To learn more about how we can work with you on your Decision Discovery project, call me at 650-400-3029. I look forward to hearing from you. I am also always happy to answer questions, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the year ends and you plan next year's activities I want to write about the critical building block for success with business rules or analytics – Decision Discovery. As we work with customers in multiple industries we see one issue over and over again: organizations simply don't spend enough time understanding the decisions they are trying to automate with business rules or improve with analytics. It does not matter if you’re an organization with some business rules success under your belt, an established analytic team, or an organization just getting started – you will benefit from an increased understanding of your decisions.
Find Decision Points
As the first phase in Decision Management, decision discovery involves creating a decision inventory for the relevant part of the business. First we need to find the decision points (typically in business processes but sometimes in legacy applications or event processing scenarios). These are often clear, like "determine if a customer is eligible for a benefit", "validate the completeness of an invoice" or "choose which claims to Fast Track." In our work with clients we sometimes find that some key decision points are less clear and it takes decision-centric thinking to find which bits of the process are really implementing decision making. For instance a collection of branches and nodes with a few rules each might all be related so they can be "collapsed" into a single decision point. The end result is a set of decision points and matching decisions.
Expand with Performance Metrics
This process-centric view of decisions can be complemented with a performance-centric view. This focuses on the operational decisions that matter most to your organization’s results. What decisions have an impact on the measures and metrics that matter to management? Implementing a strategy defined at the highest level of the organization comes down, in the end, to the decisions made about how to interact with partners, suppliers, customers, employees. These decisions have an impact on the business metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure success.
Engage Business Stakeholders
Describing and modeling previously embedded decisions as separate, discrete decisions helps business stakeholders understand and take ownership of how decisions are currently being made. It also enables decision-making to be explicitly linked to key performance indicators and other metrics. With improved clarity around which decisions matter most, how they are being made and their impact on performance, you can now determine what changes to decision-making will be required to improve any given measure.
Ask the Question
These decisions are described primarily by defining a question that must be answered to make the decision along with the allowed or possible answers. For instance, a claims review decision might answer the question “Is this claim fraudulent and what should we do about it?” with allowed answers including routing it to the fraud investigators, putting it through a regular claims review or fast tracking it for immediate payment. These “top level” decisions should be decomposed into the subordinate decisions they are dependent on—the smaller decisions that must be made before the top level one can be made. This decomposition is recursive and provides necessary detail on how these decisions are actually made day to day.
Create the Framework
Each decision and sub-decision can be assessed to see what information and know-how is being used to make the decision. The resulting network or decision requirements diagram shows how the decision works, helps us identify which decisions are candidates for automation and gives us a framework for linking decisions to processes, to events and to performance management and organizational structures also. This approach is the basis for an emerging standard too, the Decision Model and Notation standard, coming in 2013.
Invest in Improving Decisions
One of the best investments you can make in 2013 is to improve your understanding of the operational decisions at the heart of your business. Identify them, describe them, model them and keep this information up to date and at your fingertips as you work on your rules and analytics.
To Learn More
Chapter 5 in my book
has some discussion and the originator of the technique, Alan Fish, has a new book Knowledge Automation: How to Implement Decision Management in Business Processes
that is now available. We also have several webinar replays and presentations on Decision Discovery highlighted to your right.