In this episode, Ron Ross shares his insights on Business Rules.  Ron discusses what they are, how they differ from Business Requirements, and ways to harvest Business Rules.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • What Business Rules are
  • How Business Rules differ from requirements
  • Why Business Rules are important
  • How to harvest Business Rules

Show Notes

There’s a lot of confusion around what a Business Rule is (and is not).  A Business Rule is a guide or a statement that shapes behavior or decisions.  In real live, a rule removed degrees of freedom.  A rule is simply how we deal with a complex world.

A Business Rule should not be thought of as technical.  It’s not a specification or a specific requirement.  It’s a statement to guide business behavior and business decisions.

It’s a way of having a conversation in business language about constraints in the business.

There’s an important distinction between Business Requirements and Rules.  When you design a solution to a business problem, in some ways, it’s the end of life for your requirements.  However, for Business Rules, the point of deployment is the start of life.

Business have a continuing role over time and it’s important to provide the appropriate infrastructure to manage, review, reuse, and retire Rules over the life of the solution.


Sources of Business Rules

Business Rules can arise from contracts, regulations, warranties, and certifications.  The important thing is that you need to interpret the rules in those documents as they apply to your organization.

Other rules can come from the business strategy.  These Business Rules protect the organization from a significant risk or align you to achieve a significant goal.

Some rules stem from the specialized knowledge of individuals in your organization.  Because of the complexity of this knowledge, it’s best to think of it as a set of rules.

Rules can also come from workflow and process.  The coordination of activities, limits, and alerts can be expressed through business rules.

Keep in mind that a process model tells you the right things to do while Business Rules tell you how to do those things right.


Harvesting Business Rules

There are several ways to harvest Rules.  The three approaches Ron mentioned are:

  • Pattern Questions: These are forms of questions you can ask that will lead you to the rules that coordinate the activities around a particular deliverable (e.g., models).
  • Decision Engineering (Decision Modeling): This is a method for modeling and decomposing operational decisions until you arrive at the rules needed in order to coactively make that decision.
  • Source Documents: Rules can be harvested from documents such as contracts, regulations, policies, and the like. You’ll need to make business sense out of the language used in those source documents.


Well Defined Rules

Ron helped define a set of guidelines for creating Business Rules called Rule Speak.  There are three basic rules for writing rules.

  1. Every Business Rule must be a complete sentence: A rule is one complete thought that can stand alone. Example: A customer that purchases a product must have a valid credit account.
  2. Every Rule should start with a subject: Don’t start with ‘if’ or ‘when’. Start your sentence with the subject.
  3. Use one of two key words: Use either ‘must’ or ‘only’ in your rule.


A Business Rule is about human communication.  It’s not a technical specification.  It’s about achieving clarity of meaning upfront with business people in clear English so that you take the guesswork out of things when developers work on implementing the solution.

You can improve the quality of your requirements and ensure alignment with business needs by defining your Business Rules.


Listen to the entire episode to hear all of Ron’s tips and advice for using Business Rules.


Your Homework

Keep track of how long it takes to roll out a change that you perceive to be a business rule or set of rules.  This may give you data you need to persuade your organization to implement a Business Rules approach.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Ron Ross

Ron Ross

Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (BRS)

Ron Ross is recognized internationally as the “father of business rules”.  He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book. Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He was also a contributor to the IIBA’s BABOK v3.

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