The market research company Forrester states: "Most enterprises still embed process, rules, and reporting in applications. In other words, process flows, rules, and analytics are hard-coded into individual applications. It's hard to even find these definitions when they're mixed in with other application code, and making changes requires lengthy QA procedures." (How The Convergence Of Business Rules, BPM, And BI Will Drive Business Optimization, Forrester Research, Inc., May 2008)".
It is obvious: why should we continue to hard-code master data, rules and processes inside program code when we can establish MDM, BRMS and BPM repositories? Maturity for these kinds of tools and methods are now enabling success, and it does not require a big-bang approach, but progressive and planned change in compliant with risk management. Coupling these three repositories is decisive. Together they form the powerful concept called ACMS - Agility Chain Management System: no agile processes without agile rules, and no agile rules without a business management for reference data. Each of these three profits from advanced governance functions including version management, rights management, traceability management and so on...
Let's consider an example. A business regulation, for instance Sarbanes Oxley or Solvency II, requires financial reports to be auditable. Which means that the company must be able to display data and computation rules used to build reports and the proof the data and rules are the right ones. Commonly in this context the company may at best show auditors documentation on paper which obviously cannot be executed by IT systems. At worst documentation for IT tools is obsolete and only specifications or even worse program codes are available to be analyzed by auditors. And because auditors are not IT technicians they won't be able to use these materials. This could be accepted in some cases but what if auditors insist? What if independent rating agencies appear to rate Information Systems by request of shareholders? The same auditors by accessing business rules and master data repositories could easily audit financial elements by scrutinizing rules and data usages. This would be possible because the repositories systems include business oriented UIs and not technically-only oriented ones.
To be fully convinced that this is so obvious and real, we have to understand the following points. First, tools and methods are available to build rules and master data repositories and have reached a maturity level never seen before. This maturity level authorizes a progressive deployment of the repository strategy across the whole Information System and provides a maximum benefit. After the Y2K crisis some leaders from the information industry started to specialize in technologies aimed at increasing agility and regaining business knowledge trapped in legacy systems. Legacy systems are often too complex and badly documented, even when we speak about off-the-shelf commercial software. This has been the primary driver leading to the birth of BRMS and MDM tools. To support these tools in early projects methods have been used to discover business rules and to model master data. Since 2002 some innovating companies have started to deploy BRMS and MDM systems on a large scale. They have since been able to stabilize technologies and methods and prove that the technologies are suitable in production environments and on big projects, while keeping response times in control both for real time and batch usage. Barriers to the exploitation of such systems have been broken and good business adoption has been clearly shown. These real customers use cases are presented in the book published in the Sustainable IT Architecture community framework.
Then, we must also understand that deploying business repositories is usually a progressive task. An enterprise starts modifications on legacy systems by moving out some business rules and by adding an MDM repository in front of legacy databases. Legacy databases are not touched in this phase of the transformation process. In less than a year benefits may be obtained from master data (MDM) and rules repositories (BRMS) by the increase in traceability and agility. Business gets at last, access to information system's assets with a business point of view which cancels the common opacity lying between business and IT people. Commonly, and as an important target of the process, enterprises should also see an increase in the business knowledge both on business rules and reference data, thanks to the recognized modeling efforts and the documentation obtained from repositories. It is important to keep in mind that this documentation is directly executable by IT teams and systems: this is a guarantee for good alignment between business and programs and an increased auditability of systems, including answers to regulation requests.
After a first period using methods and tools to control repositories and their adoption for integration with legacy systems, the next step is commonly a progressive rebuild of all systems to get even more agility and to abandon obsolete platforms if useful.
We are now going to give more details on principles used to modify legacy systems, to overhaul the IS and then to establish repositories when we are in a context using commercial software.
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