The Decision Model Articles

... A shift is occurring. Not only are decision models sanctioned as a new kind of deliverable, but thousands of them already operate in production systems serving major corporations. What’s new now is the emergence of an important question: what kinds of decisions belong in decision models and why?

The goal of OMG’s Decision Model and Notation Specification (i.e., DMN) is to provide a notation for decisions understandable to all audiences, including business and technical people. This is good news and is the very reason we introduced The Decision Model (TDM) to the public in 2009. This article is a preliminary introduction to DMN, specifically for people experienced in (or familiar with) TDM.


Today, it is very common for organizations to use The Decision Model for managing DQ logic. The results are impressive and also deliver unique advantages over other approaches. In some cases, organizations represent DQ logic in The Decision Model as part of requirements deliverables. In other cases, organizations create DQ logic in TDM-compliant software which validates the logic against TDM principles, generates and executes test cases, and sometimes deploys to target technology.



As reassuring as it is that [...] scientific basis sets The Decision Model apart from other approaches, the science is only half of the story. In the real world, good decision modeling is always a balance between science and art.

The science is systematic decomposition of a structure (of data or logic) into a set of smaller structures based on the definitions of successive normal forms. The art, on the other hand, is a general decomposition into a set of smaller structures based on factors not related to detecting and correcting normalization errors.   (read more)


 The DMN specification is significant in that it recognizes a bigger picture for decisions/logic- specifically that decision logic is worthy of its own model based on the characteristics of logic itself, rather than using other kinds of models for it. So, it provides a way to create entire models of logic whose final conclusions are of business significant and can be tied directly in many cases to ROI. This can elevate decision model and decision table professionals out of the "modeling population" to a role closer to the business and to the business's objectives, which is what we find in practice. Having a top down ROI perspective and a visual model together with detailed logic specifications closes the loop from business to modeler to automation. Congrats to the DMN team for stewarding DMN into Beta!

Barbara von Halle and Larry Goldberg

... "Congratulations to the graduates of the inaugural class of the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education Business Analysis Certificate course. The Decision Model was featured in this course and included detailed development of Rule Families and Decision Models."

These are the words of Charles Bozonier. He is a Principal Business Analyst of Gear and Apparel at REI.

REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) is a member owned co-op, selling outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods, and clothes via some 125 retail stores in about 30 states, catalogs, and the Internet. Charles specializes in requirements facilitation workshops, root cause analysis, detailed functional specifications, data analysis, strategic planning and business case development.

Why feature Charles in this column? He is a change agent in at least two ways. First, he tested and succeeded with The Decision Model in his corporate job. Second, as a Business Analysis Instructor at the University of Washington (UW) Professional & Continuing Education, he teaches the Decision Model.

... As business analysts, we know that a business process model is a crucial technique for transforming a business and redesigning automated business systems. Yet, we struggle with the best way to represent the business rules that guide it. This is not a surprise, but disappointing. Ironically, business rules may be the most important dimension of an enterprise. They are the core of business decisions and actions, whether automated or not. How do we treat them today?

... It is not by accident that all decision models look similar. The similarities reflect the rigor of The Decision Model principles, the most important being mandatory adherence to Decision Model First Normal Form. These similarities are useful because they make it easy for people to understand and validate decision models, as there is only one way to interpret one. This is a major advantage of The Decision Model over other approaches for representing business logic.

However, this month we focus, not so much on the similarities among decision models, but on their differences. More than that, we explore the idea of classifying decision model structures based on differences in their logic.


... Most of us believe that business rules are important to the health of a business.We carry out some or all of the following:
- Collect them
- Name them
- Classify them
- Use templates or special syntax
- Standardize vocabulary
- Store them and
- Automate in BRMS software.

However, it is time for an important question.

Are We There Yet?

Does the business perceive business rules as a true organizational asset? Are they visible, valuable, and universally accepted as data is? Above all, does business rule management attract and sustain enterprise-wide high-level management attention?


When introducing The Decision Model we frequently quote John Zachman’s classic gem “It occurs to me that once the underlying structure of a discipline is discovered, friction goes to zero! The processes (methodologies) become predictable and repeatable.” Every project in which we have implemented the Decision Model has seemed to bring further proof that – in the world of business logic or business rules, it seems to create a frictionless environment. We see “Ah ha!” moments time and again when people realize the simplicity to which their complex logic or business rules may be reduced by applying the model.

However, just last week, in reviewing the Decision Model (The Decision Model: A Business Logic Framework Linking Business and Technology, Auerbach 2009) we realized that our practices have already evolved in the use of the Decision Model quite significantly since the book was completed. Not in the basic theory – that seems to remain constant, whatever curved balls we throw at it – but in the practices involving implementing model. The processes that Zachman talks about seem amenable to quite a bit of tweaking.

... As a business analyst, consider this important question.

Can We Deliver Less, Get More, and Do It Faster?

Last time, we proposed that, with business rules, we surely can. The traditional way we manage business rules is time-consuming. It focuses on details rather than the bigger picture. The details are the business rules themselves - expressed, analyzed, approved, and stored in a safe place. But, viewed as details, they lose momentum, postponed until design or implementation. Perhaps we deliver too much too early. But, we can do it differently by delivering less up front and evolving it into something more important.

... This column provides information to Modern Analyst readers regarding the OMG and its interest in decision models.

... Software engineering is a much younger discipline than are other branches of engineering. We see this in the continuing evolution of attitudes and approaches to requirements. In early days, there were no requirements. In later days, there were volumes of approved textual statements. Eventually, there were formal models. Today, sometimes models and statements are merely interim deliverables because code becomes the requirements.


In April of 2010, we understood the concern about the lack of software tools to support The Decision Model. At that time, the book was five months old and knowledge of The Decision Model was new to most people. However, as 2010 draws to a close, the predictions proved true. Software support is no longer lacking! In fact, The Decision Model is supported by excellent software from visionary vendors, with more software coming. This two-part column looks at Decision Model software available today and what we know to be on the immediate horizon.


In Part two, we look at decision model software today and in the near future. However, we first point out two important distinctions between previous business rules approaches and the Decision Model Approach because these distinctions are relevant to software.


In this article, David Pedersen explains a project completed in the financial services industry.  A client asked him to lead a project to redesign a failed sub-process that had resulted in billions of dollars of backed up financial transactions.  This particular financial process had a history of failed and abandoned process improvement projects. 


The Decision Model in practice has delivered many unanticipated, but positive surprises. The most obvious and powerful surprise is how it drastically simplifies process models. In fact, we regularly receive unsolicited messages from people who experience this effect.


Inspired by a recent discussion in The Decision Model Group, this article focuses on the emerging role of decision models on Agile projects. While Chapter 6 of our book introduces a connection between decision models and Agile development, The Decision Model Group takes it one step further based on recent experiences.


The number of successes with The Decision Model is escalating. Organizations are using The Decision Model to solve a range of business challenges and opportunities including some we did not expect. Therefore, this month we summarize three real world projects to illustrate how organizations are using decision models and how quickly project teams are delivering them.


I am not a poker player. This is probably wise since my grandfather lost the family farm one night in a poker game. Sadly, as the story goes, he never won it back. This caused me to wonder how he made the decision to bet the farm on a game. Which decision-making mechanisms were at play? Which were flawed? In addition, more likely, which had shut down for the evening?

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