decision tables provide a clear and concise way to model complex rule sets. Rules are modeled as a tree-like structure, where each node represents a decision point or condition, and the branches represent the possible outcomes or actions. Rule repositories often use domain-specific languages (DSLs) or rule syntax to define business rules in a human-readable and executable format. Rule repositories typically provide user-friendly authoring tools and interfaces that allow business analysts and subject matter experts to define, modify, and validate rules without requiring extensive technical knowledge or programming skills.

Rule Execution and Inference Engines

At the core of rule repositories are inference engines, which are responsible for executing and evaluating the business rules. 

These engines employ various techniques and algorithms to efficiently process and apply the rules, such as:

  • Forward-Chaining Inference: Rules are evaluated in a forward direction, starting from known facts or data and deriving new conclusions or actions based on the rules.
  • Backward-Chaining Inference: Rules are evaluated in a backward direction, starting from a desired goal or outcome and working backwards to determine the conditions or facts that must be true to achieve that goal.
  • Rule Conflict Resolution Strategies: Common strategies include rule priority, recency, and specificity to resolve issues with rules conflicting each other.
  • Rule Optimization Techniques: Rule repositories often employ optimization techniques, such as rule indexing, partitioning, and caching, to improve the performance and efficiency of rule execution, especially in scenarios with large rule sets or high volumes of data.

Industry Examples and Use Cases

Rule repositories and business rules engines find practical applications across many industries, enabling organizations to automate decision-making processes, enforce compliance, and adapt to changing business requirements. Here are some examples from different sectors.

Finance

The finance industry heavily relies on rule repositories for compliance and risk management purposes:

  • Loan Eligibility and Underwriting: Rule repositories are used to define and enforce rules for loan eligibility, credit scoring, and underwriting processes. These rules consider factors such as credit history, income, debt-to-income ratios, and other risk factors to determine loan approval or denial.
  • Fraud Detection: Rules are defined to identify patterns and behaviors that may indicate fraudulent activities, such as suspicious transactions, account takeovers, or money laundering attempts. Rule repositories enable real-time fraud detection and prevention.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Financial institutions must comply with various regulations and guidelines, such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) rules. Rule repositories help centralize and enforce these compliance rules across different systems and processes.

A great example of this is Notus, 3rd biggest finance intermediary in Poland, which implemented Higson's rule-based decision management systems. 

"The new system powered by Higson gives us a competitive advantage" - said Beata Pastusiak, Director of innovation and new technologies.

Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, rule repositories play a crucial role in clinical decision support and ensuring adherence to best practices:

  • Treatment Protocols and Clinical Pathways: Rule repositories are used to define and enforce evidence-based treatment protocols, clinical pathways, and guidelines for various medical conditions. These rules help ensure consistent and standardized care delivery across healthcare providers.
  • Medication Management: Rules can be defined to support medication management, including dosage calculations, drug-drug interactions, and contraindications based on patient characteristics and medical history.
  • Billing and Claims Processing: Rule repositories are used to automate billing and claims processing by defining rules for coding, coverage eligibility, and reimbursement based on insurance policies and regulatory requirements.

Staying compliant is tall (and costly) task. Total administrative costs of compliance are $39 billion, with the average cost of $1,200 per patient, and $47,000 per bed annually.

But not taking care of these might be even more punishing. According to a survey by Ponemon Institute, the cost of non-compliance is three times higher, than the cost of compliance.

Retail

In the retail sector, rule repositories enable dynamic pricing, inventory management, and personalized customer experiences:

  • Dynamic Pricing and Promotions: Rules can be defined to adjust pricing and promotions based on factors such as inventory levels, demand patterns, customer segments, and competitor pricing strategies.
  • Inventory Management: Rule repositories can automate inventory management processes by defining rules for reordering, allocation, and distribution based on sales forecasts, supplier lead times, and warehouse capacities.
  • Personalized Recommendations and Offers: Rules can be used to personalize product recommendations, targeted offers, and marketing campaigns based on customer preferences, purchase history, and behavioral data.

Summary

Rule management process is easier than onboarding every single employee, especially in big organizations. It also helps in partially automating decision-making processes, which at the highest level of industry can mean millions, or even billions, added to the bottom-line. 

Contact us with your use case and let's see, how much you business can get with rule engines.

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